Healthy Eating

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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. 

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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.

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.

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This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

Basic risotto


Requiring mostly basic pantry ingredients and only a few utensils, this northern Italian staple makes a wholesome family lunch or dinner.

You'll need

30 ml olive oil 60 gm butter, coarsely chopped 1 onion, finely chopped 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 250 gm vialone nano rice 100 ml dry white wine 750 ml (3 cups) simmering chicken stock 40 gm finely grated parmesan

Method

  • 01
  • Heat oil and half the butter in a wide casserole over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir occasionally until very soft (8-10 minutes).
  • 02
  • Add rice, stirring to coat, and cook until just toasted (1 minute).
  • 03
  • Add wine and stir occasionally until almost evaporated (2-3 minutes).
  • 04
  • Add hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until stock is absorbed before adding more. Cook until rice is al dente (20-25 minutes), remove from heat, stand 1 minute.
  • 05
  • Beat in parmesan and remaining butter until combined and creamy. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Visit our recipe gallery for more classic Italian recipes, including lasagne, panna cotta, Bolognese sauce and much more.

Risotto can be as simple or as luxe as you like. At its most basic, you need only a few ingredients - butter, olive oil, onion, garlic, rice, stock and parmesan. From this base you can embellish at will. The butter, olive oil and onion are pretty self-explanatory; the garlic is optional. These elements combine to make the soffritto, the foundation on which the risotto rests, so for the best results, take your time and cook until the onion is very soft, but without colour.

The rice requires more explanation. Use arborio, vialone nano or carnaroli, depending on your preference. It's worth noting at this point that there are two styles of risotto, and neither is wrong, only different. Knowing which style you like will help you get a lot closer to achieving the perfect risotto for you.

The looser, wetter style of risotto is known as all'onda (wavy) and is served in the Veneto. If you like this style, choose vialone nano, a short, stubby grain high in amylase, which softens slowly, giving the risotto some resistance to the bite.

If you prefer a thicker risotto, such as those served in Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Lombardy, arborio is your grain. It's large, plump and high in amylopectin, which dissolves in cooking, creating a stickier texture.

Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking  explains it neatly: "The Piedmontese/Milanese/Bolognese style is more compatible with substantial flavour bases founded on cheese, sausage, game and wild mushrooms, whereas the Venetian risotto all'onda achieves great delicacy with seafood and spring vegetables." Hazan says carnaroli is the king of risotto rices. It contains enough soft starch to dissolve in cooking but enough tough starch to cook to a satisfyingly firm consistency. As no two risotti are ever the same, our advice is to experiment with the different rice varieties until you discover the one you like best.

Now add the rice to your soffritto, stirring to coat in oil and toast the grains, which ensures the rice will cook uniformly. Once this is done, add the wine, stirring continuously until it evaporates completely.

Next add the stock. It must be hot, just below simmering point. Good-quality stock is a must, but keep in mind that as the stock reduces, it intensifies in flavour, so you may want to add a little water to prevent the risotto being overpowered by the stock's flavour. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until it is all absorbed before adding the next lot.

The constant stirring allows the stock to be simultaneously absorbed and evaporated, and also serves to transform the rice's soft starch into a clinging agent, binding the grains together. The amount of stock required will vary according to the type and quantity of rice you're using and the consistency you prefer, so err on the side of having extra stock in reserve.

At some point during this process, you'll add your flavourings. Consider whether they're delicate (as with the herbed pea and pancetta risotto), or more robust, and time it accordingly. Ingredients such as pancetta or sausage, which benefit from browning, can be added to the pan after cooking the soffritto.

Once the rice is al dente (20-30 minutes, depending on the 'bite' you like), remove the pan from the heat and stand for a minute, then beat in the parmesan and final addition of cubed cold butter, making sure it's well combined. Contrary to popular belief, risotto benefits from cooling for a minute or two before eating, which is why it's often served in a wide, shallow bowl.


At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Featured in

May 2009

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