“I saw my first Kotlich at a tourist fair in Novi Sad in Serbia. It was evening, and atmospheric Balkan music was pulsing out of ancient crackling speakers,” recalls Trish Maccurrach, who runs The Outdoor Kitchen. “The smell of wood smoke was everywhere and several fires were burning brightly in parallel rows on the dry earth. We wandered over to see what was going on. We discovered a riblja corba (fish soup) competition. It was love at first sight.”
“I knew instantly that the kotlich would become part of my life. A simple streamlined tripod held the kotlich by a chain and hook. The kotlich, against all odds, was suspended over the hot fire and didn’t tip or spill. All in a rush, I noticed the wonderful curve of the kotlich body, the attractive speckled grey and white inner lining, the strong arched handle, the way the paprika thick gravy bubbled and spat, the rising and falling of fish tails, heads and fins. Where could I buy one of these fantastic cooking pots? I’ve had my kotlich now for nearly eight years and I’ve never had a dull moment. The kotlich is obliging and uncomplicated and turns out a great dish almost every time, as long as I follow a few basic tips. Food we’ve grown ourselves jumps straight into the kotlich and is really fresh. Food we’ve foraged or picked at a local farm tastes delicious. Fish, meat, vegetables, jams, chutney, marmalade and hot drinks are all cooked in my kotlich too.”
Where to cook
- In the garden – find a sheltered corner to set up the fire pit.
- On the beach – there’s lots to entertain, it’s exciting and often windy. Find mussels and cook fresh fish. In the wood – Trish loves visiting her cabin with friends
- On the allotment – let the soup cook while you work on your patch.
Why cook outdoors?
- It’s fun – cooking becomes play. It builds family cohesion and memories. Your community will flourish round a kotlich.
- It’s sensual – it builds links with nature and the whole food process, through scents, touch, sounds and taste.
- It’s adventurous – you can go somewhere you don’t usually go. Cook on the beach, try it in the snow. Invite someone new to come with you.
How to cook
A typical stew (often a paprikash) is started off by frying onions, garlics and spices in hot oil. The meat’s added and then the kotlich boils fast without a lid. The stew is cooked in much more liquid than we would normally use in a casserole. This is cooking by reduction. After an hour and a half, the contents will have reduced by nearly a third, to a thick tasty gravy. The rolling boil, in lots of liquid, means that the meat is kept moving and doesn’t sit on the bottom and burn. Potatoes are often added during cooking and these contribute to the thickening process by releasing starch.
It can be simple too. Set up your fire on the beach, pour some tinned tomatoes, precooked chick peas and smoked sausage or chorizo into the pan and heat. In half an hour you’ll have a delicious stew. You just need to remember to maintain enough stock so the meat and vegetables are kept moving in the kotlich. Why not have a go at Trish’s recipes for nettle soup and fish soup?
And here are more great kotlich campfire recipes sent in by Campfire Magazine readers.