TIPS: HOW TO COOK OVER AN OPEN FLAME
As you guys know, spending time outdoors is my absolute favourite thing to do. Anything that combines nature, adventure and travel, and I am there. I also really enjoy cooking. It’s something I have always loved, and even better – Jason loves cooking. His knowledge and skills always amaze me, and every weekend he is in the kitchen rustling up something new and delicious.
One technique I have always wanted to master is cooking outdoors over an open flame; nothing beats that delicious smoky flavour a flame creates. I even love it when my clothes and hair smell smoky! The great thing about cooking over a flame, is that you can do it in your own backyard.
Speaking of which, we are getting our garden overhauled this winter. This involves working with a landscape designer and making sure we have a dedicated firepit area to enjoy with friends and family on cool winter afternoons, and to cook over an open flame. I can’t wait to show you the before and after photos, so stay tuned. We plan on spending a lot of time cooking in our backyard!
Speaking of backyards, we recently flew down to visit friends at their property in Kyneton, which is in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria. It’s the most beautiful part of the world and is everything I dreamed of – quaint cafes, provincial antique shops, cows and sheep grazing in vast grassy fields, rustic vineyards and evenings spent drinking red wine by a fireplace. They have a seven-acre property with chickens, horses, a dog and a cat with views of wild, rugged eucalyptus trees. I knew this would be the perfect excuse to cook a delicious breakfast outdoors for our friends, so we have partnered with Primus Outdoor to show you exactly how easy it was! For our outdoor cooking experience, we used the following gear from Primus:
MAKING A FIRE
The first thing to know with cooking outdoors is not to get intimated by fire. Believe me, I was. What I learned is that with practice, comes confidence. So it’s important just to get out there and give it a go. Here are my tips for making a fire:
· If you’re new to cooking over a fire, start with something like the Primus OpenFire Pan so you don’t get overwhelmed. Cooking outdoors should be easy, fun and experimental. Later down the track if it interests you, you could try rigging up a tripod with a hook.
· Not all wood is created equal. You want to make sure you use hardwood to fuel your fire. Hardwood creates coals, which you want to cook over as they radiate a sturdy, strong heat.
· To get your fire going, use cardboard, single sheets of newspaper scrunched up, gum leaves, twigs and hardwood kindling. You can use a Firestarter (those white chunks you get at most supermarkets) but we prefer to use matches. Once the flames are up, you will need to add blocks of hardwood to yield coals.
· From our experience, and depending on the hardwood you have, it can take anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour to burn hardwood down to coals.
· Measuring the heat is all done by hand and instinct, something you develop over time – and not by putting your hands directly onto the flame or coals, of course. If you can put your hands above the coals for more than six seconds, the heat is most likely to be around 100 degrees Celsius. Three seconds is about a medium heat and likely to be around 170 degrees Celsius. And one second is most likely to be around 200 degrees Celsius.
· Ovens and gas stove work really similar to fires, to increase the heat, use more coals (add more hardwood). To decrease the heat, use less coals (add less hardwood).
· To move the heat around so you can cook different foods and different heats, use a stick or a shovel.
· Jason had a brilliant suggestion the other week. If you are planning on cooking a big meal, get two fires going – one to cook on, one to create coals on. When you need more heat, you can move the coals onto the fire you are cooking on.
· When we used our Primus OpenFire Pan, we probably got a bit excited and placed it over the flame too early. We should have waited for it to burn down to coals. Irrespective, the pan was so easy to cook with and the food tasted delicious. The legs also screw onto the pan, so if you wanted to play around and put the pan straight onto the coals for extra heat intensity, this is also an option.
· Lastly, wherever you are camping and or cooking, fire restrictions need to be adhered to when cooking with flame outdoors.
For the breakfast we rustled up for our friends, we used speck from Hardwicks, a local family run abattoir in Kyneton that sells direct to the public through their butcher - it’s was incredible to say the least. We also used fresh eggs from the chooks on our friend’s property, broccolini, saffron milky cup mushrooms which we bought at the Kyneton Farmer’s Markets, and fresh bread from the local bakery on Piper St in Kyneton.
As the flame started to drop and kindling embers were beaming hot, we threw a dash of oil onto the large pan and started cooking the speck, broccolini and mushrooms. The caramelisation of the speck was super delicious, and the pig grilled the vegetables and gave them extra flavour. Later on, we moved the food around, fried some eggs and sat by the fire enjoying a hearty winter breakfast in the morning sun. It was heaven! And so easy. The main topic of conversation was what else we would cook on the pan for breakfast; the options are limitless! I think pancakes will be next…