Ted, our resident fire-maker, gave us some tips on cooking with fire. There are two fuels we like to use — wood and charcoal.
If you are using wood, make sure you don't use anything poisonous, such as oleander or bay, or any treated timber. Any fruit wood, nut wood, or grape prunings are fabulous. Most importantly, your wood needs to be dry.
We like to start with something light and soft that burns easily. Once the fire is burning well, you can start to feed it hardwood, which will burn hotter and for a longer period of time. If you don't have hardwood, you just need to feed your fire more frequently.
The best way to keep your fire going is to make sure the flame has a way to draw air — oxygen is critical. If you build a fire in a deep hole, it won't be able to breathe.
Never cook directly over the flame, only over the coals. Ideally, we will build the fire on one side, let it burn down, and then shuffle the coals across to where we want to cook. If you're cooking something for a long time, make sure you keep your fire burning and keep pushing fresh embers over.
If you're cooking with charcoal, start a fire first, then add a small amount of charcoal and let it ignite. Add more charcoal (you need quite a lot) and let that ignite too. Once the charcoal is alight and covered in a white layer of ash, it is ready to cook on.
To check if your fire is hot enough to cook on, hold your hand about 12cm over the flame — you shouldn't be able to keep it there longer than a second or two if it's hot, and about five seconds if it's medium. Be careful not to light your fire in a windy spot and follow local guidelines to ensure you practise fire safety.
Grilled lamb flatbreads
This is a fantastic way to make a little bit of lamb mince go a long way.
These yummy flatbreads can be made ahead and reheat very well — perfect for summer adventures and celebrations.
Ready in 30 minutes
Makes 10 flatbreads
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
500g lamb mince
1 onion, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup Greek-style yoghurt
2 Tbsp harissa
4 cups self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1½ tsp salt
2 cups plain yoghurt (see note)
Make the yoghurt flatbread dough. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Fold in the yoghurt and use your hands to mix to just combine. Set aside to rest while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb mince, onion, and pepper, and fry, stirring often to break up the mince until the mince is no longer pink and starts to brown (6–8 minutes). Add the lemon zest, cumin, and salt, and cook for a further 2 minutes until aromatic. Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley and lemon juice, then set aside to cool.
Use floured hands to form the flatbread dough into a rough log and divide into 10 pieces. Flatten each piece of dough into 15cm rounds.
Spoon a loose ⅓ cup of the lamb filling on to the middle of the dough, then fold up the edges of your dough to join in the middle, covering the filling and forming a round parcel. (You want the lamb filling to be surrounded in dough, like a little pocket of deliciousness.) Turn the flatbread over and use a rolling pin to gently roll out into a 12cm round. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling until you have 10 rounds in total.
When you are ready to cook, preheat your barbecue or heavy frying pan to medium-high heat. Cook the flatbreads until golden and cooked through (about 3 minutes on each side).
To serve, cut each round into four and pile on to a serving board. Serve alongside a bowl of yoghurt with a couple of spoonfuls of harissa swirled through it, if using.
When making the dough, we've found these work best when you use plain, runny yoghurt. If you're using Greek-style yoghurt, you will need to use a little more.
Grilled squid & fennel salad
Whole squid is inexpensive and such a great source of quality protein. Sicilian Castelvetrano olives are really what make this salad — they are buttery, meaty, and incredibly delicious. When buying olives, if you can, choose ones that have their stones in as they are less likely to be mushy and have a better depth of flavour.
Ready in 20 minutes, plus marinating
2 whole squid, 600g (450g cleaned squid)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of flaky sea salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
A pinch of chilli flakes
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 small fennel bulbs
12 Castelvetrano olives or other green
olives, crushed with the back of a knife
to remove the stones, coarsely chopped
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley or
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon cut into cheeks, to serve
If you're using fresh whole squid, you will want to work over the sink, as preparing it will get messy. Pull and twist the head and tentacles away from the tube to detach. Set the head aside on a cutting board. Use your hands to scrape out any remaining innards from the tube, carefully removing the backbone. Rinse inside and out thoroughly, then transfer to a bowl.
Use a sharp knife to cut behind the eyes of the squid, and discard everything but the tentacles. Make sure you discard the beak and round hard socket at the base of the eyes too, as they are tough and unpleasant to eat.
Rinse tentacles thoroughly, cut in half lengthwise, and add to the bowl with the tube.
Add oil and salt to the bowl and toss to season. If using pre-cleaned squid or tubes, place in a bowl with oil and salt and toss to season.
Prepare your fire/barbecue/grill pan to medium-high heat. Cook the squid until charred and the flesh has turned white, and meets no resistance when pierced with a sharp knife (5 minutes each side for whole tubes, 3 minutes each side for tentacles).
Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, thinly slice.
While the squid cools, make the salad. Combine the oil, garlic, lemon zest, and chilli flakes in a small pot and gently heat for 1 minute until sizzling.
Remove from heat and add the sliced squid and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
While the squid is marinating, halve the fennel bulbs lengthwise and slice very thinly using a mandoline or sharp knife. Place in a bowl of ice water (this helps prevent browning and keeps fennel crisp). Chill until needed.
Just before serving, drain the fennel slices thoroughly and toss through the salad with the sliced squid and its dressing, olives, and parsley.
Season to taste and serve with the squid and lemon cheeks for squeezing.
Chocolate & cardamom tart
We love taking this tart along to summer pot-lucks and barbecues. It's vegan and gluten-free, so who can possibly say no? You'll be sure to impress with this fabulous make-ahead dessert.
Ready in 20 minutes, plus chilling
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
2 cups roasted salted cashews
½ cup desiccated/unsweetened finely shredded coconut
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
Seeds from 12 cardamom
pods, crushed, or ½ tsp ground cardamom
CHOCOLATE GANACHE TOPPING
250g dark 70% vegan chocolate
¾ cup coconut oil
1 x 400g can coconut cream
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Flaky sea salt, to sprinkle
Place the dates in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to stand for
5 minutes to soften. Drain well.
While dates soak, place the cashews in a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Make sure you don't over-blitz otherwise you will end up with cashew butter.
Add the drained dates and coconut oil to the food processor and blitz to a fine paste; the mixture should stick together when pressed between your fingers.
Line the base of a 26cm/10in spring-form cake tin with baking paper. Press the cashew mixture into the tin evenly, using the base of a measuring cup to flatten firmly over the base.
Allow to chill in the fridge while you make the topping.
For the ganache topping, break up the chocolate and place in a pot with the coconut oil, coconut cream, maple syrup and vanilla extract, over a medium heat, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and pour over the chilled base.
Return to fridge and leave to set for at least 2 hours. The tart will keep in the fridge for
5 days. Once set, sprinkle with sea salt to finish.
Spicy cucumber margarita
In Mexico, this is known as El Pipino. Incredibly delicious and refreshing, it's a bit of work to make, but well worth it. Traditionally made with sal de gusano (worm salt), which is delicious if you can find it. You can also skip the spice if that's not your thing.
Ready in 15 minutes
2 telegraph cucumbers
½ cup lime juice
½ cup good-quality mezcal or tequila
1–2 Tbsp agave, or to taste
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tsp flaky sea salt
1 lime, cut into quarters
Place four tumblers in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes. If you're tight for time, quickly rinse the glasses with water, then place them, wet, in the freezer for 5 minutes. Don't do this with fine crystal or it will break.
Cut a couple of slices off one of your cucumbers to use as a garnish, then peel the remainder, and the other one, and cut into chunks.
Place the cucumbers in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Use a sieve to strain this liquid into a small bowl—you should have a clean, pale green juice.
Transfer the cucumber juice to a large jug and add the lime juice, mezcal or tequila, and agave. Mix to combine. You can chill this mixture for up to 4 hours before you serve, or enjoy it immediately.
When ready to serve, mix the Aleppo pepper, if using, and salt on a large plate and spread out into a single layer.
To salt the rim of your glasses, press your lime quarters around the rim of each glass to moisten, then place each glass, rim-side down, on to your plate, using the lime juice to stick the salt and spices to the rim of the glass.
Place a couple of ice cubes in each of your prepared glasses. Give your cocktail mix a good stir, and then divide between the glasses, distributing evenly between the four. Garnish with cucumber slices and serve immediately.
You can easily halve or double this recipe, just make sure you keep the ratios the same.
If you don't have agave, you can use honey or maple syrup as a sweetener, it will just have a slightly different flavour profile.