It’s time for chilly autumn evenings! And cuddly knitted jumpers and leaves the colour of sunsets and crackly campfires and all the other lovely things that make poor old unappreciated autumn my favourite season. Celebrate by wandering into the woods this weekend, fixing up a crackling fire and cooking my five favourite zero-fuss camping recipes with some of your nice mates.
Before you head off for a night of canvas and stars, mix up three cups of flour, one hefty pinch of salt, one of baking powder and one of brown sugar. Sift it a bit, then add a tablespoon of oil and 6 oz of water to your mix and chuck it all about until it’s a firm dough. Roll it out flat, roll it up loosely around some baking parchment and take it camping with you. When you’ve got a happily burning campfire, cut the flat dough into inch-wide strips and wrap each strip around a twig. Bake over the fire and Bob’s your uncle.
The joy of stew is that you can do absolutely whatever you want to it – add baked beans, take away the meat for a veggie concoction, bring along leftovers from home. This, however, is what I usually cook as a winter warmer, and it does a lovely job on camping trips. Boil a tin or two of chopped tomatoes, then add a few handfuls of chopped carrots, mushrooms and courgettes and let the whole thing simmer gently until everything is soft. Add half a cup of water and a beef stock cube, then stir in a few spoonfuls of pesto and chunks of chorizo. Season with lots of salt and pepper and eat with campfire bread.
CHOCOLATE CAKE IN ORANGE POTS
Great for cooking with little ones (or culinarily-challenged big ones, your call), this is super simple but brilliant fun. Make up a packet of instant brownie or chocolate cake mix in a bowl and hand out an orange to each camper. Have them cut their oranges’ tops off and scoop its innards out, pumpkin style. Fill up your little citrus bowls with the brownie mix, pop the lids back on and then wrap tightly in foil and push between the embers of the fire for a while.
It’s not a proper dinner without a cheese board, correct? Transform your bog-standard camping trip into a luxe glamping expedition by grabbing a few camemberts in wooden boxes and taking them along. Unwrap and stud with fat cloves of garlic and sprigs of rosemary, then pop back into their wooden boxes, wrap in foil and stick on the fire to warm up. Eat with chunks of your campfire bread when they are oozing everywhere – don’t worry about the garlic, it mellows out when it’s cooked.
AND THE PERFECT CAMPFIRE COFFEE
You haven’t tasted real coffee until you’ve had a steaming bitter tin mug of it straight from a blackened kettle cooking on a fire. As anyone who has seen me before 9AM will tell you, I’m not great caffeine-free, so early-morning coffee making wrapped in a sleeping bag is a bit of a ritual, and I do as the Finnish taught me (and as I will now, helpfully, teach you). Find fresh water and fill up your kettle. Pop it on hot coals and wait for the water to come to a nice bubbling boil, then add a heaped tablespoonful of ground coffee per person to the pot and give it all a stir. Stick it back on the fire and let it come to a boil again – as soon as it does, take the kettle off the fire and let it sit for a few minutes, then pour and serve to sleeping hungover people in tents for huge brownie points.