Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cooking with Fire at the Agrarian Kitchen

Do you like a roaring bonfire?   I do.  Lots.  During the day, we worked with three different fires: hearth/fireplace cooking; the Alan Scott woodfire oven; and the bonfire in the garden.  One thing that I hadn't appreciated about cooking with fire, is that there's an extra dimension to it, literally.  You can cook over flames, coals, under ashes...  It's amazingly versatile.

As Rodney said, if we were going to have roast chicken, we might as well have something great.  Doesn't the bird look beautiful?  It was only dispatched days ago, and hung to dry out the skin.  The chicken was strung up on a string and placed in front of the fire, and was kept turning throughout the class.  All that delicious dripping didn't go to waste either -- a pan of jeruselam artichoke was set underneath, roasting over coals.  The finished roast was juicy, flavoursome and firm, a reflection on the great life it had.  It was one very special roast chicken.

From then on we moved outdoors and started cooking using the bonfire.  One of the most memorable dish was the roast lamb.  A whole middle section was cut, butterflied, hooked onto a few stakes and set next to the bonfire.  It took most of the day to cook, and it was so good.  I stole a stray piece of crispy skin while it was being served.  Salty, lemony and fatty.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

While that was cooking, we huddled around the fire.  At times, the heat was so intense, it felt like we were going to go home without our eyebrows. We had some delicious spiced cider (also cooked on a fire) that kept us warm.  Who doesn't like a tipple next to a bonfire?

Our side dishes included a traditional polenta was cooked over coals, made with the very last dried corn from the garden, harvested a few months ago.  It took forever and a lot of dedicated stirring by everyone.  The polenta was creamy, thick and taste of sweet corn.  I'm blown away, again, by now the simplest things can taste so good. 

For morning tea, we've had some crumpets, freshly made an cooked over the fire.  The texture was amazing!  Toasted to perfection on the outside; morishly soft in the middle.  These were the best crumpets I've ever had.  It really was :)  We ate them hot with lashings of butter and some of the beautiful jam made by Rodney.  The  morello cherry is my new favourite jam...

I've always loved food cooked under coals.  It remind me of barbeques we had as kids,.  Hot coals in a pit and barbeque forks skewered with all manner of things.  We'll wrap up sweet potatoes in foil and stick it under the dying embers.  So sweet, they were like desserts. 

We didn't have any sweet potatoes, but we did bury some pumpkin and fantastic onions under the ash, skins and all.  How simple is that?

The onions were amazing and had a gorgeous sweet smokey smell as we took them out.  We used it as toppings for woodfire pizzas that were cooked in the amazing (and the last of) Alan Scott oven.  The pumpkins had such a striking look when it was removed from the ash -- bright orange against the gray.  We had them with toasted almonds and tahini yoghurt sauce.  It's a different take on roast pumpkins that I really enjoyed.

Last, but not least, we cooked a great Robins Island wagyu rump that was hung for 28 days.  It was marinated with tamarind, cumin and a host of other spices and grilled.  It's not your ordinary BBQ...

After cooking all day long, it was time to sit down for lunch.  We tucked into our feast with gusto.  Forks were abandoned in favour for fingers.  It was a wonderful -- and fitting -- way to eat. 

Our very late lunch was topped off with a couple of desserts: pancakes de leche panqueque with stuffed roasted apples.  It was served with marscapone made by Rodney just days before.  The baked apple and pancake was a dream to eat.  They were so good together!  With a full belly and a long day, I was ready for a grandma nap.

Thank you again Rodney & Severine for yet another great class.  You've made standing outside in the cold so enjoyable, and delicious! :)