Find flavour in the flames

Ex­plore end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of cook­ing beau­ti­ful food with fire

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - LIFE | TASTE - This is an edited ex­tract from Find­ing Fire by Len­nox Hastie, pub­lished by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $60, and avail­able in stores na­tion­ally. Pho­tog­ra­pher: Nikki To.

THERE’S so much more to cook­ing with fire than sim­ply char­ring a steak over the flames of a bar­be­cue or toast­ing marsh­mal­lows over a camp­fire.

In Find­ing Fire, Len­nox Hastie, of the ac­claimed Syd­ney restau­rant Fire­door, shows how to har­ness fire to truly en­hance the flavour of our food.

Co­conut, choco­late, cherry granita

While botan­i­cally a co­conut is a drupe and not a true nut, co­conuts have a rich nutty flavour and creamy tex­ture that is a good sub­sti­tute for the rich­ness of dairy.

Like the process of slowly cook­ing a tin of con­densed milk and mak­ing dulce de leche, the idea was that, buried in the ashes, the co­conut flesh would cook down slowly in its own sweet milk.

The re­sult was in­cred­i­ble. The co­conut re­tained all its nat­u­ral juices but they had com­bined with the creamy flesh, tak­ing on sub­tle notes of smoke and caramel, and an in­tense co­conut flavour. We then froze it to make a re­fresh­ing sor­bet, which needed noth­ing more than the ad­di­tion of a lit­tle sugar.

For a bit of tex­ture, we made a choc-top, com­bin­ing high­qual­ity choco­late with co­conut oil, which sets and hard­ens to a crisp coat­ing on con­tact and pro­vides a del­i­cate bit­ter­ness to the sweet­ness of the co­conut. A choco­late with notes of dried fruit pairs well with the fresh cherry granita and grilled cher­ries, mak­ing it quite deca­dent.

SERVES: 4

WOOD TYPE: cherry HEAT: medium-in­tense em­bers, hot ash, gen­tle em­bers AD­DI­TIONAL EQUIP­MENT: hack­saw, ice cream ma­chine

In­gre­di­ents

2 co­conuts (ap­prox­i­mately 1.2 kg each)

150g liq­uid glu­cose

100g dark choco­late (at least 60% co­coa solids, such as Val­rhona Ma­caé 62%)

50g co­conut oil

100g ripe, sweet cher­ries, washed, pit­ted and halved

FOR THE GRANITA:

75g caster sugar

150 ml fil­tered wa­ter

250g ripe, sweet cher­ries, washed and pit­ted

Pinch of sea salt

Squeeze of lemon juice

NOTES: The co­conut mix­ture needs time to chill be­fore churn­ing, so be­gin this recipe at least 8 hours ahead of time. Be sure to use fresh co­conuts that are heavy for their size.

Method

Pre­pare your em­bers.

Toast the co­conuts di­rectly on medium-in­tense em­bers un­til black­ened all over, cov­er­ing the co­conuts in 200C hot ashes. Leave to cook for 2 hours, then re­move and al­low to cool.

Care­fully make a hole in the top of each co­conut and strain the co­conut wa­ter into a con­tainer. This should yield 400ml of liq­uid.

With a hack­saw, cut the tops off the co­conuts. Scoop out the flesh; you should have ap­prox­i­mately 600g. Place the co­conut shells in the freezer.

Blend the re­served co­conut wa­ter with the flesh to form a smooth purée. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, add the glu­cose and com­bine. Re­frig­er­ate the mix­ture for 8 hours. Once the mix­ture has cooled com­pletely, churn it in an ice cream ma­chine. Trans­fer to a con­tainer and keep in the freezer.

Pre­pare the granita. Boil the sugar and wa­ter un­til the sugar is dis­solved, pro­duc­ing a light syrup. Al­low to cool com­pletely. Blend the cher­ries to a smooth purée, adding the sugar syrup, salt and a squeeze of lemon. Place in a clean, shal­low con­tainer and freeze for at least 1 hour.

Pre­pare the choco­late-top liq­uid. Melt the choco­late in a bowl sus­pended over a pan of barely sim­mer­ing wa­ter. Re­move from the heat and whisk in the co­conut oil un­til emul­si­fied. With a fork, scrape shav­ings from the cherry granita. Re­turn to the freezer.

Re­move the charred co­conut shells from the freezer and place a large scoop of co­conut sor­bet in the mid­dle of each shell. Care­fully spoon over the choco­late-top liq­uid (whisk­ing first to re-emul­sify if it has sep­a­rated). Place in the freezer for 2 min­utes to har­den.

In a fine-mesh sieve, grill the halved cher­ries over gen­tle em­bers un­til warm, slightly smoky and the juices are just be­gin­ning to re­lease.

Re­move the granita from the freezer, scrape again with a fork, and then place the granita around the dome of each co­conut choc-top. Sur­round with warm grilled cher­ries and serve im­me­di­ately.

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