Fire and Food book review
A true BBQ lover never has enough books on his shelves that cover his favorite topic: BBQ! Food and fire is one of those books that should be included in your collection. With his interesting techniques and distinctive recipes author Marcus Bawdon presents you with a refreshing take on outdoor cooking. By mixing his UK heritage with global flavors and ingredients his harcover debut is filled with 65 original and attractive recipes. You can enjoy this review, but the better way to go is by grabbing a copy for your own BBQ library.
Marcus and I go way back to about 2013. We were both competing for the King of Meatopia crown that could be snatched by submitting the coolest BBQ or meat photo at the food festival in London. Marcus’ snap of a tomahawk steak cooked dirty style reigned supreme over my ‘biting in a pork belly in front of a huge smoker’ portrait making him the well-deserved winner of this fun food photo contest. We met at the Meatopia festival and had a good laugh about it. I’ve followed Marcus ever since via his various social media channels and am thoroughly enjoying his successful efforts of inspiring and enriching the British BBQ culture. His second book Skewered has just hit the shelves but for this review we are digging in his hardcover debut ‘Food and Fire’.
Food and Fire – General overview
The 144 pages thick book intrigues you right from its cover where an interesting showcase of steaks, glowing embers and flames spark your interest. The book starts with a brief but solid overview of the different techniques you can use to BBQ better. Here Marcus covers the basics, varying from what fire truly is to how to light it and control it to obtain the required temperatures to cook various dishes. He touches on a broad range of subjects but manages to control his vast knowledge and limits the amount of text to the right length. In Equipment and materials an oversight of the various fire fueled barbecues and cooking tools are given. Here he also shares his knowledge on subjects as various types of charcoal and smoke woods one can use.
“The following seven chapters are where the action really takes place”
The following seven chapters are where the action really takes place. The recipe chapters of Food and Fire are all conveniently sorted by various cooking techniques used in outdoor cooking. Chapters such as ‘Dirty’, ‘Cast iron cooking’ and ‘Rotisserie and skewers’ give you a perfect understanding of what can be found where. Ideal if you are looking at changing up your BBQ game by using different styles of cooking with fire. The last two chapters cover side dishes and some desserts and are full of interesting dishes you will put on your ‘to make’ list.
Food and fire’s unique signature
There are quite a few things that set this book apart from the many BBQ books out there. First thing you will notice when browsing through the pages is the well-made design and the food photos. The original artwork and design breath outdoor cooking without using any of the cliches. The food photos (made by Marcus himself) are vibrant and full of BBQ action making you truly want to get a fire going asap. One of the things I found very refreshing is the way Marcus has mixed his UK heritage with an international vibe. You will find plenty of recipes and ingredients (such as the various lamb recipes) that highlight the book’s British origin. In the mix you will find recipes using oriental ingredients and a few that have a taste of Argentinian inspiration making it a refreshing recipe collection that stands out from the many BBQ books that are out there. So, don’t expect to find just sticky and sweet glazed hunks of meat but fall in love with the fresh, vibrant flavors that drip of the pages.
Marcus loves it ‘dirty’
After winning the Meatopia kings crown Marcus never seemed to have lost his love for cooking ‘dirty’. This fire cooking technique, also known as ‘caveman style’ is where you skip the grill and cook ingredients right on the glowing embers. I see him cooking many dirty dishes on his social accounts, so it came as no surprise that he included a chapter dedicated to this cooking method in Fire and Food. What I found quite inspiring is how he included the technique of using glowing embers to melt fatty flavor bombs such as compound butter or bone marrow on top of steaks. This giving your dish an intriguing boost in scorched flavors while adding a subtle fatty touch to some leaner meats.
In short: I love this book. Despite its limited size it packs a mean punch giving plenty of inspiration and new ideas to even the more advanced outdoor chef. Within the book are plenty of creative and unique dishes never seen by any other chef or author like the bacon fatty that resembles a Battenburg cake but is made of sausage stuffing and black meat (hell yes!). The design is well put together and the photos made by the author himself really draw you into the action making you want to cook and eat. The easy to make UK and international infused recipes are a much-desired addition to any chef that likes to change things up making it a wonderful addition to even the most well stocked BBQ library.
“Within the book are plenty of creative and unique dishes never seen by any other chef or author“
The only thing I as a more experienced chef noticed is that some of the recipes are kept very basic (listing only two or three required ingredients). Making a Nduja stuffed pork belly is a brilliant idea, but since I want to cook giving the reader a basic recipe for the Nduja rather than just going for store-bought would at least give the option for more cooking action for guys like me. But don’t let this get in your way, it is a great BBQ book that is going to give you plenty of new culinary ideas and will flavor your summer nicely.
About the author:
Marcus is always with his head in a cloud of smoke. He is the Editor of UK BBQ magazine, runs a BBQ blog called CountryWoodSmoke and shares his culinary creations on Twitter and Instagram. Through live sessions at his UK BBQ School near his home in Devon, UK and BBQ demo’s throughout the country he shares his passion for outdoor cooking whenever he can.