Whatever time of year you go away, campsite food is always a break from the norm. Editor Lisa Baker shares her experience of camping food.
When I went camping or caravanning as a kid, easy tinned meals were the norm, like baked beans and soup. There’s something about being stuck shivering at the top of a welsh mountain next to a tiny one man tent or sparse mountain hut, loads of you huddled round a Triangia, waiting your turn to cook your baked beans on a school trip. It’s an experience I cursed at the time, but have fond memories of now, not least all of us girls bonding over collectively moaning at how uncivilised it was – we’re all still mates on Facebook!
Indeed, many adventurers still enjoy the great outdoors with nothing more than a bivvy, a Triangia and a tin of beans, but if those earlier experiences are putting you off trying modern camping, take a second look.
Like many fellow campers, we have a pretty good kitchen set up in our tent, comprising:
- Electric Coolbox/Fridge
- Kitchen Unit with cupboards & 3 work surfaces
- 2 Burner Kampa gas hob with grill
- Single Outwell Gas cartridge burner
- Electric Griddle
- Electric Kettle (low wattage)
- CADAC Gas BBQ with multiple attachments
It is indeed possible to also take a low wattage microwave, but we only have a Ford Focus and lots of furniture as well as a very big tent!
This set up fits easily in our car and gives a huge range of food options no matter how many people we drag along with us. It does however mean we only tend to stay at sites with hook ups.
Do camping calories count?
We don’t count them In the Baker household, our HUGE camping breakfasts are a big part of our holiday.
We started out by kidding ourselves they were burned off with of the huge effort needed to erect our mammoth former steel poled tent between all two of us, one an unfit diabetic with a dodgy back, the other a 50-something with arthritis and a dodgy ankle (although the new airbeam means we’ve waved that excuse goodbye!)
Preparing that home cooked breakfast seems to send the smell wafting around the campsite. To be fair, we probably cook enough to feed the 5000!
As well as sharing our leftover sausages, we’ve been known to let other campers struggling to light their single burner pop in and use our set up, just as other campers have invited us to join their family barbecues over the years. As most campers will tell you, it’s generally a friendly hobby and on most sites, there’s always someone who will help you pitch if you are struggling. Campers are great people!
Anyway, back to the food, it’s definitely the full English every morning for us – if we’re only away for a weekend, this can be done pretty much effortlessly on the Cadac plus one burner for the beans. Its a super-versatile piece of kit, but like all gas appliances, make sure you cook in the porch with doors open and plenty of ventilation. Don’t bring it into the main part of the tent until a good hour after use (this is because there is a strong risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from fumes given off after cooking.)
However, even if you are only cooking brekkie, why not see what local delights you can find? It’s still a holiday, and you are saving money by eating in, so pop to the deli counter or farm shop and get some fresh, local bacon and sausages. Many farm-based campsites even sell fresh local eggs on site!
Our favourite little camping haunt, Dunston Hill campsite in Haverfordwest is conveniently close to The Pelcomb Inn – which means we rarely cook anything apart from breakfast in our tent. The great food at the top of the hill, with 10% off for campers, means we can’t frankly be bothered, plus I’m normally still full from the huge Mary’s Farmhouse ice cream in St. Davids (another essential part of our camping trips to West Wales).
However, that changes when we camp elsewhere, or if we bring friends, families and dogs along (hubby says I can’t bring the cat on a lead but I would if I could). When there’s a group of you, eating under canvas becomes more fun, think family barbecue with card games and snacks- round the warmth of a real fire. Camping families make friends quickly, so don’t be surprised if the family expands a little for your stay!
The Cadac is perhaps the most versatile piece of kit, offering a multitude of choices (even a pizza stone for lovely large pizza, or cook a delicious paella using the relevant pan), as well as coping with huge family barbecues (although admittedly we have the big one). One of our best camping buys so far, it doubles up for garden barbecues, folds up small-ish and generally cooks everything! I’d love to have one in my kitchen at home!
However, even on a single burner there are far more options than just beans. Even before we bought the Cadac, we’ve enjoyed freshly cooked pasta, pan roasted chicken in a cream & white wine sauce (if we haven’t drunk all the wine already). Heck, if you really want to, you can even bring a TV (and we’ve seen many families do just that), but for us, sitting with pals, having great food and a glass of wine is all the entertainment we need.
This Summer, the Camping in Britain team will be testing and videoing our favourite campsite recipes – so keep your eyes out, and if you have a recipe, send it in. The message is loud and clear – camping doesn’t have to mean baked beans (unless it’s part of a delicious home cooked brekkie!)