At Tangled Bank, we can’t get enough of our outdoor camp kitchen set-up. Whether it’s burgers fired up on the BBQ or a one pot wonder cooked in the Dutch oven over naked flames, there’s something magical about getting back to basics and cooking alfresco. One of the best parts of a country holiday is gathering around an open fire with family and friends to enjoy campfire cooked food. Imagine spending an energetic day outdoors, and coming home to build a crackling fire and cook a hearty meal surrounded by nature. There is nothing better than the aroma of wood-smoke and dinner filling the evening air, while firelight dances with the shadows in the woods. Humans have been cooking with fire for more than a million years; there’s something primal and rewarding about this back-to-basics, ancestral style of cuisine.
At Tangled Bank we believe that food and nature go hand in hand. That’s why each of our luxury boutique cottages comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a Weber BBQ, and a fire pit with grill and Dutch oven. So you have everything you need to start cooking up a smoke-licked, fire-kissed feast. At the end of this blog you will find a few of our favourite campfire recipes, why not give them a go next time you’re here!
But if you want to get your own camp kitchen started, what equipment do you need? The art of campfire cooking is in its simplicity, so don’t worry about splurging on loads of stuff. However, there are one or two pieces of kit which will help set your campfire kitchen up for success.
- A grill-grate makes a simple and useful surface for cooking food over the fire
- A Dutch oven with a stand or tripod is great for stews, breads, and other one pot wonders
- A skillet is great for grilling and frying
- Some steel tongs and a long handled ladle come in handy, as does a sharp knife and a metal spatula.
- If you do want to bring a few accessories, a fire poker, grill gloves, wire grill brush and some steel skewers are also useful.
When selecting your kit, try to aim for cast iron, which is great for campfire cooking because of its ability to distribute heat, its’ durability to high temperatures and the fact that when seasoned properly, it’s is virtual non-stick. Aluminium, titanium and steel are also commonly used in campfire cookery.
Once you have your kit, it’s ready to find the perfect location and get cooking! Using a pre-built fire pit is your safest bet, but if there are none available, find a safe place free of grass, plants and tree roots. Make sure there is nothing overhead; you should have at least three times the height of the fire clear above it, and be at least 10 feet away from tents, trees or other structures. If it’s windy, give yourself even more space. If you don’t have a fire-pit, you need to build a fireproof perimeter with rocks or green logs. Now you can gather your firewood, and for this you want dry, seasoned wood, in a variety of sizes and thickness, and some tinder – something fine and easily combustible such as newspaper, dried grass or leaves, birch bark, cotton wool or dandelion clocks. Fill the fire-pit with tinder, and place a layer of thin pieces of wood and twigs in a criss-cross pattern, or in a pyramid shape like a tipi, being sure to leave gaps for air to flow between the layers. Light the tinder from several sides, and blow gently to aerate the fire, so that the kindling catches. Once the kindling has caught light, you can start to add smaller pieces of firewood, gradually building up to larger pieces. In order to cook on a campfire, you want the flames to have died down a little, and the logs to be glowing with a white-ash colour. You probably want to get your fire started at least an hour before you want to start cooking, and bear in mind that campfire cooking generally takes longer than conventional cooking at home. Always keep a bucket of water or sand nearby.
Here’s a couple of our favourite campfire recipes to get you started.
#1: Campfire nachos
What better way to end the day outside than with a cold beer, warm campfire, and a big pot full of cheesy nachos?
By using a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid, you can make nachos no matter where you are. So long as you include a little bit of liquid in the bottom (perhaps from your tomatoes, beans, or black olives) the steam created will melt the cheese and soften the chips slightly. The end result is tender chips, loaded with melted cheese and toppings.
Makes 2 servings for dinner, or 4 servings as an appetiser
PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 lb tortilla chips
- 1 (7.75 oz) can hot tomato sauce
- 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar is fine, but Mexican is best!)
- 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained
- 1 large avocado, cubed
- 4-5 spring onions, sliced
- handful of fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 small lime, cut into wedges
Lightly oil the bottom of a large Dutch oven, to prevent the nachos from sticking.
For the first layer, evenly spread 1/3 of the chips into the Dutch oven, topped with 1/4 can hot tomato sauce, 1/4 can black beans, 1/4 cup cheese, and a handful of avocado, green onions, and coriander. Repeat for the second layer.
For the third and final layer, use the remaining 1/3 portion of chips, 1/2 can hot tomato sauce, 1/2 can black beans, 1/2 cup cheese, and the remaining avocado, onion, and coriander.
Cover the Dutch oven and place on a metal grill over your campfire for about 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Pour yourself a beer, and serve the nachos with the lime wedges.
#2: Campfire tacos with sweet potato, black beans and poblano peppers
Makes 6 tacos
There’s nothing as delicious as smoky sweet potato tacos spiked with fiery poblano peppers, cooked over an open fire, and they are super easy to make.
PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 20 MINUTES
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium sweet potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- salt to taste
- 6 corn tortillas
- Hot sauce to serve
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Add the peppers, cumin, and a pinch of salt and continue to cook an additional 10 minutes, or until the potatoes and peppers are cooked through and tender.
In the meantime, prepare the black beans. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pot. Add half the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes, until it begins to turn translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans, lime juice, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes until the beans are heated through and the potatoes & peppers are done.
To assemble, heat the tortillas over your campfire. Spoon a scoop of beans into the tortilla, add a scoop of the potatoes and peppers, and top with whatever additional fixings you’d like!