Read: Irish Examiner | How to cook like a camper
First published in the Irish Examiner on 4 August 2021.
Postponed plane trips, canceled overseas holidays and general uncertainty about travel outside of Ireland has led to a huge upsurge in camping. Narrow coastal roads are crammed with camper vans seeking campgrounds, tents are seeing a life beyond music festivals, and even back gardens have been pressed into service as overflow accommodation for overnighting friends and family. While finding a place to sleep is one of the most important things – stick to regular campgrounds if at all possible and, if wild camping, make absolutely sure that you leave no trace – eating well is also something that involves proper planning.
Camping used to be where all the cruddy food went, an unappetising diet of burnt sausages, lukewarm pot noodles and underdone, crunchy pasta, all cooked over a spluttery gas burner, with nary a vegetable in sight. But now eating well is a huge part of the appeal of camping and can be a brilliant way of getting newbies hooked on the idea of bypassing hotels.
Earlier this year Carrie Budds, together with her husband Malachy Duggan and daughter Easkey – collectively known as The Buggans Family – self-published Camping Soul Food, a book of camping recipes and playlists for all occasions. Now well into its second print run, it’s a smart collection of easy recipes that can be cooked anywhere, whether at home or on the road, with limited equipment and fridge space, inspired by their own adventures in Campie, a much loved classic 1990 Volkswagen campervan.
Budds is a firm advocate for camping involving good food: “When we first started camping, we lived on a diet of burgers, sausages and pasta pesto,” she says from that night’s accommodation: a campsite on the shores of Lough Derg. “It took us a while to figure out how to eat well on the go.” But this is not something that has to be complicated. “Making life as easy as possible is one of our top tips. One-pot wonders are great for camping, as you will normally only have access to one or two hob rings.”
Divided into chapters focusing on sunrise breakfasts – because everyone who camps wakes up early – lunch, adventures, sunset dinners and campfire treats (with a few cocktails thrown into the mix), Camping Soul Food has an assortment of recipes that work as well in a kitchen as in the great outdoors. That said, there’s something about eating a meal outside after a day of swimming and diving and walking that just tastes better, more earned somehow.
After working for five years as a health and wellness coach in Galway, Budds doesn’t believe that camping should be an excuse for bad eating: “My motto is also “eat well, move smart” when it comes to sustaining your health and fitness routines. Small changes have the biggest impact, so if you want to eat a bit better on your holidays just make one small change and you’ll feel so much better.”
While cooking in a camper van, on a camping stove or barbecue can be a challenge, it’s also a whole lot of fun and Camping Soul Food has a whole lot of nutritious hacks to make life easier. “Bring plenty of long lasting fruit – bananas, mandarins, apples – so that you can get one of your five a day in at breakfast.” One of the simplest recipes in the book – just three ingredients – involves fruit: “Also remember that if you have eggs and bananas you have a meal,” says Budds. “Banana pancakes anyone?”
As far as she’s concerned it’s not difficult to eat well while camping. “If you can try to get at least one portion of fruit and veg in at mealtimes, that’s a great way to get your nutrients,” Budds says. Basically “it’s as easy as when you’re at home. Which means that some days you’re all on board, and some days you can’t be bothered!” No excuses for bad food, whether you’re at home or out on the road.
Find Camping Soul Food online at campingsoulfood.com.
Six nutritious one-pot camping meals (that also taste good at home).
- “Number 1 has to be Jambalaya,” according to Budds. “The beauty of this rice dish is that you cook the rice in the sauce with the meat and veggies, so you really only need one pot.”
- Shakshuka, the Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a pan of simmering spiced tomato sauce, is ideal for one ring cooking. Add a tin of chickpeas and sprinkle with feta for extra protein, mopping up all the glorious flavours with flatbreads.
- If the sun decides to take a break and you need something more substantial, Budds recommends the simple one pot potato, mushroom and aubergine curry in Camping Soul Food. She describes it as ideal “for a typical Irish summer evening of mist and 12 degrees outside.”
- Sloppy Joes – a kind of deconstructed burger involving minced meat and peppers cooked in a smoky barbecue sauce, topped with grated cheese and served in a burger bun – are a brilliant option for cooler nights.
- After they had had their fill of pesto pasta, the Buggans started incorporating more vegetables into the classic dish: “we make a lovely creamy, leeky, mushroom pasta pesto that really hits the spot and is great to use up some leftover veggies.”
- Couscous is the perfect camping dinner because there’s no cooking necessary. For a smoked mackerel and couscous salad, just boil some water, add veggie stock powder to taste, pour over the couscous and cover with a lid or plate for 5 minutes. Toss with finely chopped broccoli, spring onions, lemon juice and olive oil. Season well. Serve topped with peppered smoked mackerel fillets (skinned and flaked) and lemon wedges to squeeze over.