Maeve O’Meara (left) in a scene from Food Safari Fire, which premieres on SBS on Thursday.
Maeve O’Meara (left) in a scene from Food Safari Fire, which premieres on SBS on Thursday. Photo Contributed

Food series stokes the fire

MAEVE O'Meara is a goddess of Australian food television.

Long before SBS launched its dedicated food channel, O'Meara beamed international cuisine into Australian lounge rooms on her series, Food Safari.

After six successful seasons, O'Meara is back in a slightly different format - Food Safari Fire.

The new series explores a diverse range of cooking techniques from around the world using flames, coals and smoke.

I've always liked O'Meara's no-fuss approach. Home cooks on Food Safari are celebrated just as much as, if not more than, professional chefs.

Many of her guests are colourful characters, but the focus is always on food, flavour and the cultural traditions that revolve around them.

There's a short, sharp pace to the new series, which premieres on SBS on Thursday, as O'Meara jumps around from place to place and cuisine to cuisine.

Episodes are roughly themed around styles of cooking, so, for instance, street food encompasses everything from satay and souvlaki to fish tacos and Vietnamese beef in betel leaves.

The show is also perfectly timed to explore Australia's new love affair with American-style "low and slow" barbecue, such as 12-hour brisket and pulled pork.

"Australia is so ready for those flavours," O'Meara tells me. "A number of big barbecue meets are happening around the country. We filmed at one in Melbourne and 40,000 people were there."

This is back-to-basics stuff anyone can try without fancy equipment or ingredients. Sure you might not have a tandoor oven in the backyard, but nearly every type of protein benefits from the intense heat of charcoal.

"You cannot reproduce those great flavours with something you flick a switch on," O'Meara says.

I highly recommend eating before you watch this show. Even just seeing the smoke and charred meats on the screen will have your mouth watering.


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