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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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

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.

Macaroni and cheese


You'll need

250 gm dried elbow macaroni 45 gm unsalted butter, coarsely chopped, plus extra for greasing 35 gm (¼ cup) plain flour 750 ml (3 cups) milk, warmed 1 tbsp chipotle purée (see note; optional) 250 gm extra-mature cloth-bound farmhouse cheddar, coarsely grated 150 gm La Couronne Marcel Petite Comté, coarsely grated 30 gm (½ cup) panko breadcrumbs 50 gm Cravero Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

Method

  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 190C. Cook macaroni in a saucepan of boiling salted water to almost al dente (4-6 minutes). Drain. Butter a shallow 1.5-litre ceramic or enamel baking dish, then add the macaroni.
  • 02
  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add flour, season to taste and whisk until well combined. Add milk, whisking continuously until thickened (12-15 minutes). Add chipotle purée, cheddar and Comté, and stir until melted (3-4 minutes).
  • 03
  • Pour sauce over macaroni and stir to combine. Sprinkle panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over, bake until golden (10-12 minutes) and finish, briefly, under a hot grill to crisp the breadcrumbs and cheese (3-5 minutes). Serve hot.

Note Chipotle purée is made by processing chipotle peppers in adobo in a blender to a smooth consistency. 


Mac and cheese

Macaroni cheese, mac and cheese - whatever you choose to call it, this venerable combination of melted cheese and pasta baked under a golden crust is undoubtedly one of the world's most popular cheese dishes. Executed properly, it's hard to beat - a simple, reassuring comfort dish and a childhood favourite of millions. Made poorly, it can be very nasty; I spent years at boarding school in England, so I know of what I speak. It took a long time for me to understand that it was not supposed to be limp industrial noodles congealed within a processed cheese sauce.

For a popular dish of such simplicity, it surprises me when I discover how many chefs have a version they consider to be the one true recipe. I have strong feelings about cheese and that surprise can change quickly to delight or dismay when I test their claims.

The obvious starting point is a reputable, artisanal brand of macaroni - a hollow durum-wheat pasta, which is cut short and straight in European countries, or shaped into stocky elbows in the United States and elsewhere. I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I think the absolutely crucial ingredient is good cheese.

In my experience, mature, well-made farmhouse cheddar is ideal, and provides both texture and flavour, with a wonderful lingering tang. Gruyère or Comté are other worthy additions because of their sweet, rich, flavours, and the slight stringiness they offer when cooked. A grating of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, meanwhile, delivers the perfect crisp golden crust.

Considering the popularity of mac and cheese in the US, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's an American dish. The first recipes, though, date back at least to medieval times. Thomas Jefferson was so impressed by a version he came across while travelling in Europe that he imported equipment into America to replicate the pasta so he could serve the dish for state dinners more than 200 years ago.

As I recently discovered on a visit to the US to film an episode for the new season of Cheese Slices, it's now common for American cheese shops to power their own house-made "killer" mac 'n' cheeses with any one of a number of interesting artisan cheeses, including pungent, washed-rinds such as Münster, and cave-ripened Taleggio, hard cheeses such as farmhouse Caerphilly and Lancashire. I even came across a version that included blue cheeses such as Roquefort.

There is much debate about the sauce, and how it should hold the dish together. Cheese-enhanced béchamel is the tradition, but additives including crème fraîche, extra butter, heavy cream, egg yolks, cottage cheese and even breadcrumbs are also occasionally used to broker the marriage of pasta and cheese. There are almost as many views over the use of other ingredients such as bacon, pancetta, tuna and so on to add texture and flavour. Here's my take on macaroni cheese from a new book of cheese recipes I'm working on.


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Jun 2014

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