I enjoy quite times with my family. With gameboys and smartphones and tablets and laptops, that quiet and undisturbed space seems to shrink daily. So we seek out quiet time, as we can come by it. This means snuggling away to empty cabins in the woods - without internet, without cell phone coverage. Finding our way to a beach, or a park, or forests and farms.
Early this spring, we traveled to the quiet countryside of Devon in England, where we stayed in a little canvas cabin by a creek overlooking the wide kelly-green grasses of the farm's cow pastures. There was no electricity, no cell phone coverage, just us and quiet. We played Pooh Sticks, dropping twigs into the brook that bordered our camp on one side. We picked nettles and gathered eggs for our morning omelet.
Cooking Over an Open Fire
With not electricity, and no gas, we cooked our meals on a wood-burning stove, or over an open fire. It takes planning, gentle tending, and quiet observation. Soups, stews, pot roasts are well-suited to open-fire cooking, for, as they boil, more liquid can be readily added to the pot as needed.
Cooking over an open fire requires intention and attention. My husband gathered the wood for the fire first, light the kindling and watched the fire as the logs broke down into hot coals. I prepared the vegetables and meat, peeling and chopping potatoes, slicing leeks, and then he'd hang the cauldron over the hot coals, where it simmered and steamed. Our son played.
English Bacon and Potato Soup from the Farm
Our food had come from the farm, and was cooked on the farm. The potatoes, leeks and carrots were dug from the garden, the herbs picked fresh just before cooking, and the meat, butter and broth came from healthy animals, foraging beneath the sun. Simple and lovely, and deeply nourishing.
The dish first starts by melting butter in a stock pot, then bathing the leeks in the hot butter until they soften and release their fragrance. Next come the thyme and the English bacon, which is meatier than American bacon, and similar to Canadian bacon. I added the potatoes and carrots to the pan, cover them with broth and simmer the whole thing together until the vegetables soften.
English Bacon and Potato Soup
- Melt the butter in a heavy stock pot over medium. When it foams and froths, toss in the sliced leeks and fry them in the butter until they soften and become translucent. Stir in the thyme and bacon, and continue cooking the bacon until it renders its fat and is cooked through - about 6 minutes.
- Dump the carrots and potatoes into the pot, stir in the broth and simmer, covered, until the vegetables become tender in the heat of the soup - about 40 minutes.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, top with chopped chives and serve.