This grilled pipis, garlic and karkalla recipe comes courtesy of Chef Lennox Hastie of Firedoor restaurant in Sydney, Australia, from his wonderful cooking with fire cookbook, Finding Fire – along with some sides of Christmas tips and grilling advice.
Every festive season we share Christmas tips from some of the best chefs from across the globe who we’ve been lucky to meet in our work and travels. In the past we’ve shared Christmas tips from Australia’s best chefs, Asia’s best chefs, and some of the world’s best chefs.
We ask them everything from what they recommend you buy the serious home cook in your life for Christmas to what they suggest you cook for lunch on Christmas Day, the main festive meal for a lot of our readers (for others it’s Christmas Eve), to what to do if it all goes wrong.
This year we asked some of our favourite chefs to also share one of their favourite recipes – and it could be anything from a drink to a dish. We wanted something that they make on Christmas day for their loved-ones that you can make for your’s. First up is Chef Lennox Hastie.
We first heard about chef Lennox Hastie from John Fink, head of the Fink Group restaurant empire, who at the time was actively looking for a site with Lennox to open what has become one of Sydney’s hottest (sorry) restaurants, Firedoor.
Cooking with fire is central to Firedoor. There’s no gas in the kitchen, but we spotted a bandsaw on the floor and an axe hanging on the wall, and Lennox spends an awful lot of time blowing on coals. Smoke is very much welcome in this kitchen and it’s probably the most aromatic smoke around.
On the menu there’s some explanation about the 11 woods and types of hay the chefs use in the kitchen – from pecan wood, which gives ingredients a sweet flavour, and orange wood, which perfumes the ingredient and is best used for cooking seafood such as mussels and salmon.
The restaurant concept is simple – beautiful ingredients cooked over fire to order, using a collection of different woods every day. The notion that every dish would taste heavily of wood was blown away when we dined there soon after it opened. Lennox grills and barbecues with precision and subtlety, using his five years experience at Etxebarri, a legendary asador in the mountains near Bilbao in the Basque Country that famously cooks with fire, to create his impeccable dishes.
Another preconception that the restaurant would turn out to be a ‘steak’ place also turned out to be untrue. Seafood and vegetables feature extensively on the menu. Although when there is a piece of meat, it has come from one of Sydney’s most talked-about dishes – his 180-day aged rib of beef that is cut and cooked to order.
The restaurant’s fine meats are supplied by Anthony Puharich of family business Vic’s Premium Quality Meat and Victor Churchill, which Anthony Bourdain called “the most beautiful butcher shop in the world”. Anthony Puharich claims Firedoor is one of the top 5 places in the world to eat steak.
One of the most memorable dishes for us at Firedoor, however, was the one we have the recipe for today – Pipis, garlic and karkalla – and we’re so glad Lennox shared it with us.
Grilled Pipis, Garlic and Karkalla Recipe by Chef Lennox Hastie and some Christmas Tips
Christmas Tips from Chef Lennox Hastie
Q. What do you recommend the home cook with a backyard barbecue make to entertain a hoard of family and friends make?
A. My grilled pipis, garlic and karkalla recipe.
Q. Chefs always tell home cooks to keep things simple at Christmas, but home cooks always want to do something special. Any tips for elevating the traditional barbecue?
A. Grill over wood embers, which give the most natural and sweet flavour to any ingredient.
Q. What should people have on standby if things don’t work out?
A. Plenty of cured meats, cheeses, fresh cooked seafood, and salads.
Q. What’s the best gift you can give a serious barbecue and grilling enthusiast?
A. A big green egg or a wood fired oven.
Q. Are you having Christmas at home or away?
A. Heading away to New Zealand. We’ll spend the day mainly relaxing, playing with my son Alex, and enjoying sharing good food and drink in the company of friends and family.
Grilled Pipis, Garlic and Karkalla Recipe By Chef Lennox Hastie
For this Grilled pipis, garlic and karkalla recipe, the pipis (also written as ‘pippies’) must be carefully cleaned, before being cooked covered on a rack over embers.
Pipis are a small saltwater clam endemic to Australia. They’re called pipis on the east coast but also known as a Goolwa cockle or Coorong cockle in South Australia.
After the have opened they’re then served with a beautiful emulsion of olive oil, lemon and pipi juice, with a hint of chilli and a little parsley. The garnish consists of garlic scapes (shoots) and karkalla (a native succulent), which adds crunch and a salty hit.
Not only is this grilled pipis, garlic and karkalla recipe inventive, but there’s also a nod to the long culinary history of our indigenous First Australians who, on the east coast, used pipis as a great source of protein and would cook them over fire.
If you can’t get pipis, clams, razor clams or cockles make a fine substitute and karkalla can be substituted with samphire or another succulent.
Grilled Pipis, Garlic and Karkalla Recipe
- 1.6 kg 3 1⁄2 lb live pipis (or clams/ vongoles), purged and cleaned (see Note)
- 1 bunch garlic scapes
- 100 g 3 1⁄2 oz karkalla (beach bananas), washed and picked
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100 ml 3 1⁄2 oz fruity, mild extra-virgin olive oil, such as arbequina or koroneiki
- 1 red chilli deseeded and finely sliced
- 20 g 3⁄4 oz flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
- Prepare your embers. Spread the embers evenly across the base of the grate and set a grill cooling rack 21⁄2 cm (1 in) above the embers.
- Place the pipis directly on the rack. Immediately cover with a lid and allow to cook for 2–3 minutes, or until they open.
- Meanwhile, grill the garlic scapes and karkalla over the embers.
- Uncover the pipis and, using a pair of tongs, carefully remove the pipis as they pop open, placing them into a clean bowl and retaining as much of the liquor as possible. Add the lemon zest and juice to the bowl.
- In a small cast-iron pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chilli and gently fry until lightly golden. Pour the chilli oil over the pipis.
- Strain the mix of oil, lemon and pipi juice into a warm saucepan and whisk to emulsify. Add the parsley and mix well.
- Arrange the pipis in a bowl and pour the emulsified juices over, garnish with the garlic scapes and karkalla, and serve immediately.
You can buy Chef Lennox Hastie’s cookbook Finding Fire here on Amazon. Note that we earn a small commission from your purchase.
Need more Christmas inspiration? See Christmas tips from the world’s best food writers, editors and bloggers and Christmas cocktail ideas from Sydney’s best bars. We’ll be posting our own seasonal cocktail recipes between now and the New Year.
Still stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Check these out: Cookbook Ideas for Culinary Travellers, Classic Cookbooks for Serious Cooks for Christmas, Christmas Gifts for Asian Home Cooks, a Guide to Asian Kitchen Essentials, Christmas Gifts for Travel Photographers and Travellers Who Love Photography, Christmas Gifts for Picnic Lovers, and Travel Books to Inspire Wanderlust.