I’ve always been passionate about both cooking and camping. However, that’s never stopped me from being a lazy camper. I rarely took a stove or lit a fire, and simply ate cold soup right out of the tin because I could never be bothered with much else. Recently, having adapted to living on the road as my partner and I travel Australia, things have changed.
Cold soup doesn’t quite cut it; neither does eating the same few things over and over again. Budgeting and meal planning now play a big part. I think of it like this: the more interesting and varied the meals I cook every day, the less likely I’ll feel like grabbing takeout or stopping at a pub and spending money I shouldn’t be spending.
Well, in theory, at least.
Being a chef, I like to plan and try out new things every week, seeing what works with nothing but a gas stove and the occasional fire. We try to do as much cooking over a fire as possible, although weather, location, fire bans and what-have-you don’t always make this possible. Cooking over coals saves gas, and at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a good campfire?
With regards to planning and budgeting and saving space, I try to use things that store easily, won’t spoil and that work for multiple recipes. Things like tins of beans, crushed tomatoes, tube garlic and pulses, as well as staple stashes of stock powder, tomato paste and certain spices.
As for equipment, you can’t go wrong with a small cast iron pot or dutch-oven. Versatile, easy to clean and store, and usually only run about $40 or $50 for a small one. A separate fire-safe frying pan and billy help too.
So, here’s 5 of the recipes that have been keeping us going.
Pan Fried Gnocchi with Pumpkin, Mushroom and Smoky Paprika Cream
Gnocchi is great panfied; crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, especially when cooked over a fire, where it can absorb a little of that smoky flavour. Most supermarkets sell packets of dry gnocchi for $3 or $4, and there’s more than enough for 2 people. We’re largely vegetarian these days, but you can throw in some bacon or speck if you’re craving meat.
1 packet Gnocchi Oil/butter 1/4 butternut pumpkin, diced 4 or 5 mushrooms, chopped roughly Handful of spinach Salt/pepper 300ml thickened cream 1 tsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika) Splash of white wine (if you have it)
- Coat the bottom of a frying pan in oil and heat, add a knob of butter and throw in the gnocchi. Toss regularly to avoid burning, which is easy over a fire. You may need to fry in batches if your pan isn’t big enough.
- When most of the gnocchi is looking crisp and golden brown, set aside. Return pan to heat and add another splash of oil. Add the pumpkin and fry until it begins to grow a little soft. Add the mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper.
- Return gnocchi to pan, and add a splash of wine.
- Add the cream and paprika, and simmer until the sauce thickens up. Add a splash of water if needed.
- Fold through the spinach. Serve with parmesan cheese and pine nuts, if you have them.
Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when pondering campfire dishes, but nachos can actually work quite well over a fire. This one requires a cast-iron camp oven, and the secret here involves getting the heat distribution right, as well as stacking your nachos in nice even layers.
1 bag of corn chips 1 can black beans or bean mix 1 bottle salsa Grated cheese 1 small tin corn kernels 1 red onion 1 fresh tomato 1 tub sour cream 1 avocado
- Line the bottom of your camp oven with some foil. Create a layer of chips, beans, corn, sauce and cheese, then repeat. Add a third layer if your pot allows.
- Stick it in a nice bed of coals adjacent to the fire, and shovel a good amount of coals on top. You might not get the heat distribution right first go, but I wouldn’t worry too much, nothing disastrous will come of it.
- If you’ve got the heat right, 20 minutes or so should do it, although it might need a little more. When it’s done, top with red onion, tomato, avocado and sour cream, or whatever you normally enjoy nachos with.
Basic Bean Chilli with Campfire Garlic Bread
This is a simple, cheap recipe with heaps of flavour that is perfect for a camp oven, but it’ll go just fine on a stove. Any leftover beans will go great with the above nachos.
2 tins of beans such as black, cannelini or 4 bean mix 1 tin crushed tomato 1 carrot, diced 1 onion, diced 1 capsicum, diced 1 tsp/1 clove garlic 1 tbls paprika/smoked paprika/spice mix 200ml vegetable/chicken stock 1 chorizo sausage (for those that like their meat) 2 slices chunky sourdough, or other bread
- Get your pot or camp oven nice and hot. Sautee the onion, capsicum, carrot and garlic in a splash of oil for a minute or two. Add the chorizo now if using.
- Add the paprika or spice mix, then toss in the beans and cook for another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the crushed tomato and the stock.
- Allow to braise in the coals for a good 30 minutes or so. If it’s looking a little dry, add a bit more water.
- For the garlic bread, butter the 2 slices and spread with some garlic paste, then wrap tightly in foil and stick it next to some coals.
There’s nothing like a good bowl of stew when camping in winter, and this one’s great for cold nights, having just tried it out in Kosciuszko. It’s an easy recipe that really can’t be messed up, just throw it all in a pot and let it stew. You can swap out the chicken for lamb, beef, or just extra vegetables.
250g diced chicken 1 brown onion, diced 1 carrot, diced 1 potato, roughly chopped 1 tbsp garlic 1 tbsp tomato Paste 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs 1 tbsp paprika 1 tin crushed tomato 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock 1/2 cup of barley, lentils, brown rice or any other pulse you fancy. Make sure to soak any dried pulses for a good few hours before use.
- Get your camp oven or pot nice and hot, and sautee the carrot, onion and garlic in a splash of oil.
- Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, then add the herbs, paprika and tomato paste and cook for a minute. Season with Salt/Pepper.
- Throw in the barley/rice/lentils etc and stir to coat, then add the crushed tomato and stock.
- Stick it in the coals, or simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what protein you’ve chosen, and until the pulses are soft. You may need to add extra water during cooking.
Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Mushroom Curry
Curry: easy, quick, cheap and always full of flavour if you make it right. You can always make your own curry paste from scratch if you’re so inclined, but when camping, paste or even just curry powder works just fine.
1 brown onion, diced 1 tsp garlic 1 tsp ginger 1 tbsp yellow curry paste (or powder) 1 small sweet potato, cubed (or pumpkin or carrot or potato) 1 tin chickpeas 1 large handful of button mushrooms 1 ½ tins coconut cream 1/2 tin crushed tomatoes Small handful of shredded coconut 100ml stock
- Pan. Oil. Hot. You know the drill. Fry off your onion, then add the garlic, ginger and curry paste/powder. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
- Add the sweet potato and chickpeas and stir through, cooking for another minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk, shredded coconut and stock.
- Stick it in the coals, over a fire, or simmer over a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Add the mushrooms about halfway through.
- I always serve curry with rice, and here you can use the excess coconut milk to cook the rice.
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