Heeeeeey everybody! Long time, eh? I promise that my absence from blogging, (hate that word), has not been in vain. I have been busy (read: lazy). I mean…neglectful. What’s the word for it? Eatingoutinsteadofcooking. Not to mention that when I am hungry the only thing that I’ve felt like eating is peanut butter and jelly.
Plus, we took the big leap at work. We decided to expand our ‘little cafe that could’ to a space that is twice the size and full of potential! We are growing out of our current space and growing up into a real big- girl kitchen with real appliances and a bakery to boot! We are beginning construction on it as we speak, and by ‘we’ I mean a team of experts are in there knocking shit down and then putting it back together again. Yes!
In the meantime, the love of my life, Udi, had a 30th birthday. A momentous occasion on so many levels, and a reason to celebrate the best way we know how; with a super dope camping weekend. 2 nights of pure woodsy bliss, complete with multiple gourmet level feasts and a whole bunch of friends to keep us company. If there is one thing we both dig on hard, it is cooking over an open far and sleeping under the stars (or in this case, inside a tent because we are pussies and the temperature dropped far too low for us to sleep outside).
Udi and I arrived by ourselves the first night just before sundown, with barely enough time to set up our camp and start a fire before the stars came out. It was a perfect start to our weekend. We opened up a bottle of wine, slowly cooked ourselves a hearty vegetable soup and went to bed with full bellies and a million blankets piled on top of us.
The next morning we did exactly what was expected of us. We made a small fire, boiled a pot of black coffee, and spent the next few hours reading books, collecting wood, and waiting on the first group of friends to arrive. That little patch of heaven in the middle of the woods was our home, and we were ready to host our guests.
Just as we were getting hungry a carload of friends arrived so we tossed a few more logs in the fire to get it ready for lunch and prepped what was needed. Erez, ever the gourmand, brought us fish marinated in 3 different preparations. Cooking fish over an open fire, in the woods, in the middle of ‘winter’, with the sun beaming down on us so much so that we had to strip down to our undies, is a memory for the books. Not a cloud in the sky I tell you.
Here we have Erez cooking our fishy delights wearing his own improvised shirt sarong. His delicious fish lunch was a hit. We said that we couldn’t finish all three fish, but finish we did (along with some help from the next bunch of friends).
Sidenote: I feel bad for people who live where good dates are expensive and/or hard to come by. We are so lucky to live in a land of dates. These tiny madjools, brought to us from friends who had been living/working on a kibbutz in the dessert, (where date palms are often found), are some of the best dates I’ve ever had. Not as sweet as their larger counterpart, they harbor a more delicate caramel flavor, perfect for munching on when you want something ‘candy-like’. Long live the date!
We had ambitions of hanging this hammock chair from a neighboring tree. Sadly, these types of trees don’t have big hearty arms from which to hang things. So instead Udi just hung there with his butt grazing the forest floor.
When the next group arrived we were full of fish but ready for more fun. They came just in time for sunset and we enjoyed a long evening of hanging out around the fire while slow cooking a giant poyke full of pork. Because it was dark, and by this time I was delirious from smoke fumes, I didn’t get any pictures of our dinner that night. Take my word, it was magnificent.
For those of you who don’t know, Potjiekos or poyke as it is pronounced here, is a traditional South African cast iron pot that stand on 3 cast iron legs. It is shaped like a witches cauldron and it can cook over a fire for hours and hours maintaining a beautiful consistent heat for whatever is bubbling inside. We took advantage of this factor and let the pork stew simmer away for nearly 3 hours. The longer we committed, the more the meat broke down and the sauce thickened. Few things bring me greater joy than slow cooked meat, pork to be exact. Toss in some good company and the whole thing becomes that much more enjoyable.
The NEXT day even more friends arrived, joining us for a brunch in the forest like never seen before. It was such a treat to have new people showing up to our home in the woods, bringing with them news from the outside world. While we got everything ready for the fire we snacked on fire roasted pistachio nuts, grapefruit, passion fruit, and whatever else we had lying around. The truth is: everything tastes better in the forest.
We made an incredible brunch. Scrambled eggs with wild sage (which grows in abundance in the forest), pan roasted potatoes with paprika, black beans with dates and grapefruit, bacon, salad with chard, and of course, the leftover pork stew reheated just enough over the fire.
Udi, my love, I could not have imagined a more magical weekend.
Pork Butt Stew
2 kilos pork butt cut into 2″ pieces
1 white onion diced small
1 carrot diced small
1 red pepper diced small
1/2 head garlic smashed
2 red potatoes big chunks
2 sweet potato big chunks
2 bay leaves
2 chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons worcestershire
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 cups red wine
salt and pepper
oil for searing the meat
*It’s best to consider what you are planning to cook before you go camping. This way you can prep things at home in a more convenient way. In this case, I made a mixture chipotle, soy, worcestershire, and fish sauce mixture ahead of time and brought it along in a jar.
Start by heating the poyke over medium high fire. Heat the oil nice and hot, salt and pepper the pork, then sear the meat in batches. 3-4 minutes per batch. Remove the meat and save it off to the side.
Next, cook the onion, carrot, and red pepper until soft. At this point add the dry spices and let them get some of the heat from the pot. Amounts are not relevant while camping, just keep adding until it smells good. Cook for 5 minutes until the veggies are soft
Add potatoes and sweet potatoes, and heat until just warmed. Add the meat back in along with the wet ingredients. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, red wine, and water to cover. Let it come to a boil and then place a lid on in it and move it to a less hot fire. The poyke will sit over medium low fire for 3 hours of even more if you have the time. You know it’s ready when the meat is falling apart and buttery soft. Serve with bread if you must. Or in our case, just eat it as is until you are full. Save some for brunch the next day if you are able. In the case of stew, the longer it sits, the better it tastes.