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November 1, 2011 Comments (0) Grab Bag

The Camping Cookbook by Annie Bell

Annie Bell The Camping CookbookCamping is your vacation, your weekend getaway, and your respite from the daily grind.  In short, fun.  The sound of the fire crackling, sleeping under the stars, fresh air.  But the cooking…. oh the horror!  What to pack, what to cook, how to cook it?

  You could fall back on the “Wild West menu”: hot dogs on a stick and a can of beans eaten right out of the tin. Maybe the pizza guy would deliver every night-but it’s doubtful. The list of questions and concerns regarding cooking at the campsite can be endless.  Do yourself a favor and grab, “The Camping Cookbook by Annie Bell” (www.kylebooks.com $16.95). If you are unfamiliar with Ms. Bell, she has been a food writer for several years and has been featured in Vogue and Country Living.  I think she’s marvelous. 

The book starts out with her philosophy on why one would camp at all and continues with an anecdotal story of her first foray into camping with her husband Jonathan, who incidentally took all the photographs for the book.  The photos are bright, cheerful and capture the essence of outdoor cooking. Fresh, simple, delicious and comforting. Where the book really gets cooking {pardon the pun} is on the very next page where she describes the “Guide to a Guide”.  It rewired the way I think, pack and cook for my next outing.  It all starts with preparation (which seems logical and perhaps obvious).  But gone are the incidental items like measuring cups and spoons.  Bottles and bottles of spices and herbs?  Gone.  Unless you want them.  Her suggestions for organizing your “kitchen” and advice on equipment is super helpful.  In the section “Essential Kit”, I love the stackable bowls that include a sieve, colander and lemon squeezer.  It stacks and packs in a minimal amount of room, not like the bowls I’ve packed in the past that don’t quite fit together and then another awkward joining of spaghetti pot and colander (if I’ve even remembered it).  This grouping avoids that mess.  The chapter continues with other equipment items that make your  kitchen come together with a gentle reminder at the end to remember things like foil, matches, charcoal, garbage bags and of course, your tent!  (Also included are websites for camping equipment: again super helpful) 

Annie Bell The Camping CookbookMoving on to the next section has the traveling pantry listed as the “golden key”.  Here is where her advice truly starts to break the old standard of packing everything but the kitchen sink.   Ms. Bell believes that for outdoor cooking one flavor palette is the way to make life easier.  Mediterranean is her choice and I’ll agree wholeheartedly.  This cuisine includes the flavors of Spain, Italy, Greece, the Middle East and North Africa.  Very diversified and the flavors of these regions lend themselves to being cooked over open flame.  The list preceding may make it seem like you will indeed, be bringing your entire collection of spices from home, but that truly isn’t the case.  Moving further on, a camping marinade recipe is listed that can be combined with a variety of spice blends (recipes are given for making your own) to make any meal to your own liking.  

The aforementioned are scattered throughout the beginning of the book on bright yellow pages which point the reader to valuable information for achieving this relaxed cooking style.  With a quick flip of a page you could be looking at the recipes for spice blends or reviewing grill types as listed.  In addition the book offers over 90 recipes that take the worry and guess work out of your meals.  That doesn’t even include the recipes for the spice blends, marinade and glaze. 

Annie Bell The Camping CookbookSpeaking of the recipes, they are brief and uncomplicated, even though their titles sometimes suggest otherwise (Chicken Tangine with Pine Nuts and Raisins for example). They also include a short introduction that lends a further sense of the “I can do this” mentality that is sometimes vital to camp dinner preparation.  The jerk chicken is a great start.  I’ve made it several times and even my kids love it. (Quite a feat; If you have a picky eater at home, you feel my pain)  Cowboy Coffee beef is another standard.  It’s a stew-like meal that is just fabulous with rich gravy that doesn’t taste at all of coffee as she notes. 

Snacks like hummus and guacamole that take on a chunky appearance are brilliant to me.  Hummus has always had a smooth consistency; not easy to achieve at camp without electricity.  But mashing it with a fork doesn’t take away any of the flavor or comfort you’re looking for and it still takes just about five minutes to make.  

Bacon Sammie: need I say more?  You have to l-o-v-e a cookbook with a recipe for a bacon sandwich.  Also, the bacon cooks up in foil so there is no pan to clean, and you can cook yourself an egg in the rendered bacon fat and make yourself a truly wonderful breakfast.  Isn’t everything better cooked in bacon fat?  I think so! 

Annie Bell The Camping CookbookI will admit though, that the fish recipes have not been tried, much to my husband’s chagrin.  I am not a fish lover, so sadly I can’t comment on them; but if the sea fare is half as good as the land counterparts, fish eaters will feast! 

An ending to the day at camp with hot chocolate (with rum or whiskey for the adults-bonus!), sticky figs and spice cake makes me long to pitch a tent in the backyard.  Just as an excuse to make them. 

I have to say that this book sits on my shelf next to my other cookbooks, not with my camping gear.  It has been used many nights with my grill or stove taking the place of the camp grill or one ring burner that most of the recipes are meant for.  Also, the cookbook is encased in a water-resistant cover which is great for campsite or kitchen.  I’m a bit of a messy cook and if you set the book down on the damp grass, it’s also not going to be ruined. 

So if you are looking for a new twist in your camp kitchen, do yourself a favor and get “The Camping Cookbook” by Annie Bell.  The recipes are uncomplicated and refreshing and the tips are a bonus that almost make this two books in one. 

“The Camping Cookbook by Annie Bell”
www.kylebooks.com
$16.95

 

Annie Bell The Camping CookbookAnnie Bell The Camping CookbookAnnie Bell The Camping Cookbook

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