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Anna Jones cooks over flames for Bon­fire Night

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones

There is much pri­mal sat­is­fac­tion in cook­ing a sim­ple potato in a fire or toast­ing a marsh­mal­low

Idon’t know any­one who isn’t drawn in by the smoul­der­ing glow of a fire. And there will be more fires this week­end than at any other time of the year. I, for one, will be cook­ing on mine.

There is much pri­mal sat­is­fac­tion to be found in cook­ing a sim­ple potato in a fire be­fore eat­ing it with but­ter and cheese, or in toast­ing a marsh­mal­low on a stick un­til browned and soft­ened.

Although I’ve done my fair share of fire build­ing, I’m no ex­pert in cook­ing on one, so I’ve taken ad­vice from my dear friend Tom Her­bert, who has writ­ten a very good book on the sub­ject, Do Wild Bak­ing. Here are the ways Tom sug­gests cook­ing on fire with a few recipe ideas from me.

On a stick The eas­i­est and – with su­per­vi­sion – most child-friendly way of cook­ing. Try wrap­ping un­yeasted bread dough (see my yo­ghurt flat­bread recipes) around a stick or just go for a marsh­mal­low.

On the embers Some foods read­ily lend them­selves to be­ing put di­rectly on embers, which you can rake around to cre­ate hot­ter and cooler zones for dif­fer­ent pur­poses. With flat­breads, the dough bakes di­rectly on the embers, while jacket pota­toes (see be­low) or whole baked squash (which have their own pro­tec­tive skin) can be pushed into the ashes and left to bake slowly. On a flat hot stone Once the fire has burned down and you are left with glow­ing embers, a flat stone placed on top of them can be­come an ideal hot plate for things that need to be cooked on a dry heat. Think cha­p­atis and cheese toasties.

On a rack A metal rack set above hot embers; great for charred veg for flat­breads. If your setup is ro­bust enough, you can also use it to heat pans for a less di­rect form of cook­ing (as you would on a hob, but with ex­tra smoky flavour). In a pot A sturdy pot with a good lid, a cast-iron pan or Dutch oven can be placed di­rectly on or even in the fire with the embers sit­ting on the lid for an all-over bake. Think one-pot pasta, Bos­ton beans, or you can even make cakes work with this.

Bar­be­cu­ing When you’re cook­ing or bak­ing in the wild, the camp­fire is far from the only op­tion. A portable bar­be­cue is a good op­tion for any­where where a camp­fire is not.

Cele­riac steaks with salsa verde

One of the most mem­o­rable meals of last sum­mer was some cele­riac steak I cooked with some friends at the Do Lec­tures, on a farm in Wales. Now I take any chance I can to recre­ate it.

Makes 6

1 cele­riac

1 red chilli

Zest and juice of 1 un­waxed lemon 1 tbsp maple syrup

A few sprigs of fresh thyme Salt and black pep­per

For the salsa verde

3 cor­ni­chons

1 tbsp ca­pers

1 small bunch each of fresh mint, basil and pars­ley

Zest and juice of ½ an un­waxed lemon

2 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

Salt and black pep­per

For the white beans

2 gar­lic cloves, sliced

1 x 700g jar or 2 x 400g cans white beans, drained

Olive oil

1 Fill a medium saucepan with hot wa­ter from the ket­tle and bring to the boil. Thickly peel the cele­riac, then slice it into 2cm-thick steaks and blanch in the boil­ing wa­ter for 8 min­utes, un­til ten­der.

2 Finely chop the red chilli and mix it with the lemon juice and zest, maple syrup, thyme leaves and a pinch of salt and pep­per to make a mari­nade.

3 Drain the cele­riac and put it in the mari­nade for at least 20 min­utes – or even overnight. Pre­heat a ridged grid­dle pan on a high heat.

4 To make the salsa verde, roughly chop the cor­ni­chons and ca­pers, then add the herbs and chop every­thing to­gether. Scoop into a bowl, grate in the zest, squeeze in the juice and add the oil as well as 2 tbsp of the mari­nade from the cele­riac. Taste and sea­son.

5 For the beans, heat a lit­tle oil in a saucepan and add the gar­lic. Cook for a cou­ple of min­utes un­til the edges are be­gin­ning to crisp, then add the white beans and cook to warm through. Mash about half of the beans and stir in a good driz­zle of olive oil, taste and check the sea­son­ing. Keep warm

6 Cook the cele­riac on a hot grid­dle or bar­be­cue for 2–3 min­utes on each side, un­til charred and cooked through, bast­ing with the re­main­ing mari­nade ev­ery minute or so.

7 Serve the steaks with the bean mash and a gen­er­ous spoon of salsa verde, and, if you like, a shock of green salad.

Em­ber-baked sweet pota­toes

This is not a ground­break­ing recipe, but acts more as a guide­line for those who haven’t cooked on embers be­fore.

Serves 4

4 medium sweet pota­toes Good flaky salt


1 Light a fire or a bar­be­cue and wait for the flames to die down. You are look­ing for lots of white coals and not much in the way of flames. Mean­while, scrub the sweet pota­toes and, while still wet, rub them all over with salt and olive oil. Then wrap each one tightly in tin foil.

2 Put the pota­toes on to the coals us­ing tongs and if you have a small metal spade or an old pan, use this to scoop coals very care­fully on top of each potato so that they cook with a more even heat.

3 Af­ter about 40 min­utes, the sweet pota­toes should be soft through­out, and should have taken on some of the won­der­ful smoky flavour from the fire. You can check if they are done with­out un­wrap­ping them by stick­ing a skewer into the pota­toes: it should slide through like but­ter. If the pota­toes are still hard, put them back on the fire and check af­ter an­other 10 min­utes. The cook­ing time will de­pend on the size and shape of your pota­toes and the heat of your fire.

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