Although we love campsite cooking, there are times when you just want something fast and delicious. We’ve tested lots of possibilities for easy camping food, and come up with this list of tasty cheats that really work!
Can you really get good-tasting dried food made with natural ingredients? Yes…thanks to the new Firepot range.
Made by Dorset-based Outdoorfood, these pouch meals are a healthy and tasty alternative for campers and hikers. They’re our top choice for ready meals.
Handcooked using local ingredients, and dehydrated rather than freeze-dried, they keep the taste and texture. They’ve been tested in Greenland and Nepal by top expeditioners – and in the Yorkshire Dales by us ordinary campers!
You can just add boiling water to the pouch (around 15 minutes), or boil the contents in a pan and leave to rehydrate. The mushroom risotto was gorgeously mushroomy and the orzo pasta bolognese tasted just like a good bolognese should. The posh pork and beans is a little over-sweet. We needed to add a little salt to all of these, which is excellent because so many readymeals are over-salted.
Expensive at around £7 each (free delivery), but the portions are generous. In fact, these were the only meals we found that had enough in them to satisfy a hungry hiker.
Look out for their new compostable range (heat the contents in a saucepan rather than in the pouch) and vegan meals too.
Not exactly a name to make the mouth water, but these are surprisingly good and there’s plenty in the pack.
It’s a big range – from couscous to tartiflette – so you’re bound to find something to your taste. We tried the vegetable pasta, which rehydrated very well and tasted like homemade (nearly).
They cost around £6.
These recipe kits are unusual in that they include fresh ingredients, but still have a shelf life long enough to make them useful for camping trips. Very convenient for camping when you don’t want to take loads of spice jars.
The Tastesmiths kits are made by mother and daughter Sally and Stef in the West Midlands. They do the shopping for you, hand-selecting fresh ingredients and spices that they blend themselves.
The rogan josh pack, for example, includes ginger, garlic, red/green chillies, fresh curry leaves, whole spices and freshly ground spices. It comes with a recipe for either a meat or vegetarian curry and tells you what else you’ll need (onions, meat or beans, passata, oil and salt etc). We cooked using this kit (aubergine and mushroom added) and loved the fresh-tasting herbs and spices and the generous amount of chilli, for us heat-lovers. A mile better than cook-in sauces and the like.
The range includes all the curry favourites, chili, fajita marinade, a Jamaican jerk kit and more. Side dish packs cost £2.75 and main dishes around £3.50. There’s a four-kit subscription option for £11 a month. Obviously, you could buy the ingredients more cheaply, but you’re paying for convenience and a sure-fire recipe success.
Kits can be frozen, otherwise they have a fridge-life of around two weeks. Don’t thaw them before use if you do choose to freeze or some of the ingredients will go a bit mushy. Shame about the plastic…and that’ll be a problem with many readymeals, sad to say.
No additives, preservatives or colourings, just lovely kits for making curries and daal side dishes. The curry packs come with sauce and special spices, and you just add meat, fish or veggies.
It’s a three-pouch format that includes fresh spices, a marinade sauce and a base sauce. The Mangalore herb curry, for example, calls for chicken fillets, lamb rump or white fish, but then gives you all you need – recipe included – for a fresh and coconutty meal in around 10 minutes. The daals are complete packs with nothing else to add, but only have enough in them for a one-person main meal or a side dish.
You can find them for around £2.90 at Tesco. Our only issue…all that plastic!
Seriously beautiful in their packaging, and pretty good to eat…Forestia call themselves makers of “fine outdoor meals”, and they are the haute couture of readymade food.
Choose from pouches of food to heat in a pan and clever self-heating meals. How about salmon and mushroom risotto, vegetarian meatballs and pasta, paella, minty lamb casserole or beef stroganoff? They’re single-serving 350g packs, with no added nasties.
Not cheap at around £5.50, but easy to take in a backpack or have handy in the car or campervan. The chicken madras, for example, had lots of good chicken in it and tasted homemade – a little curry powder-y and a tad too salty, but otherwise really nice. Just watch out for the steaming self-heater. Follow the instructions carefully. The heating bit doubles up as a hand- and foot-warmer for an hour after eating!
We quizzed Forestia, who are based in Spain, about recycling (especially for the self-heating meals), and this is what they said:
“All our packaging is totally recyclable. About the chemical compounds in the heating bags – we’ve made an environmental test in an independent laboratory that says the liquid after the heating process is not ecotoxic, so you can empty the bag wherever you are. Also it isn’t flammable, corrosive or irritating. You need to dispose of it in a bin, as the rest of the packaging. To leave no trace is a MUST for us.”
Avoid self-heating meals unless you really can’t boil a pan of water, though, they’re very wasteful in packaging and production.
We rather like Tilda’s ready-steamed basmati rice sachets. Fast and easy rice that saves boiling pans of water on a camping stove or inside a campervan.
They come in wholegrain, coconut, lime and coriander and lots of other flavours, and the good bit is that Tilda source ethically and steer clear of artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
You can stir-fry in a pan with a little oil in 4 minutes. Add some finely chopped spring onion, tomato, fried courgette, red pepper, prawns – or whatever you fancy – to make a faster-than-fast one-dish meal.
Available pretty much everywhere. We always keep two or three packs in the camping kit just in case. Plenty of grains and pulses, including quinoa and lentils, to choose from as well. Around £1 at Tesco (and always good deals available).
Free & Easy
It’s hard enough having food allergies, but when you’re making campsite meals and want a bit of convenience too, your choice is even more limited.
Free & Easy tinned ready-meals, as well as being organic, are free from wheat, gluten and dairy, as well as other allergens such as nuts, celery and mustard. There are no artificial additives and preservatives, they’re low in salt, sugar and fat and are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Crikey! They’re going to taste awful, aren’t they? We tried the balti vegetable curry and the taste was great – nice spices and just the right amount of heat. Our only problem was that it was a bit runny – more like a big soup – and the very soft vegetables might not be to everyone’s taste. One can is barely enough for a two-person meal even with rice or bread, but you could eke it out by adding extra ingredients (ready-cooked lentils, vegetables etc), or having side dishes too. Meat-eaters could also add cooked chicken, prawns and so on.
There are soups and tinned ready-meals, including chilli, chickpea and vegetable curry, vegetable hotpot and bean cassoulet. Other items in the range include four curry pastes in jars, and pouches of red onion gravy, gluten-free vegetable gravy and dairy-free cheese sauce. The ready-meals cost around £1.80 and are available from supermarkets and health food stores.
Make your own travelling spice pantry
Make yourself a neat camping box of herbs and spices and you’ll never have to rummage in your kitchen bag again. We all have our own essentials and favourites, so pick and mix to suit, but here’s what we always have:
- Curry powder
- Mixed herbs
- Chilli powder
- Chinese five spice
- Garam masala
- Whole spices – cardamom, star anise, cloves
- Smoked paprika
- Dried lime leaves
- Sesame seeds
We like square aluminium tins best as these can be stacked neatly side-by-side in a box. Make sure the lids fit tightly to avoid spillages, We write the contents on ours with a chalk pen (so it can be washed off when contents change). Or go for ones with a window.
When we were writing camping recipes the other day, we got thinking about all those other exotic dishes it’d be great to cook while camping.
Thai Taste‘s green curry, red curry and pad thai kits come in easy-to-pack plastic boxes and don’t need a fridge. The pastes come in either resealable tubs (which do need a fridge after opening) or in more handy-for-camping one-meal sachets.
We like the fact there were no nasties in the ingredients and that you can add whatever you like (or have around) for very flexible cooking. We aren’t so keen on the plastic, but it’s hard to know how to avoid that if you want storable food – cardboard, perhaps?
When we opened the pack, it looked doubtful that there’d be enough curry paste or herbs to make a decent-tasting curry, but, in fact, they had quite a kick and the sachet of coconut milk was nice and creamy.
This is a great range of ready-meals in simple pouches that don’t have to be chilled. They take around two minutes to cook. You can boil them in the bag for a meal that doesn’t even need washing up. Or if (like us) you don’t like the idea of hot plastic, you can warm up the contents in a saucepan.
The range includes things like Herdwick mutton stew, Staffordshire chicken balti, soups, desserts and even breakfasts. The makers are hot on using good produce from small, caring farmers, and there are gluten-free options too. So far, we’ve tried the Tees Valley chill con carne and the hotpot and they wer delicious.
They’re not cheap, of course. Stock up on Amazon or when you see supermarkets doing special offers (we got our packs for just £1.50, compared to the usual £2.25 to £3.50).