Fan­ning the flames

Foodie Maeve O’Meara fires up Food Sa­fari to em­brace more than the Aussie bar­be­cue. By COLIN VICK­ERY

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -


THURS­DAY, 8PM, SBS AUSSIE TV has gone bar­be­cue mad.

First it was Chan­nel Seven’s Aussie Bar­be­cue He­roes with Ben O’Donoghue. Now Maeve O’Meara is get­ting in on the flam­ing ac­tion with SBS’s Food Sa­fari Fire.

The shows come at a time when Amer­i­canstyle eater­ies are pop­ping up all over the coun­try, dishing up all sorts of smoked ribs, pulled pork and slid­ers.

But O’Meara isn’t jump­ing on a band­wagon. In­stead, as Food Sa­fari Fire shows, wood-fired ovens, smok­ers, spit roast­ers and grills fea­ture in cuisines all over the world in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Chile, Italy, Tur­key, Viet­nam, In­dia, Greece, China, South Amer­ica and the South Pa­cific.

Food Sa­fari has done spe­cial se­ries de­voted to French and Ital­ian cook­ing, so it makes per­fect sense for the mul­ti­cul­tural cook­ing show to fo­cus on fire this time around.

“The se­ries is timely be­cause we’re com­ing into sum­mer but in Aus­tralia we’re also keen to learn the au­then­tic ways of do­ing things,” O’Meara says.

“Fire is some­thing that we love in Aus­tralia – we fancy our­selves as fan­tas­tic with a bar­be­cue. It is only when you look at other cuisines that you go, ‘Wow, there’s a bit more to learn’.

“We show tech­niques and flavours that most peo­ple here are yet to dis­cover.” And how. In the first episode of Food Sa­fari Fire, Sydney restau­ra­teur Len­nox Hastie is fa­nat­i­cal about match­ing food to par­tic­u­lar woods. Del­i­cate fruit woods will give a dif­fer­ent flavour than grape vines. Len­nox grills mar­ron over nec­tarine wood.

Tas­ma­nian farmer Rod­ney Dunn has a prim­i­tive back­yard set-up of star pick­ets to cook pork belly over a fire pit and a string bag to roast a chicken.

Chef Tet­suya Wakuda uses a por­ta­ble konro grill with a spe­cial bin­chotan char­coal to cook Span­ish mack­erel with miso and soy.

It is a long way from a snag with bread and tomato sauce at Bun­nings.

“I’ve just put in a tan­door oven at home,” O’Meara says. “It is a dif­fer­ent tech­nique (to the tra­di­tional Aussie bar­be­cue) and the re­sult is great flavour. Luck­ily, it’s not that hard.

“On one end of the scale you’ve got the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of flavour match­ing (wood and food) and you re­alise that there are dif­fer­ent grades of char­coal.

“But you can also buy a $50 Mid­dle East­ern bar­be­cue and you can get ab­so­lutely de­li­cious flavours from the likes of kaf­tas (Le­banese beef ke­babs) cooked on skew­ers over char­coal.”

One of the most in­ter­est­ing seg­ments comes in episode 10 when Samoan ra­dio host Jerry Ue­sele uses hot rocks to not only cook a leg of lamb but also to cre­ate caramel for a tra­di­tional dessert.

Food Sa­fari Fire shows this form of cook­ing more than just about food. It is also a ma­jor so­cial ac­tiv­ity.

“Some peo­ple might want to put a swim­ming pool or ten­nis court in their back­yard but for oth­ers, some­thing like a wood-fire oven en­riches their life.

“Part of the joy is that it brings fam­ily and friends to­gether. Fire is made, food is cooked and en­joyed, and that is the essence of the sweet life.”

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