There’s something special about cooking outside. It’s even more magical when food is cooked just yards from where it’s grown and within minutes of being harvested. Cooking at the allotment has become something of a regular occurrence in our family and is now a genuine reason for spending more time there. It’s not on our doorstep so a little forethought and planning is needed. Good, clean surfaces are essential for cooking alfresco (you can’t have too many chopping boards) and you will only be limited by what you plan to cook with. At our plot we have a range of devices, from a small gas stove to an open-fire grill and, our pièce de résistance, an earth oven. These allow us to cater for anything from light lunches to bhajee-bashes and perfect-pizza parties. Clearing up by torchlight is the only downside but eating under the stars on a balmy summer evening is as enchanting as life gets in a vegetable garden. Here are a few easy recipes to try cooking over a campfire, at home or on the allotment.
Parsnip soup with medlar jam (Serves 4)
Winter soup such as this can be a meal in itself or served as a starter – although too rich a main course afterwards will leave absolutely no room for pudding. To inject even more nuttiness to this recipe, we sometimes roast the parsnips first, but this version is easier, and still delicious. Read the recipe.
Blackened aubergine chutney (Seves 2-4)
My friend Dhundi Raj Bhusal knocked up this tasty relish while we were having a barbecue at the plot using whatever late summer veg (apart from the lemon) we could pick at the time. Use it to accompany any curry or mop up a bowl of it with naan bread. Read the recipe.
Courgette ratte (Serves 2)
This is our staple for summer and one we rarely get bored with. Quick to prepare and delicious, especially when the courgettes and tomatoes are fresh, it’s a dish we fall back on when we come home with little time to cook supper – but it could easily be made at the allotment. Yellow courgettes have a sweeter taste than most green varieties and the colour makes for an especially attractive meal. Read the recipe.
Baked pears with honey, marsala and bay (serves 6-8)
This recipe from chef Skye Gyngell is a wonderful winter warmer. We’ve tried variations including apples stuffed with dates which is equally delicious. Take care not to burn the pears with too fierce a heat. Read the recipe.
Campfire pizza (for 4 to 5 pizzas)
Making pizza is easier than most people realise. The trick is getting your oven hot enough to cook the dough quickly. In our earth oven it takes three minutes and the pizzas have a wonderful contrast of slightly burnt crispy bits and softer parts. The best bit? You can top your pizza with the veg and herbs you’ve grown in the garden. Read the recipe.
Onion bahjees (Makes 12-16 bahjees)
This is a family recipe from my grandmother. It takes practice to get the right consistency and to get the oil hot enough so the bahjees don’t end up soggy. Cooking in a wok over a fire saves the kitchen from smelling like a spice market, but don’t cook in hot oil in the rain. Read the recipe.
Words Cleve West
Photographs Andrew Montgomery