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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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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.

Cooking crab


Learn how to create restaurant-worthy wonders with this crustacean.

You'll need

1 cup rock salt 2 lemons, halved 2 (350gm each) green crabs   Spiced salt dipping sauce 1 tbsp sea salt 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind 1 tbsp fried shallots (see note) 1/3 cup finely chopped coriander leaves 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil ¼ tsp sesame oil

Method

  • 01
  • Place rock salt, lemons and 4 litres of water in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Add crabs and return to the boil. Cook for 6 minutes (adjust cooking time according to weight, as explained above).
  • 02
  • Place crabs in a bowl of iced water to chill.
  • 03
  • Remove triangular flap underneath crab and lift top shell away from body – most of the internal organs will come away, too. Discard shell and innards. Break off the eyes and lift out and discard feathery gills (also known as dead man’s fingers). Wipe crab with a damp cloth to clean out remaining innards.
  • 04
  • For the spiced salt dipping sauce, combine salt, garlic, lemon rind, fried shallots and coriander in a small bowl. Stir in lemon juice and oils and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
  • 05
  • Using a crab cracker, crack legs and claws, then, using a sharp knife, cut crabs into halves or quarters and serve with spiced salt dipping sauce.

Note Fried shallots are available from Asian grocers.


The crab is sometimes regarded as the poorer cousin of lobster, but crab lovers contend that though you have to fight to free every morsel from the shell, the meat is far superior in succulence and sweetness. They're eaten with gusto around the world, and regional variations - the hairy crab, much sought-after in China, the humble British brown crab or the land crabs of Thailand - are prized by aficionados. Methods of preparation vary widely, but whether it's a good ol'-fashioned crab boil in the Deep South or pepper crab in Singapore, the common factor is the gung-ho sleeves-up enthusiasm of the people eating the dish.

Crabmeat can, of course, be purchased already picked from its shell. But the quality of meat is rarely as good as the fresh stuff, and you miss out on the satisfaction of doing the job yourself.

When choosing crabs, ensure they're heavy for their size, with no signs of blackening around the joints. One of the surest signs of freshness is the smell - redolent of the sea. If a crab is past its best, it will reek of ammonia.

A crab sold 'green' is raw and needs to be cooked. If you want it in pieces for a dish, such as a stirfry, cut it up (follow the method from step 3) before cooking. For a live crab, which is the way mud crab is sold, the RSPCA recommends putting it to sleep by placing it in a freezer below 4C before cooking. The time needed varies between crabs - you'll know it's asleep when you can handle it without resistance. Purchase crabs live (although blue swimmer crabs are almost never sold live) when possible as the flesh breaks down quickly once a crab is dead.

Boiling a whole crab couldn't be simpler. As with most seafood the cooking time is short. Take care as the flesh turns stringy if it's even slightly over-cooked. Ensure your water is well salted (about the saltiness of sea water - around ¼ cup of rock salt per litre) and that it is at a rolling boil before you add the crab. You need to boil a crab for eight minutes per every 500gm it weighs (not the combined total weight if you're cooking more than one). Placing it in iced water afterwards will help prevent spoiling.

The most succulent flesh is found in the claws, and a crab cracker (a nutcracker will do) and long metal pick make the job much easier. They can be purchased from most kitchenware stores. It is almost impossible to remove raw crabmeat from the shell; if you're making a dish with picked crabmeat, follow the boiling method opposite and remove the flesh after cooking. This can be a somewhat messy business, so pick your crabs over several layers of newspaper. The paper will soak up any liquid, and can be rolled up with the shells and neatly discarded.

Speaking of mess, it's always a good idea to have fingerbowls and plenty of napkins on hand if you're serving guests crab in the shell. A wedge of lemon or splash of tea in the fingerbowls will make them more effective. Alan Davidson quotes Damon Runyon on the matter in his superb North Atlantic Seafood. His advice for eating crab is with the hands: "Some high-toned folks use those dinky oyster forks, but the fingers are far speedier and more efficient," and, he adds, the best place to eat crab is in the bathtub.


At A Glance

  • Serves 2 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 2 people

Featured in

Jan 2008

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