Monday, 8 June 2020

14 (hot) Tips for cooking on an open fire:

When dining outdoors or cooking on an open fire:

1. Keep your matches and kindling dry -
Don't forget your matches and take care to keep them dry. I pack a lighter just in case. Gather wood for your fire from appropriate places before you begin to cook. (Don't tear off branches or use fence posts). No matter how much you encourage it, wet kindling simply won’t light. 

2. Plan carefully where you will locate your fire -
Think about which way the wind is blowing and take care not cause a bush fire! You may need to cut away turf. If so, keep it on one side to replace later. Make sure you are not lighting a fire on peat, which can burn, or over tree roots. If you make a fire under a tree you can kill one side of it. 

Fires for cooking can be laid in a cross-hatch pattern, rather than in the traditional wigwam. Having said that, I once made successful coals by burning a pile of spindly dry thorn branches and letting the sudden blaze die down.

3. Collect water before lighting the fire -
When filling a kettle from anything other than a tap, place the spout beneath the surface of the water to avoid getting scum on it. 

4. Take a potholder with you -
Make sure you have a designated potholder for holding pan-handles, for keeping your hands from slowly roasting as you cook and for pouring tea. We used a thick leather glove in Africa, which I called 'The hairy hand'. 

5. Don’t forget that everything near a fire gets hot!
It is easy to accidentally melt the soles of rubber shoes by placing them too near the fire (I can tell you from experience) and remember that the lid and handle of a kettle can get dangerously hot. Have a bowl of sand and a bucket of water to hand in case of accidents or emergencies.

6. Root vegetables must be skewered before being cooked, not afterwards -
One of my favorite things to cook over an open fire are potatoes. Wrapped in foil with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper (or rosemary if you’re feeling fancy), spuds cook wonderfully when nestled into the embers of a fire. And yet, who would have thought that such an innocent vegetable could become a dangerous projectile if left un-skewered! Skewer your root vegetables before you wrap them. Poking a stick into an un-skewered potato to pull it from the fire can leave you covered in boiling mash!

7. Always place your mug on the ground before pouring anything hot into it -
Tea, coffee or hot chocolate are vital additions to any outdoor meal, but remember to place your mug on a flat bit of ground before pouring anything into it. Kettles can be unpredictable, and super-heated liquid can easily splash over hands and wrists.

8. Beware the soot in your soup!
Put a lid on anything you’re cooking over an open fire. This speeds up cooking and prevents an unexpected blast of wind from blowing into it.

9. Limit your washing up
You can prevent your kettle and pots from becoming blackened and difficult to clean by wiping the outsides with washing up liquid before setting them on the fire. Use bread as a plate you can eat afterwards. Leaves have a number of uses and can be folded to contain things.

10. Don’t cook anything that drips fat straight over the fire -
Be careful not to cook bacon or steak directly over your coals. Fat dripping onto the fire can spray up and give you a nasty burn. The South Americans make an art of roasting meat upright so the hot fat runs down, helping to cook and flavor the meat that is then turned. 

11. Wait until the fire burns down before cooking on hot coals -
Cooking over flames will give you raw, burnt food - blackened on the outside, cold on the inside. Wait until the fire dies, bring the burning pieces of wood to one side, or even right away from the fire itself, and you’ll be able to cook your food evenly. Smoke from the flames is useful to keep away bugs but can be irritating when you are cooking.

12. Tin foil and leaves -
Many wonderful dishes can be cooked up in tin foil, from baked banana-chocolate pudding or brownies to lemon-garlic roast fish. Alternatively, you can wrap food in leaves - such as wild garlic or banana leaves if you know they will be to hand.

13. Beware the embers and hot grills!
After a delicious meal cooked over an open fire, it can be easy to regard humble embers with condescension- do so at your peril! Make sure there are no stray embers lying around after your meal, as stepping on one in the early-morning search for coffee is an experience very much worth avoiding.  Never lay a hot barbecue grill on the ground where is it easy tot red on. Plan to prop it up somewhere safe.

14. Always burn any card or paper rubbish carefully and put your barbecue fire out properly after use. Take all your litter home with you for recycling.

To read more about my adventures - and disasters incurred while cooking outdoors in southern Africa, find a copy of Ride the Wings of Morning

Ride the Wings of Morning

Monday, 11 May 2020

Riding Horses Across Africa

The dream of riding with giraffe, amongst herds of zebra

and wild animals considered dangerous, such as white rhino

Sophie Neville with white rhino

became a reality when I took part in 

Author Sophie Neville with giraffe

The 5th Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride.

The aim was to cross seven different game reserves in six days

with a group of thirteen riders.

We covered a variety of terrain

from stony ridges to valleys chocked with reeds. 

We climbed rocky paths high in the hills

before descending though thick vegetation in the heat of the day.

I looked back, finding it difficult to believe we had managed to walk the horses down the Buffelshoek escarpment.

Author Sophie Neville on horseback

We were able to spot a variety of antelope

including oryx and Livingstone eland

and covered 208 kilometres at some speed.

Author Sophie Neville in the Waterberg

The finish at Jembisa game reserve on the Palala River.

Sophie Neville writer

The sponsored ride was held in aid of The Waterberg Trust who support a number of community projects in the area and provide high-tech anti-poaching equipment for Save The Waterberg Rhino.

If you would like to make a donation, please click here for my Justgiving page

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Review on Goodreads

Horizon Horseback Safaris
as portrayed in 'Ride The Wings of Morning'

A recent review on Goodreads: ' Perfect holiday reading- especially if you're going to Southern Africa on a safari! It made me laugh until my sides hurt, and at the same time enriched my thought-life with its wisdom and depth. It's beautifully written, funny, honest and inspiring- a really great read. '

To get yourself a copy, click here.