The February issue

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Most popular recipes summer 2017

Counting down from 20, here are this summer's most-loved recipes.

Curtis Stone's strawberry, elderflower and brioche summer puddings

"Think of this dessert as a deconstructed version of a summer pudding, with thinly sliced strawberries macerated in elderflower liqueur and layered between slices of brioche," says Stone. "A dollop of whipped cream on top is a cooling counterpoint to the floral flavours."

Chorizo hotdogs with chimichurri and smoky red relish

A hotdog is all about the condiments. Here, choose between a smoky red capsicum relish or the bright flavours of chimichurri, or go for a bit of both.

Bali's new wave of restaurants, hotels and bars

The restaurant and hotel scene on Australia's favourite holiday island has never been more exciting and Australian chefs, owners and restaurateurs are leading the charge, writes Samantha Coomber.

Australia's best rieslings

We’re spoilt for variety – and value – in Australia when it comes to good riesling. Max Allen picks the top 20 from a fine crop.

Curtis Stone's strawberry and almond cheesecake

"I've made all kinds of fancy cheesecakes in my time, but nothing really beats the classic combination of strawberries and almonds with a boost from vanilla bean," says Stone. "I could just pile macerated strawberries on top, but why not give your tastebuds a proper party by folding grilled strawberries into the cheesecake batter too? Cheesecakes are elegant and my go-to for celebrations because they taste best when whipped up a day in advance."

Baguette recipes

These baguette recipes are picture-perfect and picnic ready, bursting with fillings like slow-cooked beef tongue, poached egg and grilled asparagus and classic leg ham and cheese.

World's Best Chefs Talks

Massimo Bottura and more are coming to the Sydney Opera House.

How to grow your own lettuce

This garden stalwart takes root at the mere spill of a seed packet no matter what the season, and never more so than now, writes Mat Pember.

There isn't too much to get excited about in the garden in winter, but there is lettuce, the Border collie of the vegetable world - loyal and easy to please. Throw any season at a lettuce and you're bound to get some produce in return. In fact, lettuce seems to thrive best in winter and is crunchier than ever come August.

If you go to the supermarket to buy a head of lettuce, you'll have three, maybe four choices. Go to a good nursery and there are enough varieties to start a leafy cult. Lettuces are categorised as either hearting (iceberg, for example) or non-hearting (mignonette, say), which indicates how they should be harvested: hearting lettuces should be plucked as whole heads, while non-hearting lettuces are harvested in our preferred leaf-by-leaf manner. Having said that, with a home vegetable patch you're more likely to pick all lettuces leaf by leaf to encourage a perpetual harvest.

The hardest part about growing lettuce at this time of year, aside from choosing the variety, is dragging yourself outside in the cold to plant it.

But once it's in the patch, the weather gods take care of the rest. Being a leaf vegetable, lettuce needs nitrogen to satisfy its needs, so mix compost or slow-release chook manure into the patch before planting, then splash the seedlings with liquid seaweed concentrate every couple of weeks.

Choose the sunniest spot available, but lettuce also tolerates partial shade. If you can't find a spot in direct sunlight, choose one that gets reflective light, and avoid planting lettuces too close to established crops. Despite the undemanding shallow root zones of lettuce, larger, hungrier crops will bully it about.

All lettuces germinate and grow with such ease that you needn't do more than spill a packet of seeds and you'll end up with a crop. If you want to be a bit more precise, create shallow trenches with your fingertip no more than a centimetre deep and 15 centimetres apart, and place a couple of seeds every 10 to 15 centimetres; they're usually minute, so leave the gloves off. However, given how well lettuce seedlings cope with transplanting (and our need for instant gratification), we prefer planting seedlings rather than seeds.

Separate the plants in the punnet and space out to the required distance. Once in the ground, water them well and continue to do so every couple of days, or as the weather demands. Since we're still locked in winter, the patch will hold on to moisture, so the greatest risk is overwatering seedlings and having them rot. Unlike an automated irrigation system that comes on regardless of the conditions, use your human senses to see what's going on. Overwatering is often an invitation for snails and slugs to venture around the patch, and sweet lettuces are a favoured snack.

Within a month - perhaps less if there are early signs of spring - the lettuces will be ready for the first harvest. Start with the outer, more mature leaves to free up energy for the next generation to come through. If you find that your plants are becoming congested, harvest some as entire heads to make space for the others to thrive. If you want dense hearts, you'll need to be patient - it's usually a two to three-month commitment.

As spring breaks through, your lettuces will intensify in texture and flavour. The longer they're left in the ground, the tougher and more bitter the leaves become, so keep your plants in the ground for as long as your palate can cope. By spring, there will be plenty of other goodies in the patch to tempt you, but remember: there will always be lettuce.

TIP OF THE MONTH: MAKING COMPOST
The art of making compost is not unlike that of making bread. Much like fine-tuning a mix of yeast, flour and water to create the ultimate dough, a master compost-maker will strike a fine balance between green and brown wastes, creating compost utopia. Unfortunately, too many of us are not great at making compost (or bread), so here are some tips.

Excess moisture
If your compost is too wet, it will get stinky and won't break down properly; if it's too dry, nothing will happen and it will never become compost. Your compost should feel damp, not wet.

The right mix
Much like making the perfect loaf of bread with the right balance of ingredients, the first thing to remember when making compost is that it isn't just about the A-lister kitchen scraps - green waste. The less-fancied scraps also require consideration. Brown waste, which includes straw, shredded paper and dried leaves, is essentially the compost-maker's flour. Mixed with green waste, it helps create the perfect conditions for compost to thrive.

WHAT TO PLANT
Cool/mountainous
Beetroot seed
Bok Choi/Pak Choi seedling
Carrot seed
Celery seedling
Coriander seedling
Fennel seedling
Herbs (all except basil) seedling
Kale seedling
Lettuce seedling
Parsnip seed
Peas seed
Rocket seedling
Radish seed
Silverbeet seedling
Spinach seedling
Spring onion seedling
Turnip seed
Strawberry seedling
Swede seed

Temperate
Beetroot seed
Bok Choi/Pak Choi seedling
Carrot seed
Celery seedling
Coriander seedling
Fennel seedling
Herbs (all except basil) seedling
Kale seedling
Lettuce seedling
Parsnip seed
Peas seedling
Rocket seedling
Radish seed
Silverbeet seedling
Spinach seedling
Spring onion seedling
Turnip seed
Strawberry seedling
Swede seed

Sub tropical
Beetroot seed
Bok Choi/Pak Choi seedling
Carrot seed
Celery seedling
Coriander seedling
Herbs (all except basil) seedling
Kale seedling
Lettuce seedling
Rocket seedling
Radish seed
Peas seed
Silverbeet seedling
Spinach seedling
Spring onion seedling
Strawberry seedling

Tropical
Beans seedling
Beetroot seed
Bok Choi/Pak Choi seedling
Carrot seed
Capsicum seedling
Celery seedling
Chilli seedling
Cucumber seedling
Eggplant seedling
Herbs (all) seedling
Lettuce seedling
Pumpkin seedling
Rocket seedling
Radish seed
Silverbeet seedling
Spinach seedling
Spring onion seedling
Squash seedling
Strawberry seedling
Sweet Corn seedling
Tomato seedling
Zucchini seedling

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