We had a scratch medieval campfire dinner on Saturday — I wanted to try out a new cooking technique.
We started with a beef stew cooked in the big potjie (cauldron). It was just gravy beef, onions and various root vegetables in white wine and herbs. This worked really well, very tasty indeed.
Then to the tricky bit. I was trying to cook pies over the fire, using camp ovens.
First there was an onion and cheese tart. Came out well, looked the part, but could have done with more spice to balance the handmade pastry.
Then we had a medieval baked cheesecake, based on a recipe in “Forme of Cury” (1300s) as interpreted by my friend Jane. Again, it cooked beautifully, but for modern tastes I think it needs to be a little sweeter — will add some honey next time. Both of these dishes could be made during the day then served cold — handy at Festival where time and cooking implements are scarce.
None of these pots were ever on the fire, or even on coals. They were placed next to the fire, and turned from time to time. They all behaved themselves really well.
We did go astray with a loaf of bread that Allison put on. These can be a bit pale on top, so I put some hot coals into the lid of the camp oven. Unfortunately this turned out to be far too hot, and charred the outside of the loaf. The bottom and the interior were really good, so it’s just a matter of calibration.
We were using the firepit in our main field, and we were about halfway through dinner when Doc, one of Jan’s horses, decided to come over for a good look. He snuffled down our necks and then nuzzled everything on the table looking for something tasty.
We of course asked politely for him to go away. Then rather less politely. He would not be dissuaded, not by finger-waggling near his eyes (usually works) or wild arm-waving, or rib-poking, or me singing “Ilkla Moor” loudly in his direction.
My horse Paulie was also a bit too friendly, though he responded better to reasonable requests. Chad, the senior horse, is usually the first to come up to people, but he wasn’t too bad — except when he wandered off with a tent rope in his mouth! Old Bonnie was the only horse always well behaved.
Allison dug out the water-squirting bottle she uses on naughty cats, and this had some effect. Then we had lots of wild galloping around in the dark, but I think the horses were just having fun.
Once the horses were sorted, we sat around the fire singing songs and swapping stories. Karen the wwoofer brought out the guitar, and played us some Irish folk music. It was very pleasant.
We decided to pack up the tent and move what we could in the darkness. But some things were left there, and when I went out in the morning there was a scene of wild destruction. The horses had turned every remaining item over repeatedly: chairs and plastic bottles and some kitchen implements, and the ash from the fire mixed through everything. Just as well we put the tent away.