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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

Puff pastry


All you really need to master fabulously flaky pâte feuilletée, or what we like to call puff pastry, is flour, butter and plenty of time and patience. 

You'll need

500 gm (3 1/3 cups) plain flour 125 gm butter, coarsely chopped 2 250gm blocks of butter, each thinly sliced lengthways into 10 slices

Method

  • 01
  • Using a food processor, process flour, chopped butter and a pinch of salt until fine crumbs form. Add 250ml iced acidulated water (see note) and process until just coming together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth, form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • 02
  • Roll out pastry on a floured surface to 25cm x 60cm, with short edge facing you.
  • 03
  • Arrange half the butter slices in a single layer over middle third of pastry, then fold down top third of pastry.
  • 04
  • Arrange remaining butter slices over folded pastry, fold up bottom third. Turn anti-clockwise so opening is on the right, then turn over pastry, keeping opening to your right.
  • 05
  • Roll out pastry to 25cm x 60cm with short side facing you, fold down top third, then fold up bottom third. Turn pastry anti-clockwise, turn over and repeat. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours). Repeat four more times, resting in between.

Note For acidulated water, add juice of half a lemon to 1 cup of water.


Most cooks, no matter how accomplished and confident, have a culinary nemesis. For many, baking is it, and it goes double for pastry making. And then there's puff pastry. With its lengthy method and precise (although not difficult) technique, it's tempting to leave it in the too-hard basket.

Although time-consuming, there's a certain pleasure to be taken in the repetition of the turns, by which magical equation creates literally thousands of layers (2187 to be precise!) of pastry. And once the scent of its buttery goodness fills your kitchen as you bake, and you savour the mouth-watering flakiness as you bite into it, you'll be hooked. Plus, the great thing is, making just one batch will see you through for quite a while. It can be cut into portions, sealed in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer until you're ready to use it.

Legendary French chef Marie Antoine Carême is credited with refining the technique of making pâte feuilletée or puff pastry. Although similar pastries originated in ancient Rome and were re-introduced in the 17th century, Carême's method of developing the layered structure by six 'turns' created a pastry of unparalleled lightness and flakiness. The secret to its rise is in creating layer upon layer of butter and dough. When cooked, the water content of the butter is converted to steam, pushing the layers apart, creating a light, flaky pastry.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when making puff pastry. The old 'good things take time' adage rings particularly true; set aside a good chunk of time on a cool day and off you go. It's wise to make the base (also known as a détrempe) a day ahead, giving it plenty of time to rest and become firm. That way, the consistency of both the base and the butter are the same, making it easier to create even layers.

In the technique illustrated on the following page, you'll need to slice the butter evenly and place it in a single layer on a baking paper-lined tray and refrigerate it until firm. Contrary to usual advice, cheaper butters, which have a higher water content, are best. This in turn means more steam is given off during cooking, which means a flakier pastry.

When rolling, always work on a cold bench and use only as much flour as you need to stop the pastry sticking to the bench or rolling pin. Brush off excess flour with a pastry brush before you fold and turn. Work as swiftly as possible and allow plenty of time to rest in between turns. If you find the pastry is quite soft after only one turn, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until it's firm again. Once you've completed all the turns, make sure you give the pastry a really good rest in the refrigerator until firm (about 2 hours) before using it. Roll out the pastry in both north-south and east-west directions, which helps create a more even rise and stops uneven shrinkage. Rest the pastry again in the refrigerator until it's firm before trimming or cutting.

Remember these tips and a whole new world of pastry delights will be at your fingertips. Think French classics such as tarte Tatin, pissaladière and mille-feuille (literally, 'a thousand leaves'), or consider using your creation as the crust to a luscious pot pie, as we've done here, in layer upon layer upon layer.


At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 8 people

Featured in

Jun 2008

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