BOIL IN THE BAG OR BROIL IN THE PAN?
So, you have found your ideal campsite, the shelter is up, your fire is going, it's getting cold and your getting tired. Time to recharge the battery, with a restful sleep on a full belly. But, one important question remains, what shall I have to eat!?
Roughly speaking, you will normally have two options - a ready meal (also referred to as an MRE (meal ready to eat)) or freshly prepared food. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Preparing ready meals usually involves adding boiling water or heating food up in a packet. Yes, it's quick, yes, it's convenient but it will rarely be as tasty, satisfying or nutritious as a freshly prepared meal. On the other hand, fresh food is tricky to transport, store, prepare and clean up after. Practicalities aside (you must decide what is best for you), here are our top 10 suggestions for a great meal or snack outdoors:
1) Stew - a good stew is heaven on earth, especially in colder weather. The great thing about stew is that it can be prepared in a single cooking pot which makes it very convenient for campfire cooking. Also, it is possible to prepare all the ingredients at home, so that no chopping or peeling need to be done in the field. If made in quantity, it can last several days, especially in cold weather, when refrigeration is not a problem.
2) Sausages - a good sausage is a wonderful thing. They are already designed to last a few days especially if they are heavily smoked, salted or dried. Take a stick, spear the sausage securely and cook over an open fire until cracked and sizzling. Put it in a bap or other bread, smother with ketchup and consume hungrily. Good source of fat and protein and fun to cook.
3) Bannock - a traditional unleavened bread made beside a campfire. A basic Bannock mixture consists very simply of flour, salt and water. The ingredients are mixed together to form a dough. The dough is then spread out into a thin loaf (approximately 1-2 inches in thickness) and cooked on a heated flat stone. Alternatively, the bread can be wrapped in silver foil and cooked in the glowing embers of a fire. Cooks in approximately half an hour. Making your own bread at the campsite means you do not need to carry in bread which can easily get squashed, damp or moldy. It also tastes great. Try adding your own ingredients (eg raisins, nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs, spices etc) to give it a unique twist. Good source of carbohydrates.
4) Eggs - a great source of fat and protein in its very own carry case. Extremely versatile and quick to cook, the humble egg can be prepared in hundreds of tasty ways. We would suggest buying a dedicated egg holder, to stop them from getting damaged in transit. Fry in pan, add to boiling soup, hard boil, bake, curry, pickle. Your imagination and taste buds are your only limitation. Personally, I like a nice fried egg, lightly runny yolk, with some Mexican style spices in a white bap. Pure outdoor breakfast heaven.
5) Trial mix also known as GORP (USA) - Some say that this stands for good old raisins and peanuts but there is no unified theory on this moot point. This is often a mixture of oats, nuts, dried fruits, chocolate (M&Ms are are favorite), sweets, puffed rice, cornflakes or just about anything else you like that is dried and keeps well. A good source of carbohydrates, sugars, fats, protein and fibre (depending on the mix).
6) Cheese - A tasty, energy packed food source that is fairly easy to store and transport. Extremely salty and mature cheeses such as Parmesan or Wookey Hole Cheddar will last a good while in the field, even without refrigeration. Cheese is easy to combine with other food and usually adds great additional flavour to bland food. Cheese is a good source of fat, protein, calcium and other minerals. Surprisingly, cheese and crackers makes a convenient and quick snack that is good at any time of day.
7) Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) - Basically, a ready meal in a can, bag or pouch. Easy to use and transport, MREs come in hundreds of different forms. Even canned baked beans with mini sausages added, can be considered an MRE as all the contents can be consumed even without cooking or heating. Some MREs are supplied in a self heating container (tin or pouch) which when opened and exposed to water or air, heats the foods up quickly and efficiently. However, MREs are rarely as tasty or nutritious as self made food. Sometimes though, their convenience can not be beaten, especially when climatic conditions are bad and getting a fire or stove going is just not practical.
8) Freeze dried meals - Similar to an MRE, a freeze dried meal will do the job when time or energy is at a premium. Often, all that is needed is the addition of boiling water, to the pouch the meal is supplied in. As with MREs, many varieties and flavours are available although naturally, we would recommend our MX3 meals (click here - http://www.bushgear.co.uk/collections/ready-meals to see our range). Personally, I keep a couple of freeze dried meals in my rucksack, just for emergency situations or for when cooking is too much of a chore. They are very light weight and easy to store, so a no brainer really.
9) Fruit - Tasty, hydrating and full of vitamins, sugars, minerals, fibre and more. Dedicated fruit storage devices make transportation a lot easier. Great for combating dehydration as well as digestive irregularities caused by eating too many dried and processed foods. Even canned fruit will do the job! We would recommend tinned pineapple for a nice tropical kick.
10) Chocolate - The ultimate high energy emergency food. I have literally seen a freezing cold person turn from blue to pink whilst eating a Mars bar. You could visibly see the energy and warmth flowing back into his body! The energy contained in most chocolate is very readily accessible to the human body and although it can cause energy levels to crash a while after consumption, its immediate benefits are obvious.
By any means, this is not an exhaustive list. Many of the suggestions here will appeal to many people but not to all. What is important, is what actually works for you. The best way to discover this is to try all the various options and see what agrees with your body and system.
Happy Camping and Bon Appetit!