I've just spent a night at Badgells Wood off-grid campsite and as I slowly got my packing together I just fancied taking a hay oven as I haven't used one in ages and ages. It's the non-electric version of a slow cooker y'know.
It seems odd to be starting tea prep mid morning after setting up, which for this chicken dish starts with warming a Dutch oven with some oil in.
Once warmed start by browning off some seasoned, floured and roughly chopped chicken thighs.
Then add some chopped up bacon and vegetables (in this case chopped pepper, onion and celery) and keep turning it.
Finally, add a tin or carton of good chicken soup (a fully leaded one not a skinny type) and a small dash of optional cider. Male sure it is warmed through. Try this warming beverage with the leftover cider.
And with that it's into the hay box. Obviously you'll need hand protection of some kind and make sure that there aren't any glowing embers on the oven itself. Dig the hay out to about half way and make a small depression. The Dutch oven is a Petromax FT3 one and is about 8" (20 cms) or so in diameter to give you an idea of the box size that I've used, you are looking for a fairly substantial one to hold in a lot of insulation.
You then place the Dutchie centrally being careful to keep it level. The hay I used was from a pet shop that I'd originally intended to use as bow drill tinder bundle material but it was cut too short to form up, this is actually useful as it can be packed down well. I've also seen reference made to straw and old jumpers being used too.
Once you've put it in start to repack the hay around the oven. You want to pack it as tight as possible around the sides but remember that the oven will still be hot. Once the sides are done it's the same for the top.
And that's job done. as with a conventional slow cooker this is about as exciting as it gets until the end. i got this finished up like this by around 11 o'clock.
I started to take the oven out a little earlier than intended simply because I was about to lose the light for taking a photograph, around 5:45. As you get closer you get a satisfying warm feeling in the packing material.
You will probably find that the Dutch oven may need a couple of minutes back on the fire just to bring the temperature up. A quick check on a large piece of chicken shows it to be cooked and juicy. It's a pretty bomb proof cooking method but it's always worth checking.
Hay oven chicken with cider served up in a wood that I quite literally had to myself. The other benefits are that you save on fuel and there won't be burnt on food unless you annihilate it during the warming up. If you ever visit Bovington tank museum in Dorset there is usually a WWII German field kitchen on display in there that has large scale hay ovens on it.