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Top 35 recipes of 2016

2016 was all about slow-roasting, fresh pasta and comfort food. These are the recipes you clicked on most this year, counting back to number one.

Decadent chocolate dessert recipes for Christmas

13 of our most decadent chocolate recipes to indulge guests with this Christmas.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Best travel destinations in 2017

We're thinking big for travelling in 2017 - and so should you. Will we see you sunrise at Java's 9th-century Borobudur Buddhist temple, across the table at Reykjavik's newest restaurants or swimming side-by-side with humpback whales off Western Australia's coast?

Christmas vegetarian recipes

The versatility of vegetarian dishes means they can be served alongside meat and seafood, or enjoyed simply as they are. With Christmas just around the corner, we’ve put together some of our favourite vegetarian recipes to appease both herbivores and carnivores alike.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

Christmas ham recipes

The centrepiece of any Christmas feast, hams can be glazed with many ingredients. Here are our favourite combinations.

Noma at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo recap

The Japanese concept of ichi-go ichi-e translates loosely as "one chance in a lifetime". It is most often applied to the tea ceremony, where heightened awareness of one's surroundings and guests are intrinsic to the experience. It is no small coincidence that to enter Noma's pop-up restaurant (now closed) on the 37th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Tokyo, diners had to walk past washi-papered walls reminiscent of those of a chashitsu, or tea house. Some of the stoneware used during service was commissioned from potter Masanobu Ando, noted for his modernist tea utensils. Chef René Redzepi, it seemed, had done his homework.

Before I arrived in Tokyo for a meal that came with a 62,000-strong waiting list and a price tag similar to what Heston Blumenthal is charging for his own sold-out Fat Duck pop-up in Melbourne, I was sceptical of this Nordic-Nippon collaboration. The advance press about the still-twitchy shrimp dotted with dead ants and the cuttlefish "soba" with cuttlefish guts made me squirm, not because I'm a squirmish eater, but rather because the menu didn't make sense to someone who has sat through her fair share of stately kaiseki dinners by practiced masters in traditional ryokans from Kyushu island to Gunma prefecture.

On the night, however, as course after course arrived at the table, the stories of sourcing the produce for each dish impressed me. The full-day conversation with a farmer who refused to sell Redzepi the unripe strawberries he wanted. A lady fishmonger striving for equality in the male-dominated Tsukiji market. The impossibly patient technique for netting wild ducks in Aomori Prefecture. A fresh tattoo of Raijin, the Shinto thunder god, on the forearm of Lars Williams, Noma's head of R&D. (He hoped it would fend off bad weather during their tenure.) "Everything here is about relationships," Redzepi said. "Whereas everything back home is about transactions. You might have to go three times to the person who has three hectares of turnips, drink miso soup or sake, and then on the fourth visit, have them finally say we're ready now to do business. But as soon as you're in, you're in for life."

Most compelling were the meal's subtle underpinnings, which exemplified Redzepi's range of experience here (he first visited Japan in 2008) - pine dashi, fermented black garlic, cherry wood oil, wild cinnamon root. "Our plan was simple," he explained. "To leave everything behind in Copenhagen and come tasting in Hokkaido, Nagano, Fukuoka, Tokyo, Kochi, Okinawa. Basically everywhere from north to south, east to west; trying to stitch together not empirical Japan but Japan through our eyes."

"Some aspects you just can't articulate about this culture," he continued. "Like what sort of inexplicable emotions does tofu evoke for a Japanese person? Because there's tofu and then there's tofu." Noma's version was steamed to a creamy pudding consistency and paired with peeled walnuts. It was almost the best I've ever eaten - and from a Danish chef who had never tried his hand at making it before.

"It's going to be difficult to leave a place where food is considered such a big part of the culture," said Redzepi. "Here, people reach for the sublime."

The companion principle to ichi-go ichi-e is mono no aware, or the wistful comprehension that the most exquisite moments in life occur immediately before they end. The falling cherry blossom, the penultimate chord, the traditional plain bowl of rice after a dozen elaborate dishes. At the end of this particular once-in-a-lifetime meal, a bottle of aged sake was proffered. The 12-year-old brew comes from a small brewery on the coast near Kyoto. The label depicts two boys sitting by the ocean next to an inscription about the end of their summer vacation: mada kaeritaku-nai. It means, "I don't want to go home yet."

I'll bet Redzepi knows how the kid feels.


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