From brownies to lettuce, Dayan Hartill-Law takes us through the surprising things you can barbecue.
If you’ve been watching MasterChef Australia, you’ll have seen that the hibachi, or Japanese charcoal barbecue, is this season’s most-used gadget. But there’s a reason why the contestants seem unable to get through an episode without one, and it’s not just because it looks cool. It’s because fire tends to make food taste better.
Dayan Hartill-Law loves playing around with the enormous woodfired grill and oven at Cucina Vivo, testing different techniques and trialling how different ingredients respond to the flames. “For me, there is no greater flavour than something that’s been cooked over fire,” he says. “Slow-cooked cabbage, steaks, breads, even cakes – woods and charcoals offer such delicious flavours that are absorbed by whichever item it is you are cooking, much deeper than what you’d get from convection ovens or stovetop cooking.”
He adds: “I think anything can be barbecue-friendly, providing you understand how to use your barbecue, how to harness smoke and control the heat”.
Here are some things you might not have considered cooking on the barbecue, but which you should definitely try.
Whether you make the dough from scratch (which is very easy!) or buy them ready made, grilling flatbreads on the barbecue is guaranteed to inject a new level of flavour. But don’t stop there. Grill your halved burger buns before layering them with meat and cheese or use your barbecue as an oven and use it to bake fresh loaves of bread or focaccia.
Proper pizza ovens run much hotter than regular convection ovens so to recreate that woodfired pizza experience at home, barbecue is best. Try to get your hands on a pizza stone or a cast-iron pan that you can place directly on the grill, then simply add your topped pizza to it and cook.
Brownies and cakes
That’s right – your barbecue can be used to cook sweet things like brownies and cakes. It’s better used for more robustly flavoured things like chocolate cakes or brownies, rather than light and airy sponges, as the heat and smoke will likely overpower the latter’s delicate flavour. Test your skills with this recipe for barbecued skillet brownies – smoke and fire give the chocolate a beautiful, deep flavour that’s impossible to recreate in a standard oven.
You’ve probably grilled corn and capsicum and maybe even cabbage before, but have you tried grilling lettuce? Slice a large cos lettuce down the middle lengthways, wash it well to get rid of any dirt or grit, brush the cut halves with oil and lay directly onto a hot grill. Grill until the outer leaves are charred and wilted and the core of the lettuce is warm. Top with a creamy dressing and some crispy bacon bits.
In summer, grilled peaches or grilled mango halves make an excellent addition to a salad or a standalone dessert (with vanilla ice cream, of course). You could also try grilling or barbecue-roasting strawberries to have with yoghurt for breakfast or dessert or grilling sliced pineapple to eat with pork tacos. In the cooler months, bake whole apples or pears in a cast-iron pan or skillet or turn them into a delicious fruit crumble.