Books – Finding Fire by Lennox Hastie

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Lennox Hastie is fascinated by fire.

He is the chef and owner of Firedoor in Sydney, Australia’s only fully wood-fuelled restaurant. Lennox spent his early career working at Michelin Star restaurants across the UK, France and Spain. Having grown captivated by the Basque country, Lennox found himself helping out a local pintxos bar. It was here he overheard a mention of a grill restaurant in the Basque mountains.

After seeking out Etxebarri, a small asador with a strong tradition of wood-fired grilling, Lennox worked with Victor Arguinzoniz, pushing the limits of what could be cooked over an open flame. He was exposed to a form of cooking that was so completely different, beautifully complex, yet simple, one that highlighted ingredients in their most natural state. It was a turning point. What began as one year at Asador Etxebarri soon grew into five.

In his new book, Finding Fire, Lennox writes about fire through the ages, in history and culture. He gives guides on how to build, light, and tend a cooking fire, and which woods to use for which foods. It is stuffed with recipes using flame, ember, and ash, to coax flavour and finesse from good ingredients.

IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, I think we are all fascinated by fire. We’re mesmerised by the flames that flicker as wood crackles and snaps. There’s something about its colour and movement that comforts us to our core, and there’s a sense of security around the ethereal heat and energy it radiates.

Fire can also be unpredictable and powerfully destructive; perhaps it’s this edge of danger that’s attractive. Fire commands our attention, it stirs our emotions and, ever eternal, it continues its story long after we are gone.

Fire forges a connection between people, as we sit around it and share its warmth. It pulls us in and creates common ground – it’s done this for millennia. Since man learned to harness fire for practical purposes, it’s been a beacon for our rituals. Communal feasting around a fire is as old as history itself, and cooking over it requires all the instincts of the cook as well as a respectful interaction with the fire. In this way, the simplicity of cooking with fire is deceptive.

Cauliflower, tallow, hazelnuts

RECIPE TYPE savoury

WOOD TYPE ironbark

HEAT intense embers

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT cast-iron pan, grill or wood-fired oven

INGREDIENTS
40 g (1½ oz) hazelnuts
1 head cauliflower, leaves removed and reserved
120 g (4½ oz) aged tallow (beef fat), preferably from dry aged beef, melted, plus extra for brushing
sea salt
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) aged Pedro Ximénez vinegar

ALTERNATIVE METHOD
Roast the cauliflower in a woodfired oven.

SERVES 4

Grilling or roasting cauliflower results in an incredible natural sweetness that, in this recipe, is enhanced by the tallow and roasted hazelnuts.

1. Prepare your embers.
2. In a cast-iron pan, gently dry roast the hazelnuts until golden brown. Remove, roll in a tea towel (dish towel) to remove the brown papery skin, then split the hazelnuts in half and reserve.
3. Cut the cauliflower head in half down the middle and brush lightly with a little of the tallow. Place on the grill. Grill for 8–10 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a heavy-based pan with  the remaining tallow, season with salt and continue to roast over the fire for a further 10–12 minutes, turning once and basting continually.
4. Pour in the vinegar and boil, stirring, to deglaze the pan, and toss in the toasted hazelnuts.
5. Place the cauliflower leaves on the grill. Grill quickly until lightly charred, and place them around the cauliflower on a serving plate.
6. Whisk together the tallow and vinegar mixture remaining in the pan, season, pour it over the cauliflower and serve immediately.

Rhubarb vanilla marshmallows

MAKES 24 MARSHMALLOWS

One of the best things about cooking over the fire is gathering with friends and family to share in the experience, telling stories and passing on knowledge. With that in mind, here is a recipe for marshmallows that was kindly shared with me by Rob Kabboord, Chef de Cuisine at Quay in Sydney. I love how the tangy flavour of rhubarb cuts through the sweetness of the meringue. And what better dessert to share around the campfire than toasted marshmallows.

RECIPE TYPE sweet
WOOD TYPE any
HEAT gentle embers
ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT sugar thermometer

INGREDIENTS
½ vanilla pod
200 g (7 oz) rhubarb stalks, roughly chopped
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
7 sheets gold gelatine
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) filtered water
4 large egg whites
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)

For the sherbet mixture
100 g (3½ oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon baking powder
NOTE
The marshmallow mixture needs time to firm, so begin this recipe at least 8 hours ahead of time.

1. Split the vanilla pod, scrape the seeds and place the pod and the seeds in a small saucepan with the rhubarb and 100 g (31/2 oz) of the caster sugar. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb is really soft. Blend to a smooth purée and pass through a finemesh sieve.
2. Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold filtered water for 5 minutes until soft.
3. Pour half of the rhubarb purée into a clean saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat, drain the softened gelatine leaves and add to the pan. Stir until dissolved, then stir in the remaining rhubarb purée.
4. Place the filtered water and the remaining caster sugar in a saucepan and
heat to 120°C (250°F).
5. Remove the pan from the heat, wait 1 minute and then add the rhubarb
purée.
6. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form.
7. Add the rhubarb syrup mixture to the egg whites a little at a time, whisking continuously until all of the fruit is incorporated and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.
8. Mix together the icing sugar and the cornflour. Use this mixture to dust a baking tray lined with baking paper.
9. Spread the marshmallow mixture to a thickness of 3 cm (1¼ in) onto the baking tray and then sprinkle the icing sugar and cornflour mixture over the top (reserving a little). Place in the refrigerator to firm for at least 8 hours or overnight.
10. Combine the ingredients for the sherbet mixture. Dust a cook’s knife with the remaining icing sugar/cornstarch mixture and cut the marshmallows into cubes. Roll the cubes in the sherbet mixture, and toast over a fire.

Finding Fire by Lennox Hastie (Hardie Grant, £30)

Photography © Nikki To

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