The Paris issue

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Seven ways to do dumplings

Dumplings may be bite-sized, but they pack a flavourful punch. Here are seven mouth-watering recipes, from Korean mandu to classic Chinese-style steamed dumplings.

Best feta recipes

Feta's tang livens up all sorts of dishes, from beef shin rigatoni or blistered kale ribs to Greek-style roast lamb neck.

Recipes with zucchini

Whether served raw with olive oil, grated with fresh herbs, or pan-fried in a pancake - zucchini is a must-have ingredient when it comes to spring cooking.

Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie, Melbourne

Here’s Pickett’s inside running on the menu at Melbourne's new European-style eatery and wine bar Pickett's Deli & Rotisserie.

Apfel kuchen

"This is my mother's famous apple cake. The apples are macerated with sugar, cinnamon and lemon, and this lovely juice produces the icing," says Brigitte Hafner. The apples can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge. This cake keeps well for four days and is at its best served the day after it's made."

Nougat, salted peanut caramel and milk chocolate tart

What's not to love about a Snickers bar? All the elements are here, but if you don't feel like making your own nougat, you could always scatter some diced nougat in the base of the tart instead. The caramel is dark, verging on bitter, while a good whack of salt cuts through some of the sweetness - extra roasted salted peanuts on top can only be a good thing.

Melbourne's best late-night bars

As the shutters come down in other Australian capitals, Melbourne's vibrant nightlife is just hitting it's stride. Michael Harden burns the midnight oil at the city's best late-night bars and diners.

Chicken stir-fried with holy basil and chilli

The parent trap

Fergus Henderson finds that when catering for the kids, it's best to resist the temptation to reach for the bottle.

I hark back to the age when birthday girls wore patent shoes and white socks and boys wore a new pair of slip-ons with animal-track soles.

It was all different then, the mums in jolly-coloured tank tops, the girls sporting pigtails and the boys suffering pudding-bowl haircuts. These reflections rather age me, but at least it doesn't put me in the cynical group of folk who like to pretend their birthday doesn't exist. Miserable souls, denying us the possibility of celebrating them.

I have a rose-tinted view of these occasions, my mum being the kind of proper mum who made me birthday cakes that looked like the yellow submarine, a football pitch or a castle. There were cupcakes, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, pirate outfits for the boys and fairy outfits for the girls. I recall a very well-wrapped pass-the-parcel containing all manner of useful things, such as a glue-stick and a tin of sardines. My overriding memory of these parties is, by the end of them, I would always do an impression of a human Chernobyl, my central core going into a sugar-overdose meltdown, causing me to chase the girls, as any respectable young pirate would do.

When I asked Margot, my wife, about her memories of childhood parties in New Zealand, her recollections were of much more healthy festivities. Her mother, god bless her, is a wholesome soul, but still tried to celebrate in a youthful way, making fish and chips with bran batter, washed down with a cider vinegar and honey drink. I'm afraid I go with the unhealthy, hyperactivity-inducing fare.

(I'm intrigued by the stuff in the supermarkets; what do they put in crisps that has kids climbing up the walls? Maybe it's the potatoes.)

My greatest culinary birthday triumph for my own children was a castle built out of fish fingers, more in the school of a Scottish fortified tower and not dissimilar to a fish-finger Jenga. It's the parents you have to police at this moment. As the fish fingers are brought to the festive table, they begin to swarm like seagulls behind a fishing trawler. Following the theme of an architectural upward momentum was the croquembouche made with doughnuts, another parent trap. The doughnuts speak for themselves - who can resist fried dough? Sugar all over your face, the filling dribbling down your chin.

A word of advice at this juncture. You have seen the parents turn into seagulls; now watch them turn into fish when you offer them a glass of wine. It was going like clockwork; you thought you would have them out by 6.30 or certainly by seven, but you know once the wine is out you're in for the long haul. A parent you may have nodded at in the playground is drinking your wine and suddenly you're best friends. So, however thirsty you are or however much it seems a good idea, hold back on the uncorking until the coast is clear.

The good thing is children grow up. Langoustine are a birthday request not so popular with the parents who are all looking for their fish-finger hit, but not much else has changed so keep your corks in. Which brings me neatly back to the evil drink, which all of a sudden becomes the focus of the party and marks the loss of innocence. Once I was restrained and escorted out of our flat by a friend as my son's friends tried to smuggle two huge suitcases of alcopops into a party. I'm not sure whether it was the presence of booze or the nature of the booze itself that made me feel I had failed somehow.

Let's end this birthday celebration with a quote from my daughter's speech on her 16th birthday: "I can now have sex and officially collect scrap metal." Ah, youth.

Related link: cake recipes.

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