Maeve is playing with fire in the new series of Food Safari
MAEVE O'Meara is out to prove fire is the new black in her series Food Safari Fire.
The seventh season of O'Meara's SBS cooking show has the food writer and TV presenter cover all aspects of cooking with flame, from open fires to charcoals, spits, smoking, wood-fired ovens and the beloved Aussie barbecue.
"I think there are less rules to cooking outside; you feel freer," O'Meara tells APN.
"You also have to respect the fire as a living, breathing, powerful force.
"It's a sensual delight and something that brings people together. Everyone we filmed for the show talks about it being part of their DNA and I love that."
But the series is about much more than just throwing some snags on the barbie. O'Meara catches up with chefs and home cooks who share their traditions and recipes using everything from tandoor ovens to hand-made barbecues, open fires, charcoal and even hot rocks.
After more than 20 years exploring Australia's diverse culinary landscape, she was blown away by a traditional Samoan umu.
"I have filmed in the finest French kitchens in Paris... who would have thought of making a beautiful caramel by pouring sugar on to a hot volcanic rock into coconut cream," she says.
"It was incredible and what a wow factor.
"What may seem initially primitive is in fact far from that; it's highly developed. The number of dishes they were able to cook with hot volcanic rocks was extraordinary, from octopus to slowing-cooking taro, pork and leg of lamb."
In some cases, like smoking and the American "low and slow" style of barbecue, O'Meara and her film crew would wait all day to taste the results.
"You have to see how they make the fire (and wait for the meat to cook), so by the time it's served you're just so ready for it," she says.
"You've smelled it and it's so exciting. Somehow we miss out on that in a restaurant or a home setting. This brings cooking back to basics and it's something that is really suited for our lifestyle."
The 10-part series is not just about cooking; O'Meara also investigates the process of making wood charcoal and the construction of home-made barbecues, smoking rooms, a Cypriot kleftiko oven and even a car boot barbecue.
"We look at fire being the unifying link between the cuisines across the world," she says.
"Fire harks back to our early, primitive days. It allowed us to develop as a species."
Keen to keep up with the times, O'Meara will be live tweeting along with the show each week.
"It's something I haven't done before, but it will be great to connect with our audience," she says.
"There's a group who love Food Safari, but hopefully there will be others who discover us for the first time."
Food Safari Fire premieres tonight at 8pm on SBS 1.