Inspiration: Camila Carlow

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A few weeks ago I received a very sweet comment from a reader who couldn’t quite get their head around what my blog was all about. “Broad” was mentioned. And yes, it is I suppose. It has evolved since I started it, but not much I don’t think. It’s still tied in to camping. Like a balloon to a log. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t wave about a bit!!! So while everything is linked back to the great things and experiences that can be found and had around a campfire, it’s also things that take my fancy, that inspire future adventures in the outdoors. Anyway, I couldn’t resist including a post on these stunning, delicate sculptures made of wild plants, wines, berries and moss. They’re exactly what took my fancy when I saw them and are probably guaranteed to cause even more confusion ….. oops.

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Created by Guatemalan-born, Bristol-based artist Camila Carlow, they form a collection called ‘eye heart and spleen’. All together the work is designed to encourage a little contemplation of the miraculous work taking place inside our bodies. Each piece sweetly revealing each living organism as a fragile, exquisite form. Each worth appreciation.

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I just think they’re so beautiful. And this made me think about the kinds of things we could all create when we’re outside, say, on future camping trips. A project to do with or without the kids. Imagine spending a few hours doing nothing more than noticing the little, tiny things all around us and using them to create sculptures about whatever tickles our fancy…..

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Now that’s a cool way to spend a good day exploring what’s around a campfire, don’t you think?

Camping Gear: Woollen Blankets by Forestry

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I put my old, warm, white cotton Country Road blanket we got as a wedding present on our bed last night. It’s officially chilly in London. Which got me thinking about these Forestry woollen blankets. The last time I was going to include them on the blog, it turned out to be such a hot weekend ahead that I decided to leave them until this cold day came. It’s the day when the ritual of pulling blankets down from the shelves where they’ve been hibernating makes you feel cosy and cuddly.

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Forestry is a design company in the Netherlands that specialises in high quality woven woollen plaids for the home. Kiwi designer Virginia Star Busmann named her company after Forestry Beach on the east coast of New Zealand. Once an in-house designer for one of New Zealand’s leading fabric companies, she has also designed a boutique children’s clothing collection which was available throughout Asia Pacific. These days she focuses on these 100% lamb’s wool blankets. They’re €129 and you can order them from here.

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Camp + Cook: The Best Baked Beans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I can see the delights and the convenience of a can of baked beans when you’re camping. It’s a super quick, healthy fix when you’re hungry and a great rescue from starvation if the rain comes down and puts out your campfire. But don’t you ever feel the need to be a little more adventurous than a can of Heinz? You know, like oh, I don’t know, making your own? Perhaps that doesn’t carry much appeal for most campers, but just think how good you’ll feel feeding your friends and family beans you baked up yourself.

This recipe is by Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate fame. If you’re not familiar with her blog or her book, What Katie Ate, Recipes and Other Bits & Bobs then you’ve seriously been missing out.

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These beans are truly delicious and dead simple to make. They have great depth and a divine layering of flavours that tinned baked beans simply don’t possess. Give them a whirl. You won’t want to crack open a can of beans again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the what:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, crushed

175g pancetta, excess fat removed, cut into 1cm pieces (I used lardons here, but you could also use normal rashers of bacon)

3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked (I used some dried thyme)

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 long red chilli, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon brown sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon hot English mustard

2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Here’s the how:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole dish. Add the onion, season with a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, add the pancetta and cook until crispy (I used one pan and added the bacon a bit before the onion just to save on washing up!). Add the pancetta to the onion mixture along with the thyme, tomato, chilli, sauces and mustards. Simmer for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and stir in the cannellini beans. Cook for 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes. (Add a little water if it gets to dry).

Toast some bread, serve the beans on top with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

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I made these the other day to give My Man something hearty for breakfast. He left before I came downstairs, but I was greeted with this little message on the family blackboard:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe’s not wrong.

 

Camp + Cook: The Great Mexican Breakfast

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Camping days are loooooong and busy. I believe in a big breakfast to get you through and this Mexican feast hits the spot. The best thing about it is that you make the tomato sauce before you leave, freeze and reheat it when you’re ready to go. It’ll feed two or a crowd and it can be as mild or spicy as you like and it’s brilliant for remedy after one too many drinks around the campfire the night before. This batch feeds 4, but I always double or triple it. It’s from Thomasina Meiers’ Mexican Food Made Simple. You won’t want anything else for breakfast once you’ve tried it.

Here’s the what:

5-6 tablespoons lard or dripping

1 large onion

1 -2 red chillies, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tins tomatoes

sea salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon piloncillo or demerara sugar

A generous few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce

A small handful of chopped tarragon

corn tortillas, chipattis or other flat breads

eggs

60g Lancashire cheese

Here’s the how:

First get the tomato sauce cooking.. Heat 2 tablespoons of the lard in a wide saucepan and add the onion and chilli. Let them sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, cook for a few minutes more, and then add the tomatoes. Season the sauce well with salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire Sauce, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to make a roughly textured sauce. Leave the tomatoes to gently cook over a low heat for half and hour, adding a little water if they get too dry.

When you’re ready to eat, melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of the lard in a frying pan and gently turn the flat breads in the fat. You can easily heat these in a dry saucepan as well if you prefer. If you’re home you can put them in a low oven to keep warm, if you’re camping, I wouldn’t worry about keeping them warm.

Add the tarragon to the sauce and stir. Fry the eggs.

Put a flatbread on each plate, spoon the sauce on top. Be generous! Pop a fried egg or two on the sauce and scatter with a little more tarragon and grated Lancashire cheese.

If you like it spicy, just take chilli flakes with you and add to the sauce. A bit of bacon never hurts either ….

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Out There: Camp in the Grand Canyon

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We all know how stunning the Grand Canyon is, but did you know you can camp there? The campsite is at Havasu Falls near Supai, Arizona and is the sacred home to the Havasupai Indians, the “people of the blue-green water”. Campers set out from Hualapai Hilltop and hike a 10 mile trail through rock canyons to the campsite (although you can catch a helicopter, horse ride in or have donkeys carry your gear). Supai is the only place in the Grand Canyon still inhabited by native people and it’s from here you can visit the four local waterfalls: Navajo, Havasu, Mooney and Beaver Falls.

The waters are turquoise thanks to the high levels of magnesium in the water and you can swim in the pristine travertine pools and hike along the many river beds. Seriously beautiful. Makes you want to get out there. See here for more information.

 

A Camping Trip

We finally got the chance to pitch tents, unroll sleeping bags, light the campfire and enjoy a camping weekend. Great friends, happy kids, a nearby castle and an ever-so-slightly nearby gastro pub …. what’s not to like. I’m already planning one more trip before Winter just so the kids can feel free, I can cook up a storm and we can all just be outside and away from the oh-so-urban London for a while.

It was a pretty foody weekend. One highlight was Saturday lunch. I braved cooking Jamie Oliver’s crispy barbequed side of salmon with cucumber yoghurt from Jamie At Home which, with a bit of help from the menfolk, was a huge success. So here’s the recipe. Give it a try, it’s seriously yummy.

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1 x 1.5kg side of salmon, scaled and pinboned

zest and juice of 1 lemon

a bunch of fresh dill (or fennel tops) and/or basil, leaves picked and finely chopped

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cucumber, peeled lengthways at intervals if you like

300ml natural yoghurt

1 fresh red chilli

a small bunch of fresh mint, dill or oregano, leaves picked and chopped

extra virgin olive oil

Make sure you have a clean BBQ or use a stainless steel cake cooler on top of your BBQ, grill or fire pit. Place the salmon skin side down on a plastic board and, using a sharp knife, slash it evenly all over on the fleshy side, making the incisions about 1cm deep. Scatter the lemon zest and most of the shopped fennel tops, dill or basil over the salmon, then push these flavourings into the incisions. Rub the fish lightly all over with olive oil then season with salt and pepper, giving the skin side a generous amount as most of this will fall off.

When your barbie’s ready (medium-hot: too hot and you’ll crisp the skin before the fish is cooked), lay the salmon on the bars, skin side down. The flesh will start to colour from the bottom up and after about 4 minutes the skin should be beautifully golden brown. Carefully flip the salmon over (I bought two of the cake coolers. Lay the spare one on top making sure the fish is oiled enough, grab the two and flip and start barbequing on the other one. Voila!). Cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes on the other side. While it’s cooking, gently ease the skin away from the flesh and put it on the BBQ alongside to crisp up. Allow the skin to cool before breaking into pieces, like crackling.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, remove and discard the seeds, chop it up and mix with the yoghurt. Balance the flavours with the lemon juice, half the chopped chilli, and half the chopped dill, mint or oregano. Drizzle over a little of the extra virgin olive oil. Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper.

Delicious!!!

I’ll post the rest of our weekend menu over the coming days including my favourite Mexican breakfast and corn with chimichurri sauce. We ate like camping kings!

 

BRING Instagram TO LIFE

01instagramAs someone who started life in magazine publishing, I have greeted the move to digital with some hesitation. Does anything really beat the smell of newsprint, the joy of flicking pages in a newly delivered magazine, relaxing by a campfire with a book in your hands, or going through old photo albums? I have loads of photos I barely look at because they’re all on my iPhone or my iPad or my iWhatever …. Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted about an Australian company who will print your Instagram images in gorgeous retro-style prints, Origrami. Well, I’ve just discovered an American company, Artifact Uprising who are doing the same. Inspired by the “disappearing beauty of the tangible”, the options they offer are just stunning. Hard and soft cover books, print sets and calendars. Sophisticated, elegant and beautiful, they’re a gorgeous way to keep your Instagram images out in the open. My favourites are the wooden boxes made with Colorado Beetle Kill wood. This means only wood from trees that have fallen due to nasty pine beetles is used. It’s a beautiful greyish-blue colour which serves as a soft backdrop for your images and keeps healthy trees safe. And the boxes hold all the books they make too. Prices start at just over a US tenner. Aren’t you tempted?

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Caravan Camping Hotel Style

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I appreciate that not everyone takes to the idea of camping under canvas with unbridled glee, but it’s pretty hard to resist a gorgeously rescued retro caravan. And if anyone has their doubts about sleeping al fresco, you could always book a weekend with friends to the delightful Huettenpalast Hotel in Berlin. Housed in a big old factory hall, there is a huge space which has three caravans and three cabins. There are sweet communal areas so you can easily socialise around the campervans. There’s also a charming street-side cafe and more traditional hotel rooms if you fancy. Prices start at €65 for a double. Not a bad way to ease people into the idea …

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Photos by Jan Brockhaus

Great Camping Kit

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One of the first pieces of camping kit I bought was a stack of food prep bowls by Joseph Joseph, an incredibly cool and clever English design company established in 2003 by brothers Richard and Antony Joseph. They’ve been absolutely brilliant and have saved the day on numerous camping trips when we’re tried to drain enough pasta for 14 kids. And then serve it! Now there’s a new Nest stack called the 9 Plus which comes with two mixing bowls, five measuring cups (which I’ve also used as mini-serving bowls for herbs and nuts and things like that), a stainless steel mesh sieve and a large colander. I never camp without mine.

But I’ve got my eye on a couple more things now too, like the Fold Flat Grater, because well, it folds flat and it’s got a brilliant corner handle so you can grate veg, cheese or nuts directly over your food really easily.

And then there’s this funky Wash & Drain with an integrated plug which will also strain for food particles so it’s easy to pop them in a bin bag, big handles and high sides which would also make washing up pretty easy when camping. I reckon it could be really handy.

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Visit their site. It’s fun to see what the other things they’ve come up with. Let me know what you buy!

Camp + Cook

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I recently bought a fabulous cookbook called Whole Larder Love: Grow, Gather, Hunt, Cook by Australian blogger Rohan Anderson and published by powerHouse Books. He’s a wonderfully adventurous cook with a brilliant life/food philosophy. He’s been described as a modern-day hunter-gatherer and he is just that. I love his style. I love his sense of humour and I love how (and what) he loves to cook. Next week I’m going to feature a couple more of his recipes, too. If Rohan Anderson can’t encourage us British campers to ditch the pub and do some campfire cooking, I don’t know who can.

Anyway, this is his Nettle Pappardelle, which makes great use of all those annoying nettles that seem to surround every campsite in this country! “Stinging nettle has long been sought after for its health benefits and obviously, edibility,” says Anderson. “It is slightly spinach-like in flavour and will knock the socks off the most dedicated carnivore. You will often find it in impoverished soil or under the shelter of large trees where the sheep take shelter. I carry a pair of rigger’s gloves and garbage bags in the truck just in case I discover a patch, because it’s gold and when it’s available it’s on the menu immediately.”

Here’s the what:

2 large handfuls of nettles

300g parpardelle, linguine or spaghetti

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup pine nuts

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Here’s the how:

Panfry the pine nuts in a glug of olive oil for a minutes until they turn slightly golden. Remove from the pan when toasted. Use tongs or gloves to place the nettles in a large pot. Boil it for a few minutes, and then pour out into a strainer. When the nettles have cooled down, squeeze out the excess liquid. (Don’t worry about getting stung as the toxins are destroyed in the boiling process. Just wear gloves while you’re picking it and keep the kids away!) In a mortar and pestle (unless you camp with a Philips cordless rechargeable hand blender or this Breville one. Seriously tempting, huh?), work the nettles, cheese and toasted pine nuts until you get a reasonably smooth consistency. Slowly add some olive oil to turn the mix into more of a sauce. Season to taste and serve with al dente pasta.

Try it with a squeeze of lemon and/or some dried chilli flakes. And, if you’re feeding loads of people, and chances are you might be, just double or triple everything!

Simple, fast, forager food. Who wouldn’t be proud of whipping this up at a campsite?