Each Christmas I run an Advent Calendar competition on my Facebook Page where each day I give away a prize such as copies of The Pyromaniac Chef Cook Book or Hygge Huts or tickets to cookery classes. I had planned a weekend of prizewinner events earlier in the year but the weather was atrocious and with rural suppliers to visit and guests travelling varying distances I decided to cancel.
My prizewinners were given a choice of my new events to choose prizes for and last weekend Mikk and Howard chose to come along to the test run for the new Spoon Carving Workshops. I blogged about it here and tickets are available for 31st March and 22nd September (they cost £45 per person).
Please note that the regular workshops include soup and fire-cooked bread and fire-cooked cake at the workshop interval and not the dishes I cooked for the test run. Obviously if you would like a workshop on an exclusive hire basis, as a custom event you can have anything you want.
I cooked two of the dishes that featured in prizewinning answers; making Saltimbocca for the first time and layering potatoes with thyme, shallots and Parmesan. It is only writing this now that I realise how much my cooking has evolved. When I first started cooking over fire I would create a recipe then work out how to cook it outside whereas when I started planning my Saltimbocca I immediately visualised the fire pit in the centre of Gloucester Studio. The Saltimbocca was delicious and while I want to tweak how I cook the potatoes they were also very good so both will be on the restaurant menu.
Mikk repeatedly challenged me to cook a Baked Alaska in my smoker and I’m glad she persevered as while my initial reaction was that she was asking the impossible, over time I found myself wanting to give it a try (and as my sister-in-law regularly tells her classes, the best word is yet – you can’t do it YET). I had never made a Baked Alaska before but why not make my first one in a smoker?
The steps were simple enough. You top cake with a dome of ice cream, slather them in meringue and cook in a hot oven so that the meringue browns while the ice cream stays frozen.
My initial reaction was that done properly, the ice cream would be too hard to cut into neat slices. So rather than make ice cream, I made a semifreddo (semi-frozen in Italian) using dessert wine. Having a softer ice cream than recommended felt like a risky move for the cooking but felt like the only option for serving. I spooned it into a pudding bowl and popped it in the freezer.
The cake was simple enough. I pulled out the recipe for Spiced Ginger Cake from The Pyromaniac Chef Cook Book (recipe below) and threw it in my smoker after the potatoes were served.
Then it was simply the case of assembly. I whisked 200g caster sugar into four egg whites and smoothed it into my best effort of swirls. I got the smoker as hot as I could (I now want some bellows!) and put it in.
After ten minutes there was very little colour. At fifteen it was getting golden around the edges but I couldn’t risk it being in any longer, it had to come out.
It was a bit ashy (like I bought it at Iceland 😉 ) but the exterior was crisp, the ice cream was solid and the cake was warm. An absolutely resounding success and it tasted delicious!
Obviously I am super critical and I know I need to get my smoker hotter as I want a properly golden exterior but for a first attempt at Baked Alaska it went better than I feared.
I always love hearing about your fire cooking or other adventures and the Pyromaniac Chef Group on Facebook is full of similarly interested people.
This recipe comes from The Pyromaniac Chef Cook Book (£12) and is one of 70 fully photographed recipes to inspire you to get outside, light a fire and get cooking.
Sticky Ginger cake
Baking a cake in a fire is perfectly possible but you won’t get a perfect Victoria sponge. This very much a pudding cake to eat with custard or cream but if desired it can be turned out.
100g golden syrup
100g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tsp dried ginger
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
- Liberally grease a cast iron pot with 25g of the butter. Put a double layer of greaseproof paper on the base of the pot.
- Melt the syrup, sugar and butter over a low heat.
- Add the gingers and eggs and beat.
- Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and add a few tablespoons at a time until you have a thick smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into the pot and cook over a dying fire until the top is golden. If you wish to keep your fire going, use a plank or piece of wood to protect the cake from direct heat.
- Serve with custard.
Cook conventionally: Cook cake in pot at 180°C.