Winter has its perks. Great cinema releases, cosy Netflix binges and mammy’s homemade stew. Best of all, though, is the excuse to dust off the fireplace and get a roaring fire going.
Everyone has that moment when we discover that lighting a fire is not as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s regarded by us Irish as something of an art form. People can be as unyielding about their fire-lighting technique as they are about their football team.
Here, we aim to cut through all the controversy, and outline a fool-proof, five-step technique to get a great fire burning away that will last the evening. And for good measure, we’ve thrown in our easy Irish coffee recipe – the ideal reward for all of your fire building.
How to light a fire in 5 steps
Now that we understand the theory of lighting a fire, we can see how this translates into actually building a fire in our fireplace.
Step 1. Clean the fireplace
Wait, don’t skip to step 2! Cleaning the fireplace is more important than you might think. Old ash will restrict airflow and a great, long lasting fire needs oxygen. Rake the ashes so that they fall through the grate and sweep them up.
Step 2. Start ripping up your newspaper
Once the fireplace is nice and clean you can get to the fun part and start building the fire. Start with a layer of nice, dry, balled up newspaper sheets – just a single layer to cover the grate. This is going to act as your tinder. Its purpose is to provide enough heat to light the next layer of the fire.
Step 3. Build a good structure using small pieces of wood
Small pieces of wood will make up the next layer of your fire, acting as your kindling or ‘small fuel’. Criss-cross these small pieces of wood to build a structure on top of the newspaper layer. Revive the logic of Jenga here. The criss-cross technique will give you a solid structure that will hold its shape even when the paper underneath has burned away. The structure also needs to hold the next layer of your fire – the coal. Instructables.com recommends using both thick and thin pieces of wood – “thin will burn easily and produce heat, thick will sustain your fire and ignite the coal”.
Step 4. Add your coal
Build a nice pile of coal on top of your wood layer. This is your mail fuel source. Lighting this is what’s going to leave you with a lovely, hot, long-lasting fire.
Step 5. Light it!
Light the newspaper layer from underneath in a few different places. This is so the fire lights evenly and intensely. Don’t be impatient. It might take 20 or 30 minutes to get going. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to go and get the kettle on for a round of Irish coffees…
Simple and delicious Irish coffee recipe
Fires and Irish coffees have something in common. They are beautiful when made right, but are delicate and can easily be a disappointment.
This is my mother’s old recipe. It’s simple but when made with a little TLC, it never fails to hit the spot.
1. Pour one measure of whiskey into a large wine glass – even better if you have an Irish coffee glass.
2. Add two teaspoons of brown sugar.
3. Add one teaspoon of instant coffee.
4. Pour in just boiled water with a metal spoon in the glass to conduct heat.
6. Get some nice fluffy whipped cream (the pre-whipped tubs are very handy) and gently place on the top using a teaspoon, little by little. Easy does it!
If you fancy trying out something a little more adventurous, you could follow Neven Maguire’s “Best Ever Irish Coffee recipe.
The only thing left to do then is to mosey back into the living room with your hot beverage and watch your meticulously-designed fire roaring away.
Sources: Rte.ie, Instructables.com