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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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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.

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.

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.

Lamingtons


You'll need

8 eggs 250 gm caster sugar 250 gm plain flour 30 gm unsalted butter, melted 400 gm shredded coconut   Chocolate ganache coating 600 gm dark chocolate (65% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped 300 ml pouring cream

Method

  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 190C. Whisk eggs and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water for 5-10 minutes or until warm (about 40C), pale and frothy. Transfer to an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 10 minutes or until mixture has tripled in volume. Sift over plain flour in batches and, using a metal spoon, fold gently to combine between additions. Just before adding the last of the flour, fold through melted butter. Divide batter between 2 lightly greased and base-lined 20cm square cake pans. Bake in centre of oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer withdraws clean. Stand in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks and cool completely.
  • 02
  • For chocolate ganache coating, combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. When chocolate begins to melt, stir gently until combined and smooth and set aside in a warm place.
  • 03
  • Scatter shredded coconut over a tray. Cut each sponge into sixteen 5cm squares. Using 2 forks, dip each square into the chocolate and shake to remove excess. (If chocolate starts to thicken, place bowl over gently simmering water to thin.) Roll each square in coconut, shake off excess and place on a wire rack (sitting over a tray). Stand for at least 1 hour or until chocolate sets. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 3 days.

Stories abound about the origin of the lamington, and most are in some way related to the second Baron Lamington, Queensland’s Governor at the turn of the 20th century. Some say the cake was so named for its resemblance to the homburg hat that the baron liked to wear. (Last time we checked, a homburg is much like a fedora and shares little resemblance to a chocolate snowball.) Other accounts have it that Lady Lamington had nothing but stale sponge to offer visiting parliamentarians. Necessity being the mother of invention, she had the cook dip the lacklustre leftovers in chocolate icing, toss them in desiccated coconut and pass them off as high tea.

The earliest known published recipe for the lamington appeared in 1902 in the cookery section of The Queenslander newspaper credited to ‘a subscriber’. The lamington’s subsequent popularity, particularly at fundraising drives and school fetes and, of course, its darn good eating, earned it a spot on the National Trust of Queensland’s 2006 list of Heritage Icons. But its fame extends beyond that state’s borders – every 21 July Australians celebrate National Lamington Day, and even New Zealanders lay claim to its invention.

For dinky-di purists, nothing but day-old sponge will do – hold the jam and cream – preferably baked by a Country Women’s Association nanna with tuck-shop arms.


At A Glance

  • Serves 32 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 32 people

Additional Notes

Where to try them

The Book Kitchen
A one-bite miniature served alongside coconut sorbet, strawberry and rhubarb jelly, and a hot cup of chocolate sauce. 255 Devonshire St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9310 1003.

Beechworth Bakery
Try the grand ‘Dame Edna’ – a pale pink raspberry-coated version - or just go for the classic slice, with or without cream. 27 Camp St, Beechworth, Vic, (03) 5728 1132, www.beechworthbakery.com.

Pearl
The lamington fingers served with homemade strawberry jam at Pearl are chef Geoff Lindsay’s mum’s recipe. 631-633 Church St, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9421 4599.

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