Camp cooking can be made a lot more exciting with a few simple ideas. Before CaravansPlus I was a chef for over a decade. I want to share some of my favourite dishes which can be easily cooked with a BBQ, Camp Oven and Jaffle Iron. These are meals you will be able to make on the road with simple ingredients.
I have always had a passion for cooking and before I joined the family business I was a chef for more than 11 years.
I started my 4 year apprenticeship straight after finishing Year 12. I worked in a variety of different kitchens; restaurants, hotels and cafes before discovering my love of fine dining. "The Boat House" in Canberra was my home for 6 years where I was the sous chef with a team of 10. I then moved to London where I worked for 2 years before the lack of sunshine encouraged me to move on.
I returned home and I started to work part time at CaravansPlus while still cooking in restaurants. As time went by I gave up the knifes (and the nights) to focus on growing our business. While I still help out some old friends once in a while, those days and long nights are behind me. I still love to cook, however now I save it for my friends and family.
Belgium Mussels - White Wine & Cream
This is my take on the classic Belgium "Moules & Frites". It is my go-to for a summer lunch with friends, sitting in the sun with a glass of white wine or beer and reminiscing of past adventures. I love it because it is so quick to cook and easy to serve, I just place the mussels in large bowls or pots in the middle of the table. Everyone gets a spoon, some crusty bread and score card (bowl for shells). We all share, dipping bread into the delicious soupy liquid, searching for that loose mussel that tried to get away, it a very social dish.
This dish can be cooked easily in a caravan or over a camp fire, and you can get all the ingredients from your local supermarket. There are two tricks you can use to make this dish even easier and which allows you to do your shopping as normal and make this delicious dish at your convenience (great if you are heading out of town).
1) Purchase pre-packaged fresh mussel - these days you are able to buy fresh black mussels in a vacuum sealed pack in the fish section of the supermarket. This is very convenient as they have a longer shelve life and won't leak through your fridge.
2) Long life cream - it comes in 200ml tetra packs and is found on the shelf near the long life milk. I always have some in my pantry at home as I never know what I'm going to cook until its happening.
"Fat is Flavour" was a common saying of a Head Chef in my early years, so you can guarantee I'm going to need some cream when I'm cooking at home or out on the road.
Ingredients - Serves 2
1kg fresh black mussels
1/2 leek or brown onion
2 cloves garlic
3 sticks of celery
1/2 bunch thyme
200ml white wine
Handful parsley (garnish)
Crusty bread (sour dough, ciabatta)
Place mussels in a bowl, and fill with fresh cold water and leave for 15 minutes. This allows the mussels to spit out their old water and replace with fresh water. Next clean and de-beard the mussels. Although the packaging always reads "cleaned mussels" I give them a quick once over with steel wool to remove any loose grit.
Bruniose (fine dice) the celery, leek and garlic.
Rough chop the thyme and parsley.
In a large heavy base pot add olive oil and sweat off (cook without colour) the celery, leek and garlic. Season with pepper if desired - never add salt! The mussels will be salty enough.
Turn heat up to high and add white wine and reduce by half, add cream and thyme and allow to further reduce for 3 minutes.
Add mussels and cover with lid, cook for around 7 minutes, or until the mussels are opened. Stir through the chopped parsley. Serve with thick slices of warmed bread.
Tuscan Beef with Polenta
This is winter favourite of mine, slow cooked beef in red wine on a bed of creamy polenta with a rocket and parmesan salad. This dish is so good I cooked it for dinner the night I proposed to my wife (needless to say she said yes). While I cook this hearty dish for dinners at home, it makes for a super easy pre-prepared dish to take camping for a weekend. While others are cooking their sausages or worse(brat), you can simply warm your Tuscan braised beef, throw together a salad and enjoy that glass of red wine.
Ingredients - Serves 4
800g diced braising beef - I like gravy beef but it does take longer to cook.
1 brown onion - diced
1 can diced tomatoes
250ml red wine
1tsp crushed garlic
500ml beef stock
6 sprigs rosemary
1/2 nutmeg - grated
1 cup polenta
3 cup milk
2 cup water
50g grated parmesan
For Braised Beef:
Sweat off the onion and garlic and add to the slow cooker or casserole dish.
Brown off beef pieces (season with salt and pepper) and add to the slow cooker.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add to slow cooker.
Add rosemary, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, nutmeg and cloves to the slow cooker.
Cook till tender and sauce has reduced. (This will likely take several hours)
Bring the water, milk and butter to the simmer. Turn the heat down low (if heat is too high when the polenta thickens it blows bubbles and spits molten hot polenta, I have seen some bad burns!)
Rain in the polenta while whisking, continue to stir until smooth. Add grated parmesan and season to taste.
To serve, place polenta in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the beef and top with the rocket and parmesan salad.
When camping I always make the polenta fresh, as it sets like a rock when cooled and its harder to reheat than to make from scratch.
Cheese Burger Sliders
I have a BBQ each year to catch up with all my old high school friends. Each year there are more and more kids to cater for so I have started to make more kid friendly options. A few years ago I decided to make cheese burger sliders. I portioned 2 for each child but quickly discovered it wasn't going to be enough. I turned from the BBQ and looked across the table to see the parents devouring my mini cheese burgers. Turns out everyone has an inner child just wanting to come out and play.
So I raced to the shops, grabbed a few packets of par-bake (semi baked) dinner rolls, a packet of pre-made meatballs (instant mini patties) and some sliced cheese. Before the kids knew what had happened there was a fresh batch of sliders on the table. I learned my lesson! These are one of the most popular things I make at the annual BBQ.
It is just as easy to make these camping, simply wrap the rolls in foil and place on the edge of the fire, flatten your meatballs on the grill pan, top with half a slice of cheese, tomato sauce, American mustard and of course a slice of pickle. Give it a go and I promise it's not just the kids that will love them.
Chicken & Chorizo Skewers
Another BBQ favourite, it is so simple yet so tasty. Now let me be firm here, if you don't normally cook with chicken thigh do yourself a favour and give it a go. Any time you're grilling, roasting or braising use thigh, the meat has more flavour and will not dry out like chicken breast.
diced chicken thigh fillet
thyme, garlic chives
In a bowl mix diced chicken, chopped herbs and the grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
Slice chorizo into rounds about as thick as your finger, cut onion in half and then into quarters.
Build skewers alternating each ingredient.
Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad
Something different than your ordinary garden salad, it is a great addition to any grilled meat dish. This tasty salad looks best layered on a large serving platter in the middle of the table. While this salad only has a few simply ingredients the overall result is sensational. Each of the ingredients adds a unique characteristic; the crispness of the beans, the creaminess of cheese, the sweetness of the beetroot, the freshness of the tomato and the the spice of the chilli (if desired).
700g green beans
1 tin whole baby beetroot
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
150g goats cheese (danish fetta is an easy substitute)
1 brown onion (fine diced)
2tsp crushed garlic
1/2 red chilli deseeded (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
Remove top of beans and blanch in boiling water then refresh (run under cold water)
Slice cherry tomatoes and baby beetroots in half.
Sweat off onion, garlic and chilli(optional) in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Add onion mix to beans and toss, add to serving platter.
Sprinkle, with tomatoes, beetroot and crumbled goats cheese.
Squeeze juice of lemon and crack black pepper over the top.
Best Ever Jaffle Iron Creations
Everyone loves a good ham & cheese toasty, so I wanted to put the challenge out there for the best idea for a jaffel iron. Now I don't just want to hear chicken and cheese, or bake beans try and think outside of the box. I'll get you started with two I have come up with that are going to be hard to beat.
Banana & Nutella French Toast
Mix an egg, sugar, vanilla essence & some cream (I know you have some in your cupboard).
Dip sliced white bread into egg mix, then fill with sliced banana and teaspoon of Nutella.
Apple Tarte Tatin
Use frozen puff pastry, cut into squares, add tinned apple and a little golden syrup.
Share your best idea's below in the comments section.
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