Cant Cook? Can't Fail! Saltrock's Top Tips for Classic Campfire Cookery

It is about this time of the year that we start getting itchy feet. We long to throw off our shoes, walk on warm sand or stroll through long grass. We dream of living under canvas, of starry nights toasting marshmallows over an open fire and of waking to perfect waves on sun kissed shores.

It all sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But what are you going to eat when you get there? You can’t live on toasted marshmallows (although many have tried) or burnt sausages and refried baked beans. 

The great news though, is that you don’t have to. There is no need to eat badly just because you are camping. While it might seem like a chore to cook well in the great outdoors, there’s no need to go without. And there’s no need to eat from a packet either. 

Here at Saltrock we love our camping and we love our food, so we asked Martin Dorey (AKA the Camper Van Cook) to give us his top tips for camping cookery success. And here they are:

1. GET A PROPER HEAT SOURCE SORTED

Lots of people love those disposable BBQs. But we don’t. Not only are they wasteful and a dangerous source of carbon monoxide, but they are also rubbish for cooking on. I prefer a bucket barbecues because they can be used again and again (and will save you money) and give you much more control. Plus, they are easy to carry and really no hassle. And you can use proper charcoal in them.

Failing that, using a portable gas burner with a hot plate (a plancha) will give you loads more scope and can cook just about anything, from a full fry up to kebabs and burgers. And you can use it again and again. A portable burner will allow you to boil a kettle too. Bonus! A cup of tea!

If you want to cook over an open fire then a Kotlich is a great piece of kit and looks amazing on the campsite. The fire pit also doubles for toasting marshmallows and the pot can be used for making stews, chowders and soups and the grill can be used for standard barbecuing.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE & FRESH & YOU CAN'T LOSE

Sometimes cooking gets complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Simple recipes using local and fresh ingredients are so much better than opening loads of packets and ending up with a load of rubbish after you’ve eaten. Plus, it’s always going to taste better anyway. Eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup is an amazing camping breakfast - find the recipe here! . BBQ steak and fresh salad is always a winner. Or try putting a few slices of halloumi cheese on the grill, along with some fresh veg like courgettes, onions, tomatoes and sweet peppers. It’s guaranteed delicious!

Plus, if it takes longer to wash up than to eat it means you have probably gone wrong somewhere and have used too many utensils or pans in your cookery. One pot is king!

3. DON'T BE AFRAID TO COOK IT WELL OR DIRTY

Some people like to cook steaks, peppers or meat in the coals of a barbecue. They call it ‘dirty cooking’ and it’s all the rage. The only thing to remember is to use good quality charcoal that isn’t impregnated with lighter fluid or chemicals. Fabulous!

If that sounds like a step too far then sometimes it’s great to overcook some things, or at least cook them hot and fast. Good steaks are fantastic cooked hot and quickly on any BBQ while sweetcorn on the cob is always better if you let it burn and caramelise a little. It’s the same with peppers and courgettes.

4. INVEST IN PARMA HAM & SOME SPICY RUBS

Parma ham might be something that you never considered for the BBQ but it can be a real life saver and crowd pleaser. It can be used to wrap up fish into little parcels of juicy loveliness (find a great recipe for this here)  or to turn boring old asparagus into salty asparagus spears! The Parma ham acts like tin foil, protecting what’s inside like tin foil and turning crispy and crunchy on the process. It’s a sure fire winner! No Parma ham? Try bacon!

When it comes to spicy rubs, hot smoked paprika is the king of the life savers. Rub it into chicken, pork, fish or veg and it’ll transform it. Seriously! If you doubt your cooking ability at any point, whip out the paprika and prepare to dazzle. Michelin stars await you my campfire cheffing friends.

5. TAKE A RISK WITH A GAME OF ROADSIDE ROULETTE

One of the great things about travelling around in the summer time – especially in Devon and Cornwall – is the fact that you’ll pass lots of little roadside stalls selling home grown produce. As such it’s almost always really cheap and super fresh. So why not have a game of roadside roulette to spice things up a little? It’s easy to play. You nominate a chef to cook that evening’s dinner. Then, the next time you pass a roadside stall the nominated chef has to cook your evening dinner with whatever you find at the stall.

Beware if you are driving around close to the Saltrock Bideford Store. Near Hartland there’s a stall that sells nothing but home-made jam and home knitted fingerless gloves. Don’t fancy that for tea much!

6. MAKE AN EVENT OUT OF TEA

Big stews, coq au vin, chowder and curries and chillies might take a little longer to cook than your average sausage and beans but they are real crowd pleasers, especially when you cook them in a big cauldron over an open fire. It makes a feast of tea and a centrepiece for any campsite. Add a few feet of bunting and you’ll have yourselves a mini festival on the campsite. And if you want to make friends you can almost guarantee the other campers will be over to sniff out the lovely aromas coming from your pitch.

Bon apetit!

Martin Dorey is a surfer, cook and camper van traveller. He was the presenter of a BBC2 TV show called One Man and his Campervan and has written 3 books on the subject of four wheeled living and two ringed cooking. He is currently writing and researching a book about the UK’s best campervan journeys, Take the Slow Road.

TIME TO GO CAMPING!

So now you're all clued up on our top camping tips, it's time to go and try them out yourself! But first, don't forget to pack your camping essentials - Get comfy hoodies and trackpants for all the family to keep warm around the campfire, and some cool new t-shirts for sunnier days! We've also got some practical backpacks from Surfanic & Two Bare Feet to pack up your essentials in!