AFTER a decade of working in the outdoors industry and cooking over an open fire, Liz Ho has shared her favourite campfire recipes with Ever Wild Outdoors.
The face of CampingGuidance.com, Liz has spent countless hours round the campfire perfecting her meals and treats. Here, she’s picked out her top five main dishes, and kindly thrown in her best quick snack ideas too – as a special treat for Ever Wild Outdoors readers!
Campfire cooking – Liz Ho’s favourites:
Korean Army Stew
Also known as ‘Budae Jjigae’, this is one of my favourite recipes from camping as a child. This dish originated during the Korean War in the 50s and is a fusion of Korean ingredients and American military food items. It’s evolved over time to become a beloved comfort food!
The stew is typically made by combining gochujang (Korean red chilli paste) with water in a communal pot to make a broth, and them simmered with various ingredients such as sliced sausage (or, the traditional Spam), ham, tofu, instant ramen noodles, kimchi, sliced vegetables (such as onions, cabbage, and mushrooms), and sometimes even cheese.
This is a classic dish from the north of Mexico, and it’s a great option for big groups as it can make a large portion and can be eaten in lots of different ways. The name ‘Discada’ comes from the name of the metal dish it is traditionally cooked in, called a ‘disco’!
To make this dish you just need to combine your favourite meats, vegetables and spices in a large, deep dish until cooked through and seasoned to perfection! Remember lime and cilantro to garnish, and then serve with crusty bread or in tacos.
Bacon and Eggs in a Bag
It’s true that just about anything you can cook at home you can cook on a campfire, with the right equipment! But, if you don’t have that equipment, this classic breakfast dish can still be achieved.
Simply crack a couple of eggs into a Ziploc bag, then add in other chopped ingredients to add some extra flavour, such as bacon or sausage, onions, cheese or tomatoes – not forgetting the all-important seasoning, then give the sealed bag a really good shake! Once all the ingredients are mixed through, just place the sealed bag into a boiling pot of water for around ten minutes, or until it’s cooked through.
Fire Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Start by piercing each sweet potato all over with a fork, then wrap them up tightly in tin foil. A medium sweet potato will take around an hour to cook all the way through, so these are something to plan ahead for.
Pop your sweet potatoes around the base of the fire – not directly in the flames and turn them after about half an hour. Once they’re soft all the way through, carefully take them off the fire and let them cool for a few minutes. Once cool, cut them in half, throw on a pat of butter, a pinch of salt, and a couple of mini marshmallows! Wrap them all back up for a few minutes to let the butter and marshmallows melt, and then enjoy!
Campfire Pizza Quesadillas
Pizza is a much-loved takeaway meal, so you know this is a dish that will be welcomed by everyone around the campfire! For this dish you can either use pre-made pizza dough or simple flatbreads for your base, and then you just need to layer your favourite toppings! Basic rule of thumb is tomato sauce goes on first, and cheese goes on last.
To cook, just place on a camp grill or cast-iron skillet over the campfire until the cheese has melted and the dough is crisp and bubbly. To make this into a quesadilla, only fill half the pizza base or flatbread with toppings, then fold the base in half to make a pocket for the fillings.
Campfire cooking – quick treats:
Grilled Fruit Kebabs
These are an easy food-on-a-stick idea that will be fun to make but also pretty refreshing to munch on after a long day! Slice up a range of fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, mangoes and pineapple into thick cubes, and layer them on a toasting stick and place them on a grill grate over the campfire. The heat will caramelise the natural sugars, making them a sweet treat for the whole family.
Bailey’s Dipped Toasted Marshmallows
This twist on a classic is certainly one for the grown-ups! It really doesn’t get much simpler than toasting marshmallows over the hot coals as you would normally, but then before eating, you dip the marshmallows into a cup of Bailey’s. Creamy, gooey, goodness. Beware: this can get messy!
Another twist on a classic camping treat, but to make these s’mores you just need to swap your plain biscuits or crackers for choc chip cookies instead. Then you just load your cookies with a portion of your favourite chocolate bar and a marshmallow freshly toasted from the fire, then pop another cookie on top. Squish your s’mores together to let the marshmallow and the chocolate melt into each other, and then enjoy!
For this decadent treat you’ll need to slit a ripe banana lengthwise and then stuff it with chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and crushed biscuits. Carefully wrap the banana up in aluminium foil and place it in the campfire coals – not over the open fire – until the chocolate and marshmallows are melted and gooey.
Top pop your own popcorn for the perfect ghost story snacks, you just need to wrap a handful of kernels in aluminium foil with a knob of butter, and then carefully hold the tin parcel over the fire with fire-safe equipment until the popping sounds stop. Once popped, you can season your savoury snacks with salt or sugar to taste.
Warning: Things you should NEVER cook on a campfire
While there are very few dishes that can’t be made over a campfire with the right equipment, Liz Ho warns there are several things that should be avoided due to safety concerns or the chances of spoiling the food. It’s important to consider the suitability of cooking certain foods based on the available equipment, heat control, and safety.
Safety should always be the priority when cooking on a campfire, so make sure to choose cooking methods that are suitable for a safe outdoor cooking experience with a live fire. Things to avoid include:
Putting foods in glass containers on a campfire can be very dangerous as the glass could shatter due to uncontrollable heat from the fire. It’s best to transfer the contents to a more suitable dish or use heat-safe containers.
Meals that rely on dairy ingredients like creamy sauces or cheese-based casseroles are not ideal for cooking directly on a campfire as the high heat can cause the dairy to curdle or burn, resulting in an unpleasant taste and texture.
Foods requiring precise temperature control
Cooking foods that require precise temperature control, such as certain baked goods or delicate sauces, may be challenging on a campfire. The heat from a campfire can be difficult to regulate accurately, making it harder to achieve the desired results.
Foods with long cooking times
Campfires are generally better suited for quicker cooking methods. Foods that require lengthy cooking times, such as large roasts or tough cuts of meat, may not cook evenly or reach the desired level of tenderness over a campfire.
Campfire Safety Tips
While cooking on a campfire can be a lot of fun, remember to prioritise safety when cooking over an open fire, and ensure that you have the necessary equipment and supervision to avoid accidents. Here are five safety tips to keep in mind when cooking on a campfire:
Choose a suitable cooking area
The designated cooking area should be in a clearing away from flammable materials like tents, dry grass, and overhanging branches. You should use a fire pit or a cooking grate to contain the flames and prevent the fire from spreading.
Have water handy
Always make sure to have either a fire extinguisher, bucket of water, or pile of sand readily available in case of emergencies. These can be used to quickly extinguish any small fires that may occur from escaped sparks during cooking.
Use the right equipment
Use heat-resistant gloves and utensils, to protect yourself against burns or heat-related injuries. Use long-handled tongs, cooking sticks and spatulas when handling food over the fire, and heat-resistant gloves when touching grill grates, hot pots, or moving burning wood.
You must control and maintain your campfire at all times and keep it at a manageable size for your group. Avoid creating excessively large flames, as this can cause uncontrollable fires which may pose a safety risk to others. Use dry firewood and charcoal specifically designed for cooking to ensure a controllable flame.
Always be there
You should never leave your campfire unattended, even once you’re finished cooking. Unattended fires can change in the blink of an eye and may spread if you’re not paying attention. Make sure you always have a clear view of your campfire.
When it’s time to pack up and leave, you need to also make sure that your campfire is extinguished fully. This can be done by pouring plenty of water over the flames or coals and stirring it into the ashes. For added safety, add sand to your extinguished campfire to ensure the fire has been completely extinguished.
Fire safety should always be a priority when cooking over an open fire or a campfire, to ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience for all.