A well seasoned cast iron pan is truly a thing of beauty. Like a treasured sourdough starter, each skillet requires tending to achieve the desirable patina of oils that seal the black surface to perfect smoothness. My Father's pans are the stuff of legend, jet black and luminous with decades of lovingly wiped and scorched grease - only ever briefly meeting water, lest the spell be broken. Every Sunday he sets a couple of them on the Aga and makes pancakes in place of the more traditional roast, wiping the pan between each pour with a paper towel neatly folded and clamped with a wooden clothes peg. He bends, pours, swirls, tosses, slides the pancake onto a growing stack with meditative calm, wiping each gleaming pan as he sets it back on the heat and begins again.
When Shirley of Gluten Free Easily picked 'Make Me a Happy Camper' as her theme for Go Ahead Honey, I thought instantly of my own lovingly tended cast iron pans. I found them whilst rootling idly through a rural market, when Fin was no more than a spring in my step or a twinkle playing under the fringe of his father's eyes. Tossed carelessly into a dirty cardboard box, cobweb strewn and smudged with rust, they looked like nothing. But we beheld in them the future heirlooms of our yet to be built kitchen. And so they were snapped up for nothing and hurried home to be scoured, salted, scorched and oiled, oiled, oiled, till they shone like obsidian.
We had been hoping to nestle the pans into the embers of a crackling campfire and yet, every time we planned to camp, or even barbeque, it rained. After the early sunbath of June, July was unremittingly damp and grey. Fin and I sat with our chins in our hands and pouted our lips a bit and then got on with rainy day stuff - that didn't need a campfire to be fun.
Eventually I realised that I was going to miss the deadline if I held off any longer and so I made my dishes on the stove. But they can be made on the campfire if you're blessed with lovely weather. I used an 8" skillet for a courgette tortilla and a 6" skillet for a hazelnut and apple puddingcake. When the weather turns fine, I'll do it all again for real.
Courgette (zucchini) Tortilla serves 3-4
1 large brown skinned onion chopped roughly
2 large or 4 small courgettes peeled and diced
6 large free range eggs
pinch sea salt
Duck fat - or other stable meat fat
Heat a heaped teaspoon in an 8" cast iron skillet (or similar) and add the onion, frying gently until translucent.
Add courgette and stir to coat, fry gently until this is just cooked through.
Place the hot vegetables in a large mixing bowl and set aside for a minute. Set the pan back on the heat - add a little fat if it looks dry.
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and stir into the hot vegetables, beating quickly, and pour them straight back into the pan, shaking a little.
Cook gently for about 8-10 minutes without disturbing until the sides have set but the top is still runny. Then the tricky bit!
With a butter knife ease the edges of the tortilla away from the pan a little, all the way around. Place a plate on top of the pan that covers it entirely and a little extra - the flatter the better. Using a cloth to protect your hands, grasp the plate and pan with both hands and invert the tortilla onto the plate. Set it down and give the pan a tap to loosen.
Set the empty pan back on the heat, and slide the tortilla back into the pan with one swift (and hopefully successful) movement. Push the edges underneath to seal (with a butter knife) and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Then invert again onto a fresh (or washed) plate and leave to cool for about 10 minutes - or eat cold.
You can omit the inverting bit and finish the tortilla under a grill, but this is the authentic Spanish method and it makes a lovely clean edge.
Hazelnut & Apple Puddingcake
I used this recipe and just added another egg, left out the banana and lay a couple of peeled apples in some melted butter at the bottom of the pan to avoid the burnt crust that can occur. Because I'm not eating bicarb at the moment, we separated the eggs and beat the whites, folding them in at the end - but this isn't really practical when you're camping! It's quite magical to have a cakey pudding when you're under canvas.
If you would like to take part this month, send your entry to Shirley at: firstname.lastname@example.org by the 28th July and she will post the round up here at the end of the month.
I will post the list of hosts for the coming year as soon as I can.