Marty Shanahan, aka The Backyard Cook, is incredibly passionate about food and also has a sideline in collecting beautiful but useful objects.
Marty’s passion is cooking in the open air, preferably on a raging fire – which is the kiwi dream for a lot of home cooks. His recipes are easy to follow, healthy and most importantly – tasty.
We popped around to his house to ask a few questions and to admire Marty’s knife collection and his Siberian forest cat.
What is your favorite dish to cook in summer?
Anything that involves using charcoal or wood as a fuel, so anything that’s on the barbeque, it doesn’t necessarily have to be meat, it could be vegetables. I have a wood fire pizza oven, so anything and everything can go in there. I treat it just like an oven, we do bread in there, whole roasts, slow cook pieces of pork, chicken. It looks like, and is, a pizza oven, but it will do everything a normal oven will do. And the best thing about it – I love chopping wood! I have a whole lot of axes in the garage that I chop wood with. If a friend or a family member is chopping down a hard wood tree I try and scavenge the wood, chain saw it up and store it down the side of the house to dry.
Do you get different flavorings depending on the wood?
You do, you can finish with wood. It’s not as pronounced as you think; you can finish meats with a cherry or apple wood. You would be very hard pressed to tell the difference between a Manuka smoked or an apple smoked dish, it’s very delicate. Unless you are smoking something delicate like a fish.
What fish do you like to smoke?
I love using salmon, trout; I go trout fishing with my dad. I have a good friend of mine who owns a fishing mag, so he’s always turning up with snapper. I love doing whole fish, either on the barbeque or in the wood oven. It’s such a fantastic fish to feed lots of people. But people are scared of it, because they don’t know how to cook a whole fish. It’s really simple, as long as it’s scaled and gutted, you just fill it with aromatics; lemon, thyme, and fennel. It doesn’t take a long time to cook, on the barbeque or in the oven, twenty five minutes. You just peel the skin back and you have beautiful, soft, fragrant flesh. People don’t like handling whole fish, unless you’re a fisherman. I’ve been fishing my whole life, hunting, same with meat; people like to go to the butcher or the supermarket and see their meat in a packet, not a whole carcass hanging.
You shouldn’t deprive yourself of things. I mean don’t go eating cake and biscuits and lamingtons, things loaded with sugar every single day. We’re all allowed to be naughty, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s about balance. It’s about showing kids where food comes from, the raw ingredients. An onion comes out of the ground and fruit comes off a tree. Food in its rawest form, meat, fruit and vegetables is what should be celebrated. I think there is a huge disconnect over the last fifteen, twenty years. There’s nothing wrong with moderation, there’s no reason to go to extremes.
The Backyard Cook