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. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Four ways with barley

This ancient staple is a handy standby in the modern kitchen, adding ballast to soups and braises, and making robust salads and sides.

Barley is one of the oldest - if not the oldest - cultivated grains, and a particularly versatile one at that. Pearl barley, where the grain has been steamed and sometimes polished to remove the outer husk, is the supermarket standard; black barley, which has a chewier texture, and white barley, also pearled but smaller and whiter, are available at greengrocers, health-food shops and delis.

Barley is a firm grain and takes some time to cook - at least half an hour for pearl barley, a bit longer for whole barley and black barley. Some say soaking the barley first reduces the cooking time, but we find it makes little difference.

Barley is typically at home in soups and braises (like the osso buco here), but dressed with a sharp vinaigrette, some creamy goat's curd and winter herbs, it also makes a lovely winter salad. Toss boiled barley with a herb or seaweed butter, or with pan juices, a squeeze of lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper to serve as a side to fish or meat. Barley "risotto" cooked in the usual way with stock, wine and perhaps some cream is delicious, as is a spiced pilaf made with barley, a little ghee, stock and the likes of cardamom, a cinnamon quill and a couple of dried chillies.

It also works as a sweet: blanch the barley first, then simmer it in milk and sweeten it with brown sugar, and serve it as a dessert with poached fruit.

Harissa prawns and pipis with black barley
Serves 4 as a light meal

Boil 250gm black barley in a saucepan until tender (25-35 minutes). Drain. Heat 60ml (¼ cup) olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add ½ diced white onion and stir until it starts to caramelise (3-5 minutes), then add 12 peeled uncooked prawns, 2 thinly sliced small red chillies and 2 crushed garlic cloves and stir until prawns just turn opaque (2-4 minutes). Set mixture aside, add 80ml chicken stock to pan and bring to a simmer. Add 24 pipis and simmer until open (3-5 minutes). Add barley and prawn mixture, 3 tsp harissa, juice of 1 lemon and a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, season to taste and serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

Chicken braised with barley
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 200C. Rinse 210gm pearl barley. Joint a chicken into 8 pieces. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, add chicken and fry until golden brown all over (2-3 minutes each side). Set aside. Add 1 diced onion to pan and fry until tender and starting to caramelise (5-7 minutes), then add 4 crushed garlic cloves and stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add 250ml dry white wine and reserved barley and bring to a simmer, then add 500ml chicken stock, 200ml water and a few thyme sprigs and bring to the boil. Place chicken on top, cover, transfer to oven and braise until barley is tender and chicken is cooked through (45 minutes to 1 hour). Season to taste and serve with wilted greens, lemon wedges and mustard.

Osso buco with pearl barley and gremolata
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 150C. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole over high heat, add 4 beef osso buco pieces and fry, turning occasionally, until browned (2-3 minutes each side). Meanwhile, fry 1 diced onion and 2 diced carrots until golden brown (5-7 minutes). Add to casserole along with 250gm rinsed pearl barley, 1.5 litres veal or brown chicken stock, and a large sprig of thyme, season to taste, cover and braise in oven until beef is tender (2-2½ hours). Combine ½ cup finely chopped curly or flat-leaf parsley, finely grated rind of ½ lemon and ½ crushed garlic clove in a bowl. Scatter over osso buco and serve.

Octopus and black barley salad
Serves 4
Poach 1kg octopus tentacles in a saucepan of simmering salted water until tender (45 minutes to 1 hour). Drain and place in a bowl with 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Set aside. Cook 400gm black barley in a saucepan of boiling water until tender (30-40 minutes). Drain well and cool briefly. Combine 1 cup chopped coriander, ½ finely diced white onion, 2 tbsp coarsely chopped toasted pepitas, 100ml olive oil, juice of 2 limes and 2 tsp honey in a bowl, then stir in barley and season to taste with extra lime and salt. Remove excess skin from tentacles and slice into bite-size pieces. Spoon barley salad onto plates, top with octopus and coriander sprigs and serve.

Hot tips

  • After boiling barley, save the water to make barley water: just add sugar and lemon juice to taste.
  • Make mugicha, a Japanese roasted barley tea: dry-roast barley, then simmer it in water to extract the flavour and add sugar to taste.
  • For extra flavour, dry-roast the barley until it's golden before adding it to whatever dish you're cooking.
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