Great outdoors not the same without campfire cooking

These chilaquiles may not be totally traditional, but they are tasty and easy to make. A cast iron skillet is your best friend when roughing it — perfect for breakfast. | Sarah Galvin photo

We are more than ready for relaxing outdoors this summer. Canadians are fortunate to have wide open spaces to safely spend a pandemic summer. With luck, this will be our last pandemic summer for some time. Starry nights, campfires, sleeping out and nature walks are calling. Complement this with nice food and we are happy campers.

Campfire paella

I used a bag of frozen mixed seafood but you can make it with chicken thighs. Grill them until completely cooked before adding to the rice mixture or simply make a vegetable paella.

Keep in mind that campfires are not consistent heat sources the way that kitchen stoves are, so cook times can change based on variables, such as how hot your fire is or how close the grill grate is to the flame.

  • 1 lb. seafood, mussels, clams, shrimp, prawns, or a mix 500 g
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen peas or chopped asparagus 250 mL
  • 1/2 red or orange pepper, sliced
  • 3 c. chicken stock 750 mL
  • big pinch saffron
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil 45 mL
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional 2 mL
  • 1 c. short grained rice, Bomba is traditional but arborio is also good 250 mL
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine 125 mL
  • parsley, to garnish

Prepare the seafood, if necessary. Scrub the mussels and clams, debeard mussels and devein the shrimp or prawns if they aren’t already.

Place the clams in a large bowl of cold water to soak as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. If using frozen seafood, rinse under cool water and separate the pieces.

Heat and measure stock into a small bowl. Add the saffron and stir. Set aside. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.

Start your campfire. You will be cooking over the flames at high heat so no need to burn the wood down to embers. Skewer the cherry tomatoes and place on the grill over the fire to roast until the skin bursts and set aside. This helps to add a nice smoky flavour to the paella and it draws out some of the sweetness of the tomatoes. Then put the cast iron skillet over the fire.

Once your fire is going and the cast iron skillet is hot, add olive oil followed by the diced onion, salt and red pepper flakes. Sauté for about two minutes, until the onion is just beginning to soften.

Add the rice and the minced garlic to the skillet. Heat the rice, stirring frequently, two to three minutes or until it begins to turn golden, but not browned. Add the wine and stir until absorbed by the rice, about three minutes.

Add the paprika, stirring briefly to coat the rice and then add the stock with the saffron and give it a big stir to distribute all of the ingredients. Add the mussels, clams, and shrimp or chicken, if you are using that. Add roasted tomatoes, peas, asparagus and sliced peppers decoratively on top.

Now let it be and do not stir.

Cook until the rice is very tender. Add more liquid, if necessary.

The paella is done once the rice is tender, all of the liquid has been absorbed and you hear the rice start crackling. That is an indicator that the paella is forming socarrat, the wonderfully crunchy, brown crust that paella is known for.

Remove from the heat, garnish with parsley, and enjoy with a glass of the remaining wine.

Camp stove chilaquiles

  • large bag taco chips
  • 1/3 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 8 oz. jar taco sauce 125 mL
  • 2-4 eggs
  • cilantro, avocado, diced red onion, grated cheese, fresh lime slices

Heat the pan to medium. Add the oil and red onions and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften.

Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds and then add the taco sauce and a splash of water to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, then add the tortilla chips. Stir to coat.

To cook the eggs, move the tortillas to the outside edges of the skillet to create a well in the centre. Drop the eggs into the sauce and cook to your liking. You can scramble them or cover the skillet and allow them to simply poach in the sauce.

Then add the toppings. Serve immediately.

S’mores

Celebration cookies have a generous layer of either dark or milk chocolate and are an easy hack rather than toting graham crackers and pieces of chocolate.

Homemade marshmallows

  • 1 c. cold water, divided 250 mL
  • 3 – 1/4 oz. envelopes unflavoured gelatin 21 g
  • 2 c. white sugar 500 mL
  • 1 c. light corn syrup 250 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • vegetable spray oil
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 10 mL
  • 1/2 c. icing sugar, sifted 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch 60 mL

Lightly spray a 9 x 9 inch (22 x 22cm) pan with vegetable spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper that comes up the two opposite sides and also spray the parchment paper.

Place 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold water into the bowl of your electric mixer that is fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heavy two-quart (2.5 L) saucepan, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/2 cup (125 ml) cold water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Increase heat to maintain a boil, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240 F (115 C), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes and looks like thick marshmallow cream. Add vanilla extract and beat to combine, about 30 seconds longer.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and spread with an offset spatula or rubber spatula. The mixture is very sticky so just smooth it out as best as you can. Dust the top of the marshmallow with a mixture of the icing sugar and cornstarch and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until set, about eight hours.

Remove the marshmallow from the pan by gently lifting the parchment paper. Lift the marshmallow mixture onto a large cutting board that has been dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

You might have to use your fingers to help loosen the marshmallow from the pan. Peel off the parchment paper and dust marshmallow on all sides with icing sugar and cornstarch mixture. Cut the marshmallow into squares using a sharp knife.

Clean the knife after each cut. Dip the cut sides of the marshmallows in additional icing sugar mixture.

Shake off excess sugar and store the marshmallows in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to two weeks. Makes 36 – 1 1/2 inch marshmallows.

North Carolina coleslaw

  • 3/4 c. grated onion 175 mL
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil 175 mL
  • 1/4 c. ketchup 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 1 1/2 tsp. celery seeds 7 mL
  • 1 medium head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 c. coarsely grated peeled carrots 500 mL

Whisk first six ingredients in large bowl. Add cabbage and carrots and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least two hours. Serve chilled. Keeps three to five days refrigerated.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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