Keep the Campfire Alive
For the French, summer ends on the 31st August. By September 1st suitcases are back under beds, campgrounds are returned to fields and the bistro tables are stacked in a corner. Autumn isn’t for holidays, or campouts. It’s for chestnuts and open fires, first batch cider and jam.
So, why do the seasons bleed into each other so much on our side of the channel? Is it because we hope, every year, for an Indian Summer, or because we have multiple summers; bursts of blue-sky days throughout the year that we throw ourselves into because we know they won’t last?
Last Christmas I was gifted a Firebox. It sat, oiled and beautifully black, in its canvas bag while I waited for summer.
Now we’re looking to Christmas again but my Firebox is grey, mottled with rusty creaks and misshapen corners. The bar across the middle is bowed from heat and the weight of feasts. We handle it with gloves to protect the smoke-parched skin of our fingers and as the nights get cool we layer silk liners underneath so we can keep cooking throughout the autumn. Dry leaves and a breeze: perfect campfire conditions. So we keep our eyes to the sky, summer’s over but it’s activities don’t have to be.
If you’ve got a few courgettes left over from the summer harvest, this simple recipe is a great introduction to campfire cooking.
Courgettes (1 large one p/p)
Lemon - rind & juice
Measure out 125ml of flour (any available, wholemeal/plain mix is particularly good) and season. Stir ½ tsp of yeast into 15ml of warm water. Add to the flour along with a tbsp of olive oil. Add boiling water until it forms a soft dough. Kneed and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Before griddling, divide the dough and flatten into discs.
Chop the courgettes into thin discs and zest the lemon. Heat a little oil in a large, flat pan and add the courgettes to soften. During cooking add the lemon zest, chopped rosemary, chilli flakes and seasoning. Once the courgettes are soft, push them to the edge of the pan and cook the flatbreads one at a time. Turn the flatbreads until they’re charred on both sides.
When everything’s cooked put the flatbreads on plates, top with hummus or cream cheese and spoon on the courgettes. If you like it zesty, you can squeeze over the lemon juice at this point, or toss in a few cherry tomatoes if you have them.
Sweet Potato Hash
Sweet Potatoes, roughly chopped into small pieces
Thyme, rosemary or oregano
Cook the onion and sweet potato until soft and starting to caramelize. Add the herbs and season well. When you’re happy with the potato, break it up with a fork to make a jumbly, lumyp mess. Clear holes in the mixture and crack an egg into each one of these spaces. The pan should be hot enough to cook the eggs quickly, then scoop onto plates with some fire-charred vegetables or an apple and hazelnut salad.
An extra warming bowl, perfect for cold hands!
Kidney, black or mixed beans (1 can does 2 people)
Small tin of sweet corn
Small red onion
Chopped tomatoes or passata
Heat oil in a large, shallow pan and fry the onion and pepper. Add the rinsed beans and sweet corn and fry for a few minutes. Crumble in half a stock cube per can of beans, stir in a generous mix of the herbs & spices before pouring in the chopped tomatoes or passata. You want to coat the beans, rather than make a sauce, so allow the tomatoes to reduce as they cook. If the mix starts to stick, add more tomatoes or a little water. Season to taste and enjoy a bowlful with avocado, salad or simply on its own.