They say that soldiers march on their stomachs. However, soldiers two hundred years ago didn’t have the means to keep their food fresh on the long journeys they faced. They would be issued with their flour ration and have to use their wits and skills to turn it into something palatable.
Ash cakes are arguably more than palatable – made properly, they can be positively pleasant to eat. Essentially a paste of bread and water, the cooking method infuses a smoky depth that makes it both satisfying and tasty to eat.
This is a great one to try with supervised kids. Mixing up a flour paste and smearing it onto the wood is perfect food prep for even the youngest fingers!
- A pinch of salt (optional)
- Hot ash bed
- Wooden board/large leaves
1. Wait for the flames in your fire pit to cease and for the coals to become covered in a layer of white ash. This is when you need to cook your bread – don’t wait for the coals to cool further.
2. Mix the flour, salt and water together in a bowl or plastic bag, adding the water gradually to make a stiff but sticky mass. The paste needs to be gluey enough to cling to the board while cooking.
3. Press the dough onto the board in a thin, even layer. This will enable it to cook more easily.
4. Lean or prop the board close enough to the coals to cook the fire bread. The dough will need around 6 – 7 minutes cooking time, so rotate the board after 3 – 4 minutes so that both sides cook reasonably uniformly.
5. When the bread is evenly browned, remove the board from the coals and ease the bread off.
6. No board? Gather some large leaves and wrap your flattened dough inside, covering the contents with a few layers of leaves.
7. Place the package directly onto the white coals and use a fire stick to move some more coals on top of the leaves and cook for around 3 – 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and most of the ash before eating.
8. An even simpler way of cooking fire bread, and useful if you don’t have either a flat board or large leaves, is to cook the flattened dough directly on the coals themselves.Again, pull some of the hot coals on top of the bread and leave for 3 – 5 minutes. The bread can burn quite quickly using this method, so start checking it after 2 – 3 minutes.
9. A little ash won’t harm you, but brush off what you can before eating.
Learning to take the most basic ingredients and turn them into something good to eat using primitive means is a vital prepping skill. Any of these methods produce an edible fire bread that might surprise you with how genuinely tasty it is. Another way of cooking up raw dough is to wrap a flattened strip around a cleaned branch and hold it over the coals until browned. The kids love that one!
Whichever method you try, this is a great way of getting into some wild cooking!
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