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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.

Our chocolate issue is out now
27.03.2017

Our April issue is out now. In his editor's letter, Pat Nourse walks you through what to expect.

Roast pork with Nelly Robinson
27.03.2017

Nelly Robinson of Sydney's nel. restaurant talks us through his favourite roasting joints, tips for crisp roast potatoes and why, when it comes to pork, slow and steady always wins the race.

Water carafes
24.03.2017

More than mere vessels, these pieces bring a cool breeze of style from the fridge to the table.

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.

Fast autumn dinners

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

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.

New cruises 2017

Cue the Champagne.

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.

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.

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.

Prawn tales

Many years ago I ate in a famously good restaurant in the city of Guangzhou, China. I remember the lift door opened onto the chaos of a vast dining room crowded with people eagerly waiting to be seated. Its foyer was filled with cages of various birds and tanks filled with prospective lunch items swimming about - eels, lobsters, crabs and parrot fish. In one tank swam some prawns that were later scooped out for us and thrown, literally, straight into a steaming wok. They were served in their shells, simply cooked and unadorned, and they were unbelievably good. They remain the most memorable prawns I have tasted to date. Why? I think that when you're in an exotic environment, experiences can be more intoxicating than usual, but I think it's mostly because they were incredibly fresh - moments before those prawns hit my plate, they were still on the swim. And when it comes to prawns, freshness really is crucial to great flavour and texture. The other key part is how they are cooked, and in this respect I think Cantonese cooks do particularly well. Prawns can be cooked in many ways, but hot and fast is an excellent technique.

Prawns are of course spectacularly popular here in Australia, which is easy to understand: their flesh is sweet and firm, and they're very versatile. There's also the association with Christmas, and summer holidays, and platters of chilled cooked prawns piled high and surrounded by lemon wedges. That versatility, at any rate, has a lot to do with the readiness with which prawns take a wide variety of flavours, whether they're being grilled with ras el hanout, stir-fried with ginger, soy and spring onions, or shelled and sautéed with butter and lots of parsley and garlic. As readily as you can mop up that last lot with crusty bread, you can mingle it with firm strands of spaghetti for a timeless dish. And what of tempura prawns? The combination of a light, thin and crunchy exterior encasing a steamed prawn is utterly sublime. As is the opportunity to deep-fry fresh small prawns (such as school prawns) in their shell, and to toss them in nothing other than salt flakes before eating them whole - I love the contrast between the sweet prawn flesh and the crunchy, salty shell and head.

Since prawns degrade very quickly, most fishing trawlers process and snap-freeze prawns while they're still out at sea. Prawns frozen in this manner are usually of excellent quality, and I have no issue buying frozen prawns when fresh ones are not available or when I'm buying them a few days in advance of when I plan to cook them. Often prawns that are sold as "fresh" have been defrosted for sale, so I never refreeze prawns. I always buy from a source I'm familiar with, where I trust the quality of provenance and handling. If you buy fresh green prawns (green refers to their raw state, not their colour), they should look impeccably fresh - they should have a bright lustre and no sagging heads. Never buy prawns that have black spots or heads that are oozing liquid, or that smell of ammonia: they're already past their prime.

As a rule, I buy only Australian prawns and avoid cheap imported prawns as they're usually a let-down in terms of flavour and texture - you get what you pay for.

Prawns are available year-round because much of the supply is frozen, and because they're fished all over Australia, with different waters peaking at different times of the year. Prawn aquaculture is a growing industry in Australia; the Crystal Bay prawn from Queensland is an excellent stand-by, and is farmed in a sustainable and pristine environment.

If you're going to go with Paul Hogan's recommendation and throw your prawns on the barbie, I suggest you grill them in the shell because they tend to become dry and tough otherwise. To boil prawns in the shell, cook them in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water - the water as salty as sea water - for three to five minutes or until you can see a gap opening between the flesh and the shell, then, unless you want to eat them straight away, plunge them into iced water to arrest the cooking process.

If I'm going to sauté prawns, I shell them but leave their tails and heads on, because the juices from the head give a beautiful flavour to the sauce - and some people love sucking the juices from the head. Ferran Adrià, chef at El Bulli, has been quoted saying that to suck the juices from the head of a prawn is to taste the essence of the sea; I, on the other hand, enjoy chewing the meat out of the tail. But there's no reason not to do both.

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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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