FOR THE PESTO 100g walnut pieces

250g pack ready-cooked beetroot (non- vinegary) 1 clove garlic 4 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves picked 3 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp sherry vinegar Salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE TROUT 4 trout, cleaned and gutted 1 large orange 1 tbsp olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Add the walnuts to a small frying pan and set over a medium heat to toast for a couple of minutes until they smell nutty, taking care not to burn them as they cook quickly.

2 Tip into a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the beetroot, along with any juices from the pack, and the garlic and tarragon leaves. Pulse until well chopped then add the olive oil, vinegar and a good seasoning of salt and pepper and puree until really smooth. Taste to check the seasoning, then scrape into a bowl and set aside at room temperature whilst you fire up the barbecue.


1 Fire up the barbecue to a medium flame, and leave to warm up.

2 Prepare the fish by slicing deep diagonal cuts through the skin on both sides.

3 Cut the orange in half, and then cut each half into half-moon slices. Insert 3-4 pieces into the gut cavity of each fish. Drizzle a little oil over each fish and rub all over, then sprinkle over a little salt and pepper on each side. Lay the fish in a barbecue cage if you are using one, or lay directly onto the grate.

4 Grill on the barbecue for about 6 mins on each side, until cooked through and the skin is crisp.

5 Serve the fish with the beetroot sauce alongside. 12 | THE WEST COUNTRY FOODLOVER


Here are a few pointers to help you on your path to cooking like we did back in 10,000 BCE:

❤ Make sure you are using proper charcoal, such as lumpwood (hardwood lump charcoal) or coals from natural wood. No unsustainable rainforest product or compressed blocks of inferior charcoal.

❤ If you’re burning your wood down for embers, good woods to use are oak, beech, ash, hornbeam, birch and chestnut.

❤ Before you put any meat or fish on the coals, be sure to give the coals a good fanning with a tray, or something similar, to get rid of any ash.

❤ Make sure you have a really good bed of embers ready. It should be at least 5cm (2in) thick, with a good spread so that when you go for a flip you are able to put the meat on a fresh bed of coals because the place where it was cooking will have lost most of its heat and energy.

❤ If cooking on burnt-down logs, make sure you have a second one up to speed and ready to go, so you can flip the one just used back onto the fire in case you need it again.

❤ Don’t forget your veggies. Vegetables such as onions, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, chillies and beetroot tend to form a crust or charring on the skin that can be removed or brushed off. But make sure you leave some on there for flavour because the carbon is clean and wonderful.

Turn up the heat

Forager, author and cook Nick Weston, examines the merits of cooking on coals...

cooking is the purest form of fire cookery there is. Also known as ‘clinching’ (perhaps because it sounds cleaner), dirty cooking means cooking food directly on hot coals, just as our ancestors would have done. It’s a safe bet, too, that early man didn’t have a stainless steel grill to cook on.


Fire cookery was a key factor in the evolution of mankind: it changed us forever. Meat is high-calorie stuff in a condensed package. In comparison, fruits, vegetable matter and berries don’t contain nearly the same levels of calories. Tat means early humans spent a lot of time and energy grazing, gathering in high volume and digesting such foods. When early man first paired meat with fire, good things happened. Cooking meat made it even more digestible, allowing more energy to be diverted elsewhere: to our brains. Tis led to a series of developments: jawlines changed, as we no longer had to spend so much time ‘chewing the cud’; teeth changed to deal with meat better; and,

f you think that a sausage rolling off the grill and into the coals is a loss, lose that fear right now because that sausage will taste better than all the others. ‘Dirty’

above all, man began to create things, such as tools, clothing and language. And here we are.

Just like charcoal, when wood burns, it gradually breaks down and becomes the embers you’re going to grill over. For fire, oxygen is essential to the equation. When you drop a slab of meat directly onto hot coals, there is no space for the oxygen to get in, so the heat is transferred directly into the meat from the wood or charcoal, without any flame (though you may get the occasional flare-up, especially if there’s fat content on your meat). Te flavour is much more intense than anything that’s been on a grill, and dirty cooking is actually a lot gentler than you would think. Te ‘char’ effect on both meat and vegetables adds to the end product, giving a depth of flavour that grilling won’t deliver. Te Maillard reaction is in play here, too: heat breaks down proteins in the meat into amino acids, which then react with the sugars in the meat to create that wonderful, flavour-packed crust. Dirty cooking is this on steroids.

Extract from Hunter Gather Cook by Nick Weston, published by GMC Publications, RRP £25,

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