Risotto – Proper cooking on a camp stove!

Instant noodles make me think of that scene from Crocodile Dundee. “You can eat it, but it tastes like ….”. If you’re away for a single night, and tired after yomping and setting up camp, I’ll let you off, but what about that second night. Why not have a meal which is memorable for the right reasons?

With a little bit of creativity, time and imagination, you can eat extremely well with a small range of ingredients. You’re on holiday! Enjoy it!!

Risotto is a rice dish from northern Italy. You don’t boil the rice in water, but slowly add stock, ladle by ladle, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. The rice becomes packed with flavour. You cook risotto in stages, and build the flavour, layer by layer. It’s another dish you can prepare without a fridge on hand!

For the stock, you’re unlikely to have a chicken carcass and plenty of fresh vegetables with you, so for a camping risotto, a good quality stock cube is a necessity! You need some form of fat to coat the rice before you start adding wet ingredients. Butter (for me) is best, but an extra-virgin olive oil is a practical alternative. This recipe below is my favourite risotto. It’s packed with flavour.

The recipe below is for 4 people (or 2 if you’re particularly hungry). Hell… it’s for two people, who am I trying to kid!

Ingredients:

  • 1 and a half cups of arborio rice.
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Mushrooms (dried or fresh).
  • Half a chorizo ring.
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
  • 1 onion.
  • 1 glass of dry white wine.
  • 1 chicken stock cube.

Cooking in stages

The chorizo: Slice up the chorizo. I prefer mine fried with a little crunch, so cook these separately first. Chorizo releases oil (fat) when cooking, and can go a bit soggy and overpower the other ingredients if cooked with the risotto from the start, so I fry the slices first and put them to one side, then add them to the risotto to heat through towards the end of cooking.

The shrooms: If you’re using dried mushrooms (Tescos do a pack of Porcini, Chanterelle, Black Trumpet and Fairy Ring mushrooms for £2), these need to be blanched for 20 minutes in boiling water. Do this first, then drain and set to one side. The flavour is wonderful. Don’t waste that water though! Use it as the base for the stock.

The stock: Add more water to the saucepan used for boiling the mushrooms, until there’s roughly 5 cups in the pan. Then add the stock cube and dissolve, bringing the liquid to a boil. The stock is slowly added to the rice while the rice is cooking, so if you’ve only got one pot, you’ll need to decant it to an aluminium water bottle. If you have two pots, no problem. Stick a lid on it, or even better, if you’ve a campfire going, put the stock close enough to the edge of the fire to keep it warm (or on some coals!).

The risotto rice: Add two tablespoons of oil to an empty saucepan and heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to go clear. Pour the rice into the pan and fry the rice in the oil for no more than two minutes, stirring all the while. The rice will start to go clear. Gently stirring is important when cooking risotto. If you don’t, the rice will stick to the pan and burn. Add in the glass of wine, and continue stirring until the wine is absorbed/evaporated. This adds another layer of flavour to the risotto. Add the mushrooms.

Next, you add the stock… slowly. One ladle (or the equivalent) at a time. Your finished risotto should be creamy, not a soup! Continue stirring until the stock is absorbed by the rice, then add another. Continue until all the stock has been used, by which stage the rice should be ‘al-dente’. You don’t want the rice a dissolved mush, but to still have a little texture. If you’re unsure… taste it (but try not to finish it all during cooking, and especially if you’re cooking for others… as that’s considered ‘mean’).

Toss in the chorizo slices. Heat through for a couple of minutes. Add the grated parmesan and continue to stir until the parmesan is melted.

You’re looking at about an hour’s cooking time. Yes, it’s a faff, but oh so worth it. A comfortable seat is essential too!

Serve up, consume with the rest of the wine. Lie gently rocking in your hammock making little moans of pleasure. Replete is a good word… and such a worthy goal.

Packing Your Ingredients

You don’t want to carry unnecessary weight, and you can cut down on preparation time by doing the following:

  • Decant you olive oil into a smaller plastic bottle. Glass breaks and is heavier. Why carry oil which you won’t later use while away. Just take what you need.
  • Grate the parmesan before leaving home (you can also buy grated parmesan, but don’t use the stuff you find on the pasta aisle at your supermarket). Buy fresh if you can afford it. The processed parmesan in those little round pots with the consistency of sawdust doesn’t pack the same flavour as fresh.
  • Pre-measure out the ingredients into sealable freezer bags.

Carrying a bottle of wine… Now you could take a miniature bottle, and you can even buy wine in cans now. I say… to hell with it. Take a full bottle, or ideally two. The first you use for and while cooking. The second while eating.

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Make Your Own Stove

Making your own equipment isn’t just about saving money, or preparing yourself for survival in post apocalyptic Basildon (I mean, really?!?). It’s a bit of fun. The “I made that” moment.

Below we’ve linked a number of Youtube videos which show just some of the stoves you can make yourself, for pennies. They use the same concepts as those in commercial camping stoves… a fire needs fuel, oxygen and heat.

Please mind your fingers when making these, and don’t let your kids loose on these projects. It’s one for the adults.

We warn you, you’ll start looking at empty tins and cans in a whole new light.

Drink Can Alcohol Stove

The drawback and advantage with these stoves is you have to carry your own fuel with you. We prefer wood burning stoves, but if you set up camp and it’s been raining for hours, dry wood can be hard to find! A small bottle of methylated spirits and a drink can stove can either be a useful alternative or a backup. These are small stoves and ideally suited to the single camper/walker.

Something also to bear in mind is that on a windy day, alcohol stoves blow out! Better to have a wind shield with you (one can be made out of tinfoil or custom bought). You’ll also need to fashion something to stand your pots on above the flame, and also ensure the stove can’t tip over and rests on a flat surface.

Feeling more ambitious? Red Bull gives you… boiled water, and a camp stove which only weighs a few grammes.

 

Wood Gas Stove

My favourite stove to cook on. Highly efficient and you can put those twigs and pine cones to good use. Best of all, you don’t have to carry fuel with you, and the fuel’s free!

 

Hobo Wood Burning Stove

 

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