Do COVID travel restrictions have you missing one of the fundamental parts of a travel experience – the food? Do you miss trying new delights, learning the stories behind them, and then bringing that knowledge home to your own kitchen? If so, take heart. If you are among the thousands of Canadians safely vacationing in campgrounds this summer, you have an opportunity to indulge your inner foodie in a whole new way.
The Campground Chef
You don’t need experience to excel as a campground chef. You only need a few basic tools, a fire or portable heat source, and a natural curiosity about trying new things.
Your experience starts with food safety. Whether you are in a camper, tent, or under the stars, your proteins and animal products must remain within food-safe temperatures at all times. Invest in cold packs, not just ice packs, and a high-quality cooler. Or, if in an RV, do the maintenance needed to ensure your fridge is in working order and the power remains on.
Food safety extends beyond storage. An instant-read thermometer is a must for cooking meat over a flame or grill. Campfire cooking temperatures are unpredictable; a thermometer lets you know if the food is done as the outside can char faster than the inside can cook.
What to Try
Get ready to take your taste buds to North Africa. Although Shakshuka originated from Africa, you’ll find it all over the Middle East and parts of Europe. It’s an easy dish to make over a campfire because it involves one pan and ingredients easy to transport, like canned tomatoes and eggs. Serious Eats has a good shakshuka recipe that you can easily adapt as needed. Be sure to bring along some artisanal bread to toast up over the grill and use as a mop for the delicious tomato sauce.
Next stop, Greece. Spanakopita is the delicious, vegetarian Greek hand pie that wraps a savoury spinach and feta filing around layers of crunch phyllo. The skillet version takes the work out of wrapping each packet and instead lets you build layers in the pan before cooking it to perfection. To enjoy skillet spanakopita over a campfire or grill, assemble this dish ahead of time, wrap it up in foil or plastic, then remove the wrapping at your destination and enjoy it on the first night of your camping adventure. Check out this recipe for a step-by-step guide on how to make skillet spanakopita.
Good Old Grilled Cheese (And Other Toasted Sandwiches)
Grilled cheese is a staple of any camping trip, but why not take it to the next level? For a tasty treat, combine – and just trust me here, this really works – thin slices of crisp green apple, slices of red onion, and grated sharp cheddar cheese. Put this inside two slices of thick-cut rye and toast in the pan until you get that cheese pull.
You are not limited to grilling cheese sandwiches. The standard PB&J goes to new heights with a little campfire grilling, and when you put slices of banana in there, you’ve got yourself a complete, tasty breakfast.
Of course, smores are pretty much mandatory when camping, and this presents yet another opportunity for an elevated grilled sandwich. Consider a smores bar where you bring different flavours of marshmallows/marshmallow spreads, a variety of chocolates, and sweet-tasting bread (cinnamon raisin, pound cake slices, etc.) and having DIY s’more-inspired sandwiches. Bulk Barn makes it easy to get a variety of chocolate for the filling, from little Aero minis to dairy-free chocolate chunks.
When you may be longing for the food experiences that come with travel, don’t overlook the chance to create your own gourmet experience while staycationing close to home. With a few ingredients and a little imagination, you can take your taste buds around the world from the comfort of your own campfire.