With arguably some of the best weather for camping, spring is a great time for spending a few days sitting around a campfire with friends or family and cooking good food.
I get that not everyone’s into cooking proper meals when they go camping, especially putting the effort into making something elaborate and delicious. I’m usually not myself. A lot of the time I try to cook with as little effort as possible. Sometimes though, I end up in one of those places that’s just too good to rush. I find a nice remote campground by a river, with good weather, plenty of firewood, and assuming I have enough food, a couple of days where I can spend the afternoon cooking something a little more interesting than our usual fare.
There’s nothing particularly campfire-centric about these recipes, and nor should there be. There’s no reason why you can’t cook most of the things you’d cook at home, I’ve just gotten used to making them in the easiest way possible. I use long-life ingredients that you can get from any large supermarket, like avocado, garlic, ginger, coriander and lemongrass in tubes. I do this because I can end up spending a week or more in the middle of nowhere without a proper shop, but if you’re only heading away for a day or two, by all means grab some fresh ingredients.
There’s also nothing exact about camp cooking, not in my mind, at least. I substitute things, use rough measurements, add more, add less; it wont make a dramatic difference, so don’t fret about changing things up a bit. A cast-iron dutch-oven or camp-oven comes in handy if you’re cooking over a fire, which I’ll always recommend if you can. I’ve tried to keep these recipes a little interesting, and just a little decadent for camping, but still easy enough to throw together without too much effort. They’ll serve two hungry people, but you could probably squeeze four out of them. And hey, most of them are even (reasonably) healthy.
Camp-oven Lamb Tagine – serves 4
Tagine is a Moroccan dish traditionally slow cooked in the earthenware pot it’s named for, but guess what? It comes out great when cooked in a campfire. It’s like a spiced stew with some beautifully unusual flavours, and at the end of the day it’s a pretty simple dish to make, it just takes a while to cook. That’s why you can make it one of two ways. Either get a fire going in the afternoon and leave it to cook in the coals until dinner, or simmer the sauce for ten or twenty minutes and throw the sealed lamb in at the end for a quick version.
- 1kg lamb leg/shoulder, cut into cubes
- 1 Spanish onion, chopped fine
- 3 tsp garlic
- 2 tsp ginger
- 2 tsp coriander paste, or 1/2 bunch chopped coriander
- 2 tbsp Moroccan spice, (or 1 tsp of cinnamon, coriander, cumin and paprika)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Rind of 1 orange or lemon, cut into large strips
- 1 1/2 cups stock
- 1 tin crushed tomatoes
- 1 tin chickpeas
- 1 tbsp honey
- handful of green olives (optional)
- handful of dried apricots/raisins/prunes (optional)
- 1 knob butter
1. Get a good fire going. Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, spices, coriander, tomato paste, a little salt and lamb, and mix to marinate.
2. Get a camp-oven/cooking pot hot, coat the base in oil and add the lamb mixture. Fry until browned.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for a minute or two. Toss in the orange/lemon rind, the stock and the chickpeas.
4. Cover, and sit within a nice patch of coals once the fire’s died out, then shovel some more coals on top. Leave to cook for a good 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender. Coals retain heat pretty well, so check occasionally to stir and add more water if it’s looking dry. You don’t want it burning and sticking to the bottom, so try and make sure the heat distribution is as even as possible.
5. When the lamb falls apart in your mouth, remove the tagine and mix in the honey, butter, olives and dried fruit.
6. It goes pretty well with some Israeli cous cous or pasta.
Cheesy Corn and Zucchini Fritters – serves 2
Easy, healthy, quick, delicious; these are my go-to when I can’t think of anything else to make. Make sure to strain as much liquid from the zucchini as you can, or they’ll be too sloppy and won’t crisp up nicely. I usually just serve them with a salad, but you could throw them in a burger or have them for breakfast.
- 2 zucchinis, grated
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1/2 tin corn kernels
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or flour
- Salt/pepper/paprika/coriander/spice of choice
1. Grate the zucchini and use a Chux cloth or something similar to squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then combine with the rest of the ingredients. You want the mixture damp but not overly wet. If it looks too wet, just add some more flour.
2. Get a pan hot and add some oil, then spoon in a large spoonfull of mixture, flattening with the back of the spoon.
3. Turn regularly so that both sides cook evenly, turning a nice golden brown and the inside is warmed through.
Jerk Chicken Burgers – serves 2
Jamaican Jerk seasoning is essentially just a mixture of about 7-10 different herbs and spices, and it’s pretty damn good. It also goes pretty well with the fresh flavour of tropical fruits like pineapple and avocado. This is all made in the one pan, and if you’ve got a fire going even better. I use tinned pineapple and tube avocado for convenience, and if I’ve got the energy make a roast garlic and jalapeno mayo from scratch, although usually just end up using plain mayo.
- 1 large chicken breast, cut into fillets
- 1 tin of pineapple rings
- 1 avocado
- margarine or butter
- brown Sugar
- Jerk seasoning, (or a mix of garlic, cinnamon, allspice, paprika, chilli and mixed herbs)
- lime juice
1. Marinate the chicken in the Jerk seasoning, lime juice, a little brown sugar, and some of the juice/syrup from the pineapple.
2. Butter the buns, then get a pan hot and fry them butter side down.
3. Remove them and add the chicken. The sugar in the marinade means they’ll end up pretty blackened as they cook, which is what you want, because it’s all flavour. When it’s cooked, remove them and toss a piece of cheese on top to melt.
4. Add some brown sugar to the pan and add the pineapple rings, letting them caramelise for 30 seconds or so.
5. Assemble that bad boy.
Homemade Green-style Curry with Chicken and Pumpkin – serves 4
You can make Thai Curries from store-bought paste, or make the paste from scratch. Making it from scratch is always the best way to go, but it’s complicated and there’s always those ingredients that most supermarkets don’t sell, especially if you’re out in the middle of nowhere. This recipe uses mostly things that I can always have in my fridge or store. Garlic, chilli, ginger, lemongrass and coriander all come in long-life tubes. They’re not as good as the real thing, but when you’re out bush, they do pretty well, and unlike a packet of curry paste, they have unlimited uses. I sometimes have dried kaffir lime leaves, but they’re not sold everywhere, so normal lime juice will do.
- 1 chicken breast, diced
- 1/4 pumpkin, diced
- Large handful snow peas, chopped roughly
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp chilli paste
- 2 tsp lemongrass paste
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp coriander paste
- 1 lime, or kaffir lime leaves
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 tin coconut cream
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
1. Fry off the chicken in a hot pan until sealed and set aside. Get the pan hot again and add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli, coriander and lime leaves if using, and fry until fragrant.
2. Return the chicken to the pan and toss to coat, then add the coconut cream. Bring to a simmer, then add the stock.
3. Simmer for a minute or two, add the pumpkin and continue simmering for ten minutes or so, until the pumpkin’s cooked and the sauce thickens a little.
4. Add the lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and snow peas, and cook for another couple of minutes.
5. Like all curries, it goes pretty well with rice.
Haloumi Tacos with Corn and Pineapple Salsa and Avocado – serves 2-4
Unusual? Sure, they’re a little bit Mexican, a little bit Mediterranean and a little bit Caribbean, but at the end of the day they’re fresh, delicious and just the right kind of unusual. They work with hard or soft shell tacos, and again, I use tinned pineapple and tube avocado, but if you can get fresh produce go for it. You can also swap out the pineapple for mango or papaya.
- Taco shells
- 1 block of haloumi
- 1 tin pineapple
- 1 tomato
- 1 red onion
- 1/2 tin corn kernels
- 1 lime
- 1/2 bunch coriander, chopped
- Spicy or Peri-Peri mayonnaise
1. Dice the pineapple, tomato and red onion, and mix with corn, coriander, pepper and lime juice to make the salsa.
2. Slice the haloumi into strips and fry in a little oil in a hot pan.
3. Smear some avocado inside the shells, then fill them up. I’ll assume you know how tacos work.