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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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

Bang bang chicken (Bang bang ji)


The name comes from the pounding of chicken sold by street vendors in Sichuan. This version doesn't go to such lengths, but the distinctive flavour remains. It is sometimes called strange-flavour chicken, after the unique combination of flavours used to dress this salad. The secret to the success of the dressing is the house-made chilli oil (see note).

You'll need

1 chicken (1.4kg) 100 ml Shaoxing wine 25 gm ginger, thickly sliced 50 gm bean sprouts, trimmed To serve: thinly sliced spring onion and sesame seeds   Strange-flavour dressing 1½ tbsp finely chopped ginger 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 60 ml (¼ cup) chilli oil (see note) 30 gm caster sugar 2 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar (see note) 1 tbsp Sichuan pepper oil (see note) 1 tbsp Chinese roasted sesame paste (see note) 1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp sesame oil

Method

  • 01
  • Bring 5 litres water to the simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, plunge in chicken, cook for 10-20 seconds, then refresh under cold running water (discard water). Transfer chicken to a clean saucepan, add Shaoxing wine, ginger, ½ tsp sea salt and top up with enough cold water to cover generously. Bring to the simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to low-medium and gently simmer until chicken is cooked through (1-1¼ hours). Remove from heat and cool chicken completely in liquid (3-4 hours). Coarsely shred meat (discard skin, bones and sinew) and transfer to a bowl.
  • 02
  • While the chicken is cooling, make the strange-flavour dressing. Combine ginger, garlic and 120ml hot water in a bowl and stand to infuse (20 minutes). Pass through a fine sieve (discard solids) into a clean bowl, add remaining ingredients and set aside.
  • 03
  • Blanch bean sprouts in a saucepan of simmering water until just wilted (5 seconds), refresh in iced water, drain well and scatter over a serving platter. Top with chicken, drizzle with dressing, scatter with spring onion and sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.

Note Chinkiang black vinegar, Sichuan pepper oil and Chinese roasted sesame paste are available from Asian grocers. Chilli oil is a key ingredient in many of these recipes. Although it's readily bought, the chefs at Dainty Sichuan make their own by frying 50gm coarsely chopped dried chillies with a little vegetable oil until fragrant. Blend with 500ml vegetable oil, steep for 24 hours, strain and it's ready.


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1½ hrs cooking (plus cooling, infusing)
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1½ hrs cooking (plus cooling, infusing)

Drink Suggestion

Bottle-aged riesling

Featured in

Jun 2013

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