Outdoor kind of person

In a week where COVID restrictions have been relaxed to allow friends to be invited inside we decide to have a dinner party…. outside. Outside dining has long been popular in our home with many a barbecue being used to destruction as the kids have grown up, but of late we’ve become more adventurous cooking over the firepits we have created or bought.

At our last house we were fortunate to have a large garden, and within it we created a large permanent firepit. I was gifted a large cast iron cooking bowl and tripod by my wife for my birthday that year, the type associated with the kadai firepits that we have later purchased. This fueled my passion for learning to apply my cooking skills to the outdoors using the intense heat that comes off either charcoal or simply wood fires, learning to adapt the height of the bowl or chain to regulate heat and gain a marvelous smoky flavour.

I vividly recall trying to cook lamb directly over the flame the first time as the season turned from autumn to winter. Our friends Wendy & James joined us waiting for the lamb to cook as darkness descended. Hunger getting the better of us we enjoyed rare but beautifully smoked lamb. A dish that’s been repeated again and again, boning out a leg and stuffing with a variety of spices, usually harissa, cumin, garlic and chilli to marinade and the tie up directly over the wood fire.

But the type of dish that always seems to gain most favour is the spicy goulash or curry who’s flavour is further enhanced by the smoke from the fire. As was the case last night when I cooked from the Hairy Bikers curry book, a lamb dopiaza. Hard to decide on a personal favourite but a flame grilled steak with a decent red and a baked potato wrapped in foil and nestled in the coals takes some beating.

It’s been a few weeks since I have been able to dedicate a run of days to renovations on Gigha but that’s about to change and the absence of a kitchen is the reason for this blog post. Rather than see this as a disadvantage I am relishing the challenge of being able to create some fantastic dishes in the meadow where I will be relocating the kadai to in the coming weeks. I’m hoping that many of our good friends can join us in this experience as the company is always what makes for great nights around the fire. I’m employing a ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality in thinking ‘cook it and they will come’. Or maybe just put free drink on?

This week at the Old Manse, scaffolding has started to arrive to fully surround the building. That job should complete next week with the stripping of render to start the week after. That week the shepherd’s hut kit also arrives, so plenty to write about.

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