Charred Fire

So Many Charred Timbers

13 April - by Jo Russell-Clarke

Words by Jo Russell-Clarke

Tasting Australia’s Town Square is a smoky, grilled, succulent, glorious place. 

Visitors are immediately immersed in the aroma of wood fire and for that you need wood. 

But not just any wood will do.

Each vendor has their own cooking methods and apparatus: a half-barrel barbecue grill, a rotisserie, hung and splayed and spiked meats and, of course, a pizza oven. 

But the art of wood-fired cooking goes further.

Alana Brabin stands before a pile of redwood, her preferred timber that she is always careful to organise for the meats of If You’re Game

Beyond India has its Tandoor on site, but the theatre of the Town Square’s Charred theme means it’s better to have meats out and visible on an open grill. 

Regardless, it’s heat they are after, from hard and heavy timber. 

Redgum is okay, but they much prefer the density of mallee, a tough, slow-growing desert species.

Big bulbs of beautifully sheened caciocavello hang high over the grill of Andre’s Cucina. 

The melting cheese is ready to smear over bruschetta. They use red and blue gum for heat and flavour but add apple and pear wood for a distinctive edge. 

A tangled pile of branches is waiting, brought from Andre’s Mylor property.

Pizza ovens need flame once the right temperature is reached, so harder hot-burning timber is not good. 

The Pizzateca stall is lucky enough to have access to a friend’s supply of good dry sugar gum. It is split thin and burns faster with a good flame.

Comida is back with its clever cooking structure, fabricated by Mt Barker Steel. Chef Brad Sappenberghs is master of a mini rotunda for variously slow roasting, grilling and smoking. Corn is charring on the lower, swinging grills, while 24 chickens were being prepared to hang and slow cook for three hours. 

Last year, Comida offered an entire rib-eye that took five hours to cook. Red gum is the main species smoking in the tray below, but when a quick, hot flame is needed, grape vine cuttings are added. Brad is also experimenting with different fruit woods for flavour.

The wood smoke hanging over Tasting Australia’s Town Square tells its own tale of attention to detail and local provenance. 

The aromatic timbers used by the Charred stallholders are an essential part of its atmosphere in ways that reflect the diversity and care of some amazing vendors - inhale and enjoy!

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