Healthy Eating

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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. 

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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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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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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.

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.

Wood-fired mussels, tomatoes and toasted sourdough bread


"Mussels work beautifully on the grill, each one an individual vessel that pops open over the intense heat," says Hastie. "The sweet acidity of ripe tomatoes counterbalances the salty mussel juices, which are mopped up by the toasted sourdough."

You'll need

For barbecuing: seasoned hardwood, preferably orange 2 kg mussels, cleaned (see note) 200 gm sourdough bread, sliced 1 garlic clove, halved 250 gm ripe baby tomatoes, such as cocktail truss 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil (a light, fruity style such as arbequina or koroneiki), warmed ½ cup (loosely packed) torn flat-leaf parsley   Tomato water 6 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped 1 baby fennel, trimmed, coarsely chopped, fronds reserved

Method

  • 01
  • Burn wood slowly down to smouldering embers and medium-high heat (see below).
  • 02
  • For tomato water, blitz tomatoes, fennel and a pinch of sea salt in a blender or with a hand-held blender, then transfer to a muslin-lined sieve set over a large bowl and refrigerate until 400ml tomato water has filtered through (2-4 hours).
  • 03
  • Spread embers evenly across the base of the barbecue and set the grill 3cm above the embers. Place mussels flat, in batches, directly on the grill, immediately cover with a deep, heatproof pan and cook until just opened (2-3 minutes). Carefully transfer mussels with tongs to a plate, conserving as much of the liquor as possible. Just before serving, remove top shells, leaving mussel meat on the half-shell.
  • 04
  • Toast bread over the embers until golden (1-2 minutes each side), then rub with garlic, tear into pieces and set aside.
  • 05
  • Grill baby tomatoes until they just start to soften (1-2 minutes).
  • 06
  • Add tomato water and grilled tomatoes to mussels, then pour warmed oil over, toss gently then divide mussels and tomatoes among warm serving plates. Strain the liquid into a warm pan and whisk to emulsify, then season to taste and pour over mussels. Scatter with bread, garnish with fennel fronds and parsley, and serve hot.

Note To clean mussels, discard any that are chipped or damaged. Tap to check the mussels are tightly closed, discarding any that remain open. Remove the beards and scrub the shells clean. Soak the mussels in salted water for 30 minutes to purge any remaining impurities, then rinse in fresh water.

How to prepare wood
* It almost goes without saying, but check the fire restrictions for the day in your area.
* Because they offer better control over airflow, wood-fired ovens are the perfect thing for burning the wood to coals; take care when you're transferring them to your grill or barbecue.
* If you're using a pit, enclose the fire with fire-rated bricks to help retain the heat and to slow the rate of burning.
* If you're using a barbecue, light the fire, close the lid and adjust the vents so the wood doesn't burn too fast. If you happen to have two barbecues, use one for burning the wood and one for grilling.
* Light the fire early - at least 1½ hours before starting cooking. Avoid using fire lighters or treated wood where there can be a residual chemical component. Wood embers burn hotter than the fire itself, so allow the wood to break down to glowing coals with a light-grey coating of ash. Too high a temperature and the subtle elements of the wood become tasteless. Optimal conditions are a slow, smouldering fire.
* Ideally you should use seasoned hardwood (at least 12 months old). Green or unseasoned wood with a high moisture content is harder to light and burns erratically, emitting smoke instead of heat, so it's worth sourcing premium hardwoods from recognised suppliers, such as Blackheath Firewood Company. If you have fruit trees, keep your prunings to use the next year.
* Woods vary in the amount of heat and flavour they produce.


At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Drink Suggestion

Tomato can be a tricky match, but Tahbilk's glorious Australian all-rounder has nursed me through many barbecues – 2013 Tahbilk Marsanne, Vic.

Featured in

Jan 2015

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