With the evenings getting longer and camping trips marked on the calendar, Eileen Malone has some advice for when all that fresh air makes you hungry.
Itâ€™s easy to stick to the tried and trusted when it comes to outdoor cooking. But if another summer of packet soup and bacon sarnies doesnâ€™t get you licking your lips, why not be a bit more adventurous?
The eastern European tradition of kotlich cooking, using a pot suspended from a tripod over an open fire, is a great passion for Trish MacCurrach, pictured below, whose love of the style took off when she lived in the Balkans.
She says: â€œI fell in love with the pot hanging over the fire and the whole idea of people gathering around and cooking together. Kotlich cooking is really simple. You light a fire and as soon as you have flames, you can whack your pot on and cook normally like you would at home.
â€œPut your oil in, fry up your spices, onion or garlic and then you can cook anything from goulash to mussels. Itâ€™s very convenient, especially if youâ€™re cooking for the kids, on the beach or a campsite, because you can have a hot chunky meal in about half an hour.
Â â€œIt is very much a community activity because everyone likes to collect the wood, poke the fire and stir the pot. Itâ€™s all about getting everyone to sit around and drink, tell stories and cook together. Since we started kotlich cooking, weâ€™ve never looked back.â€
Trish now imports kotlich cooking sets and does demonstrations at outdoors events.
â€œWe once did a goulash supper at a walking festival, for 100 people. We had three large kotlich pots bubbling on the pavement in their little fire pits and it was spectacular. Everyone had such a lovely weekend because we had good food and good music in the sunshine.â€
Trish offers these tips on how to succeed with a kotlich:
- Prepare a box of vital seasonings, which might include salt and pepper, salsa, French dressing, a marinade, stock cubes, curry powder, oil, mustard, ketchup, and some dry spices and herbs
- Keep a good supply of dry wood for the fire and have some water handy in case of sparks
- Use a fire pit, if the site allows â€“ it is economical on wood and keeps your fire under control
- When cleaning the pot, fill it with water and hang it over the fire for about 20 minutes. Then tip the water out to wipe the inside clean.
Hereâ€™s one of her favourite recipes â€“ campfire beef and beans, for 8-10 people.
- 1 tsp ghee or butter
- 1kg good minced beef
- 8 bacon rashers, diced
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- Â½ tsp hot smoked paprika (optional)
- 4 tbsp black treacle or brown sugar
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 8 large tomatoes, roughly diced
- 4 medium carrots, diced
- 400ml water
- A large handful of fresh parsley
- 1 tin haricot beans or two handfuls of dried haricot beans that you have soaked and cooked yourself
1. Brown the beef in ghee or butter, then set aside. Into the kotlich, add the bacon and cook until crispy.
2. Add the onions and stir for 8-10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and thyme and stir for a minute, adding the hot smoked paprika if you choose.
3. Add the treacle, vinegar, tomato puree, two pinches of salt, some black pepper and the mustard and fry for a minute, stirring well.
4. Finally add the fresh tomatoes, carrots, the browned beef, cooked beans and water. Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally. Do keep an eye on it and add water as needed.
5. Serve piping hot with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the plate.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of a camping trip is exploring your surroundings and learning about nature. Foraging is a great way to make kids feel involved by going for a walk and teaching them how to identify safe, edible plants and weeds. This can include berries, dandelion flowers, wintergreen leaves and other wild plants that can be used as tasty snacks or as part of a salad or cooked dish at the campsite. This will also be a good opportunity to teach the kids about identifying poisonous plants. Never eat anything if you are unsure of it.
These large cast-iron pots are easy to use and can cook a variety of recipes, whether you fancy a big fry-up in the morning or a hearty stew in the evening. Dutch ovens can be heated over a fire or charcoal and the heat locks in the top and bottom of the pot, acting as an oven, allowing you to fry, bake or roast your food.
There is a range of portable barbecues on the market â€“ all of them light and convenient enough to pack away in the back of the car.
Treat the kids to some classics such as home-made burgers, chicken skewers, baked potatoes and barbecue ribs.
Portable barbecues are ideal for a day at the beach or a picnic in the park. For an extra treat, try slicing a banana down its length (skin on), and pushing chocolate buttons in there. Then roast until the chocolate melts â€“ perfect for an evening huddled around the campfire.
Click here to find out more about kotlich cooking.