I grew up camping with my family. I think we stayed in bed and breakfasts about three times in my childhood and the first time I stayed in a real hotel was probably when my Dad took me to New York when I was 14.
There is so much I love about camping: sitting outside late into the night, doing everything in the fresh air, the sense of community with your temporary neighbours. When we were kids we’d even love it when it rained as it meant we’d cycle to the bar of the nearest fancy hotel and spend the afternoon playing endless games of cards.
I’ve done a lot of camping with friends or Mr V in the last decade, but most of it has been at festivals, or while backpacking, or we’ve flown somewhere or got the train. So it’s all been more like having a tent to sleep in, but not really camping. This trip felt like the first time going back to those childhood camping holidays, where we literally brought the kitchen sink (or at least a washing up bowl) and cooked most meals ourselves. It felt so familiar.
My mum would always pack the same meal to eat when we arrived – rice and a tin of chicken in white sauce. I have many happy memories of eating this same meal in the dark or in the rain at the end of a long, long car journey. I brought a tin of chicken in white sauce on this holiday for old times’ sake, but it didn’t turn out to be our favourite meal. (Although, I think mine tasted better than Mr V’s, as it was seasoned with nostalgia)
The first full day Mr V and I were in France was a Sunday and we managed to find a supermarket just minutes before it closed. Our food shopping became a supermarket sweep as we both ricocheted around trying to get everything we needed before it shut. We’d bump into each other and go: “Squash!” “Mosquito repellant!” “Toothpaste!” and then dash off. Needless to say, we didn’t quite come out with a carefully considered meal plan, just a load of stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anyway. That’s how this recipe came about, when we found ourselves back at the campsite with a tin of beans, two courgettes and some leftover saucisson from lunch. It tasted so good that we actually made it three or four times while we were away!
I’m calling it a “recipe”, but really I think beans plus meat and veg in a pot is probably a) more of a formula than a recipe! and b) probably the oldest meal there is (if your beans weren’t tinned). But, hey, I made it and liked it, so thought I’d share
That stove there is a Trangia 27 and it’s one of my favourite camping tools ever (right up there with my Swiss Army knife). It’s a hand-me-down from my Dad and I thought it was dead but then I replaced the burner (the old one had corroded because my teenage self didn’t look after it very well). The rest of it is practially good as new even though it’s been used and used. It’s just one of those things that really, really works! It folds up into a unit about the size of a smallish saucepan, but inside it has the burner, windshield (it burns in all weathers, even rain) two saucepans, a frying pan and a handle for them all. Anyway. Not sponsored or anything but I love it.
I love the challenge of cooking on a single ring. You have to time everything right and juggle all the different elements of a meal, while only being able to heat things one at a time. Rice is pretty handy for this (using this method, it cooks itself perfectly after the initial blast), but cous cous is phenomenal! You just put half a mug of cous cous (for two people) in a bowl with (optional) a slug of olive oil and some salt, and then pour over 3/4 of a mug of boiling water and set aside (covered) for ten minutes or until you’re ready to eat it. Done.
Camping Bean Stew
Cous cous (half a mug)
Courgette (one or two small ones)
Saucisson (or other cured meat, such as chorizo or salami) (a couple of inches)
Tin of cannelloni beans (other beans would work) (about a 400g tin)
Cherry tomatoes (a handful)
Salt and Pepper
1) Boil your water for your cous cous first, then set it aside as detailed above.
2) Meanwhile, cut up the courgette and saucisson into slices (we later added leeks to the mix as well, with good results)
3) Fry the courgettes and saucisson in a little olive oil in the bottom of a saucepan (or in the frying pan if you have one)
4) Pour over the tin of beans, season, stir well and cover. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer until the beans are cooked.
5) When nearly ready, add the tomatoes (I like mine cut in half).
6) Serve with the cous cous.
Friends, I’m curious – what sort of family holiday did your family go on as a child? Do you find yourself gravitating back to the same things now your older? And, if you camp, what’s your favourite thing to cook when you’re there?