Gourmet camping meals – finding a balance

I read a post a few weeks ago about the brilliant spontaneity of campervanning, and the romantic freedom it gives you to drive off into the sunset at a moment’s notice.

It is possible, that the post appeared on my own blog.

I haven’t yet managed, 100 per cent, to put my very useful advice into practice.

Keeping a separate set of camping cutlery, I can do. Remembering to fill the water tanks the night before – fine. The one tiny step I fall down on is ‘throw some food in the fridge and you’re off’.

The trouble is, we’ve been so excited to go away in our campervan that we’ve treated every trip, even if we’re only staying down the road, as a mini holiday. Equally every meal that we can eat outside on a rug instead of at a dining table has become a picnic.

Of course, holidays and picnics are wonderful. But the reality does come with its own stresses.

Who wants to eat their every day cereal on holiday? It’s a time for treats! Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Grilled mushrooms on sourdough. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. Mmmmmm. And as soon as a packed lunch becomes a picnic, your rather pedestrian tuna sandwich and a KitKat are replaced with wicker hampers overflowing with wild rice salad and honey-glazed chicken.

But this was requiring an inordinate amount of planning and food preparation every Thursday before we left. The spontaneity was disappearing in a flurry of lists and pre-chopped crudités.

I once spent the night before frantically flicking through a recent issue of Gourmet Traveller for some inspiration. (I know Gourmet Traveller’s reputation isn’t founded on the quality of its camping recipes but who’s to say you can’t be more adventurous than a tuna sandwich just because you’re staying in a field?).

Anyway I thought I’d struck gold with the first article: a twist on the humble toastie. Perfect. The photos looked simple yet sophisticated. I started scribbling notes for the first recipe.

Unfortunately there is nothing humble about a Gourmet Traveller toastie.

Step 1. You will need to start this recipe two days in advance.

Two days??

For a toastie? Doesn’t that contradict the whole principle of toasties?

Maybe that was the twist.

It was the final straw and from then on, I decided to be very strict. For the next trip, I threw a few basics in the fridge and transferred our usual box of pantry ingredients into the campervan. There were no lists. No pre-mixed spicy chickpea burgers. No homemade organic lemonade. And the whole experience was much more relaxed. Almost spontaneous! Paul’s happiest moments of the whole weekend were when I produced cornflakes for breakfast and he found out lunch was a cheese and pickle sandwich.

As it happens, I am now writing an article for a magazine quite similar to Gourmet Traveller (similar in that it’s about travelling, dissimilar in that it’s about travelling in caravans), and the article is focused on quick and easy camping meals. So I am looking for inspiration.

Fellow campers, caravanners – what are your tips for your favourite camping recipes? Meals that don’t require too much forward planning and can be rustled up with just a few basics? I’ve already got cheese and pickle sandwiches!

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7 thoughts on “Gourmet camping meals – finding a balance

  1. This may seem a little boring, but one of the best meals I have had is a quick BBQ – but maybe it was also due to the view. I think the meals always taste better when you have a view of either the sea, mountains or even a forest (especially if there is a stream flowing past). We always tend to take what salads we have in the fridge, plus a few potatoes before we leave. Find a good steak, throw that on the BBQ, while that’s sizzling, throw all your salad stuff together, whack the potatoes in the Micro (or just boil – and a quick turn on the BBQ). Serve the salad with a nice tangy salad dressing, butter on the potato, medium done steak and finally a washed down with one of the ice cold locally brewed beers (or wine)!!

  2. I am currently staying in Sophia my Super Campervan at a caravan park in Hervey Bay. Dinner tonight was so simple. Put into a hot fry pan some garlic (already crushed in a tube from the supermarket), capsicum, mushrooms stir fry for a few minutes then add some green prawn meat and cook until done. Then throw in a large handful of spinach leaves, some sweet chilli sauce and microwaved broccoli. All up about 10 minutes from start to plating up. Followed by a mars bar and a glass of red wine while sitting outside listening to the rain.

  3. Just back from hiring a camper van out of Darwin. One memorable meal was chicken breasts sauted with a few ingredients chosen on the fly from Rapid Creek market (thai basil, fresh curry paste, lime juice, mini eggplants, capsicum). Served with rice under the stars in Kakadu – perfect!

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