Camping Gear you never knew you wanted: The Salt Plate

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You’ve got your trusty BBQ tongs, your Camp Bistro stove and your perfectly-sized enamel mug, but don’t you sometimes, just sometimes, want to pack something to wow yourself with when you go camping? Oh yeah you would. And here it is. A gloriously blushing Himalayan Salt Plate. Hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is mineral rich and believed to be one of the most pure salts in the world.

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Choose a plate that is 1.5″ to 2″ thick and these can be used not only for serving food (while seasoning it) but also for cooking food (while seasoning it)!  Salt plates can hold specific temperatures for extended periods of time, so chill them and serve ice creams, or heat them up – slowly – to cook delicately seasoned fish, meat and vegetables.

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These salt plates will go directly on a gas grill, over a charcoal BBQ and on a stovetop. For loads of information on how to use and care for a salt plate check out Salt News. And order one – you know you want to – from aFire Inc or Food52. Prices start at $US39.99.

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Images via Food52 & aFire Inc with thanks.

The Grill of Campions (!!!): The Plancha

VUE_FACE-PLAA-REI’m flexing my camping muscles for the first time this year. They’re a little rusty, but packing is underway for this weekend’s camping trip. When I say underway, I mean I’ve relieved four new sleeping bags from their packaging. And put them on the couch. Anyway …, I’m enjoying the fantasy that I’ll have space in the car for some bits of new camping kit. I may have to leave one kid at home, but hey.

Top of my list is a Plancha gas grill. I mean just look at this baby. Glorious.

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They heat up in three minutes, are easy to clean, can handle cooking lots of things that don’t work on a barbie and you can cook for up to 12 people at once. Seriously. Think about it. Millions of burger-flippers the world over can not be wrong.Verycook_20

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See for yourself how great they are over here. I’m seriously in love. Now comes the hard part. Choosing the colour. There are 10 of them. Oh, and deciding which kid to leave behind…

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Friday Foodie: Dirty Kitchen Secrets

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If I ever find myself on death row (you never know, it could happen), and I made it all the way through to the last meal deal, I would choose Lebanese food. It is my end-of-the-universe, last-taste-ever favourite food. The care, attention and endless, yet impressively sociable hours people from this region are prepared to put into lunch is truly awe-inspiring. And the results? Indulgent in the best possible way, super healthy and criminally delicious. I just might kill for Lebanese food I love it so. (And that’ll be me on death row right there…)

It was with a squeal of greedy, great big joy that I  discovered Bethany Kehdy. A gorgeous, zesty Lebanese-American who now lives in the West Country of England. Yeah, well, strange things can happen to you too, you know.

Anyway, whisked away from the southern states of American to Lebanon, her and her father’s family distanced themselves from the Lebanese civil war in the mountains where her father established a farm. It was here Kehdy learned about Lebanese food right from watering orchards, harvesting fruits and chasing after chickens. She made cheese and milked cows. She really knows her stuff and she cooks with absolute delight.

There are hundreds of things I would make from this site, and plenty of recipes that will delight any fellow campers lucky enough to find themselves around your campfire when you serve up one of Kehdy’s dishes. Go Lebanese my friends. You will not regret it. Here are my camping-friendly faves:

Pomegranate & za-atar lamb riblets (pic above). Find the recipe here. 

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The recipe for rosemary & chilli ketchup is here.

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Lamburghinis with barberry and pistachio relish, recipe here

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Lebanese butterflied chicken, recipe here

dirtykitchen_13And tabbouleh, here.

Make them all.

Dirty Kitchen Secrets was launched in 2008 after Kehdy moved here from Hawaii and she has since spun her lovely blog into her first published cookbook: The Jewelled Kitchen. You can buy it here.

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Photographs via Dirty Kitchen Secrets.

Camping Gear: New Waterproof Camera by Nikon

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Nikon, beloved of bloggers, professional photographers and well, anyone who takes pictures, have come up with the world’s first waterproof and shockproof digital camera with interchangeable lenses. The 1 AW1 can handle water up to 15m (and a seriously rainy day) and can take an accidental drop of up to 2m. I mean, was there ever a camera made more for wild camping than this one??! I could go into all the super fancy details like the high-speed continuous shooting rates or the wide maximum aperture and so on, but you can read about it here.

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Nikon promises the 1 AW1 is quick and easy to use and has been deliberately designed to be just that. It has a control lock function that stops accidental operation that can happen if you’re wearing gloves or even mittens!

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This little gem of a camera may as well have been designed especially for us camping-lovers and this for me makes this camera worth buying. My favourite would be the rather 007-sounding ‘Action Button’. Rather than fumbling with multiple buttons and digging through endless menus, you can just hold down the Action Button, then tilt the camera left or right to select items such as shooting mode, display contrast/brightness and other settings from an intuitively designed layout. After releasing the button, your settings remain in place until you choose to change them again. Genius. You could be snapping away and BBQing at the same time ….

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Friday Foodies: Green Kitchen Stories

Portobello_burgerI’ve been thinking a lot about how to generate useful camping-related posts here ever since someone hit the Autumn button in London and the temperature dropped rapidly. While I have camped in some chilly conditions before, I’m certainly not geared up for winter camping expeditions like, say, uber camper Martin Dorey. And I’m no Bear Grylls. I like to be warm and comfortable, as you can probably tell by my approach to camping!

So I have devised a loose plan to get us all through the northern winter. The next few months will be about stockpiling ideas and gear, inspiration and bits and pieces that will be ready and waiting for when we’re all ready to pitch our tents again. I’ll be cooking and sourcing fabulous camping food you’ll want to cook. And I’ll be seeking out the best, most stylish and incredibly useful gear for around the campfire.

What you’re reading now is FRIDAY FOODIES. I spend many an enjoyable hour cruising around the internet reading great food, design, architecture, travel, fashion and lifestyle blogs. I read a lot. But food is probably my favourite topic of late. And rather than attempting to recreate some of the already superb recipes I find, I’m going to curate a vibrant, delicious collection of them and introduce you to some of my most-loved blogs. They’ll be dishes you can eat now, but will always work on a campsite and over a campfire. Enjoy them and let me know what you think!

The first in this new collection is from Green Kitchen Stories. Created by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl, their blog, cookbook and Green Kitchen app are wonderful showcases for their stunning-yet-simple vegetarian food. They’re the kind of seemingly effortlessly calm and successful couple most of us can only aspire to be. What started on a small dance floor in Rome some years ago, has become a fulfilling and rich shared life revolving around their little daughter Elsa and glorious, brave, healthful and exciting food. These two lean heavily on their Swedish and Danish roots and if you don’t know anything about Scandinavian food, you’re in for a real treat. These people from the north seriously know how to eat!

Read their blog, buy their book and cook these divine burgers. Click here for the recipe.

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Photos by Johanna Frankel

Camp + Cook: Lindsey Bareham – Persian Kebabs with Beetroot and Anchovy Salad

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I had a completely differently post planned for today. But it’s 25 degrees in London and no-one wants to think about woollen blankets from the Netherlands no matter how beautiful they are! So I’m skipping to our new Camp + Cook featuring recipes from the wonderful Lindsey Bareham’s new book The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales. I have enjoyed Bareham’s cooking since I bought her delightful book The Big Red Book of Tomatoes way back in 2000. This recipe is divine and a great one for the campfire this gorgeously hot weekend, or even for your backyard BBQ if you’re not lucky enough to be camping this weekend.

“It’s always intriguing to come across a recipe with a seemingly random ingredient that proves to be the making of the dish,” says Bareham. “That’s the case with these gorgeously meaty kebabs, and bicarbonate of soda is the curiosity. While its effect seems to encourage stickiness, you will get the best results if the mix of the minced lamb and beef is quite fatty to retain moisture and juiciness. The meat is seasoned only with grated onion, salt, pepper and the bicarb. It is kneaded like dough and ends up almost like a paste that is easily formed into big, fat sausages to thread on flat stainless steel skewers. As the kebabs cook, they are basted with melted butter seasoned with crushed garlic and a hint of lime. the last of the butter is mixed with chopped parsley to give a bright green finish to the Persian-style koobideh. Serve with rice, pickled green chillies, crusty bread, hummus and this agrodolce beetroot salad livened up with anchovies. The latter is also very good with hard-boiled eggs or feta cheese.”

Here’s the what:

2 medium onions

500g minced lamb, preferably shoulder

500g minced beef

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

125g unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed

a squeeze of lime or lemon

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the beetroot salad:

approx 900g medium-small beetroot

1 large lemon

2 red onions, approx 200g

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp dried crushed chillies

1 tbsp Belazu balsamic vinegar

200g sun-drenched/sun-blushed tomatoes in oil

10 pickled garlic cloves, from a jar

1 tbsp capers

100g Adriatic anchovy fillets

1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Here’s the how:

Peel and halve the onions. Grate on the large hole of a box grater into a mixing bowl. Add the minced meat, salt, pepper and bicarb. Mix, then knead with your hands for 5 minutes until smooth and almost like a paste. Leave for 15 minutes at room temperature, then, with damp hands, form into 10 or 12 small orange-size balls. Roll into sausage-shapes, transferring them to a plate as you go. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. (I would do this before going camping and keep them in my cooler). Thread on to flat skewers when you are ready to cook.

Make the baste by melting the butter, then stir in the crushed garlic and a squeeze of lime. When the coals are ready (or the ridged griddle very hot), BBQ without resting the meat on the grill if possible, i.e. with one end of the skewer on the back edge and the other on the front. Baste with melted butter as you turn the kabobs, cooking until done to your liking. Mix the parsley into the last of the butter and smear the kebabs before serving.

To make the salad, cook the unpeeled beets in boiling, salted water in a covered pan for about 20 minutes, until just tender to the point of a knife. Drain, then slip into your Marigolds and rub off the skin. With fork and knife, trim away any stalk and cut the beets into kebab-sized chunks. Squeeze the lemon over the top and season with salt and the chilli flakes. Cook for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook briefly until syrupy.

Tip the tomatoes into a sieve to drain. Slice the garlic into think rounds. Add the prepared beets, tomatoes, capers and garlic into thick rounds. Add the prepared beets, tomatoes, capers and garlic. Stir, then tip on to a platter. Decorate with anchovy fillets and garnish with parsley.

Camp + Cook: Rohan Anderson

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So here is the final Rohan Anderson recipe for my Camp + Cook series (yes, I’m calling it that!!). And it’s a beautiful thing. Arrabiata Fish & Chips. It might not be the first sauce you turn to when it comes to coating your BBQ’d (or baked) fish, but I can seriously recommend it. Seriously. You can find this recipe in his wonderful book Whole Larder Love: Grow, Gather, Hunt, CookGo buy it, you’ll really enjoy cooking from it.

Here’s the what:

1 x whole fish (any whole fish around 1 pound)

5 slices hot salami, chopped

4 slices prosciutto, chopped

3 x large mushrooms, chopped

2 x onions, chopped

5 x cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups (500ml) passata

1 cup red wine

Knob of butter

1 handful parsley, chopped

1 handful black olives

Tabasco sauce

Plain flour

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

how ever many potatoes you need to feed everyone chips, roughly cut into chunks

1 tbsp dried thyme

Cooking oil

Here’s the how:

In the book the fish is roasted in an oven, which is great if you’re at home, but when camping BBQ it.

In a large pan, heat some olive oil and brown the salami and prosciutto on high heat until they get a little crisp, then turn down the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook them until softened.

Turn up the heat again, stir well. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping all the flavour goodness from the bottom. You should see a nice sauce forming. After the wine has reduced almost completely, add the passata, mushrooms, garlic, olives, parsley, and a splash of Tabasco. Stir all the ingredients well and season. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. If it reduces too much add a splash of water and stir through.

Wash the fish and pat dry. Dust both sides in flour. Heat the butter and a glug of oil in a new pan on high heat and brown the fish on both sides. We don’t want to fully cook the fish here, we just want to give the flavours a kick-start, so just a minute for each side. In the book Anderson pops a dollop of sauce in a baking dish, puts the fish on that and then spoons the remaining sauce over the fish. Then it’s baked for 20 minutes. If you are doing this while you’re camping (go you!), put some sauce in foil, the fish on top of that and ladle some, or all, of the remaining sauce on top of that. Close the foil and seal it tight. Then place the fish over the BBQ for 20 minutes.

To make the chips, parboil the potato chunks for five minutes, then drain. Heat about half a cup of cooking oil on high heat. When hot, place the potato in, and sprinkle over the dried thyme. Cook until golden brown.

When the fish is ready, pop it on a platter (I have a huge enamel one I take camping with me. It makes a great dish for loading anything and everything straight off the BBQ), pour on any remaining sauce , garnish it with parsley and place the chips around it to serve.

Yummo!!

And stay tuned. We have more fabulous recipes lined up for next week.

BioLite CampStove & Grill

BioLite Camp Stove

BioLite Camp Stove

This tiny little camping stove is genius. It runs on small twigs, bark or anything else your kids can find that you can safely set fire to. Light it up and the excess heat from the burner runs a thermoelectric generator, which powers a fan, which fans the flames, which creates heat without too much smoke. And there’s enough power left over to charge any electrical device that draws power via a USB. Can you believe it weighs less than a kilo and can boil a litre of water in just over 4 minutes? Handy.

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They’ve now also released a portable grill for the CampStove so you can have your own mini-BBQ.

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Better still, Alexander Drummond and Jonathan Cedar, the men behind BioLite, have also created HomeStove, a clean and safe stove designed to be used by the millions of people around the world who have to rely on smokey open fires to cook their daily meals. Now they’re some classy campers.