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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wild at heart

I recently spotted a big patch of stinging nettles growing alongside the fence of the Collingwood Children's Farm in Melbourne. This dark green leafy weed has a mild and slightly bitter taste, and I was reminded of a beautiful torte of bitter greens that Stefano di Pieri once made for me. Rustic and unusual, it had a very thin pastry made with lard, and he served it with shavings of prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I returned later, equipped with gloves, scissors and bag, to pick this patch of weeds with the intention of making such a pie.
 
Italian friends introduced me to wild leafy greens that they would forage in fields and by the roadside. I was immediately hooked on the taste. Some are bitter, some peppery, some mild - but all are more complex in flavour than other greens such as spinach or silverbeet.

Occasionally I see an old Greek woman picking leafy greens on the side of the path along Merri Creek when I'm out on a walk. She showed me once what to look out for: the young, tender part of the plant. I admired her effort in coming all the way out here with a pocket knife and a plastic bag. This is something she would have done back in Greece - it's very common to gather wild greens on the islands, where they are an intrinsic part of the diet. My friend Helen, whose mum originally came from the island of Kos, says her mother always makes her spanakopita and salads with wild greens, which she collects from fields here and also grows from seeds she has saved.

There are many different varieties of wild leafy greens, but they are a little difficult to identify. Greek and Italian home cooks know them - but they all seem to have different names for them. I know them as stinging nettles, cime di rapa or broccoli di rapa (broccoli raab), chard, cavolo nero, mustard greens, dandelion and frisee. One of the best sources of information on the subject is the wonderful chapter 'Edible Weeds' in Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed. Apart from this, there is not very much documented in cookery books.

'Boil until very soft' is the general rule with wild leafy greens - their flavour actually improves the more they are cooked. (This is entirely different from the way many of us have been taught to cook vegetables: until they're only just done and still crisp. We are the generation of squeaky green beans and slightly crunchy carrots.) There is a lot to be said for the way Italians and Greeks cook their vegetables in salted boiling water until they are soft, and then dress them while they're still warm with fruity extra-virgin olive oil and perhaps some fresh herbs or lemon juice.

That, I think, is the most simple and delicious way to cook the vegetable that I know as cime di rapa, or broccoli di rapa. This leafy bitter green looks a little like radish tops or turnip tops when it's young. Use the leaves, the small yellow flowers and most of the stem, but not the thick, tough lower parts.

I also love cime di rapa with pasta. Boil the greens, then press out the excess liquid. Warm a pan, pour in a liberal amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and add thinly sliced garlic, dried chilli and pancetta. When the garlic just starts to colour, add the rapa and fry it for a moment before tossing it through orecchiette pasta with more olive oil and grated fresh pecorino.

Cime di rapa is one of my favourite accompaniments to rich meat dishes such as roast suckling pig or braised veal. Bitter greens make very good sense next to rich and fatty food because they counterbalance it with refreshing bitterness and aid digestion.

Beware of the stinging nettle. It looks harmless enough, but it has thousands of tiny hair-like spikes that become embedded in your hands when touched. They sting and itch and are impossible to remove, hence the importance of the gloves when I was getting ready to make the stinging nettle pie (cooking removes the stinging qualities). Combined with ricotta and parmesan, nettles also make a great filling for homemade pasta, such as ravioli or tortellini; serve them with burnt sage butter.

Stefano de Pieri's brother Sergio once made me a risotto of stinging nettles and Italian pork sausage, quite possibly the best risotto I have ever had. Sergio is from the Veneto and the risotto was wet with fine specks of green stinging nettles, slightly bitter in contrast to the sweetness and richness of the pork sausage.

You may find wild leafy greens in good Italian and Greek greengrocers, or at farmers' markets. And some are now being cultivated, which is very exciting.

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