Wild asparagus

It is the season for Asparagus in Europe. So, with that in mind, we went foraging for wild asparagus near the banks of the Nalon river in Asturias, Spain. Wild asparagus is one of the most valued and widely consumed non-cultivated plants throughout the Mediterranean region.

Asparagus acutifolius, or wild asparagus is an evergreen perennial plant that grows on its own in the wild. We found it growing in grassy areas of abandoned pastures, not far from the river edge. The soil in the areas we found the spears was quite sandy with a history of disturbance. We tell you this so you might know where to try looking for some!

Finding the wild asparagus was no easy feat, since many of the spears were hidden amongst other plants. The stalks themselves were easily identifiable once we knew where to find them. We harvested the longer shoots, snapping the spear close to the ground.

Asparagus can grow up to 25cm in a 24 hour period, so we can return in a few days to find more fresh spears. While we were looking for the asparagus we stumbled on some fresh fennel growth, which we also picked.

Wild asparagus has a stronger flavour than its cultivated cousin and is great when partnered with olive oil and lemon. We decided to skewer the stalks together and grill them on the barbecue, partnering it with a hollandaise sauce.

We removed the tough bottom of each asparagus spear by holding each end and bending it gently until it snapped at its natural point of tenderness. Then we rinsed the spears to remove any residues of the sandy soil. We brushed the spears with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then we placed the asparagus on a medium-heat grill. Our grill had a lid, so we closed it. The asparagus was grilled until it started to go brown after about 6 minutes for the thinner spears and 8 minutes for the fatter spears.


While the asparagus was grilling, we made a hollandaise sauce. We heated up 60 grams of butter in a microwave for about 1 minute until it was pretty hot (with steam coming off) making sure we covered it in case it overboiled.

Meanwhile, in a jug, we combined 3 large egg yolks, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1tsp mustard, pinch salt, and a pinch of chilli powder. Using a hand blender, the mixture was pulsed for about 10 seconds. Then, with the hand blender running, we slowly added the hot butter until it was beautifully smooth. We poured the sauce into a small bowl.

Then the dish was assembled. Grilled asparagus first, a drizzle of hollandaise sauce, and a few small sprigs of fresh fennel.

Here are some other tips for grilling asparagus, which we recently featured on Instagram @FornettoOvens

Try roasting your asparagus in an oven, smoker or kamado on a wood plank to give your food a delicious, smoky flavour. Wood planks are an easy way to cook fish, meat, chicken, cheese and vegetables. Have a look at Fornetto’s beech wood plank by clicking here.

Try brushing olive oil over the asparagus spears to coat and wrapping each spear in a slice of bacon. Pin with a toothpick to hold it together and grill on medium heat over an oiled grate until the bacon is crispy, 3 minutes on each side. Season with pepper and serve with lemon wedges. Easy and delicious!


Try coating your asparagus, or any vegetable, with olive oil, minced garlic and a sprinkle of your favourite rub before grilling. If you live in Australia you could try a generous shake of Wyld Smoke Rubs Stockmans Meat Rub!

A day competing at Melbourne Meatstock

By Anthony Demarco

I was very excited to finally get to Melbourne Meatstock after 2 years of delays and anticipation, and it was definitely worth the wait. It was fantastic to be able to check out all the stalls and exhibitions, try some amazing food, chat with the vendors, and spend time catching up with people for a drink throughout the weekend.

The most exciting part of the weekend was competing in the Melbourne Barbecue Wars for the first time, which comprised five categories – Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork, Lamb and Beef Brisket, all to be cooked, presented and handed in to the judges for tasting and scoring throughout the course of the day.

All of these meats were cooked on the trusty 22 inch Fornetto Razzo and its newly acquired offsider, the 18 inch Catalyst Pro. I love using these smokers for competitions as they are reliable, easy to transport and can cook a lot of meat at once.

The day kicked off at 4am to start preparing for an intense day of cooking. Thankfully once I lit my binchotan charcoal and dialled in the vents I could be confident the Razzo would hold steady at around 300°F all day, so I could focus my attention on juggling all the different meats I had to cook. Once the brisket, pork and lamb shoulders were prepped, rubbed and into the Razzo it was time for a well-earned coffee while I reviewed the timetable for the rest of the day.

Now that I was re-energised it was time to light the Catalyst Pro and get everything else going – the pork ribs were hung under the top grill with a tray of chicken on top as well. From here it was a constant whirlwind of wrapping meats, preparing sauces, slicing, pulling, glazing, presenting hand-in boxes, and what proved to be the most difficult part of the day – pushing through the crowds to get the hand-ins to the judging table. Thankfully by this stage me wife had arrived to do the dreaded parsley trimming, where she made a new little friend, as well as supporting me and taking photos along the way.

We tasted all of the meats after hand-in to gauge how it would taste to the judges. The chicken was perfectly tender and had a great flavour, and the glaze was set perfectly. The pork ribs had a fantastic flavour and bite through, although were slightly let down by the glaze being a little uneven. We tried one of the pork medallions and absolutely loved it (the judges, not so much). The lamb was okay, but we felt it didn’t pack enough flavour. And finally the brisket – really enjoyed the taste, especially the burnt ends which were like eating little beefy marshmallows.

With the last hand-in came a feeling of accomplishment. This was the biggest competition I’ve done so far and also the happiest I’ve been with my cook. All that was left now was to find the bar, grab a drink, and await the results.

Making our own grilled pinchos in Asturias, Spain

A pincho (also known as pintxo or pinchu) is a small snack, typically eaten in the bars of Northern Spain while hanging out with friends or relatives. Pinchos are all about eating and drinking with your mates at any time of the day, with delicious toppings often being ‘spiked’ with a toothpick to a base, such as a piece of bread. Bars and restaurants often hold regional competitions for the best pincho, so on this note we decided to copy the professionals and have our own pincho celebration, using the grill to make the most of the fine weather.

The pinchos we made were prepared and served over a period of several hours. Here are a couple of recipes:

Herbed minced cod cake served with Greek yoghurt with sumac, mango, red onion and chilli in a homemade sourdough pitta.

To make the cod cake mince 400 grams of cod and combine with one clove of crushed garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, the finely grated zest of a couple of lemons, a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of chilli, salt and pepper, and one beaten egg. Shape into small patties and refrigerate before grilling on an oiled medium grill for three minutes on each side until browned (use a grill topper to prevent bits falling into the BBQ). Serve with Greek yogurt sprinkled with sumac, salt, pepper, and finely chopped chives. In a separate bowl combine chopped mango, finely sliced red onions, and finely chopped parsley and chives. Serve everything in a small homemade (or shop bought) sourdough pita bread.

Courgettes stuffed with Manchego cheese, cashews, lemon, cumin and herbs topped with a herb and nut salsa.

To make, scrape out 6 large courgette halves with a spoon, leaving a 1cm wall – then brush the empty halves with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Create the filling by combining the finely chopped flesh of the courgettes (squeeze over a colander to remove water) with a crushed clove of garlic, 60 grams of grated Manchego cheese, a large handful of sourdough breadcrumbs, the grated zest of a couple of lemons, 60 grams of lightly toasted cashews, a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin, a large handful of chopped parsley and chives, salt and pepper. Fill the courgettes with the filling. Grill on a medium grill for 30 minutes until set and browned. Serve with a salsa made from olive oil, a few more finally chopped and toasted cashews, a handful of extra herbs, some lemon juice, and some salt and pepper (loosely derived from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi).

And here is a rundown of what else was presented and consumed!

Crispy Spanish morcilla (blood sausage) with caramelised lime-soaked apple, sprinkled chives and maple syrup, served on a freshly baked crumpet.

Dried courgette, Greek yoghurt, salmon caviar and fresh dill, served on a freshly grilled potato latka.

Ceviche made from hake with avocado, tomato and red onion salsa with aji chilli, served on a lightly grilled arepa.

Grilled prawns on a romesco sauce in a freshly cooked artichoke heart with a single caper.

Scallop, wrapped in bacon, pan fried over the grill with a stewed apple confit and maple syrup drizzle.

If you are lucky enough to be able to travel to Northern Spain to visit the bars and restaurants serving Pinchos, some of the best places to visit are Bilbao and San Sebastian, for the large number of pincho bars. Pinchos are often eaten as dinner, so the best time to find them is in the evening, after work, when all the locals go out for a pincho and a drink.

However, if you aren’t able to visit Northern Spain, you can always make your own, and they can be as complicated or as easy as you like. We hope the ideas above give you a taste of what you could make, but otherwise if you select your favourite fish/seafood, meat, cheese or vegetable, you can combine them in any way you like and serve them warm, or cold, on bread or any other base you like. Enjoy!