‘I’ve been cooking outdoors since I was about six and made a fire in the back garden to cook baked beans and baked potatoes. I just love the freedom of being outside, the smell of wood smoke and the joy of sitting in front of the fire with a glass of red wine, stirring my pot of food, with no need to hurry.
I prefer to cook over a fire where possible. I love experience of building it, then waiting for the coals to form and using those to cook over, and that it isn’t an exact science. However, a stove will give you a steady heat that you can easily adjust.
If you are going to be cooking over a fire then I think a grill with legs is worth investing in. It enables you to keep some distance between the fire and your pans, or you can cook on it directly. I also recommend a camp oven – a heavy cast iron lidded pot that can withstand direct heat.
If you’re going to be away for more than a couple of days you will need a robust cool box and some good quality ice blocks; put them at the top, as cold air sinks. Freeze plastic bottles or milk, water and cartons of juice a few days before you go. These then defrost over a few days, so they keep fresh but they also help keep everything else in the cool box cooler.
I usually prepare the first night’s dinner; something that can be quickly heated up, bolognaise or chilli is good for this. Keep dry goods in plastic boxes with lids to keep inquisitive animals at bay. Hang bags of rubbish up high or put them in your car overnight.
Supervised around fires and hot pots, kids can help with most things as camp cooking tends to be pretty simple. I get my kids to make pitta pizzas and ‘damper’ which is a very basic bread dough. We make it into balls, mould it onto the ends of sticks then cook it over the fire. Pull the stick out and fill up the hole with honey or Nutella or jam. Yum!’
Chickpea, feta and tomato salad
I came up with this salad after finding a block of feta in the fridge just before we were going camping one very hot summer weekend. I thought a Middle Eastern inspired salad would be ideal, as it requires no cooking. To make this salad even more substantial, add some toasted pita triangles. For variation you can try adding pitted kalamata olives and capers.
• 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 200g feta, crumbled or diced
• 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced
• 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
• 2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers, diced
• 3 small or 2 large pita breads (optional)
• 60ml olive oil
• ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- Combine the chickpeas, feta, tomato, capsicum, onion and cucumber in a shallow serving dish.
- If you want to add the pita triangles, prepare them now. If you have a fire going, toast the pita bread briefly on each side. Alternatively, toast on both sides in a frying pan. Cut into small triangles then leave to crisp up.
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour over the salad.
- Arrange the pita triangles on top, if using, and serve.
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