Expert advice from An Earthen Life’s Amy & Duart

“I would love to make fires for a living!” – the dream, and as luck would have it, it came true. Amy & Duart, power duo, king-and-queen of cooking on fire from An Earthen Life  literally makes fires for a living.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about:

  • How to incorporate more colour in your braais
  • How to braai sustainably with no waste
  • How to compost for beginners

Sound interesting? Let’s dive in!

Their journey

Introducing Amy, a professional glass artist, but also trained cook. She specializes in revamping menus of lodges and restaurants, creating brand new dishes that is more sustainable and profitable and trains kitchen staff to continue the new menu. Duart on the other hand, lawyer by degree, has a passion for growing crops, sustainable cooking, and videography.

Their journey all started with a warm, spicy tomato stew with eggs cracked right in the mix. Or well, should we rather say it started with scraping out the last little bit of sauce left over in the cast iron pan of how delicious it was. This was the first dish Amy ever made for Duart, seven years ago. Ladies take this top tip, make Shakshuka for your partner, right in the fire, and you’re golden! As a bonus, here is the recipe from Amy herself:

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Since then, their food journey didn’t stop with Middle Eastern poached eggs, it’s been an adventure of cooking on fires all over the world. Their philosophy is to live closer to the earth, to be aware of what you’re braaiing. Fully. To respect the produce. To use colour. To be open to taste different foods from different cultures. They’ve travelled to many countries in Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. A bit further abroad to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and California. And in each country, they immersed themselves in the culture, the local food, and flavours.

All these experiences have taught them the art of braaiing with colour on fire. With inspiration from Francis Mallmann, Argentine chef that uses Patagonian methods of barbecuing. He experiments with different ways of making fire, big and small, cooking anything and everything. From building dome-like structures over the fire with an outer circle of coals, and inner circle to create different levels of heat at different spots. Making use of a cooking tripod, hanging ingredients over the fire, placing them directly in the coals – and so does Amy and Duart.

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So, what is the art of braaiing with colour actually?

Plain and simple, using vegetables in your cooking – embracing their colours, textures and flavours. It’s about taking your braai the extra mile and adding veggies. Not sure where to start?

  • Braai portobello mushrooms, sliced eggplant, lettuce hearts, peppers, corn, or artichokes as a braai side dish.
  • Experiment with using vegetables whole and cook them directly in the coals like a pumpkin, potato, pepper, or squash.
  • Beans and legumes are a great way to add nutrients to any sauce or dip.
  • Add fresh fruit to your vegetable side dishes for acidity.

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Braai sustainably and nothing goes to waste

They both live straight from the earth and will do anything to protect it. Sustainable cooking is very important, a way of life for them. However, something if this is something new to you too, here are top tips from them how you can start at home today:

  • Only buy what you need.
  • Try use everything in your fridge before buying more - gives you a chance to be creative. Rather cook a few smaller dishes than a main dish that uses a specific ingredient.
  • If you can’t think of anything to make, throw it all in a pot and make a soup for a rainy day.
  • Make a vegetable stock from your off cuts and freeze it in portions for winter soups.
  • Make jams and preserves with your fruit that might go off or cut it into chunks and freeze it for smoothies.
  • Compost everything else.

Pumpkin as a no-waste braai vegetable

  • You can braai your pumpkin directly in the flames, whole, for soft and smoky flavour.
  • Poke a few holes in it (so it won’t explode) and braai for 45-60 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Remove with a spade because it will get very soft as it cooks.
  • Dry the pumpkin seeds out in the sun or in the oven for a salad topper or snack.
  • Serve the braaied pumpkin as a side dish, or start to a delicious soup.

Lemon as a no-waste braai vegetable

  • Lemon zest (the skin of the lemon) is great to use grated finely over freshly braaied meat, potatoes, sauce or even a dip.
  • The juice can be a base for a marinade or sauce.
  • Dry out the zest in the oven and mix with salt, rosemary, and pepper to make a dry rub mix.

Composting for beginners

Composting is a very sustainable and responsible way you can ‘give back’ to the earth what you’ve used without just throwing it in the bin. It is a simple way to add nutrients in your own garden and lawn to promote growth, but also to reduce your own waste.

Duart gave us an easy step-by-step how you can start composting at home, in small batches.

  1. Choose a spot in your backyard that is out of the eye, and out of reach from children and pets.
  2. Start your pile on bare earth.
  3. Add twigs or straw as you start adding your veggie offcuts, skins, pips, grass, leaves and more.
  4. Avoid adding meat, bones, and dairy. You can, but it might make the pile smell a bit more. Stick to plants that will breakdown quicker.
  5. Add a nitrogen source like manure that will speed the process up.
  6. Water the pile occasionally.
  7. Cover with wood, plastic sheeting, or an old carpet to retain moisture and heat.
  8. Although you want to retain heat and moisture, your compost pile still needs oxygen to breakdown. Every few weeks, give your pile a quick scramble with a shovel.
  9. You will know your compost is ready for use when it’s dark in colour, doesn’t smell anymore and has reduced about half in size. You can then use it in your garden, your lawn or indoor pot plants.

There you have it, whether you’re braaiing on a patio gas braai or directly in the coals, be healthier and braai with colour. Add a pumpkin, or corn or colourful peppers. Try to make a stew in a potjie and use everything from every ingredient.

Challenge yourself, live healthier, closer to the earth and braai with colour.

For more from An Earthen Life, follow their journey on Facebook or Instagram.