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. 

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.

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

Pea and ham soup

Putting vegan cheese to the test

Otto's vegan cheese plate

Otto's vegan cheese plate

If you can’t or won’t eat dairy products and a cheese-free future isn’t one worth living, there’s another option.

Vegans want cheese. Or at least that's the impression Richard Ptacnik got in recent years cooking at Sydney Italian fine-diner Otto. Following a rise in vegan requests at the Woolloomooloo restaurant, Ptacnik had been on a mission to find a good vegan cheesemaker. In Sprout & Kernel he feels like he's ticked the box. Their smooth, tangy cashew cream cheese is now found inside the beetroot ravioli on his popular vegan menu, almost unnoticeably replacing goat's curd, while the company's original cashew cheese is used to finish the mushroom risotto.

From its base in Lewisham in suburban Sydney, Sprout & Kernel produces a range of dairy-free cheeses from macadamia nuts grown in Lismore and cashew nuts imported from Vietnam and India. Soaked nut pastes are cultured with rejuvelac - a natural probiotic harvested from sprouted buckwheat and other grains - giving the cheeses their distinct tang. They're then aged in fridges to develop their texture and flavour.

Husband and wife team Ben Wallace and Maria Ballesteros were long-time customers and fans of the business before they bought it in February 2015. Now, alongside their growing retail range, they produce specialty vegan cheeses for restaurants in Sydney, notably the cheeses for Otto and The Temperance Society in Summer Hill among them.

They also do a plain cashew nut cheese designed to have with crackers and fruit, crumble over lasagne or fry like haloumi. There's also an aged cashew cheese which certainly looks the part, with a drier texture and richer, darker taste than the unaged version; it's also less sweet. The macadamia cheese, meanwhile, is milder and more buttery, mixed with a little garlic and onion which gives it a slight French onion dip taste, but not unpleasantly so.

If you're a real-cheese die-hard, the cashew flavour may be tough to overcome, and the pasty texture and tang take some getting used to. But, if it's a dairy-free alternative you're looking for, you may have struck nut-cultured gold.

"You can't really compare them if you've spent your whole life eating normal cheese," says Ptacnik. "Gruyère is Gruyère  - you can't replicate it from the point of view of a non-vegan person. But if you're vegan, this is really, really nice." How does Ballesteros like to use it herself? Tossed through pasta to create a creamy sauce, crumbled over salad or "just in a Vegemite sandwich" she says. "I incorporate it into everything."

sproutandkernel.com

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