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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Food-truck tribulations
29.03.2017

Chicken or pork? Kelly Eng takes on a food-truck challenge but fails to cement her millennial credentials.

Take me to the river
29.03.2017

For serial cruisers who have done the Danube and knocked off the Nile, less familiar waterways beckon.

Gourmet Institute is back for 2017
29.03.2017

Fire-up the stove, tie on your favourite apron and let’s get cooking, food fans. This year’s line-up is brimming with talent.

The Royal Mail Hotel is changing
28.03.2017

Executive chef Robin Wickens has a stronger influence at the Royal Mail Hotel's upcoming restaurant, slated to open later this year.

Adventuring along America's north-west rivers
28.03.2017

The rivers of America's north-west running through Washington state and Oregon form the arteries of epic landscapes and bold discovery routes. Emma Sloley follows in the wake of Lewis and Clark.

The World's Best sommeliers are coming to Australia
28.03.2017

For the first time, the world's top international sommeliers will take part in the World's 50 Best Awards too.

Seven Italian dishes that shaped fine dining in the 2000s
28.03.2017

Italian food in the restaurants of Australia blossomed into maturity in the new millennium, as the work of these trailblazers shows – dazzling and diverse, a successful balance between adaptation and tradition.

Steam ovens: a guide
27.03.2017

Billed as the faster, cleaner way to cook, are these on-trend ovens all they’re cracked up to be? We take a close look at their rising popularity, USP versus the traditional convection cooker and how each type rates in terms of form, function, and above all, flavour in this buyer’s guide.

Fast autumn dinners

Autumn weather signals the arrival of soups, broths, roasts and more hearty meals.

Flour and Stone Recipes

Baker extraordinaire Nadine Ingram of Sydney's Flour and Stone cooks up a sweet storm for Easter, including the much loved bakery's greatest hit.

Roasted cauliflower salad with yoghurt dressing and almonds

The cauliflower is roasted until it starts to caramelise, which adds extra depth of flavour to this winning salad. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

All Star Yum Cha

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Melbournes finest meet Worlds Best

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Lemon tart

It's really important to seal the pastry well to prevent any seepage during cooking, and to trim the pastry soon after cooking. Let the tart cool in the tin before removing it, or it will crack.

Savoury tarts

Will your next baking project be a flaky puff pastry with pumpkin, goat's curd and thyme, or a classic bacon and Stilton tart? As autumn settles in, we're ticking these off one by one.

1980s recipes

Australia saw some bold moves in the ’80s, and we’re not just talking hairstyles. Greater cultural references started peppering the menus of our restaurants, and home-grown ingredients won a new appreciation. The dining scene was coming of age and a new band of pioneers led the charge.

Eggstravagance

The story of caviar is fascinating. Its mystique is entwined with Russian tsars and Iranian shahs, black market smuggling and the wild waters of the Caspian Sea, and the eggs themselves are extracted from a curious-looking dinosaur of a fish. Intrigue, it's safe to say, has long been an inseparable part of the pleasure of eating caviar.

I remember thinking, "oh, this is just so gourmet" when, as a teenager, I made my parents breakfast with "black caviar" from lumpfish on boiled eggs with mayonnaise from a tube. It was much later, in the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants, that I discovered what all the fuss was about. I remember a party thrown by Moët & Chandon where caviar was served from a tin on ice in a big Champagne bucket. We were handed mother-of-pearl spoons - metal spoons, the story goes, react with caviar and taint the flavour, so mother-of-pearl and horn cutlery are favourites of aficionados, though of course a ceramic spoon would be as effective, if not quite so dashing.

Caviar tastes quite different from salmon or trout eggs and other fish roes. It has wonderful richness and distinct complexity: mineral, salty, fishy, creamy. Caviar varies in flavour, texture, colour and size according to the species of sturgeon that has produced the eggs, and also according to the way it has been processed.

Because it has an intense flavour, caviar is best paired with delicate partners: creamed eggs, potatoes, sour cream - even simply toast or brioche. I especially like the traditional blini or potato rösti with maybe a little dollop of crème fraîche and just a hint of grated horseradish. It needs very little adornment in my opinion - just something to carry the flavours. I'd rather taste the caviar on its own than have it lost in something too complex.

Beluga caviar with scrambled eggs on a croissant with a glass of vintage Krug for breakfast is pretty close to my idea of heaven, but at the same time there are some serious question marks hanging over that pleasure in today's world. Certainly, there is nothing more decadent and luxurious than caviar. But should we still be eating it?

The vast bulk of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian Sea, a body of water bounded by Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The sturgeon was once common throughout the waters of the northern hemisphere, but it's a slow-growing species, and overfishing (for the meat of the fish as much as for its eggs) and pollution have drastically reduced its range and numbers. In its day the Soviet Union kept a very tight control over the valuable fishery and caviar production, keeping quality and numbers at a sustainable level. Following the break-up of the Soviet states, however, the region became a hotbed for illegal trade and in recent decades the stocks of sturgeon have fallen dramatically. In the 1970s up to 27,300 tonnes of sturgeon were caught each year, but in 2010 the catch quota is less than 1000 tonnes, and in recent years fishermen have struggled to come close to filling these drastically reduced quotas.

The sturgeon is thought not to have changed much in the past 200 million years. It's a curious-looking thing, this living fossil. It's a large fish, from 2 metres to sometimes 5.5 metres in length, but it takes years to reach reproductive maturity - eight to 10 years for sevruga sturgeon right up to 22 years for the rare and highly prized beluga. Usually the fish are killed before the eggs are extracted, but some caviar farms are removing the eggs surgically so that the fish may go on to produce more. This technique, however, is far from widespread; the flesh of the sturgeon remains a favourite delicacy in the countries surrounding the Caspian.

The process of extracting the eggs, then washing and salting the caviar, is a highly specialised one and requires great skill. The eggs, once salted, are left for a period of time to cure before being packed into tins and sold.

There have been various bans on the importation and sale of wild caviar, but illegal caviar smuggling is rife and very difficult to control. Many authorities say that to successfully replenish stocks there should be a complete global ban on the consumption of wild caviar. Beluga caviar has just returned to the global market after the countries on the Caspian Sea agreed to quotas of the wild-caught fish, but for us the good news is that farmed sturgeon is being produced with great success, particularly in China, the US, Italy France and Germany, and most fine-dining restaurants are using the sustainable farmed eggs. It's a good news story that, more than most, really does call for Champagne.

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Latest news
Seven Italian dishes that shaped fine dining in the 2000s
28.03.2017
Our chocolate issue is out now
27.03.2017
Honey Fingers, Melbourne's inner-city beekeepers
22.03.2017
Seven recipes that shaped 1980s fine dining
21.03.2017
What is aquafaba?
20.03.2017
Eight recipes from Flour and Stone
20.03.2017
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