4 abalone (see Note)
Beach herbs, such as karkalla, seablite and warrigal greens
Black Bean Sauce:
50 g fermented black beans (douchi)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs finely minced garlic
1 Tbs finely minced ginger
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Prepare your embers. Prepare the black bean sauce. Soak the black beans in water for 1 hour. Rinse, drain and reserve.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium–high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, and cook for 2 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add the spring onion and the drained black beans, cook for a further 1 minute, then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 10–12 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
Prepare the abalone. Remove each one from its shell using a large spoon, sliding the spoon around the edge between the flesh and the shell, and scooping the top of the foot loose from its attachment to the shell. Using a sharp knife, remove the intestine from the underside. Cut off the small piece of gristle where the muscle was attached to the shell. Continue cutting around the foot on both sides, removing the mantle. Cut a thin layer off the base of the foot where it attached to the rock, trimming the entire surface of the dark exterior mantle and scraping off any brown film. Rinse well in cold water and dry on paper towel.
Place the abalone in a clean cloth and beat evenly with a tenderising hammer, heavy-based saucepan or a flat rock until pliable. Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Arrange a grill cooling rack directly on the embers. Repeat the tenderising process for the abalone, then place directly on the grill cooling rack and grill for 2–3 minutes on each side, seasoning both sides with sea salt. Remove from the grill, brush each abalone with the black bean sauce and allow to rest for 1 minute. Slice thinly.
Meanwhile, grill the herbs in a fine-mesh sieve for 1 minute over the embers.
Carefully place the sliced abalone back in their shells and spoon over the remaining black bean sauce. Finish by topping with the grilled beach herbs and serve immediately.
Note: Live abalone, like all live crustaceans, deteriorate rapidly and should be eaten as soon as possible. Place in a well-ventilated container covered with a wet, heavy cloth and keep in a cool place (between 6–16°C/40–60°F) for up to 3 days.
Credits: This is an edited extract from Finding Fire by Lennox Hastie published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $60 and is available in stores nationally.
Photo Credits: ©Nikki To.