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Bonfire Cooking in the Jerusalem Hills

September 2, 2013 Deanna 1 Comment

Many of my fondest memories of childhood were from sleep-away camp. Every summer from the age of 8 to 14, my brother and I would part from our parents after a ten-minute drive which felt like eternity and slip into the wonderful adventures of a three-week stay. We stayed in simple wooden bunks, pre-air con, followed the same routine, and had the time of our lives. But my absolute fondest memory of each summer was the traditional outdoor sleep-over, where we would go, with our age-group of kids, to a spot off in nature, to camp. Really camping- sleeping bags, campfires and the works.

That was my only experience of a camping experience until I got to Israel. The first summer (the one I call “Summer of Love”) I spent with my husband some 13 years ago, we went camping in the north with another couple. Really camping- sleeping bags and campfires. But the works- well- my other half, who at that time I had known for only a few weeks, figured we’d be fine with a tiny two person tent, and one sleeping bag for the two of us (not even a pillow)! Meanwhile, the other couple who we were with had a massive 5 person tent, a little overhang as a balcony, mattresses, pillows, and even a down comforter.  I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed, but overall that was one of the best weekends of my young-adult life. Meanwhile, the decked out couple are long done, and we… well, we still sleep in a two-person tent when camping.

Bonfires and camping are simply part of the Israeli culture, whether it be on the beach, in the woods or on the lake. For our third stop on our journey to the four corners of Israel we decided to do some outdoor cooking in the beautiful hills of Jerusalem. We decided not to go the typical route and made some really cool campfire food- using cream-yes, cream!

Bonfire Gratin

It’s super typical to see baked potatoes at an Israeli bonfire, but usually they take so long to cook that they are served hours everyone has already eaten (even after dessert). So we came up with the idea to make bonfire gratin- which takes literally a quarter of the time and is also really to do in nature. You just need a cutting board, a knife and the recipe ingredients. This was also really fun for the kids to make because they had a blast making the envelopes to put the potatoes slices in.

Ingredients for 6-8 servings:

1 cup heavy cream (Yotvata 9% or 15%)

3 tablespoons fresh or dried rosemary leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

10 medium sized potatoes, skin on, very thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Sea salt


  1. In a bowl mix together the cream, rosemary leaves, nutmeg and pepper.
  2. Cut a 6-inch rectangle piece of aluminum foil and place a small pile of sliced potatoes (6-8 slices) onto the foil. Place a few slices of garlic and season with sea salt. Fold the foil so that making an envelope with one side open. Pour about 4 tablespoons of the cream mixture into the envelope and seal the envelope tightly. Place a second layer of foil over the envelope, so that the cream stays in place. Repeat with remaining potatoes
  3. Place into the campfire and cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove one package to make sure they are ready.

Homemade Butter

A few weeks ago Danya’s son came home from day camp and told her that they had made homemade butter using just a glass jar, a marble and some heavy cream. She loved the idea, and thought it would be a cool thing to do to add to our potato gratin, just when we opened the envelopes and they were steaming.

All you need for this recipe is a large glass jar (with lid), two marbles, a cup of heavy cream and a lot of arm strength! Place the heavy cream inside the glass jar, throw in the marbles and close tightly with the lid. Now start shaking, and shaking and shaking, after 3-4 minutes you should have something that resembles whipped cream, but you’re not there yet. Shake for another 2-3 minutes and you’ll start to see that a chunk of butter is formed. You can toss the remaining liquids, throw some of the sea salt on your butter and then it’s ready to use. Just like that!

Cinnamon Sugar Pastry Sticks with Spiced Toffee and Irish Cream Whipped Cream

We were kind of nervous about this recipe, because on paper it sounded really cool, but we weren’t so sure how it would work until we actually set up a real bonfire. We were so pleasantly surprised at how amazing this recipe came out that we made plans to have more bonfires, just so we could eat these! The only special equipment you need for this recipe is a cutting board, a sharp knife and some thick twigs which you can collect from your campgrounds. Keep in mind that the cooking times will differ here according to the strength of your fire, so just like you would make smore’s- keep the sticks twirling so that they don’t burn in any one area.

We used store-bought puff pastry, which we kept frozen in our cooler and by the time we got to our campgrounds, the dough was just ready to be worked with.

Ingredients for 10-12 sticks:

For the Irish Cream Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream (Yotvata 38%)

3 tablespoons Irish Cream

2 teaspoons honey

For the Spiced Toffee:

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup heavy cream (Yotvata 38%), warm

For the sticks:

2 puff pastry sheets

1 cup sugar

1½ teaspoons cinnamon


  1. Prepare the Irish cream whipped cream and spiced toffee ahead of time. To make the Irish cream whipped cream: Whip the heavy cream with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment at high speed for about two minutes until firm. Add the Irish cream and honey and continue whisking until soft white peaks form. Keep cold until serving.
  2. To make the spiced toffee: place all the ingredients except for the cream in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt without mixing. Once the sugar is melted, pour in the warm cream and whisk until toffee is formed. Pour into a glass jar or bowl and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
  3. For the puff pastry sticks: Cut the dough into ½ inch pieces, lengthwise. In a shallow bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Dip the pieces into the sugar and cinnamon until they are fully covered on both sides. Wrap the pieces onto branches or wooden sticks (that you’ve collected). Place over the fire, turning every-so-often until the dough is baked from all sides.
  5. Once the dough is baked, removed from stick and dip into the spiced toffee and whipped cream.
*This post was done in collaboration with Yotvata Diary. All recipes, photos and ideas are our own. We appreciate your support for this type collaboration which allows us to create new and special content like this for Matkonation.






One comment to “Bonfire Cooking in the Jerusalem Hills”

  1. Rattling fantastic information is available on website .

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