Finger food Friday, a long standing tradition in our household, has been moved aside temporarily. The tradition of finger-food on Friday nights started during our working lives as a way to mark the transition from the working week to the week-end. Fish & chips, hamburgers, pizzas, nachos, or tapas have been common, with the rule that generally that the food will be home made. We came to enjoy our Finger-food Friday’s so much that we’ve kept it up even after retirement.
Covid-19 has changed some of our routines, for how long is anyone’s guess. With intra-state area closures in place it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to have our usual winter escape to the warm sun in the top end. Not being able to escape the cold, it seems like a good idea to make some changes to our routine that embrace it instead. What better way to embrace the cold than to relax with a nice glass of red, or a glass of warm, spicy, mulled wine while gazing at the flickering flames of a fire. Finger food Friday’s have been temporarily shunted aside to make way instead for fire pit Friday’s (providing it’s not raining).
We have a nice little place for our portable fire ring, and we have a camp oven. Our State visitor restrictions lifted from one to ten people this week, which means we can now share our camp fire, and camp oven dinner with friends too. We don’t have space for ten people to meet the outdoor social distancing rules (1.5 metres between), but we can legally space up to six people around our fire. This week we invited three friends around, and the camp oven dinner was to be a hearty beef in red wine stew with chunky vegetables and home made pull apart bread rolls.
Ok. now’s a good time to confess – I forgot to take photos! The photos above have been pilfered from other fire pit nights. Our guests were very kind, and seemed to enjoy this weeks stew, I’m a bit more critical though, and have to admit I haven’t perfected cooking yet in a camp oven on a back yard, portable fire pit. I manage well enough using the fire pits in campgrounds with their anchored hooks that allow the camp oven to suspend above the flames, and to swing out of the way of the flames altogether if the camp oven gets to hot. I also manage very well in a big fire on the open ground when I can rake hot coals to the side of the main fire.
For the stews I use gravy beef, which when cooked slowly at the right temperature makes a rich, flavoursome, melt in your mouth stew. The meat in the one pictured above cooked to quickly, and lacked that melt in mouth result of perfectly cooked gravy beef. Additionally, I added the chunky vegetables a little to late, and the carrots weren’t perfectly tender like they should be in well cooked stew. This week we tried using heat beads while cooking, and added the wood for the fire as soon as the cooking was done. I think we’re on track to get it right, but we still need to slow down the cooking to get the flavour that will only develop with a slow, gentle simmer over several hours. A few less coals I think will do it.
We had planned to have our usual toasted marshmallows, and S’mores afterwards. But one of our guest surprised us with the most delicious honeycomb cheesecake. Our other guests cooked us some lovely mini quiches and sausage rolls to start us off for the night. Between the lovely pastries to start, Paul’s pull apart home made rolls, and that, oh so delicious, cheesecake, who needed a perfectly cooked stew anyway.