Saturday, 18 November 2017

WILD BAKING WITH THE HERBERT'S


“Wild baking is more than being outdoors and it’s more than baking. It’s a way of cooking that is somehow more timeless, convivial, nutritious and hugely satisfying.
Tom Herbert 

Starting the campfire

At the heart of Tom and Anna Herbert’s home the kitchen is full of life, and children, and dogs. Anna has just baked a flapjack and is cutting it into chunks, offering it to us with coffee as we arrive bringing our own family-of-five chaos with us as the husband has just spent three hours at hospital with a child and a suspected broken thumb which turned out not to be. Anna is discussing with Tom the best way to froth milk, he has of course just discovered a new way using a cafetiere to froth, that pretty much sums up Tom, interested and enthusiastic about everything and always with a gadget or new way to do things!


smoke signals across the valley

We are at the Herbert’s to celebrate Tom’s new book Do Wild Baking / Food, fire and good times, published by The Do Book Company and are planning an afternoon of cooking on the fire. Tom has a box of autumn veg ready and the jewel like coloured veg is displayed alongside sweet chestnuts and medlars picked by Anna from the garden. We finish our coffee and venture down to the bottom of the garden. 



The boys set about chopping kindling and gathering sticks and logs for the fire, Tom teaching us a Canadian way of blowing the fire to get it going by making a tiny diamond shape between our thumbs and forefingers that directs the breath more precisely. My boys are then occupied for hours with saws and axes, chopping and stacking and stoking the fire, well that and scrumping the apples from Anna’s trees! 


Us trying to avoid the smoke, fuelled by tea and homemade flapjack

As the campfire burned fiercely and we chatted about nothing and everything, broken and unfinished sentences as a different child interjected or was dispatched to the kitchen to retrieve something. We all did a strange sychronised dance around the fire to stop the smoke in getting in our eyes but inevitably smoking ourselves as much as smoked kippers!  


making a seasonal veg parcel to cook buried in the fire 

We left the fire supervised whilst Tom showed us how to mill our own flour. I had visions of big stones and hours of grinding reminiscent of school trips but Tom true to form had a new mill, powered by electric but with stones inside into which he poured organic spelt and rye, and we watched hypnotised by the patterns the grain made as it filtered down. He mixed the flour with sourdough starter and fermented rosewater into a dough, popping it into a bowl topped with a shower cap to prove before making into flatbreads. 



Tom and Anna chopped seasonal veg of onion, squash and beetroot into a foil parcel with fennel seeds we then buried it in the embers as the flames died down. Then onions, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, garlic and lemon were cut in half and placed onto the ash of the fire, this was for the campfire salsa. 


cooking the veg in the embers to make campfire salsa

Once the skins had become charred and the veg cooked they were carefully lifted from the fire, squeezed from their skins and I was put to work chopping them into small chunks with the juice of the lemon squeezed over the top and fresh parsley chopped. 



Finally, the ingredients that needed the least amount of cooking were added to the fire as it was losing its intensity, the steaks and the dough, swiftly shaped into flatbreads and baked. The feast was shared between us as we huddled around the fire sat on the mossy ground, rocks and stumps, the low autumn sun creating the most magical golden light. We tucked into our feast washed down with a hoppy-cider, almost forgetting to dig up the parcel of autumn veg from under the embers! 



A feast created, shared and enjoyed. We left nourished and inspired to have more wild baking adventures. 



Do Wild Baking is out now and contains 50 recipes and all the information you need to have your own wild baking adventure, £8.99 published by The Do Book Company.


TOM'S WILD BAKING BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I have a signed and slightly smoked copy of Wild Baking that I'm giving away over on Instagram right now and I’ll randomly draw a winner after 8pm Friday 24th November.

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