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Fire from the Ashes

The Ashes is one of world sport’s great rivalries, but when it comes to outdoor cooking, they are both on the same team, promoting best practice and provenance. Rupert Bates talks to Matthew Hoggard and Matthew Hayden

 Rupert Bates   Summer 2020

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 #Cricket #Ashes




It wasn’t so much an interview as eavesdropping on a convivial chat between men of cricket and masters of the firepit. As England’s Matthew Hoggard bowled to Australia’s Matthew Hayden, I crouched at slip patiently waiting for an edge.

These two great cricketers clearly remain highly competitive. As Hayden moved his screen to show a stunning sunset over the waters of Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island near Brisbane, Hoggard headed for his patio and a lovely vista of England’s Leicestershire countryside. The time difference meant Hayden was enjoying an evening beer after a day’s fishing, while Hoggard was sipping morning coffee from his Hoggy’s Grill mug.

First some cricket numbers. Hayden played 103 Test Matches for Australia as an opening batsman, scoring 30 centuries, including the then world record score of 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003. Hoggard played county cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire and won 67 England caps, taking 248 Test wickets.

They played against each other many times in Ashes battles. In the epic 2005 series won by England, Hoggard got Hayden out three times (below), although Hayden did score a hundred in the final Test and revenge was swift and sweet in the following series in Australia, whitewashing England 5-0.

“In 2005 you got me pretty much every time Hoggy.”

“We put a fielder in front of you and you didn’t know whether to hit it through him or over him. We confused you!”

“You bowled wide of me and I wanted to get into the game. So when you bowled straighter I’d lost sense of where my stumps were. What a great series that was though.”

Okay gentlemen, this is BBQ magazine, not The Cricketer. They are more than happy to talk grilling, passions of theirs and both very good at it. Separated by hemispheres, one a batsman, the other a bowler, but connected in their love for live fire cooking.

“Tell me about Hoggy’s Grill, Hoggy,” says Haydos. Cricket has always been inventive with its nicknames.

Hoggy’s Grill will be based at Rutland Water Garden Nursery on the south side

of Rutland Water. “I’ll be there teaching people to barbecue, showing them there is so much more to it than burnt sausages. The plan is also to develop my own range of rubs, sauces and condiments.”



Hoggard has good relationships with the local Leicestershire farmers in terms of produce, so will be sourcing sustainable meats on his doorstep. The Nursery also has land where vegetable and herb gardens are in the pipeline – further food for Hoggy’s Grill.

“People can make a full day of it on Rutland Water. Cook up breakfast, then take a boat out on the lake, catch a trout and have it for tea on the grill.”

Hayden tells the story of The Farm, near Byron Bay in New South Wales.

“Everything on The Farm menu or in the shops is produced from its own backyard. It is a great concept.” It is a working Australian farm with a collection of micro-businesses, such as a restaurant, bakery, nursery and market garden, all under the motto Grow, Feed, Educate and farm-to-table eating.

Hayden has long championed self-sufficiency. “Take today. We caught a couple of fish – straight in the pan, a bit of lettuce and tomato in the wrap and you can’t have a better feed than that. No food miles and fresh. Animals living in a beautiful environment and treated well is the best possible product. You have to value what you are putting on the plate.”

Hayden keeps Saddleback pigs and Dorper sheep, as well as a menagerie of poultry. He walks us round his collection of pellet grills and smokers, including a Daniel Boone. Hoggard sings the praises of his Kamado Joe ceramic grill, as well as Traeger, Thuros, Napoleon and Broil King, with Instagram posts aplenty and lots of local produce from March House Farm in Melton Mowbray.

Then Hayden’s camera switches to the result of a low and slow shoulder of pork he has been cooking, marinated in bourbon. “In case we didn’t catch any fish! I love taking whole cuts of meat and breaking those proteins down over 12 hours.”

Hayden, born in the Queensland country town of Kingaroy, grew up with cooking on the family farm, remembering helping his grandmother prepare meals. “We had a butchery on the farm, grew our own produce and had our own dairy, so learnt all the skills associated with them. It is great that my kids are now into it too.”

Hayden had made a name for himself as a cook, having written cookbooks, while still playing cricket. “Yes, I got sledged on the outfield about it too!”

“I knew you were a really keen cook back then and got jealous when I heard about the breakfast clubs the Australian team had touring India, getting all the local ingredients in to cook, with delicious smells wafting down the corridors,” says Hoggard.

The Yorkshireman is passing on his knowledge and principles to the next generation too, with his son Ernie having already shot and cooked his first pheasant and landed and grilled his first fish, understanding local provenance, where food comes from and how it should be ethically reared.

Hayden presented his own Australian television series called Home Ground, all about growing produce and cooking in his backyard, billed as ‘a quest to achieve a more self-sufficient, sustainable and enriched life for his family, as he discovers what is best to grow and graze to live the good life’.

Hoggard’s love of outdoor cooking was first triggered while playing cricket in South Africa as a teenager, falling in love with the braai. “It was meat and more meat and, maybe, the odd salad.”

He has fond memories of South African ‘drinking wood’, with the men putting softwood on the braai to keep the flames high, so the women, asking when it was ready, could be told not yet and another drink was taken. “When we’d had enough to drink, we put the proper firewood on and said it was now ready!”

Hoggard recalls tour days that didn’t involve cricket, such as a boat trip off Dunedin, New Zealand, going out on the boat, catching fish, gutting and grilling them on the way home.

“I always thought cricket got in the way of a good tour!” laughs Hayden.

The Australian team stayed in palatial hotels on tour, but for one of the world’s greatest ever opening batsmen it was about the people, not the luxury. Be it India or Sri Lanka, the first thing the foodie would do is seek out the hotel’s head chef.

“Invariably he was busy, so I was passed on to the sous chef and then the kitchen hands and before I knew it, I was in the kitchen learning to make things, whether it was a simple tomato gravy, adding flavours, or creating a Rogan Josh curry.”

Global cricket travel for Hayden and Hoggard meant opportunities to immerse themselves in different culinary cultures, learning different techniques, ingredients and recipes around the world. Hayden waxes lyrical about the fiery red chillies of Hyderabad in India and how his food journey has been enriched and heightened by not just flavour, but colour.

“I used to escape the swanky restaurants and try the street foods, talking to local people, maybe just cooking from a wok on the side of the road, but picking up different nuances of flavour,” says Hoggard. “Everybody was so warm and welcoming – sometimes too welcoming given India’s love of cricket! Now I put a homemade naan on the coals and it brings a whole new dimension to the food.”

While outdoor cooking is embedded in Australian culture, Hayden is not surprised it is growing in the UK. He is only surprised it has taken so long. “You see acres of productive British countryside, with produce exploding out of it. The ground yields and from that soil comes the potential for outstanding livestock and classic breeds.”

Both agree about the need to control your timber fire and know your wood. “There is nothing better than smoked meat,” they chime together, with Hoggard swearing by his thermometer and the importance of not rushing.

For their last barbecue on earth, before raising bat or ball to the great pavilion in the sky, what would they cook? They both go for ribeye. Hayden adds a mushroom pepper sauce with truffles, as well as fish and chips with rosemary salt and a tomato and basil salad. Hoggy would want king prawns too for surf and turf and some truffle and parmesan chips.

No more Ashes cricket for Matthew Hoggard and Matthew Hayden, but flames of another passion, fires of another talent, continue to burn brightly in both of them. 


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