There are four key ingredients that elevate this beach campfire meal above a normal chilli: bacon, beer, dark chocolate and accidental campfire ash. It’s ideal for keeping the dream alive into the autumn, as you can keep warm around the fire on the beach after surfing if you’re at the sort of spot where you can light a discreet fire that won’t spoil anybody else’s enjoyment of the place. Alternatively, you could always do it over a fire pit in your garden if you have one.
I’m going to assume that you’ve all cooked some sort of "minced beef and tomato" based meal at some point in your life (chilli, bolognaise, cottage pie etc) so will let you work out for yourself the quantities of ingredients based on the number of people that you’re feeding and how hungry they are. This will do for about 4 hungry adults who’ve spent a few hours paddling in the sea.
You will need:
- Decent firewood (bits of tree that still look like bits of tree - nothing tanilised like garden decking and no crap gluey scrap wood like plywood or MDF)
- Charcoal (bag of)
- A dutch oven (big, heavy cast iron cauldron) or a heavy old casserole pot, and somebody willing and able to carry it to wherever you’re cooking.
- Tin foil
- Wooden spoon
- Bowls + something to eat with
- Cup + scissors (optional)
- A couple of onions
- A couple of carrots
- A few cloves of garlic or a decent squirt from a handy tube of minced garlic.
- 10 or 12 Mushrooms
- Red and green chili pepper, more or less depending on heat
- Green and Yellow pepper
- 1 or 2 fancy long red Ramiro peppers
- Bunch of coriander
- Block of butter
- Small bar of dark chocolate
- Beef stock cube or pot
- Tin of red kidney beans
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- Salt, pepper and paprika
- Beer – a couple of those small French stubbies in green glass bottles is ideal.
- Bacon lardons or cubed pancetta – handful of.
- Beef mince, about two handfuls is the way I describe the quantity that I need to my local butcher. He has normal blokey hands, but I don’t know what this translates to in grams.
- Jacket potatoes or rice
- Light a small, hot fire surrounded by rocks somewhere that you’re not going to incur the anger of any busy bodies and where you can easily put out the fire and leave no trace of it ever having been your outside kitchen.
- Once it’s well established, add charcoal and allow to get to a nice, white, even cooking temperature just like a conventional bbq.
- Don’t cook over raging flames – wait for white, dusty, embers which give off an even heat.
- If you’re going with baked potatoes then spike them, wrap them in foil and place them in the embers to bake for an hour or so.
- Place the Dutch oven on the white coals. If you’ve got a fancy tripod then hang it from that.
- Things happen quickly when Dutch ovens get hot, so be ready.
- Throw in a thick slice of butter and melt.
- Roughly cut onions and carrots into this and soften until the onion is translucent.
- Add bacon lardons or pancetta cubes. Fry.
- Mix in minced beef, chopped chilis and garlic. Brown.
- Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
- Add about half the bar of dark chocolate, in bits.
- Roughly chop in peppers and mushrooms (can be left whole). Soften.
- Throw in both tins of tomatoes.
- Put in the beef stock cube or pot.
- Pour in a load of beer.
- If you’re having rice then put a pot of water on for the rice the appropriate amount of time before you plan to eat.
- Let it bubble away and keep stirring. You can’t control the heat aside from moving it to a cooler part of the fire so just go with it. Ash will most likely float into the pot too. So what? You can’t stop that and it’s just the same as burning meat on a bbq.
- If you need to add more liquid (beer or water) then do so. Over the course of 45 minutes or so it should reduce down to a nice thick consistency with a gloopy, shiny gravy.
- 5 minutes before serving tip in the can of red kidney beans.
- Tear up the coriander or, alternatively, put it all in a cup and chop in the cup with scissors. Throw that in.
- Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Hook out the potatoes (hoping that they haven’t just turned to lumps of coal) and butter, or drain the rice.
- Pile into an enamel bowl.
- Serve with more beer and smoke in your eyes.
When you’re done make sure you kick out your fire or pour a few buckets of seawater on it and dig the ashes deep into the sand. Take all of your stuff away and don’t leave any trace – there’s nothing worse than being the first person on the beach in the morning and seeing a beautiful beach with a blemish of somebody’s campfire from the night before spoiling the pristine sand.
If you're UK based and have wandered past the magazine rack in your local newsagent in the past week then you may have seen the latest issue of Wavelength Magazine (#235 Autumn 2014), and if you're particularly eagle-eyed then you may have seen my name on the new-look front cover. I feel honoured that Tim Nunn and the team at Wavelength thought my photography worthy of a portfolio feature and ran some of my favourite surf images across several double page spreads. These are images that I've been sitting on for a while, only letting them see the light of day at exhibitions as I was hoping that they might eventually appear at size in print. I'm so pleased that they're now out there for others to see rather than just sitting on my hard drive. I'm also really grateful to Mr Chris Nelson (of Approaching Lines and the London Surf/Film Festival) for writing an introduction that made me both laugh and blush in equal measure...and for giving me a new nickname.
I'd be stoked if you take a moment to check it out, and hopefully see fit to purchase a copy to help support print media.