December, 2018

September, 2018

August, 2018

  • Cracking the code on cheffy terms

    28 August, 2018 Cracking the code on cheffy terms

    Sometimes fine-dining menus can seem like more of a maze than a relaxing pre-dining experience. Here, we breakdown some of the cheffy terms you’re likely to come across and include recipes so you can test them out at home.
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  • Cooking the classics

    27 August, 2018 Cooking the classics

    We consider those classic recipes we go back to time and time again.
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  • IGNI: The first year

    06 August, 2018 IGNI: The first year

    VIDEO: Acclaimed chef Aaron Turner's stirring account of love, loss and starting again.
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May, 2018

February, 2018

  • How a chef cooks for those he loves

    13 February, 2018 How a chef cooks for those he loves

    Skipping the crowds in favour of a lovingly prepared meal at home is your best bet for a romantic Valentine’s Day. This is chef Jock Zonfrillo's idea of a nice night in.
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January, 2018

December, 2017

October, 2017

September, 2017

  • Win a pro toastie pack

    18 September, 2017 Win a pro toastie pack

    Indulge in the ultimate comfort food with this kit, including a no-mess Breville press, a copy of Darren Purchese's Chefs Eat Toasties Too and a subscription to Cooked.
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August, 2017

July, 2017

June, 2017

  • Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    08 June, 2017 Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    Gill Meller is in the country, his first time to Australia, showcasing his beautiful book Gather with a series of dinners and classes. We caught up with him to find out what's on the menu for his Aussie guests.
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April, 2017

February, 2017

January, 2017

December, 2016

October, 2016

September, 2016

August, 2016

July, 2016

June, 2016

May, 2016

April, 2016

March, 2016

February, 2016

January, 2016

December, 2015

November, 2015

  • Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    27 November, 2015 Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    We're looking at those staple recipes that can make or break your Christmas spread. First up, the much-misunderstood sweet seductress, custard.
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  • Halfway Home

    16 November, 2015 Halfway Home

    I’ve been sugar-free for a total of two weeks, and things are going surprisingly well...
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  • Bubbles or nothing

    11 November, 2015 Bubbles or nothing

    Out to impress this party season? To take your entertaining game to the next level, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Halliday Wine Companion to share tips on matching sparkling wines to a range of show-stopping canapes.
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  • The anatomy of the perfect burger

    11 November, 2015 The anatomy of the perfect burger

    Looking for your next weekend challenge? Why not have a crack at making your own cheeseburgers from scratch? Chef Daniel Wilson shares the secret recipe to recreating his famed Huxtaburger, from bun to patty and everything in between.
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  • No Sugar November

    04 November, 2015 No Sugar November

    This month while the boys are growing staches, I’ll be growing a conscience about all the confectionary I consume.
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October, 2015

September, 2015

May, 2015

April, 2015

March, 2015

February, 2015

January, 2015

December, 2014

November, 2014

October, 2014

September, 2014

August, 2014

July, 2014

June, 2014

May, 2014

April, 2014

March, 2014

February, 2014

  • Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    27 February, 2014 Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    Jams, pickles, chutneys, sauces, compotes and conserves are the best way to preserve abundant produce so you can enjoy your fruit and veg all year round. Margaret Fulton shares her guide to the art of preserving.
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  • Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    27 February, 2014 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, running from February 28 to March 16, begins in just over a week. We’ve put together our picks of the fest.
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  • Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    24 February, 2014 Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    Master of the dough Philippa Sibley shares her step-by-step guide to making sweet shortcrust pastry, taking you through everything you need to know to perfect the art of peerless pâte.
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  • In season | Eggplant

    21 February, 2014 In season | Eggplant

    The unsung hero of the nightshade family, eggplant is found in cuisines the world over. From Sicily to South East Asia, the Middle East to the Mediterranean, many signature dishes feature the versatile aubergine. We sing the praises of the humble eggplant.
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  • Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    17 February, 2014 Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    Meat expert and chef Adrian Richardson explains the different cuts of pork, and what you should use them for.
    Read more…

  • Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    14 February, 2014 Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    Skewers, kebabs, shaslicks, yakitori … Whatever you call them, meat just tastes better when cooked on a stick. We share our tips to help you ace the skewers at your next barbecue.
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  • In season | Figs

    06 February, 2014 In season | Figs

    Figs evoke the flavours of exotic decadence. Sweet and visually striking, figs make for a decadent tart topper, a sumptuous sticky jam or a delightful savoury venture with cold meats. We share some of our favourite fig recipes.
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  • Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    05 February, 2014 Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    There's nothing more thoughtful than a handmade edible gift. April Carter shares her tips and tricks for making beautiful and delicious treats for those you love.
    Read more…

January, 2014

December, 2013

November, 2013

The bittersweet evening

Benny Roff
17 March, 2014

"The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” – Orson Welles, a letter to the Coshocton Tribune, 1947

The cocktail hour is never so appropriate as when the heat of the day has started to give way to a balmy evening. The sun is still up and it won’t be dark for a couple of hours, but sitting outside on a porch, a balcony, or a deck with an aperitif before a late dinner is some kind of hazy perfection. Whilst this fantasy can be realised with such common household items as a cold beer, a glass of bone-dry riesling and a kabana, I’d prefer to dream of Mediterranean sunsets and focus instead on cocktails based on bitter aperitifs.

The bitter flavour seems to crop up in Italy rather more than it does elsewhere in Europe. Eating salads of treviso, sucking on pure liquorice lozenges, drinking espresso or chinotto. While many people will probably not immediately identify with enjoying bitter flavours, it is worth noting that after water, the most popular drinks on Earth are probably tea and beer, both of which are bitter. Even cola is based on the bitter kola nut.

To enjoy any of the bitter aperitifs, one requires no more finesse than to serve them over ice with a splash of soda, even when they aren’t typically enjoyed that way in their homeland. Amaro Montenegro is a prime example, in Italy it is drunk neat, and often after coffee or a meal. If you find yourself with the kind of hangover that makes you question your existence, however, hold out as long as you can by drinking water, eating too much breakfast, and making love vigorously with somebody you won’t feel guilty about afterwards. When that is no longer enough to keep your sedulous demons at bay (probably at about 11am for early risers and 3pm for late) simply top some Montenegro with soda and a slice of orange, and drink it in one go. The nature and quality of the ensuing leg up is astounding.

The Americano

There are two broad categories of bitters – spirit-based and wine-based – and both are important to this exercise. Probably the best-known of the spirit-based bitters after Angostura, which is usually only added by the drop, is Campari. A fellow by the name of Gaspare Campari, who had apprenticed to the great cordial makers of Turin, developed his formula in the 1860s and set up an eponymous café in Milan. A popular drink at the café was the Milano-Torino, where Campari was mixed with red vermouth (probably the most famous wine-based bitters, which is made in Turin). At some stage, the Milano-Torino was topped with soda and a slice of orange and became popular with either American tourists around 1900, or American soldiers during WWI, depending on which story you like better. The drink then became known as an Americano.

The Negroni

The foggy tale of the Americano is further obscured by the invention of the delicious and vastly popular variation known as a Negroni. If one is to combine a few stories, a certain General Pascal-Olivier de Negroni, or Count Negroni, invented the cocktail in 1919, some six years after his own death by ordering his Americano with gin instead of the soda. Or it was a playboy named Camillo Negroni, whose family went on to bottle a ready-mixed version in 1919. The truth of the matter is immaterial, the Negroni is delicious, it is summery without being in the least hydrating, and a few of them on a warm evening will almost certainly find you the next day drinking a Montenegro and soda. Perhaps a better summer version is the Negroni Sbagliato, or “wrong Negroni”, which replaces the gin with Prosecco, ideally by mistake.

The Spritz

Another glorious use of almost any spirit-based bitters, but none more delightful than Aperol, is the Spritz. It too has a story redolent of an inebriate:historian ratio that overwhelmingly favours the former. Most of the tales have in common that the drink has its origins with the Austrian soldiers stationed in Trieste during the nineteenth century who brought with them the Spritzer where white wine, typically Grüner Veltliner is mixed in equal proportions with soda water. The Italian adaptation adds a bitter, and tops it with Prosecco, or a mixture of Prosecco and soda. It is lovely, and whilst it can be garnished with an orange, it is far more fun with a really good green olive.

Standing in an Italian-run supermarket, it is easy to become transfixed by the dizzying array of aperitifs and digestifs on offer. My advice is to try them all.

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