Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Learning to cook with fire

A couple of weeks ago, our friend Brett shot a rabbit for us. Around his parts, rabbits are a major pest, so he often shoots them and either eats them or 'plants' them in his garden. Having never eaten rabbit before, and recognising feral bunny as an excellent protein source, we asked Brett to bag us a bunny next time he was out shooting. He happily obliged, and delivered a neatly dressed, fresh Brogo rabbit in exchange for a bundle of greens from the garden. Awesome!

When it came to cooking the rabbit, we knew that a slow braise was on the cards, just because that's usually the way we like to go with meat. Matthew Evans helped us out, once again, and we went for his rabbit ragu with papardelle, from Winter on the Farm

The problem with a slow braise for us is that our cooking options are kind of limited on account of the no kitchen factor. We have, in the past, slow-cooked things in the BBQ, with the hood down, but have found this uses a LOT of gas. Next option is a fire, which is our ideal cooking method, especially once we have some better timber options on our land. For now we make do with fallen branches (there are heaps around!) and generous deliveries of firewood from friends (like Brett!) who have more trees on their properties, and the odd bit of hardwood picked up from the tip. For fire-baths and a bit of fire-cooking, this is working fine for now.

Fire-cooking, though, has proved to be a little tricky to master. Things like gozleme, which we cook on a hot-plate over the fire, have worked well for us, and were what got us excited about the possibilities of cooking on the fire. We've also made flat breads cooked in the ashes (inspired by Moro), which were outrageously delicious, enjoyed as they were, sitting by the fire, snuggled on blankets, with a lentil soup, watching the sunlight fade. 
Flat breads in the ashes (you can see one cooking at the bottom right of the fire, and the blurry tongs have just brought one out to rest on the big rock)
For Christmas Pearl got a camp oven, and a camp oven cook-book, and we were wowed by the possibilities of what we could do with the camp oven. Chocolate cake! Scones! Bread and butter pudding! The realities of the camp oven, however, have proved to be a little tricky, and we've faced more than a couple of failures. But we keep trying and finally, with the bunny, the camp oven ca,me through for us. 
Brett's Brogo Bunny ragu in the camp oven on the fire
The ragu ended up simmering away on the fire for almost 4 hours. We kept topping it up with red wine and tomatoes, and in the end, the meat had fallen from the bones into a delicious, perfect sauce. The sauce, with some egg pasta and our first broccoli harvest, was amazing. And rewarding. And happy-making.
And now we have a little more confidence to try some more things in that camp oven. having learnt some more lessons in the arts of the fire-cook.
The kids test the first round of ash-cooked flat-bread. Success!


  1. ahhhh thinking of all the bunnies I ate when I was young (before I became a vegetarian obviously!)..... mum used to marinate the bunny overnight (to get rid of some of the 'gamey' taste) then she jointed it, rolled it in flour and egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried the bunny like chicken (in fact - as our dad was not fond of eating bunnies, she used to pass off her deep fried bunnies as chicken......) ahhhhh those were the days...

    eat more wild bunnies ya'll! (but make sure you check its innards to see that you have a healthy rabbit before you proceed.... if not - compost the furry feral!)

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Ronnie. I am very much liking the sound of fried rabbit, yum!

  2. I wish I had a neighbour happy to drop off dressed rabbit ;-)

    We've been having a campfire each week (monday night has been declared campfire night for the duration of winter) - and I'm enjoying camp oven cooking. But so far I've been pretty boring - mostly sticking to from scratch baked beans. I tried a cake once - but burnt the bottom.

    Pasta sauce is a good idea. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. A weekly campfire night sounds divine! Such a good idea... it makes such a difference to break with the everyday routine. Eating dinner by the fire, while gazing on the night sky is pure magic. Thanks for sharing.

  3. You've got me intrigued with the no kitchen thing. We've talked about having a kitchen separate to our main house, but no kitchen? How does that work? Have you already got a post about it somewhere?

    I do know that for some reason I much prefer doing the dishes in a dish when we are camping then at home in the kitchen sink - so I find the idea slightly appealing!

    We've been to Brogo - absolutely stunning, stayed at Fernmark Inn and LOVED it! One of the hosts tried to talk us into buying property there - maybe one day!!

  4. Hi Mel, our lack of kitchen is temporary. We probably wrote about it over a year ago. It's because we wanted/needed to build this tiny house so we could move onto our land and be free of rental expenses and so on. So our plan is to live here in our tiny house for a few years while we build our actual house. Our actual straw bale house will have a kitchen. In fact it will be primarily about the kitchen + pantry + cold store... Life without a kitchen is fine. And it will get better, once we have our wood oven built. But I am looking forward to having a proper kitchen again sometime in the future.
    Thanks for your interest

  5. Hi Tricia, Sorry to hear that he bottom of your cake burnt. You could try putting a cooling cake rack in the bottom of your camp oven to keep the cake tin off the bottom. That way the air will circulate around the cake tin in the camp oven. Only put the coals on the lid and not to many. I hope that this might help. This works well for scones also. X Jodie