Arriving at a truly remote camp (as most Wilderness Safari camps are), and being asked to prepare meals for paying guests was at first a truly daunting task. No stainless steel-clad kitchens, ranges or even walk-in-coolers; this was not familiar territory for me.
Cooking on an open fire is strangely not something I was taught at chef school. I quickly realised that I would have to rely entirely on the Wilderness Safaris chefs who have mastered the skill, and were luckily keen to share their knowledge with me. This is a remarkable skill, judging temperature by holding your hand over the coals and adjusting the number of coals to maintain a consistent temperature can only be taught on the job, and it is not easy!
To cook most dishes on an open fire we use ‘Dutch ovens’ of various sizes and shapes. This is a bare cast-iron casserole dish, which in some cases has three legs but can also have none. It has a wire bail handle, and a slightly concave, rimmed lid so that coals can be placed on top as well as below. This provides a uniform internal heat similar to a conventional oven. Dutch ovens are well suited for long, slow cooking, such as roasts, stews, and casseroles but can also be used to prepare biscuits, cakes, breads, pizzas, and even pies. These ovens can also be stacked on top of each other, conserving the heat that would normally rise from the hot coals on the top.
Recently, while up at Serra Cafema Camp, the head chef, Matheus Shanyenge (an expert at cooking on an open fire) suggested making a vegetable lasagne for lunch on the banks of the Kunene River. Great idea – and not easily executed. Well done Matheus!
This article first appeared on SafariTalk.