Kate Ryan, Flavour.ie
Summer heat, winter chill, spring freshness, or autumn cosiness, fire, smoke and sizzle combine to draw people to good food and good company. Cooking over fire is the most primitive form of cookery, but to master it is a skill that can take a lifetime. Few things create anticipation than the sizzle of a delectable morsel hitting hot metal, and I don’t care where it originates from! The sound of bacon sizzling in a pan; the sizzle and splutter of the barbecue; the smell of roasted fish; the clang of shaking embers, the blister and pop of fire-kissed pizza dough, or the clatter and theatre of a teppanyaki master. If it sizzles, I want to eat it!
- Sweet n Spicy Bacon
Streaky bacon is the way to my heart! Sizzled until crispy and golden, just shy of shattering, there’s a magic to simply watching the bacon do its thing in the pan.
Here, @bensabaconlovers makes bacon the way I love it the most: coated in a sweet and spice mix and slowly cooked to deliver a deeply satisfying, unctuous chewy bite. I love combining maple syrup with a pinch of cayenne pepper, brush the rashers with it and cook in the oven. The smell is amazing; the taste is off the scale delicious!
- Grilled Cheese
What’s not to love about an oozy, crispy, melty, crunchy, dribble-down-your-chin-delicious grilled cheese? They are a regular lunchtime favourite in our house and always eagerly gobbled down with a dipping sauce on the side. The secret is in choosing the right cheese or mix of cheeses and generously buttering the outside of the bread for that ultimate golden crunch. The folks at @toonsbridge know how to make a great grilled cheese – handy that they also make fabulous melty cheese to go in them too. Just look at this majestic beauty, and tell me you don’t one to bite down on one immediately…
- Veggie Char
I’m always curious about what can be cooked over fire – technically anything of course, but some things really shine when licked by flame; fruits and vegetables among them. @finalferguson is most famous for his globally adored hand forged knives, and as the mastermind behind Gubbeen Smokehouse near Schull in West Cork. But he is also a man who relishes cooking over fire and building contraptions using his forging skills. I don’t even know what to call this set up, but I do remember eating the seasonal, local sweetcorn charred and basted with obscene amounts of butter, and later, watermelon served with mint and frozen grated feta cheese. It was so good, and a great reminder that cooking with fire isn’t just about meat and fish!
- Shellfish Sizzle
I’ve cooked shellfish over flame in many ways over the years: mussels in a Dutch oven, scallops in their half shell cooked dirty direct on the coals, langoustines speared and grilled, and lobster cooked clambake style in a stone filled pit dug into the sand on a beach covered with a damp sack cloth. Shellfish go next level tasty when sizzled over gentle embers, including these razor clams from Dublin’s @biggrillfestival. Razors are abundant in Ireland making them the perfect choice for a sundowner’s BBQ down on the beach.
- Teppanyaki Theatre
A teppanyaki is a giant plancha where every element of a dish is cooked individually and then brought together in a final flurry. To watch a teppanyaki master at work is to be mesmerised – not only to witness how the dish is built, but to watch the movements of the chef who may even juggle the steel paddles that relentlessly chop, mix, flip and press the dish into life. It’s total theatre, literally, as the chef stands surrounded by diners waiting for their meal to be prepared. All the while the teppanyaki sizzles; a little dash of oil here or sake there and a whoosh of flame shoots up. Imagine the aroma of this dish pictured by @otabe.ec of fresh calamari cooking up in front of you? Delicious!
- Mesmerising Flame
We are drawn to flame, to look into and commune around. Ireland once had its own unique use of fire, the fulacht fiadh, where stones were heated then pushed into a pit dug into the mud and filled with water. Very little is known about them, but culinary archaeology suggests they were used to cook large piece of meat and therefore likely associated with pagan celebrations during the bronze age. It’s should be no surprise that there is a continuum of fascination in Ireland with food cooked over fire. In Cork, @nuaasador takes that fascination for flame and uses it to cook famous Tom Durcan steaks to order – and so much more besides.
This is the scene that greets you when you mosey on up to this altar of fire and flame and await to hear the sizzle of marbled meat on searing steel.
- Spicy Sizzle
Few can elucidate flavour from spice the way Sunil Ghai can with his iconic menu of dishes served up @picklerestaurant in Dublin. From fiery heat designed to make the diners sizzle to mellow spiced dishes that comfort. Combine this with a riot of colour expected from the wonderful cuisine of India, from fresh herbs, pristine yogurt, pickles and chutneys of all colours, textures and flavours, its food that reminds us we are alive with vital energy!
- Wood, Flame, Scallops
@ellinorstenroos captured this perfect moment of plump scallops in a skillet sizzling over flame in Canada. The white heat of the wood and glowing embers underneath, the occasional escaping flame, all at the precision moment for creating the perfect sizzling conditions to caramelise the edges of those fresh, pearlescent scallops. A joyful simplicity that’s impossible to beat.
- Cook Dirty
I’m a huge fan of Pat and Jim, the Wexford duo that are @smokin_soul.ie. They design and build the most amazing rigs, smokers and grills, but are also masters in charcoal making, smoking, and cooking over fire. To cook dirty in BBQ parlance is to cook directly on the coals. It’s fun, looks epically cool, but also creates an extra layer of sear and flavour for being in amongst the charcoal instead of above it. Smokin’ Soul offer weekend courses, and every few months team up with low and slow chef supremo, John Relihan, to deliver a day long live fire cookery demo and feasts called Twe12ve Fires. They are fantastic events, well worth getting to.
- 10.Hunter Gather Cook
If you’ve ever had dreams of building a treehouse in the woods where your only food was what could be grown, foraged or hunted for; build the most incredible outdoor kitchen with your own hands, invite people in to show them how to do what you do and then cook up the most insane food possible, you need to follow Nick Weston, better known as @huntergathercook.
Going to Lewes in Sussex to attend one of Nicks courses and feasts is firmly on my bucket list. For now, I’ll just ogle his Insta feed and thumb through his books, dreaming of the day when I can taste the fruits of Weston’s incredible way of life.