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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.


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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O Tama Carey's fried eggs with seeni sambol, coconut and turmeric

"I first cooked a version of this dish - inspired by the excellent deep-fried egg dish at Billy Kwong - while working at a restaurant in Sri Lanka," says O Tama Carey. "The lattice-like eggs are doused in a creamy turmeric curry sauce and topped with seeni sambol, a sweet-spiced caramelised onion relish. This dish is equally perfect for an indulgent breakfast as it is served as part of a larger meal." The recipe for the seeni sambol makes more than you need, but to get the right balance of spices you need to make at least this much. It keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks; use as an onion relish. The curry sauce can be made a day or two ahead.

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.

Kisume, Melbourne

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Where to stay, eat and drink in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beyond Kuala Lumpur's shopping malls, Lara Dunston finds a flourishing third-wave coffee scene, tailored food tours and charming neighbourhoods.

A Tavola, Sydney restaurant review

Look no further. The Holy Grail – a genuinely good plate of homemade fresh pasta – is here in this simple eating house.

Walk past A Tavola in the afternoon and you'll see boxes of produce and acres of different pasta shapes strewn over the long marble communal table that runs down to the open kitchen. The mirrors on one wall reflect the blackboard specials on the other. Call A Tavola ('to the table') and ask for a menu and you'll be told the menu for each service is written only when the pasta is made and the day's produce is all at the chef's fingertips. The place opened in August 2007 on the Victoria Street site formerly occupied by Tasso (another Italian restaurant of some character), but already it's a scene, and they're doing three sittings on their brisker nights. The courtyard out the back - in the throes of renovation as we go to print - should go some way to accommodating the demand, but for now it looks like they're making an offer Sydney can't refuse.

This sort of interest straight out of the box for a largely unknown chef without any press to his name is a keen indication of how hard it is to get reliably good Italian food - even relatively simple stuff - for less than $30 a main course in the city. Bourke Street's Il Baretto, still packed to this day, was massively oversubscribed in the early noughties thanks to its offer of excellent pasta made by the sadly departed Antonio Facchinetti for less than $25 a plate. Post-Facchinetti, that sort of package has been the Holy Grail for fanatical diners. A Tavola might be the next best thing.

Eugenio Maiale is the chef and owner. You might know him from his time at Woolloomooloo's Manta under that restaurant's stewardship from Steve Manfredi. His family are from Abruzzo and he grew up in Adelaide, where he opened Auge and Citrus, restaurants both of good repute, before moving to Sydney. At A Tavola, his focus is pasta, and admirably so. That fresh pasta constitutes half the blackboard menu. There's also a small static printed menu, which features core classics made with pasta asciutta (literally, dried pasta, and he's using Garofalo, a decent brand): bucatini Amatriciana, spaghetti alle vongole and sigarette (a tubular pasta of middling length) al ragù.

It's not all spaghetti, though. For one thing, there's the olives all' Ascolana, those pork and veal-stuffed fat green olives that are deep-fried into beer-snack gold. Melbourne's Becco makes the benchmark, and Danny Russo's at Lo Studio were notable. Served here in a nest of rocket, they're a must, though the baked olives with anchovy, hunks of pecorino Sardo and warm oil run interference. The offer of a dish of olive oil infused with sliced red chillies alongside the focaccia, meanwhile, is a nice touch.

The printed menu offers three other entrées and three salads. In practice and pricing, they seem pretty much interchangeable. The Swiss brown mushrooms with peas, mint and ricotta salata make for a fresh and pleasing combination of textures, while little dollops of Gorgonzola dolce latte enliven the salad of red cabbage, raisins and walnuts. Splashed with balsamic vinegar, the latter is maybe a shade sweet, but it's otherwise dressed properly, and in that it's a rare and beautiful thing.

There's admirable simplicity in slices of Veneto salame (a smallish pork sausage) fried and paired with a nicely creamy polenta and a solid whack of parmesan. Over on the blackboard, the kingfish carpaccio with grapefruit and Campari dressing might sound like a surf 'n' turps experiment gone horribly awry, but is surprisingly good. Now that raw fish has broken the bonds of Japanese cuisine and found its way into pretty much every form of modern dining (okay, I'm yet to see the Germans go big on it), you see a lot of it absolutely swimming in acid, presumably to mask the fact that you're eating raw fish. A Tavola's kitchen, happily, seems to think that if it's raw fish they wants, it's raw fish they gets, and despite the vigour of the dressing, the fish is still there for the tasting, with a caper here and a parsley leaf there for interest.

To the pasta. Bucatini Amatriciana is a gutsy crimson guanciale-fuelled fun-fair, a three-punch takedown of tomato, the cured pork jowl Italians call guanciale, and chilli, with a dusting of Pecorino. House-made tagliarini with asparagus and truffle butter is less intense but still interesting. The pasta is fine, closely resembling angel hair. The young sprouts of asparagus have a similar delicacy, the heads whole but the stalks cut crosswise into tiny confetti. The truffle component is a truffle butter - its flavour is strong, if a bit one-dimensional, but I can live with it.

Then there's the fettuccine. Its saucing - largely field mushrooms and porcini, with a dab of mascarpone for lubrication and body - isn't radically different from a thousand less successful versions of the same dish you encounter in cafés across the country. Here, though, the mushrooms are sautéed and seasoned with enough care to render them genuinely flavoursome and meltingly gooey, a few broad swatches of Grana Padano laid across them. It's the pasta that really sets it apart, however. It's good, springy stuff that feels like it has some life in it, not to mention flavour. A revelation after the dead strips of ribbon that pass for fresh pasta in many less-skilled hands.

I didn't try the pasta e fagioli, but I wanted to. I had only a mouthful of the stracci (rags of fresh pasta) with rabbit and green olive ragù. Its owner was loathe to part with more, and fairly so. But I did have the orecchiette (undoubtedly the pasta shape of the new millennium) with chicken livers and cime de rapa, and it's the bomb, the business, the boo-ya, a two-fisted, no-nonsense blockbuster of a dish.

The cime di rapa - turnip tops, if you prefer - cut the chopped livers' not inconsiderable richness, and the pan juices form all the sauce you'll need. Other nights see the livers with stracci pasta and the orecchiette with a stirring rendition of the classic southern broccoli, chilli and anchovy sauce, winners all.

The regular menu offers three desserts: tiramisù, Vin Santo e biscotti and affogato. I was thrown to find some of the biscuits served for dipping with the Vin Santo covered with chocolate on one instance, and just not quite right on another. The tiramisù isn't exciting, and the dessert specials I've hooked my spoon into - a meringue, pear and rhubarb rotolo with less-than-great meringue, say - haven't been the sort of thing that would rock your world. They're not bad, exactly - just seriously outclassed by the rest of the menu.

Speaking to Maiale later on the phone, he said he decided to open the restaurant because he found it hard to get a good plate of pasta in Sydney at a fair price. He wanted an enoteca where the menu was small and less meant more. "A simple, honest eating house," he said, and you can't ask for fairer than that. It's not somewhere you'll make a bee-line to for wine, and while one of our waitresses has been consistently lovely, service is looking overtaxed as the restaurant becomes ever busier. But the place looks good, has spirit, and, best of all, offers gutsy, genuine food.

"My mother and aunts taught me how to make pasta," Maiale says. "My uncle would go out shooting for wild boar and we would be rolling out gnocchi or cavatelli, or maccheroni alla chitarra. He'd come back a bit later and we'd make a ragù in a huge bowl, and when it was ready, they'd cry a tavola, 'to the table', which is the whole idea."

A Tavola

348 Victoria St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9331 7871,

Dinner Mon-Sat, lunch Fri. Licensed and BYO. Major cards accepted.

Prices Entrées $12-$19, mains $22-$36, desserts $10-$15.

Noise Really depends on who you're elbow-to-elbow with.

Vegetarian Salads, pasta specials, but not a solid vego offering.

Wheelchair access Not great.

Plus The Italian road-less-travelled; excellent fresh pasta.

Minus Forgettable desserts.

A Tavola

348 Victoria St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9331 7871,

Dinner Mon-Sat, lunch Fri. Licensed and BYO. Major cards accepted.

Prices Entrées $12-$19, mains $22-$36, desserts $10-$15.

Noise Really depends on who you're elbow-to-elbow with.

Vegetarian Salads, pasta specials, but not a solid vego offering.

Wheelchair access Not great.

Plus The Italian road-less-travelled; excellent fresh pasta.

Minus Forgettable desserts.

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