Anna Jones cooks over flames for Bonfire Night
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.
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
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
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.
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.