Written by Shree of Shree's Blog.
Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy time with your family as well as the outdoors. However, unless you can hunt or fish, food is one of the important things you should consider while packing for a weekend in the wild. Ah! The primal nature of man returns … cooking over a full blown fire. Yes! I am … not understanding ... why can't I find enough sticks? Why isn't the fire burning? Will I freeze before the fire has started? Well ... considering all that could go wrong, a foodie's best friend can be an outdoor stove. This is basically a stove which can be as minimal as a single burner hooked on to a mini portable propane gas tank or as elaborate as your backyard outdoor grill with the fancy side table and the cooler attachment. Of course, all depends on your intention and your budget.
I find that for most people and for a lot of foodies on budget, a simple 2 burner gas stove can suffice to create the most exotic meals that one can hope for. You can even create elaborate Indian meals – what? You scoff? Trust me, I am an Indian and this is possible with just a little know-how. Ready? Read below.
So what should one think of while getting ready for such outdoor food feasts?
- Planning – Menu planning is the very first step. Remember you won't have access to a full pantry, so create lists and get going.
- Buy a cooler – This will help in keeping a small amount of milk, eggs and other perishables cool. Cheese anyone?
- Ingredients – Make use of canned goods, such as kidney beans, garbanzo, tuna and even chopped tomato (and don't forget to pack your can opener!).
- Oil and Spices - While planning the menu items, note which dishes need an extensive list of spices. Take a small Ziploc or better yet, use a pill box to store dry spice mixes. Mark them with the dish name, and voila – ready to use spice mixes at your calling. For oil, I like to carry 'Spray Olive Oil' (a spray can) instead of an oil bottle, it is much easier to carry and keep clean.
- During cooking – Remember that the outdoor stoves are not as nice as the ones in your home. These are quite temperamental and don't have as much output control (heat intensity) as us foodies would like. So I would highly suggest, keeping all your cut vegetables, spices, meat and everything ready for immediate usage. Remember your mise en place!
- Minimal refrigeration - Since cooler space is precious, think about carrying foods that can be carried with little or no refrigeration like tomatoes, onions, potatoes, garlic, bananas, apples, berries and so many others.
- Carry along - Bring along dips like hummus, or Hara (Green Cilantro) Chutney. Keep these cool and use them the first day of camping. Make energy bars at home, or make a trail mix and keep them handy for snacking.
- Marinades – Marinate your favorite meat at home and put it in the freezer. When you are ready to leave your home, let it sit in the cooler. As it warms up, the marinade will help in preserving the meat (to some extent), and will result taste lovely. (When handling meat, remember to use hand sanitizing gels).
- Dessert – Last but not least, make brownies, sponge cakes (no frosting) or cookies at home. These can easily survive a four day camping trip with little to no hassle. If you are camping in the actual desert or in a very hot place. Remember that these may be melting temperatures, so chocolate might not be an option.
- Cleaning – Keep hand sanitizers, a small amount of ready to use dish soap and lemons ready. These help in cleaning up your board, leaving a fresh scent and quickly clean and degrease your knives. The insides of a half cut lemon also acts as a little scrubbing pad. Bring a large tub, use this as a cleaning sink. If you have leftover marinade, remember to take them back to your home in the cooler. Cleaning marinade containers are too messy to be dealt with in the outdoors. Carry your own garbage bags. Try to minimize waste and carry what you can back with you.
These are some of the few dishes I have made in my recent camping trips.
- Cholle – Indian Garbanzo beans in a spicy tomato broth.
- Ramja – Indian style kidney beans (chilli) without the beef.
- Green Papaya salad – A Thai favorite, shredded green papaya with thai chillies, fresh green beans, soy sauce and palm sugar (I took the palm sugar, soy sauce and chillies in a small container).
- Chicken Tikka – Dry grilled chicken tikka pieces. This was marinated overnight in the fridge and grilled at the campsite.
- Spicy Tuna – Canned tuna sauteed in garam masala, cumin seeds. Served with bread.
- Green (Hara) Chutney sandwiches – I carried along green chutney (cilantro, green chilli paste) and used this as a spread for a fresh tomato, cucumber sandwich.
- Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce – Grilled skirt steak served with chimichurri sauce and grilled potatoes (buy small size potatoes or Fingerlings for faster cooking times).
Most importantly - Relax and enjoy nature and the company of your loved ones.