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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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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.

Smacafam


You'll need

2 tbsp olive oil 30 gm lardo, finely chopped (see note) 1 onion, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 4 thick Italian pork sausages, thickly sliced 175 gm portobello mushrooms (about 3 large), coarsely chopped 200 ml red wine 200 gm canned cherry tomatoes 1 rosemary sprig, plus extra leaves to serve   Soft polenta 750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock 180 gm polenta 30 gm butter, coarsely chopped 30 gm finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve

Method

  • 01
  • For soft polenta, bring stock and 550ml water to the boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add polenta, whisking continuously until combined, season to taste, then simmer, stirring occasionally, then continuously as polenta thickens, until thick and smooth (30-35 minutes). Stir in butter and cheese, season to taste and keep warm.
  • 02
  • Meanwhile, heat oil and lardo in a large deep-sided frying pan and stir occasionally until lardo renders (2-3 minutes). Add onion and garlic and stir occasionally until tender (4-5 minutes). Add sausage and turn occasionally until browned (1-2 minutes), then add mushroom and wine and simmer until reduced by half (2-3 minutes). Add tomato and rosemary sprig, season to taste and simmer until sausage is cooked through (4-5 minutes).
  • 03
  • To serve, spoon polenta onto a board or platter, spoon over sausage mixture, scatter with extra rosemary and cheese and serve hot.
Note Lardo is pork back-fat that's been salted and cured. It's available from select delicatessens and Italian butchers. If it's unavailable, add an extra tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.

This recipe is from the April 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Trentino and Alto Adige are two adjoining alpine regions in Italy's north, grouped together for administrative purposes. Alto-Adige's cuisine has a distinct Austrian influence, while Trentino leans more towards the Veneto. Smacafam, the "hunger beater" of Trentino, is typically made with buckwheat and baked, but variations (including sweet ones) abound. Here we've used sausage (traditionally luganega) in a wetter polenta version.

At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people

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