Campfire stories often tell of murderous mad men that feed on innocent children or big, bad wolves that hunt at night. But there are more insidious crimes that haunt my campfire – bad food!
Sure, marshmallows are great, but there’s only so many times that I can have pesto pasta. And I’m not one of those campers that goes around in an RV with full access to refrigerators and stove tops (yes, I’m jealous okay!). My camp trips usually involve a single pot, a kettle and a portable gas stove. And with a small car boot that’s tetrissing camping gear, clothes and wine, there’s little room left for food. But that doesn’t have to mean crap food.
If this sounds like you, there are many things you can do to eat better on a camp trip. Here are my top tips.
1. Get creative with canned food
Canned food is an inevitability when camping, but it doesn’t have to be boring or repetitive. Just use your imagination. Take two canned staples for instance: tuna and corn. Using these two as your base, you can make a variety of different dishes that will leave your taste buds frothing with excitement. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Tuna pasta – mix together cooked pasta with tuna, corn and some mayonnaise, pesto or other dressing.
- Tuna and corn wraps – add tuna, corn, veg and sauce in a wrap.
- Rice bowl – cook up some rice and top with tuna, corn, pickles, boiled eggs and any other ingredients you have around. Top with hot sauce.
- Vietnamese bun bowl – as above, but with vermicelli noodles
Yes, all of the above are heavy bastardisations of some classic dishes, but when you’ve been without television for three days, you won’t bat an eyelid. The important point is that with the same base ingredients, you can have a new dish every day, drawing inspiration from a variety of cuisines. Challenge yourself – what can you make with canned tomatoes that isn’t pasta sauce or soup?
2. Choose wraps over bread
Making sandwiches is the default for most camping trips and while they can be delicious, bread isn’t the most forgiving camping food. I’m always disheartened when my beautifully, bouncy loaf of bread inevitably finds its way to the bottom of my food box, crushed by an assortment of beans, bananas and an unhealthy amount of chocolate. So make the switch to wraps. They function just as well as bread, they won’t get squashed, and they also tend to last longer. You can often buy wraps in vacuum sealed packs, meaning you’ll be carb loading during even the longest camping trips.
3. Your kettle is for more than just boiling water
Camping often means limited kitchen supplies, so you have to maximise the utility of everything you have brought, and that includes your kettle. So many things can be cooked inside a kettle that isn’t just water, here are some of my favourites:
- eggs (hard boiled eggs are great to take on hikes)
- soup (you can use the spout to easily transfer soup to bowls)
The list goes on! The best thing about a kettle is that it comes with an inbuilt colander. When you’re done cooking, simply pour any excess water out the spout and your delicious food will be safe inside! This is especially great for eggs and pasta.
4. Bring hot sauce
Hot sauce is your friend when camping and can be added to almost anything to improve it. Add it to your sandwich/wraps, eggs, chilli con carne, shakshuka, etc etc. The best part about hot sauce is that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and you usually only need a small amount per dish, so it lasts a long time.
For the adventurous chef, bring along some gochujang. The fermented funk of this korean spicy bean pasta adds umami goodness to any dish.
5. Pickles are your friend
Everyone forgets the humble pickle, but its supreme sourness can add an extra sensory layer to your dish. Don’t forget, your tongue detects salt, sweet, bitter, umami AND sour. So if you want to elevate your dish, a splodge of pickles can do the trick. And it’s not just gherkins, virtually any vegetable can be pickled. So, for the health conscious or high fibre aficionados, pickles can be your source of vegetable on a long camping road.
6. Plan ahead and take shortcuts
As with any camping trip, plan your meals before you leave! There’s nothing worse than getting to your camp site and finding that you’ve left the salt at home. Also, think about what shortcuts you could take. Maybe you really want to make a curry while you’re camping. If so, prepare an array of dried spices and put it in a small jar, rather than take ten spice jars with you. Or, prepare a spice paste and freeze it the night before.
And there you have it, my 6 camping tips for better food. Share your tips in the comments section or on social media so that we can all eat better on the road.