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So there it is, folks. After weeks and weeks of watching the contestants battle it out to be crown the king or queen of The Great British Bake Off 2018, it was talented-but-shy Rahul Mandal who finally clinched victory.
And while there was some controversy over whether or not Rahul actually deserved to take home the crown, the more interesting debate was over the nature of the final challenges in the tent.
One challenge saw the bakers leaving the tent (surely not!) and heading over to a live fire to cook pitta bread and prepare accompanying dips. Cue a storm in a Twittercup about whether making dips constituted 'baking'.
Still, that controversy shouldn't engulf the really-quite-interesting challenge of cooking on a live fire. The technique, which, as Paul Hollywood noted, has "been around for thousands of years”, is a hot trend on the restaurant scene at the moment, with new eateries popping up left, right, and centre offering dishes cooked either over a live flame or, as on Bake Off, on a slate held over an open flame.
Perhaps it's little wonder that this ancient practice is being revived. The simple yet theatrical method sits perfectly at the crossroads between various modern food trends: dining as an experience, traditional cooking, local methods, and a back-to-basics kitchen approach.
Mark Parr, the owner of the London Log Company who supplies firewood to hundreds of kitchens across the UK, and a massive live fire enthusiast who goes by the moniker Lord Logs on social media to share his love for the art, notes that this is exactly how our caveman ancestors would have cooked: "It's the essence of what drove us to be here."
What's the point of cooking on an live fire?
Whisky fans will already know that different kinds of wood can impart different flavour profiles into their drinks. The same goes for cooking on a live fire, which imparts a distinct taste and texture depending on the wood that's used.
Parr gives the example of Scandinavian smoked salmon. The dish has a sweet taste that's totally different from Scottish smoked salmon, for example, because it is usually smoked with alder wood, a tree which grows near water and harbours a fungus that must produce a sugar to survive. "Wood is organic, it becomes of the soil it grows in, which gives you different notes to navigate between. Wood exists on an aromatic spectrum with dark and light woods offering totally different tastes."
And this helps to explain why cooking on a fire is suddenly so popular. Parr says that we've basically perfected the art of taste in most fields of cooking, to the extent that there's not many new discoveries left. Live fire cooking is one of the few remaining blind spots.
Neil Rankin, chief director and master chef behind Temper restaurants, whose live fire restaurant Temper City was chosen as one of The Telegraph's best new restaurants in 2017, says fire cooking allows chefs to give their dishes a much more personal touch: "Cooking over fire allows constant manipulation of the product. You can see it cooking and keep adjusting it for colour and cooking degree. The interaction is not only more interesting for the chef but also the customers who are watching you cook."
While acknowledging all those brilliant reasons to jump on the live fire trend, Andrew Clarke, one of the restauranteurs behind the London live fire eatery, St Leonards, says that cooking with live fire is simply more satisfying: "I think I've got the most fun kitchen in London. We've got so much going on, no one could get bored."
"It's a very primal way of cooking as well, you know? That excites us. You're not just looking after the ingredients, you're looking after the fire; it can't go out, it needs to maintain a certain temperature; there's a lot to play with. It seems like a very simple way of doing things but it's not. You've got to be on the ball, working out where your hot spots are and where's good for slower cooking."
How to cook on an live fire
While most of us will have cooked food on the barbecue over summer, cooking over a live fire is a totally different beast.
“Wood fire is a gentler heat than charcoal, although right over a flame, there is more direct, sharper heat, and it may be higher too," explained chef Niklas Ekstedt, pioneer of the modern cooking with wood flames trend, when The Telegraph spoke to him at his restaurant Ekstedt in Stockholm.
Traditionally we're used to seeing meat cooked on a live fire. Where would a hog roast be without its delicious smoky taste? Vegetables are more of a challenge, as they have a high water content – although that doesn't mean they're impossible. "Vegetables are actually better than meat and fish in my opinion," says Rankin. "Meat and fish are great if you’re skilled but sometimes its easier to just cook them in a pan or use a proper smoker.
"Vegetables take heat well. You can burn then and they don't stick or create flames as meat does with its fat."
How do you perfect the art? “Choose a dry wood, so it will burn evenly, and start frying something," he says. "Try cauliflower, haricots verts or broccoli in a little bit of fat – butter is difficult as it burns, so use animal fat or clarified butter like ghee. If it catches fire a little bit, that’s fine.”
Of course, while live fire cooking is an interesting trend, not all of us have the facilities to invest in a great big fire pit or collect special wood to burn. But fear not, Clarke has a simple method of getting the benefits of live fire cooking with nothing more than a simple barbecue: "Wood chips are an easy way of doing it. You can soak those in water and sprinkle them over the hot coals and you'll get some of the same flavours coming off.
"You can also burn the wood. By burning the wood rather than soaking it, we get a flavour that's a lot more subtle. As soon as you put the wood chips in water, you're going to get more intense smoke and a more intense flavour."
At which point, Rankin serves a reminder that live fire cooking has its dangers. "Don't hang meat directly above the fire. It should be offset. A restaurant did that recently at a street food event and everything went up in flames. Fat is no different to oil so you need to be just as careful.
"Also don't be wasteful and burn down wood for charcoal. Buy nice clean burning charcoal and save wood for smoking in smokers that waste less fuel or for wood fired ovens."