Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

Secret Tuscany

A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

Discovering Macedonia

Like its oft-disputed name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia defies simple definition but its rich diversity extends from the dinner table to the welcoming locals, writes Richard Cooke.

Fergus Henderson on chocolate

Sentenced to life without chocolate, Fergus Henderson savours the memories and foresees his undoing.

Chocolate is a subject close to my heart - possibly too close. Of late I've had a stern finger wagged at me by my doctor to give it up, but abstinence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

It's not just the taste I miss; it's the chocolate euphoria: that lifting of the spirits, the way it coats your mouth with a sense of well-being.

The form of chocolate I'm missing most especially is the one we took many years to perfect at St John: dark, bitter chocolate ice-cream. It's my last-supper pudding. Chocolate ice-cream, you scoff? Is that really worth the many years of honing? But the balance of sweetness, bitter and cocoa is crucial. I'm sure you have noticed in chocolate at times a schismatic moment when the sweetness and the chocolate flavour go in separate directions. This is a sad moment and a sign of out-of-control, poor chocolate. So what do you do? Getting good chocolate is essential. We found a single-estate Venezuelan 73.5 per cent number that worked well, and this is where things got more involved. We need sugar in the ice-cream to prevent that chalky texture, but how do you avoid it becoming too sweet? By making a dark, bitter caramel. Aha! Perfect. Another interesting fact about this ice-cream is that, like good wine, it improves with age. Five or six days in the freezer really gives it time to find itself.

But enough on ice-cream. Let's discuss Easter. This is traditionally a time when children go mad eating masses of bad chocolate, hyperventilate from the sugar rush, then, when the sugar hangover hits, start fighting over who's stashed an egg away for later consumption to taunt their siblings. Actually, on reflection, let's not talk of manic sugar-crazed children.

Did you ever suffer the chocolate peanut and raisin predicament? It mainly rears its head when you're going to the cinema. Before the film you buy a bag of chocolate peanuts to sustain you through the feature, but halfway through the bag, chocolate-peanut fatigue sets in. The obvious solution is to buy a bag of chocolate raisins and mix the two together - but all is lost at this moment because the crunch-to-chew ratio is out of kilter. I'd suggest trying one bag of peanuts to half a bag of raisins, but then you have the problem of what to do with the remaining raisins. (I will tell you from experience that the answer isn't to put them in your pocket).

The mighty chocolate pudding is a thing of textural and flavoursome wonderment. A chocolate sponge containing molten chocolate - now, I ask you, what's not to like about this pudding? A true crowd-pleaser, with a blob of crème fraîche ice-cream this pud writes itself. Which neatly leads us into chocolate sauce; when poured over vanilla ice-cream and topped with toasted flaked almonds it's sex in a jug. Excuse me for being so base as to describe chocolate sauce this way, but when we took the picture of this particular favourite for the last St John cookbook, with some of our past pastry chefs pouring the sauce over each other, there were eyes glinting all round and you could feel the temperature rise.

I must say it has been painful, sharing my meandering thoughts on chocolate, but it's good for me to build fortitude for the coming of my chocolate-free years. The rub is that it's not so much these delicious, more complex creations that might be my downfall but, being a chap of simple needs, it will be the humble fruit and nut bar that will break my resolve. We refer to it affectionately at home as "Fnerr". Et tu, my old friend "Fnerr"?

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