Blink and you missed it – summer 2017 wasn’t exactly summery, apart from the gorgeous heatwave we enjoyed in June. Here we are in September, officially autumn according to the Met Office. But there’s no need to stash your chiminea until spring. Far from it. The idea of these wonderful items of garden entertainment kit is they’re perfect for all-year-round outdoor cosiness. And that also means they’re ideal for year-long cooking.
If you’re keen to carry on the alfresco fun through autumn into winter, here’s some insight into autumn cooking on a chiminea.
Which parts of your chiminea to use for cooking?
First, we thought it’s be cool to make direct comparisons between your regular oven and a chiminea, simply because it helps you know which area of the chim to cook various foods on… or in.
- If you’d usually cook it on a grill indoors, you can either use a long-handled grill pan to cook on top of the chimney part of the chiminea, or a circular chimney grid
- If you’d normally use a cooker hot plate or gas ring, use a chiminea cooking crown that fits nicely inside the chimney funnel
- If you’d usually bake a dish inside your Rayburn or Aga, the chim alternative is its belly. You can wrap food to bake in foil then place it directly on the hot embers, put the food in a baking dish or tray, or on a grill pan raised above the fire
- Replace saucepans, woks and casserole dishes with cast iron cookware or fireproof clay cookware, both of which can be used inside your chim
- Use metal skewers for kebabs, but make sure they don’t have plastic or wooden handles
- The radiant heat from your chiminea will keep food piping hot for ten minutes or so thanks to an accessory shelf, the outdoor alternative to a warming drawer, lower oven or bottom Aga/Rayburn compartment
If you’re less than fully confident in your ability to cook tasty food on your chiminea, experimentation and practice will help you get the feel of how your particular chim performs. It’s actually not unlike using a brand new oven, or an oven you haven’t used before: every cooker has its own personality, whether it’s a cooler spot to one side of an oven or an unusually fierce grill. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Autumn cooking on a chiminea – Yummy roast chestnuts
There’s nothing quite like the lovely scent of roast chestnuts to make your mouth water. They make great hand-warmers, too! All you do is rinse the raw nuts then score the shells with an ‘x’ on each side to help cook them evenly and stop them from exploding. Put the clean, scored nuts in a cast iron frying pan and place it on the glowing coals inside your chim. Leave the nuts for five minutes, turning them once, and they should be ready. We even do a ready-made chestnut cooking set for this as well.
Autumn fruit kebabs
Autumn is the time of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and plenty of delicious fruits are ripening as we write. You might be fortunate enough to have your own apple, pear or plum tree, or your own damsons. If not, they’re always in the shops. And a fresh fruit kebab is a thing of great beauty and awesome tastiness! Just thread chunks of fruit or whole berries onto a metal kebab skewer and hold it over the chimney of your him, or place it above the embers in the belly.
Once the fruit is cooked through you can dip your kebab into brown sugar or drizzle honey onto it, adding fresh cream for an extra-lush treat. Baked tomatoes are equally gorgeous, sprinkled with fresh black pepper and salt, eaten with slices of brown or white bread smothered with real butter. Fantastic! You can even make toffee apples.
There’s nothing quite like a banana ninny-nonny for autumn fun. Grab one banana. Slice it half way lengthwise to create a groove. Take one chocolate bar – absolutely any chocolate bar, from posh dark choc to Mars Bars and Milky Ways. Make a banana and choc sandwich, then wrap the whole thing in aluminium foil and bake it either on a grill on top of your chim or in the belly on a grill above the embers. Wait five minutes then remove your nonnies, opening the foil once it’s cool enough to touch. The result is a wonderful chocolatey, bananary mess that you’ll need to eat with a spoon. Add a dollop of ice cream or fresh cream and it’s to die for.
Thick, rich and simple – Stews and soups
It’s super-easy to make your own soups and stews, and they’re perfect for chilly autumn days and evenings. Stock cubes are your best friend, a great soup and stew base enhanced with herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Tomato puree helps thicken up your stock and adds extra flavour. Then all you do is add chopped veg, any type of veg you like: spuds, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauli, whatever you fancy. A stew or soup is pretty difficult to over-cook, slow-cooks really well and tastes splendid with generously-buttered slabs of toast or chunks of crisp baguette.
20 brilliant autumn food recipes from the BBC Good Food website
If you’re short on ideas, the BBC website contains a list of twenty superb autumn recipes, many of which can be easily adapted for cooking on a chiminea. Here’s a link.
What’s your favourite autumn recipe?
Have you adapted your best-loved autumn recipe for cooking on your chiminea? If so, we’d love to feature your recipe here. Just send it in!