Blasted children, I haven’t been able to blog for ages due to the fact they seem incapable of using a PC without horrifically infecting it! Sigh.
Ah well, we’ve been on holiday for a week in the UK and I am currently sitting here scratching on a multitude of mosquito bites having just spent a couple of days chilling in a field with my best friend, quietly congratulating ourselves that with every intrepid trip to the wilds (in this case a mere ten minute stroll from public transport, toilets, a pub and a local shop, but hey we like making life easy on ourselves!) the range of food we eat whilst there improves so much, and I thought I would share a few things that are incredibly easy to do.
There is something so satisfying about cooking over a real fire, and there are things that you can do to make cooking on a fire easy. Firstly, digging a pit for your fire helps immensely, take the rack from your barbeque at home and dig, even with a garden trowel, so that you can get really hot embers under it and not have to perch things precariously. Roughly six inches deep is enough, make sure you don’t dig too wide you can’t rest your rack on the edges though! Forget those flimsy portable barbeques you can get, there is rarely enough charcoal to cook on, if you really want to use one grab a sack of coals so you can fill it up more. Before I realised how much easier it is to bring a rack from home I once connected the tops of three disposables with tent pegs threaded through to make one large enough to do some decent cooking at Glastonbury, just call me Ray Mears!
If you find a spot you know is away from animals and you clean up after yourselves (and I mean really clean up after yourselves!), there are plenty of places you can camp without going to a campsite. If you choose a campsite there are a few gems scattered about the country that will let you have fires. Google it and you´ll find a reasonable choice. A few years ago we went to a beautiful small site called Heaven Farm in East Sussex, and I highly reccommend it. If cooking over a real fire isn´t your thing, getting a gas powered camping stove is also a very worthy addition to your kit, just don´t bother with those tiny single ones that use cans of gas, get one you connect to a gas bottle.
Equipment wise, a couple of saucepans is really all you need, a frying pan if you fancy fried eggs with your bacon with your breakfast, and tongs etc for manhandling your meat!
A few years ago at Glastonbury our group became a lot bigger than expected and I popped into the charity shops of the nearest town and found a pressure cooker for five pounds, and wow was it a great buy! It uses so much less heat to produce results, so even if you are rubbish at keeping your fire going(I do not include myself in this group!) you can still rustle something up. There were a lot of envious people wandering past wondering what smelt so good as a massive pan of vegetarian chilli came together in it! Glasto is fab for camping, Mr Eavis sells you fire logs and they are pretty darn good to cook on. The green fields there can even result in some fresh vegetables at very reasonable prices.
The first few times you go will probably consist of easy and light(unless you´ve been lucky enough to find somewhere you can park your car close to hand!), think flavoured packets of cous cous with smoked sausage, burgers, sausages and the like, packet soups, noodles. The more you freeze and store in cold bags the longer all your food will keep, and try for long life products, bacon is cured so will sit, cool for a couple of days, and quorn or other such branded products are absolutely great, a vegetarian chilli until this last trip, has always been on the menu, with either boil in the bag rice or jacket potatoes, pricked, seasoned and given a nugget of butter, wrapped in foil and nestled in the coals. Treat corn on the cob the same way, just don’t bother with pricking them.
This last trip, however, just blew the chilli out of the water, I did a loose version of Jamie Oliver’s Venison and Mushroom Stroganoff, with some trusty boil in the bag rice, and it was amazing. I’ve made it before at home, but I think cooking over wood just completed it. There was something so apt about eating things you´d have originally sourced from nature, and I just love venison. Yes, so I forgot parsley, and used whisky instead of brandy, and threw in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes, but this is an excellent camping dish if you have just two pans, and it’s you and your nearest and dearest. Simple, just a handful of ingredients, fairly quick to bring together, and blow your mind tasty! No photos I’m afraid as by this stage I was cooking with just a little lamp and fire to go along with! The recipe for it is here.