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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

In defence of white chocolate

Annabel Crabb makes the case for the controversial confectionery.

White chocolate. It's always been the poor cousin of the chocolate family. Dark chocolate - with its hardcore fans intently monitoring cocoa-solid content as it rockets through 70, 80 and 90 per cent towards its ultimate bitter target of 100 - is the rock star.

It's bloody hard to offend anyone with dark chocolate. You can use it unimpeachably of course, in countless desserts. You can put it in savoury dishes. You can even eat it and remain smug about your dietary health, like those Paleo types and sugar-dodgers. (Indeed, every month or two someone releases a study concluding that dark chocolate is good for fending off Alzheimer's, or maintaining gum health, or some other health benefit.)

There is, in other words, widespread general support for the smug caste system of chocolate, in which the higher the percentage of cocoa solids in any given bar, the more prestige it accrues. 

But poor old white chocolate has zero per cent cocoa solids. In the chocolate world, this makes it decidedly non-street. It is made from cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids, and, okay, that does sound sort of disgusting.

Its honky overtones, and near-endless capacity for opportunistic backfill (cheap fats, the geopolitical murk of palm oil, milk powders and sundry sugary bulking agents), make white chocolate the disreputable darling of cheesecake shops and basement-priced Easter hampers the world over.

It's the chocolate serious people are ashamed of and its persecutors will accurately observe that "it's not even chocolate".

See our best white chocolate recipes here.

All of this is deeply unfair to white chocolate, which, if it were simply called something else, would be recognised more uncomplicatedly for its best self, which is a smooth and accomplished friend in the kitchen.

No, it's not going to work with your venison. And it won't appeal to those sugar-free Paleo types, but a good-quality white chocolate can nonetheless be a deep fount of joy. Relieved of the obligation to manage the grit of cocoa solids, white chocolate allows cocoa butter to step to the fore, with all its silkiness and structural opportunity. It will obediently stabilise and deepen a ganache, or wordlessly enhance a mousse.

Its texture - if you buy a decent white chocolate which has a high proportion of cocoa butter and hasn't been rendered either chalky or tooth-crackingly sweet by cheap filler - is incredibly luxurious. You can buy it in little ovoid shapes called fèves, and tiny buttons called pistoles, both of which are facts I find extremely pleasing.

My friend and co-author Wendy Sharpe once ate a dessert at J Sheekey, the legendary fish restaurant in London's West End, that inaugurated a decades-long obsession. Called something like "Scandinavian iced berries", it was simply a dish of frozen berries over which a warm sauce of white chocolate and cream was poured at the table.

That's the trick with white chocolate. Team it with unrelenting sweetness and you wind up in a Fudgemallow nightmare of American proportions. (I trawled through a couple of websites for white chocolate recipes and was immediately assailed by White Chocolate Oreo Dippers and something called a Snickerdoodle Cookie; perhaps it is the inclusion of milk products that condemns white chocolate so readily to ghastly infantilism.)

But team it with tartness and you're onto a winner. I love white chocolate with passionfruit or sour cherries, or with its immortal soulmate, the dried apricot (as long as it's a proper, flame-orange, slightly jammy sun-dried one, and not one of those flaccid Turkish numbers).

Another way of subverting the excessive sweetness with which white chocolate is associated is to roast it, whereupon a whole new world of nuttiness opens up.

Another friend Julia makes an unforgivable brownie of dark chocolate and cocoa into which, just before baking, she shoves whole chunks of white chocolate. By the time it comes out of the oven, the brownie is harbouring hidden landmines of caramelised delight.

A ganache of roasted white chocolate is, of course, still sweet. But its rich, buttery brown hue and toasty flavour are ample rewards for a quiet declaration of faith in this much-reviled ingredient. Just forget that it's even called chocolate. You won't regret it.

Annabel Crabb is the host of the ABC's Kitchen Cabinet, co-author of Special Delivery (Murdoch Books) and a political commentator.

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