If you think food cooked outside is destined for a fixed set of campfire-friendly recipes, boring presentations, or limited flavor palates, think again. In Scotland, Chef William Hamer has set out to elevate cooking over fire by emphasizing local produce and sustainable culinary practices. Hamer has traveled the world learning the tools and tips of the trade to develop his unique approach to cooking.
Though he has prepared dishes alongside chefs at Hiša Franko, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Slovenia, and been invited to work at England's three-Michelin-winning L'Enclume, for Hamer, cooking outdoors with fire is an opportunity to connect with the places in which flora and fauna are sourced and connect better with those ingredients. And though food served outdoors is a far cry from a setting of white-linen tablecloths, there need be no gap in the quality of the food or skills required to prepare it. Hamer shares, "When you eat in a restaurant, you feel how the chef and the team want you to feel, which can be a beautiful experience but one we have come to know all too well," he told Scottish Field. "Eating in the wild is unpredictable. It's a movement and is ever-changing -- this is what I love."
Returning To Nature
From foraging ingredients to growing produce in greenhouses, Hamer is intent on providing a pure, natural experience for diners. He chops wood and places ingredients strategically between logs hot from the flickering flames. Cast iron pans are used to cook seasoned cauliflower and Cullen skink. Butter is melted on top of cast iron plates, and fresh mussels are prepared with lemon, garlic, chili, fennel, and red wine. Wildflowers and buds from wild garlic are set onto plates as a garnish, and while guests enjoy the courses placed in front of them, Hamer prepares additional dishes.
There is a theatrical element of watching a chef prepare food in the wild, and Hamer's scheduled supper clubs are produced and hosted in a way that re-introduces people to the environment not so far from their doors. "Eating in the wild ignites the senses and creates a connection with the land you are standing upon," he told Scottish Field. "Everything is stripped back to its most natural and you are free to eat as you please, gazing at whatever catches your eye -- you feel the warmth of the food, gaining an insight to how our ancestors ate many hundreds of years ago." Whether diners focus on the dancing flames, the cloudy Scottish sky, birds calling from trees, or the dish that's in front of them, the experience both calms the nerves and ensnares the senses.
A Culinary Experience Fireside
Through Wild Kabn Kitchen, Hamer prepares multi-course meals for guests in both scheduled dinner experiences and private events. Upon arriving at the site, folks are greeted by Hamer and can either watch him prepare the meal or just bask in the natural environs. As part of the Wilder Kitchen, Hamer seeks to demonstrate that food prepared simply is reminiscent of a simpler, more primitive era. Kabn Company offers spaces to stay nearby, or diners are invited to set up their tents along the lake in view of Hamer's culinary presentations.
If you can't make it to Scotland to experience Hamer's open-fire cooking for yourself, the chef has provided recipes for you to try in your own backyard. From burrata served with charred samphire drizzled in a gin vinaigrette and garnished with pine nuts (Hamer suggests cooking ingredients in foil and twisting the aluminum to create a handle that can be easily removed from fire) to charred beetroot served with fennel, radishes, hazelnuts, and ricotta, your next campsite meal certainly does not have to be hot dogs and pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.