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.

Stuck into mud

It can be a messy business, this cooking with crabs - shrapnel and juice sprayed all over the kitchen, not to mention the time needed for the preparation. For some people, it's a real turn-off; fortunately, high-quality picked fresh crab meat is readily available, mostly from blue swimmer or spanner crabs. But real crab enthusiasts understand the great rewards to be had from cooking crabs from scratch. The meat hand-picked at home is unrivalled for sweetness and juiciness, especially if you've chosen to go all out and cook the king of crabs, the magnificent mud crab.

Cooking live mud crab comes with a level of danger and excitement that's all part of the fun. Yes, really. These are creatures with pincers that can take your finger out in one strike, so caution is most definitely required. I've witnessed a mud crab on the loose, scuttling over the kitchen floor with lightning speed the second after a cleaver missed its mark. The thing is, though, that all the trouble and the potentially squeamish moments are absolutely worth it. Those big pieces of rich, succulent meat are like no other seafood.

Always order from a top-quality, reliable supplier and cook the crabs the day you buy them because the meat (even in a live crab) deteriorates rapidly. I made the mistake once of ordering mine a couple of days ahead of time for a dinner. Instead of cooking them on the day they arrived, I kept them overnight, only to find they didn't smell anywhere near as ocean-fresh the next day, and this came through loud and clear in the flavour of the finished dish.

How can you tell if a live crab is fresh? It should smell sweet, not acrid, and feel heavy for its size. It should be lively, and all its legs and claws should be attached (a crab will throw off its legs when it is in distress or decaying). Its eyes should be alert and pop up when it is handled.

Some people prefer crabs of a particular gender. The thinking is that males have more meat but that the flesh of the females is sweeter and their shells may contain the bonus of eggs, which are delicious stirred through noodles or pasta with the rest of the meat. You can tell the gender of a crab from the arrow shape on the underside of the body, which is wider on females and narrower on males.

To kill a crab humanely, refer to the RSPCA guidelines (search for "crustacean"). I find one large crab (around 800gm to 1kg) is enough for two people as an entrée or a small main. Remove the flap and lift off the top carapace, then pull off the gills and rinse the crab well under cold water. Chop the crab in half (I like to use a cleaver), then in half again, and crack the large claws. Steam in a steamer for about 6-10 minutes, checking the fattest part of the claw for doneness, then serve immediately.

My idea of a really lavish lunch is to order a couple of mud crabs, invite some friends around and enjoy steamed crab with crusty baguette, salty French butter, homemade mayonnaise and an aged bottle of Raveneau Chablis. Tuck your napkin into your collar, crack the shells and pick the meat out at the table.

Crab lends itself really well to Thai flavours. One of my favourite food and wine matches is a bottle of German riesling with a green mango, chilli and crab salad that's dressed with nahm jim, fried shallots, roasted peanuts and lime: if you balance all the flavours carefully and don't overdo the chilli, it's a sublime combination.

Crab also goes beautifully with egg, be it bound in a little mayonnaise between slices of soft white bread with some finely cut cucumber as a decadent canapé, or in a crab omelette, à la Neil Perry, cooked in a wok with smoking-hot peanut oil, the eggs seasoned with a little fish sauce and sesame oil. The omelette will turn golden brown underneath and stay fluffy inside. When the eggs are just set, pour the oil off, fill the omelette with cooked crab meat and a few crunchy baby sprouts, roll it, and serve it with hoisin sauce. Oh yeah.

Crab tossed with spaghetti or linguine is another no-brainer, sautéed with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley. Using the best-quality artisan-made dried pasta makes all the difference in a dish such as this. A few good baby capers won't hurt here either.

The last on my list of top things to do with live mud crab - and possibly my favourite when I have the time - is to steam it with Chinese black bean and chilli sauce. Making your own sauce is essential here; the shop-bought versions are too salty and overwhelming and can easily ruin the delicate sweetness of the crab meat.

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