Cooking over a Nordic Fire Log
by Elizabeth Atia -
Home grown firewood is not in plentiful supply here in Shetland. However, a washed up beach log or even some scrap lumber, plus a small quantity of kindling and a Loki's Candle fire starter can provide enough flame to cook a meal over using the Nordic Fire Log technique (aka Swedish Fire Torch or Canadian Candle), as demonstrated here by physics teacher Chris McGinley.
Chris, originally from the mainland of Scotland, has called Shetland home since 1996 when he accepted a teaching position on the island. An outdoor enthusiast, Chris enjoys camping and bushcrafting, and, this past weekend he kindly agreed to teach me how to cook over a Nordic Fire Log, a technique taught to him by his brother who lives in Sweden.
To prepare your log, carefully use an axe (or chainsaw) to divide a one foot long log with a flat top and bottom into four quarters. Find a sheltered, level location for your fire, and arrange the four quarters slightly apart.
Place some small pieces of kindling at the bottom of the space between the logs, and then layer larger pieces of kindling on top in a criss cross pattern.
Small, curled pieces of birch bark often wash up on Shetland's shores. These are called Loki's Candles (among other names which elude me at the moment!) and if they are dry they make perfect fire starters.
Small stones can be used to surround the Nordic Fire Log to help keep it in place, and this will also help reflect the heat back in. We used stones obtained from a nearby burn.
Meanwhile, get the Kelly Kettle on for a cuppa, and when the fire is ready get the bannocks on! The recipe Chris made came from Shetlink's own Nautim - his Aunty Mary's recipe, but Chris used buttermilk instead of yogurt and regular milk.
To control the size of flame the four quarters of the log can be moved inwards or outwards. A bigger gap lets more air in creating a larger flame, while the logs themselves act as a chimney. A taller log would not need to be cut all the way down to the base, and this would give more of a chimney effect.
Next - my turn to play with the fire! I made my Middle Eastern Spiced Camp Fire Chickpeas, a vegan recipe I developed for a camping trip my family and I had in Lake District last summer. I usually make this recipe with spinach, but this time I included a generous handful of chopped Shetland-grown Spicy Chinese Greens from my Turriefield veg box.
This gorgeous beremeal loaf, made by the baker Robert Tonkinson in Sandness, also made an appearance in my veg box this week and I brought it to serve with the chickpea dish. Robert has recently launched his own artisan bakery business, The Quernstone, and his bread can be purchased from Scoop Wholefoods in Lerwick.
When cooking or camping outdoors take care to leave no trace. Always leave an area the way you found it.
In addition to a love for the outdoors, Chris has a passion for teaching and learning and he’s launched an online learning environment: EduDuck. The website and courses are still in development and Chris is looking for like minded individuals to help co-found this project.