– Invest in a camp-oven. This is like a cast-iron casserole dish that can sit in the coals or on a grill rack over the fire. They are available from outdoor and adventure gear shops and are ideal for making soups, stews, Bolognese and vegetable sauces, damper, and desserts such as bread and butter pudding.
– Decant larger packets of food into smaller containers before you head out. Write the contents on the lid using a washable marker as most of the time you’ll be rummaging around in boxes to find things and the lid will be the easiest to spot.
– Plan lots of one-pot meals, which equals far less washing up and you can hide the vegetables from the kids if you need to! These meals can also cook quite happily over the fire for a few hours while you relax at the end of the day.
– Start your dinner preparation during daylight hours. It’s not much fun chopping in the dark.
– Plan meals – particularly lunches – that the kids can prepare themselves or with some adult supervision. Dishes such as filled pitta pockets, tortillas, mini burgers, marinated chicken on skewers and damper are all ideal. Always keep a close eye on the kids around any open fires.
– If you know you’re going to make pancakes for breakfast one day, measure out the flour, sugar and salt into a zip-lock bag before you go, then all you have to do is add the wet ingredients when it’s time to cook. This same method applies to anything that you might need to weigh.
– Put a bit of thought into how you pack your esky. Pack cheeses and sliced meats into shallow containers to prevent them getting squashed. Wrap them well to prevent cross-contamination.
– A small selection of herbs and spices can make a huge difference to simple campfire cooking. Think about including dried oregano, which is perfect on a Greek feta salad, in a marinade for meat or fish, or sprinkled over a stew a few minutes before serving. Chilli powder is another good one for marinades and stews, while a sprinkling of dried cumin and coriander add depth to marinades and to camp-made burgers and meat koftas.
– Think about which utensils you will really use while camping. If you don’t have access to much running water then a vegetable peeler will probably be useful, but if you can just scrub and rinse your vegies then leave it at home.
– A collapsible sieve might seem unnecessary, but it’s amazing how many times I’ve used mine for draining pasta and rice, for rinsing cans of beans or simply as an extra bowl while I’m preparing food. These sieves pack flat and don’t take up much room.
Katy Holder is the author of the Hungry Campers Cookbook (Explore Australia, $32.99 pb and $14.95 e-book, onsale now: www.exploreaustralia.net.au. For more information about camping and cooking head to Katy’s blog One Red Teaspoon www.katyholder.com/blog.