The gorgeous photos in this book absoutely take you away—to isolated beaches and rugged camping spots all over Australia. Author Sarah Glover, who grew up eating in the great outdoors, shows you how to cook gourmet meals over a bonfire. How cool is that? She makes everything from pizza to pancakes to full dinners featuring fresh-caught fish, whole chickens suspended over an open fire, or sausages intertwined with branches of an apple tree laded with fruit. It’s a totally romantic look at experiencing the outdoors while maintaining gourmet standards.
Recommended equipment ranges from area-sourced logs and branches with accompanying camping grills, large pots, and frying pans that can take the heat. Imagine being beachside with a roaring bonfire while you scour the area for driftwood and the perfect branch for tying the fish you just caught, wrapped with spring onions and kaffir leaves. It’s a style of glamping that respects nature in all its glory. Glover explains how to determine the temperature of the fire, and how long cooking will take. This is the epitome of slow cooking, and using what’s available to gourmet heights. Local ingredients like pine needles, saltwater and hay factor into some of the recipes, which are truly unique in their approach.
Here are some of the recipes that caught my eye:
—Hung Snags and Apple which takes lengths of attached sausages and pairs them with branches of apples, just picked off a tree. The recommended sides are a Burnt Tomato Relish and Walnut Cabbage.
—Hot Chicks are chicken wings coated in polenta, grilled, then tossed in crumbled feta and cilantro.
—Fish on Log calls for hammer and nails, thus attaching it securely to a log stripped of its bark, and set aside raging coals to cook.
—I think this might be my favorite recipes, Mustard Beef with ‘Shrooms & Black Lettuce. The mushrooms sound absolutely heavenly cooked in butter, garlic, and heavy cream, while the beef tenderloin gets coated in peppercorn and mustard seeds. Grilled lettuces complete the meal perfectly.
—Smashing Pumpkin takes pumpkin eating to a work of art—after a few hours in the coals, the pumpkin is ready to be smashed and dressed in tahini and chopped pecans.
Of course, many of these recipes can be made on an ordinary barbecue on your deck, which is a bit more tame, but delicious nonetheless. Or, if you have some space for a bonfire at your weekend house, I encourage reading this book for inspirational dinners that will remain unforgettable in your guests’ minds.
Enjoy this recipe from the book, which douses a crustacean in two lively sauces: one with sesame seeds, the other with lemon verbena, one of my favorite herbs.
THAT BE CRAY CRAY
EQUIPMENT: Camping grill
SESAME SEED DRESSING
MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS
1 cup (150 g) sesame seeds
1∕3 cup (80 ml) rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup (240 ml) grapeseed oil
Heat the sesame seeds in a frying pan until they become golden brown. Pour the seeds into a mortar and pound with a pestle until the seeds start to release their oils.
Add the rice wine vinegar and soy sauce and continue to pound. Slowly add the grapeseed oil – it will slightly emulsify. Store in a glass jar with an airtight lid until it is ready to be used. It will keep for a month.
LEMON VERBENA OIL
MAKES 1 CUP
Bunch of lemon verbena
1 bush lemon or regular lemon
1 cup (240 ml) good-quality olive oil
Pick the lemon verbena leaves from the stalks and slice them very thinly with a sharp knife (if it’s not good and sharp you will bruise the leaves). Remove the rind from the lemon and slice it as thinly as you can.
Put the lemon verbena leaves and lemon rind in a small jar, pour the olive oil over and allow to infuse for at least 2 hours. Eat within 48 hours.
THAT BE CRAY CRAY
1 live Australian crayfish (or small lobster or langoustine)
3 tablespoons lemon verbena oil (see below)
dollop of anchovy aioli (see below)
1 teaspoon crushed dried wakame seaweed
Light your fire and let it burn down until you obtain a medium heat. Put the camping grill about 8 inches (20 cm) over the coals. Just before you are ready to cook, use a sharp knife to cut through the middle of the crayfish head between the eyes, then cut down towards the face. Halve the cray from nose to tail, and remove the digestive tract and clean the guts out. Rinse in saltwater.
Place the clean crayfish on the wire part of the camping grill, flesh-side down, and cook for about 4 minutes. It will char a little, which is a good thing as this will help the flesh come away from the wire grill easily. Flip the crayfish over so it’s shell-side down and drizzle the lemon oil over the flesh.
Cook for about 5 minutes or until the flesh goes white and the shell turns bright red-orange. I like to add a little aioli to the flesh while it is still on the grill so that it gets a nice smoky flavor, too. Garnish with wakame and eat immediately, straight out of the shell.
Reprinted with permission from Prestel Publishing.