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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

Before the meal

A table bounteous with quality antipasti is a feast for the eyes, a pleasure to eat, and one of the high points of entertaining at home. I love sitting at a table full of colourful plates of salumi, seafood, olives and eggplants glistening with fruity olive oil.

If your experience of antipasti has been soured by too many brushes with dull, flavourless, oily stuff from the supermarket deli counter, I hope you'll bear with me, because when made correctly, antipasti can be a real delight.

Antipasti should be a celebration of what the season has to offer. More than ever, the key is to use the very best ingredients. When you're at the market, choose things that catch your eye - spring asparagus, bright red capsicum, firm young eggplants. As for cured meats, look for handmade salumi from a good producer who uses meat with real flavour. And think beyond pork. Air-dried beef fillet makes a nice variation on the classic salumi, and the sweet richness of wagyu bresaola is particularly impressive.

Abundance is key, and the more variety the better, but a well-made antipasto table is constructed with an eye to balancing flavours and textures. Serve salty olives and cured meats with a delicate cheese, such as Shaw River buffalo mozzarella, That's Amore burrata, or roasted wedges of ricotta topped with fresh grapes, sprigs of rosemary, olive oil and a scattering of salt. Add to this an array of vegetables - grilled, fried or stuffed. Pile up beautiful marinated grilled capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and artichokes stuffed with mint, garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs and olive oil.

The wonderful thing about making antipasti for a party is that many of the dishes benefit from being prepared in advance and having time to marinate. Vegetables can be grilled or barbecued ahead of time, and they should always be dressed while they're still warm so that the salt and oil have time to penetrate and enhance the flavours. Zucchini needs particular attention - there is an art to making a plate of zucchini sing. Use only zucchini that are super fresh, small (young) and sweet. Slice the zucchini, toss them with olive oil and grill them on the barbecue, or sauté them in olive oil in batches on the stovetop. Scatter over a touch of Murray River salt, finely chopped garlic and torn mint or basil leaves, and drizzle the lot with the best extra-virgin olive oil.

Temperature is very important, so while some antipasti benefit from chilling, many do not. I recently had the misfortune of attending a buffet lunch at a country club where the antipasti looked as though they had spent a long time in the fridge: the vegetables were limp, pale and undressed. I think chilling completely dulls the flavours.

Of course, this isn't true of all antipasti. Some even improve with a day or so in the fridge. Vitello tonnato is a striking example - even though you see it sauced to order in restaurants, it's traditionally left overnight to mature. The veal, lightly poached in white wine and mirepoix, then cooled, is sliced and layered in a homemade mayonnaise flavoured with tuna, anchovies, capers and lemon. I follow Marcella Hazan's recipe in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

If you want to step it up a notch, try octopus salad for your next party. Cook the octopus until it's tender in salted water and white wine, then cut it into neat segments and dress it generously with red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and plenty of chopped parsley.

Another favourite is lobster, boiled, chopped and mixed with a little homemade mayonnaise, crème fraîche, lemon juice, baby capers and diced boiled waxy potatoes, then slathered on baguettes. One of these baguettes in one hand and a glass of Champagne in the other is hard to top for perfect party food.

Stuffed mussels are always a winner: steamed in their shells, stuffed with a filling of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, garlic, parsley and olive oil, gratinated briefly under the grill until lightly coloured and then served warm.

And finally, the showstopper, especially for a larger crowd: porchetta. Roasted rolled pork loin stuffed with crushed fennel seeds, pepper, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and chopped rosemary is excellent hot from the oven, at room temperature or even cold the next day with bread.

The only thing left to think about is what to drink: crisp dry whites, rosés or light-bodied reds. And plenty of them. Enjoy!

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