Cooking over fire
They say that when man discovered the secret to making fire it changed everything, and there is still something primal about watching flames lick the sky on a cold day. Cooking over flame is seems to have been with me my whole life; we would always light a fire on the beach on family days out, the blackened kettle whistling as cups of tea were made. At Scout camps there would be singing and ‘twists’ (what I believe are now called dampers), maybe baked potatoes and roast apples. A rite of passage and a hard earned life skill.
I relish the feeling of lighting fire, that battle against the elements to get the flame to obey your command, and ignore the wind; the combination of fuel, patience, and a little bit of artistry to get it to take and not blow out. There’s little more satisfying. These days my cooking is generally directly over the flame on the beach, or stewing in my Dutch oven, a wonderful investment that’s brought a lot of joy over the past year, and that I’m now getting to grips with.
This year I’ve made a couple of trips to Sutherland, settling down on Clachtoll beach after a rewarding day at the summit of Suilven. A roaring fire, a bottle of wine, and a chicken and paprika stew, atop the flame while watching the Gannets dive at breakneck speed is a remarkably rewarding day. More recently I’ve headed inland to the Trossachs, giving mutton a long slow stew in freezing temperatures – the hidden benefit of no outdoor space at home being that I have to search it out among in the beautiful Scottish wilderness. My ‘witch’s cauldron’ and tripod are now omnipresent in the boot of the car and I look forward to many more journeys around the country searching out flavour and fire. Next year shall definitely involve bread and cakes.