"The natural fat that runs through kingfish belly makes it ideal for grilling," says Hastie. "Ideally it should be served warm and rare. Its soft richness is contrasted by the slightly sweet crunch of the aromatic fennel. Finger limes release their aromatic oils when grilled, and complete the dish with their fresh zing."
- For barbecuing: seasoned hardwood, preferably apple, olive or citrus wood
- 600 gm wild kingfish belly, skin removed, fat intact, bloodlines trimmed
- 50 ml extra-virgin olive oil (a light, fruity style such as arbequina or koroneiki)
- 4 finger limes
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, peeled, fronds reserved
- Juice and finely grated rind of ½ lime
- 1Burn wood slowly down to smouldering embers and medium heat (see below).
- 2Lightly brush kingfish with 10ml olive oil, season to taste and grill on both sides until lightly charred and just cooked (1-2 minutes each side). Grill finger limes, turning occasionally, to release oils (1 minute).
- 3Thinly slice fennel on a mandolin into a bowl, add remaining olive oil, lemon juice and rind, and fennel fronds and season to taste with sea salt.
- 4Slice kingfish across the grain, divide among serving plates along with fennel. Split finger limes, scatter warm lime pearls over kingfish and serve.
How to prepare wood
- It almost goes without saying, but check the fire restrictions for the day in your area.
- Because they offer better control over airflow, wood-fired ovens are the perfect thing for burning the wood to coals; take care when you're transferring them to your grill or barbecue.
- If you're using a pit, enclose the fire with fire-rated bricks to help retain the heat and to slow the rate of burning.
- If you're using a barbecue, light the fire, close the lid and adjust the vents so the wood doesn't burn too fast. If you happen to have two barbecues, use one for burning the wood and one for grilling.
- Light the fire early - at least 1½ hours before starting cooking. Avoid using fire lighters or treated wood where there can be a residual chemical component. Wood embers burn hotter than the fire itself, so allow the wood to break down to glowing coals with a light-grey coating of ash. Too high a temperature and the subtle elements of the wood become tasteless. Optimal conditions are a slow, smouldering fire.
- Ideally you should use seasoned hardwood (at least 12 months old). Green or unseasoned wood with a high moisture content is harder to light and burns erratically, emitting smoke instead of heat, so it's worth sourcing premium hardwoods from recognised suppliers, such as Blackheath Firewood Company. If you have fruit trees, keep your prunings to use the next year.
- Woods vary in the amount of heat and flavour they produce.
Drink Suggestion: The richness of the kingfish and the aromatic oil of the finger limes needs a dry yet lean wine. It's a cheap and surprisingly great chardonnay to the rescue – 2013 Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay. Drink suggestion by Lok Thornton