Ask Peter: Camp cooking
We’re planning a road trip around the South Island and I won’t have a lot of storage for food (and probably only one small Primus stove to cook on). I think we’ll tire of pancakes and pasta by the third day. Any ideas for camp cooking?
Thanks, Yvonne Oomen
Many years ago I walked the Abel Tasman track and had some of the best camping food imaginable. It was a three-day leisurely walk, and I decided it wasn’t going to be the sort of trek that revolved around endless lentils and the likes. My father had taken us camping ever since I could remember as a child and so I know what it’s like to have limited ingredients and cooking facilities available. On the Abel Tasman my planning worked something like this.
I knew I couldn’t back-pack fresh salads and tomatoes for 3 days as the heat of the walk, the weight of the ingredients, and the perishability of the ingredientswouldn’t be workable. Non-dehydrated things weigh so much more than dehydrated ingredients obviously, as it’s the "water" that is the bulk of the ingredient.
So I planned that I’d have fresh tomato and rocket salad on day one. Day 2 would involve whitloof (as it’s sturdier than rocket) and day 3 would include sundried tomatoes that I’d simmer in water to rehydrate them. So, those were the salads sorted.
Day one also included some bratwurst I’d smoked myself, then frozen. This allowed me to use one of the ingredients as a chilly-bin ice pack which helped the longevity of the other ingredients, and I knew they’d have defrosted by the time I came to eat them. The smoking also meant they were going to last somewhat longer than an unsmoked sausage as smoking would kill off any harmful bacteria on the outside of the sausage. I was likely to be walking in warm weather, so things like that really matter.
I also took along some Chinese air-dried pork sausages which ended up being cooked into a lentil stew on day 3. Again, air-dried anything will last as long as you can.
I took a stollen along, as I know my sweet tooth really appreciates a treat after lots of exercise. A stollen, unlike a delicate sponge, or brittle biscuit, will cope with being carried around for a while without breaking up.
I took dehydrated coconut milk powder, which I combined with dried green-tea noodles, dried seaweed, dried sliced shiitake mushrooms and water to make a delicious laksa style soup on day 2. The remaining coconut powder went into the lentil stew on day 3.
I’d also packed a pharmacy bottle of soy sauce as it’s one of my desert island ingredients and makes everything taste great. Lentils are better to carry than dried chickpeas as they cook so much quicker and therefore need less fuel en route, but bear in mind that quinoa, millet and splitpeas cook even quicker. You can leave rice to soak for an hour before you cook it, and it will also cook a lot quicker — but do make sure you boil any water before soaking grains just in case the water supply is tainted.
Toasted coarsely ground spices are a great addition to your kitbag as well as the flavour you’ll get from cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, especially when combined with chilli, ginger and garlic (all of which travel well) will make everything taste good.
However, you’re on a road trip, I’m assuming that means in a car, so weight isn’t likely to be so much of an issue. On top of that, you’ll no doubt pass some great food suppliers even in small places. So stock up on spices, rubs and curry pastes, take a few live herbs along with you (keep them out of full sun as they’ll wilt, but a thyme, rosemary and basil bush will work wonders), and take plenty of lemons and olive oil — which will always make everything taste better!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.