The Campfire Kitchen

256px-cartoon-breakfast-clip-art-170687Inspiration from across the pond, from my huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ friend Thomas. What Thomas doesn’t know about campfire cuisine hasn’t been written. Between us, we’ll bring you a mix of tried and tested recipes for the out of a truck wild camper or those who need to travel somewhat lighter.

With me you’ll find tried and tested recipes from a man who believes campfire cooking should bring you food packed with flavour. Yes you can cook an awesome risotto on a campfire, and fragrant thai curries, or simply pig out on nature’s bounty. I don’t do baked beans or cup-a-soups. Hell, when I’m on holiday I want to eat well!

My daughter is the forager, and she’ll be ensuring that something green graces your plate.

From potato bombs to stuffed alligator tails (which are damned hard to find in Cumbria), we’ll be bringing you it all!

Thomas’s recipes are for those who sling a large cooler chest in the boot of their car (or truck) which is packed with ice. Mine are more for those who are in a clapped out old Ford Focus who don’t have that type of room. With electronic hookup unavailable in most woodland, you’re unlikely to be able to plug in a fridge, so beyond the first or second nights (after the freezer packs have gone warm) ingredients need to be either dry, preserved or canned. Don’t worry… we can still help you with ideas so you eat like a king and we’ve included some of our favourites (and will be adding more).

On the first night, you want food which doesn’t take much preparation (and is ideally prepared the night before). You’ve set up your hammock and tarpaulin, you’ve made your campfire, you’re entitled to put your feet up and let dinner cook itself.

For us, food has to fit one of three criteria (and ideally all three!):

  1. Comfort food and filling;
  2. Packed with flavour;
  3. Simple to prepare.

Kit Bag Condiments:

We take our favourite sauces in small squeezy bottles. Always with us is:condiments

  • Ketchup;
  • Soy sauce;
  • Barbecue sauce;
  • Chilli oil;
  • Honey;
  • Linghams garlic and chilli sauce;
  • Vegetable oil

A sixth bottle holds some washing up liquid.

More seasoning is never a bad thing, and to these little gems of flavour (except the washing up liquid – avoid cooking in the dark) we add:

  • condiment2Salt;
  • Garlic;
  • Garlic pepper;
  • Lemon pepper;
  • Jerk seasoning;
  • Chilli flakes.

With this mix, you can put together wonderful marinades, and turn a bland meal into something really special. For a perfect barbecue marinade, a little slug of Jack Daniels is a good thing (and an excuse to pack this as a cooking ingredient – it’s a cooking ingredient… honest!).

Tea and Coffee

For coffee and tea, don’t take containers. Use sandwich bags as you can pack them more easily. Powdered milk is surprisingly good compared to what it used to taste like, and always in our ruck sack for the needed morning coffee.

Equipment Essentials

You really don’t need much.

  • An old barbecue grill;
  • A good knife (I use my bushcraft knife);
  • A ladle (you can buy folding ones);
  • A pair of tongs;
  • Sporks (a knife, spoon and fork all in one);
  • A pot large enough for your group… two if you’re being fancy;
  • A frying pan which can double as a pot lid (or a pot lid which can double as a frying pan);
  • Water bottles on carabiners (you can hang these from your tarpaulin guy line);
  • Aluminium mugs (again, you can get ones with carabiners in the handle to clip these onto the guy line);
  • Sandwich or freezer bags (good for mixing wet ingredients, flour and water for bread making and to marinade meat). When packing dry ingredients, these bags ensure you’re not bulking out your bags. We use them for tea, coffee, powdered milk, flour, pancake mix and take more with us as they usually come in handy.

The Cook Fire

You’ve lots of choice here. Small portable gas cookers are convenient, but for us, we like cooking on wood or coals. It adds a flavour to the food, an ambiance to the holiday, and if it’s midgy, it keeps the insects at bay!

IMG-20150818-01120We take a small metal grill with us from an old barbecue. This gets lodged on top of stones around a fire pit and doubles as a kettle or pot stand.

You can cook on one half… nice warm fire on the other. If you need more cooking space? Take two grills.

For night time cooking, it’s the best way to cook. With friends and family, it turns cooking into a communal, social experience. If you’re having a night camping on your own, you can chill out staring into the flames (and keep nicely warm).

A lovely idea we hear you say, but what about my morning cup of coffee and bacon? I can’t be bothered with building a campfire until at least midday. For you (and me), there’s the wood gas stove. An inexpensive aluminium wood stove which burns pretty much anything. No need to take fuel with you. A small bundle of twigs and a few pine cones can give you 40 minutes cooking time. I love mine.

woodgasThese cost up to £50. Mine came from ebay and it was £10. It works fine, it’s compact, sets up in seconds, and boils water in a few minutes. Pack it full of wood, and I can get a 30 minute burn out of it. Feed it and it’ll burn as long as you do. I’ve cooked everything from Thai curries to bacon and eggs. What more do you need? Perfect for the mornings, and if it’s raining, just cook under your tarpaulin.

If you’re in an evergreen woodland, bear in mind pine wood is heavy with resin. This means the bottom of your pan will never be shiny again, but it gives it a little character. Pine wood is ‘fat wood’, and that pine resin means you get a lovely hot flame, and even if your twigs are a little damp, you’ll soon get them going. Pine cones also burn beautifully.

How do you light them and get the fire going? See our article Tips for Fire Lighting. You’ll be amazed by how effective our home made firelighters are (and yes, you only need a spark to make them go ‘woof’).

We’ve had to travel home on camping trips when windy weather blew out gas flames (and yes, we used wind shields). This simple, inexpensive stove has never let us down, and using our fire lighting tricks, you’ll get a blaze going in the rain and in strong winds. Even better, when the fire gets going, the design means the smoke combusts meaning smokeless cooking.

Pots and Pans

potWe don’t bother taking a kettle. A pot with a lid boils water perfectly well. Even better when the pot lid can double as an impromptu frying pan.

Since flames will ‘lick up’ the side of the pot, don’t use one with fold up handles. We also don’t recommend you use a normal pot, as the handle can make the setup unstable (never a good thing with boiling water and a crime with an almost cooked curry). We use an old aluminium camping pot with a detachable handle. Avoid rectangular mess tins, as wood gas stoves are small, and a round pot balances best. When packing, pop the stove inside the pan (yes it is that small), and we can even fit in a plastic bag of home made firelighters and a flint and steel inside. Matches and/or a lighter too.

We’ll be adding more recipes over the coming fortnight… bear with us as the site is mid construction!