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.

Marrow margins

I love watching Italian grandmothers picking over vegetables at the supermarket. I can just hear them thinking, "You call this a tomato? Pah!" If you're in a hurry, though, you really don't want to get stuck behind a nonna when she's going through the zucchini - each and every one gets picked up and examined, and most rejected.

I'm fortunate to have a local grocer that's owned and run by an Italian family. The produce is excellent, and much of it comes from their own farm. This means that when it comes to zucchini they'll be firm and just the right size. By "the right size", I mean not very large. We tend to grow zucchini too big here in Australia. Twelve to 15 centimetres is all a dark-green zucchini needs to be. Any larger and they start to lose their delicate flavour and get mushy when they're cooked. It's a classic supermarket failing, the idea that bigger is better.

I remember in my early teenage years of vegetarianism I experimented with Sarah Brown's Vegetarian Cookbook and made giant zucchini stuffed with brown rice and grated cheddar cheese. Not one of my finest kitchen moments. Even if it's tempting to buy an enormous zucchini and gouge out the inside so that you can stuff it, it'll often be an experience you'll regret; the skin will be tough and coarse, the flesh a wet, bitter pulp.

That said, it can be hard to keep up with those zucchini plants out in the vegetable patch: they're nothing if not prolific. Just when you've run out of ideas for cooking with your right-sized zucchini, you could use the marginally longer ones (around 20cm-25cm) to make bread-and-butter pickles to go with your ham and cheddar sandwiches later in the year.

Zucchini have a sweet, subtle flavour and interesting texture - especially while they're still small and young. They lend themselves well to a number of different preparations. Sliced very thinly on a mandolin, they're lovely dressed raw as a salad or sautéed quickly with good olive oil, garlic and some torn basil - or zucchini's other favourite herb, fresh thyme. Either way they make a nice antipasto, a lovely accompaniment to a grill, and are good tossed through pasta, or scattered over pizza. They're also excellent in caponata, to go a little sweeter, and they take well to sousing as well as pickling.
 
Soft cheeses such as buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and goat's curd have a particular affinity with zucchini. A thin frittata with sautéed zucchini and dollops of ricotta, with just a touch of grated parmesan and basil, is a favourite quick lunch for me.

When I choose to grill zucchini, I find the best way to bring out the flavour is to dress and salt them while they're still hot. And to eat them soon after - they're not nearly so interesting after being cooked then put in the fridge until the next day.

I remember, many years ago in Mildura, Stefano de Pieri's excitement the day he managed to finally find a grower who would supply him with zucchini flowers. No one in the area had even heard of a use for these flowers at the time and they were considered quite the delicacy. We would stuff them with fresh goat's cheese and thyme, then lightly batter them and fry them in olive oil. Zucchini flowers can be filled with just about anything - a little bit of crab, say, or smoked eel mousse. A flavoured soft cheese is always good. I like to keep the filling simple and enjoy the subtle flavour and crunchy exterior. If deep-frying is one of those lines you won't cross in your kitchen at home, don't fret - zucchini flowers need not be deep-fried to be enjoyed. They make a colourful and lively addition to salads and summer minestrones, along with the chopped-up baby zucchini themselves, and they're also very good simply battered in egg and breadcrumbs and shallow-fried.

There are, of course, many different kinds of zucchini. "Italian Striped" from my grower of heritage vegetables out in Tooborac in central Victoria has been a favourite for me this season. It has a much sweeter flavour and firmer texture than the common dark-green variety. If you've got an interest in planting seeds, theitaliangardener.com.au is a great place to find excellent, full-flavoured varieties. You'll also find more interesting varieties at farmers' markets where the producers grow specifically for flavour and texture rather than shelf-life. Just make sure you get there before the nonnas.

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