Campfire Cooking – A Shopping Expedition!

Over the years, I’ve become fascinated with the history and evolution of regional recipes and methods of preparation. Austro-Hungarian cuisine is no exception.

As many of you know, the Saturday market ‘Mosoni Piac‘ is my regular go-to spot for fresh vegetables, huge bags of paprika and a dizzying array of peculiar culinary gadgets. These days, I’m all about the campfire cooking equipment. It began innocently enough with an invitation to join a small neighbourly party where goulash was served up as the main course. This was followed by a New Year’s gathering around a simmering pot of mulled wine. These outings revolved around a simple fire pan, a tripod and a kotlich (or ‘bogrács’ in Hungarian). Hanging out around the fire, enjoying good food, wine and the company of new friends was a pure delight.

Kettle cooking along the plains of central Europe was traditionally a ‘man’s job’ – fit for herdsmen, farmers and labourers who worked in the fields from dawn to dusk. But who cares about traditional gender roles, eh? Why should boys have all the fun?

If you’re planning a European camping trip, Hungary would be a great place to start your journey. There’s plenty of equipment to choose from at the local markets and the prices are excellent. While I’m still developing my collection of regional campfire cooking equipment, I’ll start out with a description of the basics and a few other unique items I’ve found along the way.

Tripod:

The first thing on my list was obviously a tripod! I found a great 120 cm folding iron one (photo 1) at the market along with a 6 and a 10 liter ‘bogrács’ (photo 2). The ‘bogrács’ don’t traditionally have a lid, however I was able to find one in the 10 liter size at the market. This is handy to keep the flies off! The 6 liter pot serves 2 to 4 people well, but any more and you’d be better off with a larger size.

Bogrács & Fish Pots:

There are different types of pots available which you can see below. Bogrács typically flare out at the top which you can see in photos 1 and 2. These are used for goulash. For fish soup, the shape is a little bit different tapering in at the top (see in photo 3). Finally there is a wide-mouthed pot (4). I’m not really sure what this pot is supposed to be used for, but I think it would be perfect for corn on the cob or a pot full of muscles.

Skewers:

I also found some lovely long skewers for roasting marshmallows or shish-kabobs. These are easy to clean and way better than hunting around the woods looking for green sticks and twigs.

Tiffin Pans:

Around Moson, I also found some great tiffin pans. Granted, these are not really ‘Hungarian’ and I do have a smaller one brought back from Thailand but I found it at a great price and they are perfect for carrying food and can be used as extra bowls when neighbouring campers or hosts decide to pop by around dinner time!

Paella Pans:

Next up on the list of fantastic camping cookware is this awesome paella pan. This item is still on my wish list but it’s available at Mosoni Piac. Now, while you could always use the paella pan for making paella, you could also fry up some onions and sausage, stir-fries, pasta, chicken paprikás, breakfast omelets or any number of things.

Camping Cutlery:

Now while most of the items posted are available through my favourite vendor (top photo), you can also find rucksacks and handy cutlery sets with the gentlemen selling old military gear and the like.

Suspended Frying Pan:

Finally, the coup d’état was this amazing frying pan. Shaped a bit like a shallow wok, all of the bacon drippings slip right into the middle – perfect for making home-fries. While the pan is heavy, the center peg conveniently screws out for easy transportation and it’s super easy to clean.

What’s your favourite campfire cookware? I’d love to hear from you!

Please share your recipes and stories below.

Camping, Tripods & New Friends

The past few months have been super busy with online classes (Social Media Certificate), building my new writing and communications consulting website, and starting a new blog called Your Daily Slang! But as the summer term drew to a close and the bulk of my assignments already submitted, it was time for a much needed mini-break!

Tight on cash and low on time, I decided to try out a budget travel website called Camp in my Garden. Camp in my Garden is an online platform where people can advertise their gardens or fields to be used as temporary camping sites. Camping costs range between £0 to £10 depending on facilities and location.

Using the handy map feature, I narrowed search to gardens within a 2.5 hour drive which offered ‘open fires’. Barbeques, sitting around a fire and good friends to share the experience with are among the things that I miss most when living overseas. Here in Burgenland, I live in a small apartment without access to a plot of land for camping, a fire pit or setting up an outdoor kitchen. Moreover, while there are many campgrounds in the area, most don’t allow open fires which is a totally foreign concept to a Canadian like me! I mean, what’s camping without a campfire and roasted marshmallows, eh?

We ended up at Moorhexen’s garden just outside a little town called Groß-Radischen. There’s plenty to see and do in the area. But, to be honest, we were quite happy to sit around relaxing, cooking and enjoying each others’ company. Bianca, James and the kids were the perfect hosts. Moreover, I’ve only spoken to one native English speaker face-to-face over the past 9 months, so I was very happy to learn that both Bianca and James spoke English fluently. I’m sure I talked their ear’s off but how nice it was to speak freely and not have to struggle to understand or express myself.

But now it’s time to talk about the food! We were able to find some flavoured marshmallows at one of the bigger grocery stores along the way. We also packed up the new tripod, suspended frying pan, a kotlich (or bogrács in Hungarian) and all the fixins’ for some great campfire cooking!

The next morning, I got up early to start the fire before the blazing sun made it’s way across the back garden. Although it took a while to get the embers going and boil water for coffee, everything was easy-peasy after that. I started with some thick cuts of smoked bacon which provided plenty of fat to cook the home-fries. From there, I added the herbed potatoes and thick slices of bell pepper along the rim (roughly 1 inch). I allowed the peppers to fry a little to soften them up and make them flush with the wok-style pan. Then, at the very end, we dropped in the eggs – fresh from the chicken coup – into the pepper rings to prevent them from sliding towards the middle of the pan. This was a bit tricky but I’m getting better at it with each new attempt. Next time, I’ll try slicing one side of the rings diagonally for a thicker rim on the inside of the pan thinning out towards the outside.

As you can see, my timing was a little off with the bacon. But that’s okay, I love super crispy semi-burnt bacon!  I also discovered – to my chagrin – that they don’t sell bags of ice here in Austria like they do in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world. As a result, my half cooked potatoes didn’t fare so well overnight in the cooler box. Lesson learned for our next outing! They still tasted good but in future, I’ll be cutting and cooking them fully on-site. Below you can see the finished results. We also had apple wedges, fresh apricots, some grapes and some crusty bread.

Clean up was WAY easier than expected. With a little soap and elbow grease, everything washed up squeaky-clean. There was no need for harsh abrasives and I’ll give this pan an A-plus for ease of use and convenience.

The day was searing hot so we decided to hold off on starting the fire until just before sun-set (hence no pictures!). I decided to try my hand at making a Hungarian Sertéspörkölt with a few minor adjustments… Beef cubes replaced the pork and we added way more onions and tomatoes than the recipe originally called for. I also added garlic because well, everything’s better with garlic! By accident, I also picked up the hot paprika in place of the sweet paprika leading to a firey concoction indeed! Thankfully, our hosts produced some sour cream from the house which mellowed the heat and added a nice creamy texture to the dish. In the end, my Pörkölt might better be described as a beef paprikás. Either way it was delicious!

The tripod is revolutionizing my camp-food repertoire. There are so many different dishes that I want to cook with my new gear – I can’t wait to try them all out. If I had a garden, I’m sure that I’d be outside several nights a week cooking over the fire during the greater part of the year. With a few adjustments, I think it would be put to good use in the winter too with a big kettle-full of mulled wine… Magic! Gone are the days of hot dogs and cold snacks – I can’t believe it took me so long to discover how fabulous cooking with a tripod really is.

Do you have a favourite camp-fire recipe to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Please share your recipes and stories below.

Coming Soon:

  • An interview with Clare Fairburn from Camp in my Garden,
  • Shopping for tripods, bogrács & other cool campfire cooking equipment,
  • Home-made grammeln & schmalz (Austrian cracklings & lard).