Remember camping trip dinners of canned beans, sandy vegetables and ash-covered toast? Or maybe a warped Trangia set, burnt rice and a watery curry?
Life in the wild doesn’t have to be like that. As easy as it can be the epicentre of culinary catastrophes, your campground kitchen can be a place of gastronomic dreams. Just ask Griff Pamment.
The executive chef of Longrain was once like us. “When I grew up we had a gas camp stove and one pot [to go camping with],” he says. “We’d eat baked beans.” Pamment still doesn’t mind the odd can, but now he’s also cooking campground curries, laksas, risottos and steak.
His tip is more a philosophy than a trick – don’t be intimidated by the setting. Whatever you want to eat, there’s usually a way to make it happen.
Embrace the campfire
Rather than a single pot over a gas burner, Pamment uses campfires where he can. “Have a fire that you keep feeding,” he says. “Adjacent to that you have coals. You draw [coals] from the fire and if you need to crank the heat, bring more wood under.”
Over the flameless coals goes a large hot plate – ideally one with legs, but otherwise propped up with rocks. “You can cook directly on that or you can put a metal grill on top and use a pot or cast iron pan,” says Pamment. The hot plate becomes your do-it-all solution. “You can toast on it, you can cook bacon, you can heat beans, you can roast fennel, you can cook a whole fish on it,” says Pamment. “You can even sear a steak.”
Trial and error
Using a thick-bottomed pot or pan that can take the heat, Pamment says it takes a while to get the feel of the flame and its temperature output. But it’s worth it. “I’ve burnt heaps of things,” he says. “Be prepared to pick a bit of black stuff off your food. You’ve got to pick ants out anyway, so you might as well.”
That’s not to say that you should make everything from scratch, though. Dried ingredients work well, particularly for cooking Southeast Asian, which happens to be Pamment’s speciality.
Your one-pot wonder
One dish he likes to make while camping is a Thai red-curry soup. “I made [this recently] while camping down at Jervis bay,” says Pamment. “It’s a little like a curry, a little like a laksa and dead easy. The beauty of this type of recipe is the ingredients are easily transported. It’s also a one-pot wonder so don’t get too hung up on getting the recipe exact. Use it as a guide and make it your own.”
And the fancy executive chef’s hot camping tip? Flavour sachets. “If I find myself pimping my instant noodles at home, I save the packets of seasoning,” he says. “It’s a good idea to have a few flavour sachets up your sleeve while camping. You can also chuck ‘em in your baked beans."
Here’s how to make Griff Pamment’s Thai red-curry soup.
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 pumpkin wedges
100g red curry paste (ready made is fine)
2 kaffir lime leaves
Small handful of dried shrimp
1 long red chilli, roughly chopped
1 tbsp sugar
Splash of fish sauce
A few dried mushrooms reconstituted in water
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Fistful of dried rice noodles
60ml coconut cream
Coriander, Thai basil or both
Add salt and oil to wedges of pumpkin. Either wrap each piece of pumpkin in foil and place them in the embers of the fire, or grill them on a hotplate until charred.
In a pot over the medium fire or on the hot plate, cook curry paste in oil for a few minutes or until aromatic. Bruise the kaffir lime leaves in your hands and throw them into the pot along with the sugar, dried shrimp, chilli and fish sauce. Add the water.
Once broth is simmering, add mushrooms. When the mushrooms have softened, add pumpkin and cook until semi-soft. Add rice noodles and cherry tomatoes. When noodles are soft, pour in coconut cream.
Taste the broth and add in sugar or fish sauce for sweeter or saltier flavours. Finish with a squeeze of lime and handful of herbs.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Wild Turkey.