Julie Buckles is the author of "Paddling to Winter: A Couple's Wilderness Journey from Lake Superior to Northern Canada.
From Tiff and Jim Easton’s Family Camping Cookbook We always try to seek out campsites that allow open fires. A campfire is the heart of the camping experience and the very essence of its back-to-basics appeal. A good campfire provides warmth and light, but is also a place to congregate, tell stories, play music and, of course, to cook. When planning and researching your camping holiday look out for the campsites that allow open fires – many do, although the hotter the climate, the less likely campfires will be allowed as the risk of the fire spreading becomes too great. Equally, some campsites will have a shared fire pit, or will only let you have a fire in a brazier or your barbecue. Cooking on an open fire Cooking on open fires offers endless possibilities: you can fry, boil, grill, roast and even bake on them, but it does require a bit of practice and the right equipment. A good big metal grill, ideally with feet to stand over the embers, is essential, and pots, pans and kettles with handles that don’t melt are also a good idea. If you are cooking meat, fish or vegetables directly over the fire, as you do on a barbecue, you should wait until the flames have died down and you have glowing embers to cook on. If you are cooking in a saucepan or boiling a kettle, you can cook over the flames, but they will tarnish the outside of the pots so don’t take your best set. A selection of good-sized stones are useful for supporting the pots and pans in the fire. And for fire safety reasons it goes without saying that you should always have a bucket of water to hand when cooking over an open fire or a barbecue. Building and lighting an open fire To light your fire, it goes without saying that you need copious amounts of dry wood: small pieces to act as kindling and get the fire going, and larger logs to provide the sustained heat and light. Children love gathering up the kindling, but you may need to buy the larger pieces in advance, although better equipped campsites may provide these. Newspaper and matches are also vital. The most reliable approach for lighting a fire is the cone or teepee method: 1 Scrunch up balls of newspaper and arrange the kindling twigs in a cone shape around and leaning on the newspaper. 2 Arrange the logs or larger pieces in a larger cone around the kindling so the tops of the logs are supporting each other. 3 Light the newpaper and then as the logs begin to burn, push them into the centre of the fire. If all else fails, there’s no shame in resorting to firelighters! Remember 1 Watch out for the gaps between the logs – too big and they will not catch fire, too close and they won’t be able to breathe. 2 Safety is paramount. Before you light, make sure that the fire area is cleared of things that could help the fire spread such as branches or leaves. Surrounding the pit with stones is a good idea. Don’t leave the fire unsupervised, especially when there are children around, and always put it out before you go to bed. Don’t let a basic camping stove limit your imagination! This deliciously easy cassoulet can be prepared in one saucepan. For an authentic touch, fry some breadcrumbs in oil or butter and sprinkle them over the top of the cassoulet before you serve it. Campfire Cassoulet Serves: 4 Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 1¼ hours 8 Toulouse sausages, quartered 225g/8oz smoked bacon lardons or pancetta, cubed 1 tbsp olive oil or butter 2 onions, finely sliced 4 garlic cloves, chopped 1 thyme sprig or 1 tsp dried thyme 1 bay leaf 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup red wine 400g/14oz/1⅔ cups tinned whole plum tomatoes or tinned chopped tomatoes 820g/1lb 13oz tinned cannellini or haricot beans, drained salt and pepper Dijon mustard, to serve 1. Put the sausages in a large frying pan or saucepan over a high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned, then add the lardons and cook for another 5 minutes. Push the sausages and lardons to the side of the pan. Alternatively, transfer them to a plate and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan. 2. Add the oil to the pan, then add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent and softened. Add the garlic and herbs and cook for another 1 minute. 3. Add the wine and bring to the boil, then add the tinned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Return the browned sausages and lardons to the pan, if necessary. Put the pan over a low heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30–45 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and cook for about 15 minutes until the cassoulet has thickened. Serve hot with mustard. The Family Camping Cookbook is packed with delicious recipes for camping adventures – whether you’re on a quick escape, by the beach, in the country, at a festival or camping with a crowd. Make the most of cooking in the great outdoors! Family Camping Cookbook by Tiff & Jim Easton £10.99 Find out more, and get free postage on all UK orders
Cooking in the outdoors – try this simple one-pot Campfire Cassoulet - Nourishbooks