It’s a mild evening on the banks of the Fitzroy River, not far out of Broome. The sun is moving past the horizon and the sky is still touched with pink as another peaceful day draws to a close.
The fire cracks away inconspicuously as I wait in patience for harsh, hot coals to form in the pit. It’s not long off dinner time and I’m preparing for another meal to line these weary, yet relaxed bodies of ours.
From the outset, I must say I’ve never had much of a fondness for cooking. It never came easily to me, and I’d much rather be buried in a book than stuffing about in the kitchen baking or cooking up something delicious. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy cooking up something delicious for my family and friends, it’s just, there are other things I’d rather fill my time with.
Before we set out for adventure, our eating habits were pretty normal for two young professionals living in a city. We’d have a good breakfast before work, and we would generally prepare a good lunch (aside from takeaway once a week) – but that’s where it ends. Dinners were always a tough one for us, purely because we were both too busy or tired to take the time to create something yummy and nutritious. I was working exceptionally long hours and would find it hard to drum up the energy to get in the kitchen when I finally did get home after the commute, and Ben was working weird hours which meant he wanted to be asleep by seven. We found it really hard to prepare and sit down for a meal together – so takeaway became something of a weekly to twice-weekly occurrence and when we did cook dinner, it was only quick and always basic.
Fast-forward to our time on the road, and safe to say our cooking skills and general creativity for food have progressed and we tend to look forward to dinner time now – aside from the fact that we’re bloody hungry – we’re excited to see what we can create next.
We’ve also found we eat much healthier on the road – more veggies and fruit, less meat and smaller portion sizes. Maybe it’s to do with budgeting or travelling with limited space, but we feel better, cleaner and generally happier inside, and out.
Little did we know, it’s surprisingly easy to whip up something delicious and nutritious on the road. We have the time to think about what we’re doing now, which is a major factor. Endless time.
There are a few items which have proven invaluable for cooking up a feed on the road. A campfire is essential in our books, but you can’t always have one, so we’ll leave that to later.
- A gas stove
Ingenious. Ranging in price, this baby has been a godsend for us. We picked up a Wanderer two-burner stove from Bunnings when we first left because our camper trailer one was broke. It cost about $190 and we used it most days. We got a second one on warranty because the heating elements burnt out, so I wouldn’t say they’re great for everyday use, maybe just some regular camp trips.
We bought a second type a few months ago, again a Wanderer, this time a three-burner with different heating elements. It seems to be going alright. I think retail was about $150.
- A billy
Our favourite little piece of kitchenware. It’s a bajillion years old, has resided with the Kendall family for many years and always ends up on the stove or the fire heating up our water or boiling our pasta/ rice etc. It’s ratty and old as hell but it does the job well.
- A fireproof glove
Seems obvious but it’s the easiest way to get to the billy or the fire goodies quickly. Obviously has numerous uses, but first and foremost, it’s an easy way to move about the campfire safely. We also use it to remove the billy from the coals.
- A camp oven
A cast iron camp oven is another good one. It’s like a slow cooker for camping and you can really pack some flavor in there. We’ve done curries and casseroles and even pork knuckle in the trusty camp oven. Only kicker is it’s heavy, and not super portable for our needs, but still a lot of fun to use and brilliant for a range of cooking uses.
- A good coffee plunger
Ok so Ben and I love our coffee and we were super late to the party where this one is concerned. We had a pod coffee machine at home and we’d usually just go for instant but by golly have we been missing out! We got ourselves a cheap plunger from Kmart but it broke pretty quickly, so we invested in an Avanti one which was $70, but totally worth it. If you don’t do the ground coffee thing, get on it.
As well as our bare essentials, we do love a good campfire to get our creative juices flowing in the camp kitchen. It’s honestly one of the easiest ways to cook, and there’s minimal cleaning up involved! We usually wrap our chosen foods in aluminum foil, place it in the coals and let the heat do the rest. It takes NO time at all, and we’ve been loving experimenting with different foods – aside from the cake fiasco which was a hilarious afternoon where we tried to cook a cake in the campfire using foil trays and may have cooked it far too long! Safe to say, our second attempt was much more of a success.
There are a few meals we love to cook on the road which are always easy and always delicious:
- Veggie curry
A recipe from a good friend of ours. We love it because it’s easy to do and always delicious. We always pack it full of veggies so we know we’re getting some good stuff.
Grab a curry paste from the store (we use green or red), fry it up, add two cans of coconut cream, brown sugar, bring to the boil and add your veggies then let simmer until the veggies are cooked and your mixture is nice and creamy. For a delicious extra garnish, try chopping up some bread and butter pickles and sprinkling over the top. Another tip from our good friend Maya! We use a whole bunch of veggies including carrot, potato, sweet potato, capsicum, broccoli and beans. We also add in bamboo slices or water chestnuts for added texture.
- Baked potato
An old campfire classic and the perfect side dish or meal in its own right. You simply get your fire going, slit a potato two ways to create a ‘cross’, wrap it in alfoil with a drizzling of oil, salt and pepper and set in the coals for 35 mins. Once cooked, unwrap the potato, open out the cross, slap some butter in there and top with grated cheese, sour cream, shallots and sweet chilli sauce. You can even add bacon bits or pineapple if you’re feeling fancy. YUM.
- Baked veggies
Following on from potato, we do our veggies in the fire too. We usually go for carrot, broccoli, beans, brussel sprouts or capsicum but any veggies would do fine.
We simply cut up some veggies, add some oil, salt, pepper, garlic, chilli and any other seasonings and wrap them in alfoil like we’d do with the potatoes. Place them in the coals and wait 15-20 mins and you’re done. Delish.
We also fry up veggies quite often and we’ll sometimes do mashed potato/ pumpkin or sweet potato using the billy.
This one is pretty simple, but we simply do up a pizza like you’d normally do, but instead of having an oven, you need to get more creative. We often do the pizza on the gas stove but you could do it on the fire too. We grab the fry pan, lay out some egg rings and place the pizza on top to create a buffer between the hotplate and the pizza. Cover the top of the frypan with a wok or lid of some kind and wait until cooked. Simples.
- Pipi Carbonara
A dish we’ve only done once because the pipis were so easy to get! Just a normal carbonara with evaporated milk, cheese, egg yolk, salt, pepper, onion, garlic… cook on the stove and add your pipis in at the end until cooked. DELISH.
- Spanish eggs
We don’t do this one often, but it’s a yummy spin on breakfast when we’re feeling a bit fancy. We cook up a mix of chorizo, herbs, chilli, crushed tomatoes, mushroom, paprika, salt and pepper, and then make wells in the mixture and crack some eggs in. We then let cook until the eggs are to our liking and serve up in a bowl.
- Fresh fish multiple ways
One of our favourite meals period. We love cooking up our catches fresh and we have tried it in many different ways including making a beer batter, frying in butter and chili, baking with lemon and dill on the fire etc. We also do a mean fish and chips! You really can’t go wrong if you’ve got some fresh lemon and salt and pepper and by golly it’s delicious.
- Pork knuckle
Again, not one we’ve been able to try more than once, but still delicious. Ben cooked a pork knuckle in the camp oven and added salt, pepper and oil and let the camp oven do the rest. We had it with mashed potato and yummo. We could’ve been in Germany for all we knew.
Ah, an Aussie favourite, but I have to tell you that damper can be quite versatile. Ben loves to whip up some damper when we have the time. It’s literally just flour, water and salt. Then, the fun part. We’ve made both sweet and savory dampers, adding in nutmeg and cinnamon and even a bit of jam for the sweet, and garlic, cheese and bacon for the savory. Such a cheap, delicious feed that goes a long way!
This is just a small selection of our favourite feeds and we’re always trying something different. We find we are saving a heap of money on food because we don’t have the space for food to be sitting or rotting away, and we always try to eat up all our fresh foods before going to the canned goods like baked beans or soup etc.
It’s truly astonishing how far you can get on a small amount of grub and cooking on the fire makes it even cheaper because you don’t have to use up gas or water. We have a lot of fun cooking in the fire and even on our little camp stove and while we are hot-blooded carnivores, we can definitely say we feel better and leaner having significantly cut back on our meat intake.
As for breakfasts and lunches, it’s pretty standard. Cereal, fruit, oats, yoghurt or pancakes for brekky. Sandwiches, wraps, or noodles for lunch (when we’re feeling lazy or we’re busy and need a quick bite).
It always pays to have some canned goods with you at all times, and we’ve found that it’s always good to have a salsa or taco mix, some crushed tomatoes, or some evaporated milk, pasta and rice (we use brown rice) on you to use as a base if you’re not feeling inspired on any particular day.
We also don’t hold back on getting takeaway or going out for a meal when we’ve hit a new town. We love tasting local cuisine and we really don’t think we’re experiencing Australia the way we should be if we can’t open the purse strings and sample some local tucker – where ever we might be. Sometimes we really just crave KFC. We also love a good cheese platter! It’s really all about balance and being smart about your food choices.
So as the fire continues to crackle and ben places our potatoes and chicken wings deep in to coals, I’m about to close my laptop, sit back in the camp chair, and take in the sweet smells of food cooking away on the fire.
A lover of the written word.
Journalist by trade, writer by hobby. Writing fuels my soul and I promised myself I’d string words together more often, so here I am.
A collection of pieces that describe the inner workings of my mind.