I was supposed to be reading and writing these holidays, but it’s been all arithmetic. Cups, quarters of cups, 165 grams of this, 250 grams of that. I’ve never had so much fun cooking, even if I am stuck on an island with a vegetarian. I’ll forgive her though because she’s an amazing photographer and has been indulging my cookbook fantasies by taking gorgeous pics of the treats I’ve been dishing up. It’s forcing me to be more creative with the way I put food on a plate and I’m discovering little tricks like putting a few strands of red cabbage here and there for visual effect.
I’m also discovering barbecues aren’t just for meat.
The place we’re staying is in a tiny little settlement called Flinders Beach on North Stradbroke Island, about 30km off the coast from Brisbane. I’ve been here many times before, but always with a gang of male carnivores. There’s usually enough smoke rising off the hotplates to start a war between the Sioux and Cherokee. This time it’s a little different, but I had the idea of putting the smoke to good use.
There’s a grove of paperbark trees nearby and I know Alby Mangels and Co. loved baking with the stuff. The BBQ where I’m staying had no lid, but I figured out a way to use a couple of cast iron pans to create a smokey-dokey setup which channeled the fumes of delicousness onto the food without also funneling ash. Results varied between raging bushfire and birthday candles, but ended up under control and not entirely dissimilar to the way I saw it being done on a beach in San Jose Del Cabo a few years ago.
Mexican food should be smokey. I had no chipotles but I had enough capsicum and birds eye chillies to improvise.
- 1 can of red kidney beans
- 1 brown onion
- 2 birds eye chillies
- 1 red capsicum
- 2 tablespoons of cumin (or more, or less, to taste)
- Squeeze of lime
- 4 roma tomatoes
- 2 corns
- 3 garlics
- 3 tbsp white truffle oil (optional, but divine)
- Gourmet fancy-schmancy corn chips
- Guacamole (make it yourself, it’s dead easy)
- Coriander leaves to garnish
- Char-grill the tomatoes and corn on the BBQ and dice everything else (don’t dice the guacamole or chips, actually, do, it’ll be funny).
- Put all the mushy bits into a cast iron pan and place it on the BBQ
- Wrap the outside sides of the pan with paperbark bark
- Place a larger cast iron pan over the top of the first one so that it holds the paper bark in. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate into the first pan.
- Cook until the smell of smokey paperbark and nacho mushy bits is so overpoweringly delicious you have to eat it.