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Campfire Cooking With A Kotlich

By Rob MacCurrach

We all know about barbecues and the joys of cooking outdoors on a summer night. But why not extend your repertoire and try something long cherished by Hungarians and their neighbours in Eastern Europe? The kotlich (Serbo-Croat name) or bogracs (Hungarian) is an enamel cooking pot that hangs from a light tripod, easily set up anywhere from back doorstep to the allotment, from riverside to beach.

The traditional kotlich recipe would be gouljash or fish soup, but the range is vast. We start with marmalade-making in January and cook anything seasonal, like mussels, or mulled cider, garden soups, paprikash red and spicy. We also use our grill for fish and vegetables and meat, or the paella pan for bacon and egg breakfasts in the morning sun. Enamel is light and easy to handle and clean; the tripod makes cooking very versatile. The pot or grill can be adjusted to suit the heat, and it can be swung about to keep food moving and the heat even. This can all go in the back of a car; we have pushed our kotlich/wood/water etc in a wheelbarrow to the top of a small mountain in Radnorshire; a modest outbreak of extreme catering.

We nearly always use the “fire pit” to contain the fire. This isn’t essential where there is space for a fire, but the fire pit allows you to contain and control the fire wherever you choose to place it. Grass is seldom damaged but you can use a board or stone to prevent grass being singed. There are also campsites where a fire is allowed if you keep it off the ground. One of the secrets of kotlich cooking is to organise your wood carefully. Dry woodcut small enough is the way to make a quick hot fire within minutes; no waiting for charcoal to heat up. If the wood is good, you are off to an instant start. This is where Certainly Wood comes in!

Certainly Wood select hardwood which is split to wood-burner size and kiln dried. Very little energy is lost trying to drive off moisture; it’s all usable fuel! It is surprising how far one bag of kiln dried wood will go allowing you to keep a small hot fire. (In a windy place you may want to put up a windbreak of some sort to keep the heat where it’s needed.) We find that smaller pieces of wood allow you to control the fire better. Certainly Wood can also help here; they have their pizza-oven wood which is split smaller and is perfect for the kotlich.

Good wood overcomes appalling weather! You can light a fire in almost any weather given a bit of shelter and dry wood. If thankfully you have chosen a perfect day, then there is also nothing more heartening than a quick start with the fire and on goes the kotlich to start off those onions. Our standard method of lighting the fire is to use small softwood or dried twigs for kindling with Certainly Wood “Flamers”; no need even for paper. The Flamer is a natural product made from wood shavings impregnated with wax; they catch and burn well at the heart of the fire without the risk of collapsing wood.

Essentially most of us want to get our children outdoors and learning the wonders of gathering around a fire with a cooking pot. Scents of wood smoke, the smells of open-air cooking, the primaeval atmosphere of community, family and friendship all make cooking outdoors a joy, especially if you have secured some decent firewood!

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