There's nothing quite as satisfying as cooking over an open fire (preferably one you've lit with a flint and natural kindling! Camping meals are traditionally simple, but we found that with some imagination, ambition and a lot of patience, you can create something much more delicious, even in the wildest of campsites. We got into a daily routine of planning our meals a couple days ahead. We’d pick up the ingredients en route and then we’d pitch up in a new location, I would get us unpacked, and Alex would go off gathering wood for the fire. The meals we made that way were always the most memorable because they were a challenge. We’ve put together our 5 best open fire recipes, to replace those standard camping meals of tinned beans. So here goes, easy healthy vanlife meals (and a couple of challenging ones) for a life that roams…
Cumin Beef Stir Fry
This recipe is one I often cook at home because it’s so quick and easy to make and it’s delicious! Along the way on our road trip we sometimes stayed in a site with a fire ring which had a grate on top, and other times it was just a stone fire ring and we propped a pan up on three crossed sticks (not ideal as the sticks burn through and you have to keep replacing them). More recently we used our Barebones All-In-One Cast Iron Grill – OK shameless plug I know, but genuinely it was so great being able to stand a wok over the fire so easily and know that it wasn’t going to fall over!
You will need: Chopping board, Sharp Knife, 1 Large Pan, Saucepan, Large Spoon, Bowls, Forks
Fresh Bought Ingredients:
250g Stir Fry Beef 2 Red Bell Peppers 6 Scallions (Spring Onions) Ciabatta Bread Cilantro (Coriander)
From your stores:
Ground Cumin Cumin Seeds Flour (any) Oil (olive/veg/sesame) Soy Sauce Rice Wine Vinegar Chili Flakes
Sugar Long Grain Rice
Put a saucepan of approx. 1” deep water over the fire to bring to boil
Into a bowl measure out the rice using your hand, I do two handfuls per person
Pour over water and stir the rice round a bit to start soaking off the starch
In another bowl mix 3 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp flour, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Add the beef to the mixture and coat
Once the water is boiling drain the soaking rice and add it to the pan of boiling water, cover and set the pan on the edge of the fire so it simmers. Try not to remove the lid too often.
In your large pan add 2 tbsp cumin seeds and toast for 1 min, then remov them
Add a glug of oil and then the beef
Fry until brown then add back in the cumin seeds, 1 tsp chili flakes, ½ tsp sugar, 6 roughly sliced scallions, 2 sliced red peppers, handful chopped cilantro
Fry everything up until the veg has softened slightly
Check that the water has steamed off and the rice is cooked.
Serve the stir fry in bowls over the rice. Add more Soy Sauce to taste.
Whenever I’m on the coast I love cooking with seafood because you know it’s going to be super fresh and delicious wherever you buy it. We made this in our campsite just outside of L.A. where we had a built-in fire ring with a cooking grate on top. However if you don’t have the proper outdoor gear a couple sticks to balance your pan on works a treat. Just make sure you have fire-proof gloves as the pan will get very hot and you’ll need to move the pan around to avoid burning the food on the bottom. Some people think that risotto and paella are hard to make but you just need to be attentive, patient and preferably drinking a glass of wine while you make it. What could go wrong?
If you don’t like seafood you can use chicken as an alternative or go veggie. For ours I used King Prawns, Mussels & Scallops. I’ve once come across sachets of paella spice mix when I was in France which was amazing because they had saffron in them and, let’s face it, when your living the vanlife who’s going to spend $20 on a pinch of saffron? So if you can find these, ideal! Otherwise I’ve left the saffron out of this recipe and added turmeric instead and it still tastes pretty damn good.
You will need: Chopping board, Sharp Knife, 1 Large Pan, Kettle, Large Spoon, Bowls, Forks
Fresh Bought Ingredients:
6x Large Shrimp (King Prawns) 6x Scallops 300g Mussels 1 Chorizo Sausage 1 Lemon 1 Red Bell Pepper Ciabatta Bread
From your stores:
Olive oil Salt & Pepper 1 onion 2 cloves garlic 250g arborio or paella rice Dried Parsley 2 Chicken Stock Cubes
Paprika Turmeric White Wine
Fill your kettle with water and put it over the fire
Chop up 1 chorizo sausage, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 pepper
Stick your pan over the fire and add the chorizo
Let this cook gently until all the spicy oil seeps out
Then add onion, garlic, pepper – add more olive oil if needed
Once soft add 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp turmeric
Add 250g rice and 2 chicken stock cubes crushed
Poor over water from the kettle until everything is submerged and put the kettle back over the fire
For 20 minutes stir everything up regularly and keep adding water every time it gets absorbed
Taste the rice - if it’s still has a crunch keep simmering and adding water until it’s cooked
Once you think it’s nearly there add the scallops to the pot and put the lid on
Wait 2 minutes then add the king prawns and mussels and cover again for 5 mins
Slice up your ciabatta and toast over the fire
Check that the mussels have fully opened, and the prawns are pink
Serve with lemon wedges, a sprinkle of parsley and olive oil drizzled ciabatta