As a New Zealander I am familiar with the notion of cooking food in an earth oven known as a hangi: this is a traditional Maori way of cooking, however not one undertaken on a daily basis these days. It is usually reserved for special events - so special I can't remember the last time I had one.
The short version of a very long process is: dig a pit, light a fire in the bottom of the pit, pile rocks on the fire, when the fire burns down and the rocks are hot splash in a bit of water, put in baskets of the food to be cooked, more water to create steam, cover with cloths/sacks then mound up the soil. and wait 3-4 hours.
In other areas of the Pacific there are similar methods of cooking, but I am rather surprised to find myself in the desert of the Middle East watching a Bedouin tribesman lay down what is essentially a hangi. In sand.
The difference is it is set in a metal container, kind of like a big, deep Dutch Oven, which speeds up the cooking time considerably.
Oh, and it tastes waaaaayyyyy better! Sensational in fact: the chicken is tender and juicy, the lamb falls off the bone. There is none of the damp earth/sack taste you sometimes get in a hangi, as both the sealed container and the sand (as opposed to earth) prevent that.
The accompaniments include all the usual suspects that comprise a delicious mezze.
|the final reveal - photo Trevor Jones|
|the mezze platter, our first night's dinner, this was followed by a meat course|
The flat breads are always freshly baked and delicious. In the desert a Bedouin woman who could be 16 or 60 - even her eyes are barely visible - makes us glorious markook.