I'd like to share some holiday and/or interesting photos with you each Friday.
To start with, 'they' say one should get to know your own area first before you start to travel. Well, in 2008 I gave my husband a flying lesson as an anniversary gift - I went along to take photos (scariest thing I ever did, flying in that small plane - and I like flying).
These are photos of our city Pietermaritzburg, taken on a dusty winter's day. I hope you enjoy them!
Here is a favourite dish that we cook on the fire often, and it's a good example of the type of food we cook when camping - a pack of vegetables and meat, cooked in a tinfoil packet until tender, moist and full of flavour. This method is very open to experimentation, and I find each time I make it, it comes out a little different. Also, clean-up afterwards is minimal!
On the menu were some pork neck chops, and instead of doing the usual braaied chops, with potatoes in foil and a salad, I decided that an all-in-one tinfoil pack would be good. Inspired by stir fry-type flavours, I added all sorts of ingredients and in the end we had one of the most delicious packs ever.
Spicy Pork Braai Packet
4 pork neck chops, bones removed and cut into strips
3 Tbsps soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 large onion, sliced
3 medium potatoes, sliced
4 carrots, julienned
1/4 head of broccoli, broken into florets
large handful of button mushrooms, sliced
1 red chili, sliced
Mix the marinade ingredients very well, and work through the meat strips, making sure that they are well coated
Prepare all the vegetables, then layer them in your tinfoil roasting dish
Start with the onion, and drizzle a little olive oil over them
Next layer the potatoes, the carrots, the broccoli, then add a few dollops of butter
Lastly layer on the meat, chili, and mushrooms
Now make a lid of tinfoil, and seal the packet rim very well - this is important, as it will keep all the juices in, and steam the food until the flavours are mingled and delicious
Place over hot coals on the braai grid, and allow the heat to puff the packet up. It should take about an hour to cook. Watch the packet, while there are small jets of steam escaping, there is still moisture inside. When the steam stops, your packet is done.
Remove from the fire, tear open and serve - the flavours have to be tasted to be believed, and the chillies add a lovely fresh bite.
When people ask why we like to camp so much, I am sometimes stumped for an answer! The biggest objection to camping usually is that one has to share a communal bathroom, and ablution blocks can be grim. But think how little time is actually spent in the bathroom, compared to time spent at your campsite, or doing adventurous things in the outdoors, and it's worth the sacrifice!
Of course, the main advantage of camping is the cost - it is way cheaper than accommodation, even self-catering, and there's just no comparison when one thinks of the cost of hotels. For me though, there are other advantages to camping. We have a small easy-to-tow caravan, which serves as bedroom, packing space and a sitting/dining area. It has a large tent, which is easy to set up, and this doubles our living space and gives us a dry sheltered area.
This is our holiday home, and we get to park it in a different place each time we go camping! It's always equipped with our own bed, and linen, and kitchen equipment, but the location changes all the time - sometimes it's a camp (or two) in the Kruger Park, where hyenas patrol the camp fence, eyeing out your dinner through the mesh. Then it may be a few days at Mahai, in the crisp mountain air of the Drakensberg, or perched on a dune overlooking the Indian Ocean, watching thunderstorms out at sea, or dolphins vaulting out of the waves. Next it may be on the banks of the Umkomaas River, under a fig tree large enough to park four caravans, with room to spare, or in the dune forests of Northern Kwazulunatal, with a bushbaby climbing down the tent poles to fetch some grapes you have dropped! The options are endless.......South Africa is perfect for camping.
I find when we do stay in accommodation, that I spend longer packing everything into bags and boxes, than I spend packing into my caravan's cupboards. Then when we arrive at the accommodation, one has to unpack, and then pack up again to go home, and unpack at home! With the caravan, I pack in before we leave, and unpack when I get home. Much easier, I think. I also avoid the cleaning that one sometimes has to do when staying in accommodation that is less than well cared for......
With a caravan, I also get to sleep in my own bed....without thinking about how many people have slept on the pillow and under the duvet I will be using that night...fussy, I know, but that's me. I also never have to deal with a lingering cigarette smell - an anathema to any non-smoker!
So that's some of my reasons for loving camping. But there's more to it than that - there's the pleasure of being able to be comfortable in remote areas, the satisfaction of living well without any modern appliances, or even electricity. The pleasure of sitting quietly outside your caravan as buck or birds or other creatures wander nearby, gives a quiet kind of joy. What do you think?
Right, you've decided that you want to go camping, maybe touring a bit, or staying somewhere remote. Your destination has been decided, bookings made - now - how to plan what to eat.
A lot depends on whether you will have access to shops or not, and also if your camp-site has power, for a fridge. We generally prefer to be far from towns and to camp without power.
Your fridge arrangements are important, as this will affect what and how you pack. We have a caravan, with a small built-in 3-way fridge, which is ideal. Portable gas fridge/freezers work well, too. But most camp-sites have a small office, and have ice available to buy, so you can get by with a cooler box (or three: one for frozen items, like meat, seldom opened; one for fresh items, like butter, cheese and veggies, which should all be packed into sealable containers, or they end up soaked and floating, and one cooler box dedicated to the booze, haha). Pack each day's meat into a second packet, seal it well, and write on it the day you plan to eat it with a waterproof marker - this will help no end when you are digging around at the bottom of a cooler box or gas freezer!
I usually start by thinking in terms of 'meals'. Work out how many of each you will need, then jot down ideas. This will help you decide what to buy and pack. Here are some of my ideas, tried and tested...
For breakfasts, I usually pack home-made rusks. We always take along filter coffee - we make it in a stainless steel tea-pot - poured through a fine tea-strainer, it makes a good cup of coffee! This with a rusk or two is usually enough for breakfasts, but sometimes, something else is nice, so pack yoghurt, muesli and maybe some eggs and bacon for the occasional fry-up. Nothing smells as good as bacon frying in a pan on the fire early in the morning when you are in the bush!
For lunches, I like to bake a home-made bread. Try this wonderful recipe for an easily-made brown seed loaf, which we bake on the fire in a cast-iron pot. This with a selection of cheeses, pickles, olives, tinned smoked oysters, and maybe cold meats, all washed down with chilled white wine or a beer, eaten outside under the trees, is SO delicious! Or pack some crackers to go with your snacks, and don't forget the honey/jam/chocolate spread. On our last trip, one of the days was quite chilly, so we made a delicious rustic vegeteable soup, on the fire.
But dinners are where camping comes into its own.....as the sun sets, and twilight deepens, it's time to light the paraffin lamps and hang them from the trees around your camp. Then light your fire, sit back with your sundowner of choice and watch the flames for a while. Remember camping is all about getting back in touch with nature, and the outdoors, making do without modern appliances, and letting your body, mind and soul regain some peace.
Now dinners, cooked on the fire, have endless possiblities. If the evening is cool, a fragrant stew cooked in a Dutch Oven on the fire, served with rice or bread, is wonderful. If the evening is hot, then a juicy steak, marinaded in some olive oil and lemon juice, and cooked to rare perfection over the coals, with a green salad, is just right. Or pork chops, sausages, sosaties, chicken pieces, curry, chicken a la king, coq au vin.....let your imagination go wild. Just about anything can be cooked on a fire, including pudding!
Don't forget to pack some snacks - crisps, nuts, biltong, and so on, to go with drinks, and cake or biscuits to go with coffee or tea. Think of each day you will be camping, and try to plan what you will eat on each of those days. Oh - and don't forget to take your lists with!
You'll be out in the open, in the fresh air, going for long walks in the mountains or on the beach, or in the forests, which will make you hungry, so be prepared. Camp food should not be about survival only - it should be part of the experience. Preparing food in an outdoor kitchen is fun!
Any other ideas/tips?? Or questions? I'd love to hear from you!
I have been camping most of my life, first with my family in Zambia and Zimbabwe where I grew up, then as an adult with a family of my own, in South Africa.
South Africa has to be one of the best countries for camping! For starters, the weather is generally sunny and beautiful. SA also has such an array of amazing things to see, and an excellent network of spacious roads which makes traveling easy, so it's the ideal country for touring.
We have traveled all over SA, from beaches on three sides of the country to game reserves where you can see the Big 5, to incredible mountains and viewpoints, to tropical dune forests, deserts, cave systems, wild-flower displays in spring, wine farms and modern cities - SA has it all and more, and we've tried to see most of it.
We live in Kwazulunatal, and most of our trips are in this province. Just recently we stayed at a place called Highover, on the banks of the Umkomaas River, in the HellaHella Valley. This is a wonderfully wild, rustic campsite, with incredible bird life, and a peacefulness that is good for one's soul.
I love cooking on a camp fire, so I'll be sharing plenty of recipes with you, and also ideas on camp kitchens and equipment, how to plan, what to eat and how to cook it. We don't believe in survival type food when camping, since 'gourmet' is so much nicer!
I would love you to comment or ask questions - looking forward to hearing from you.
I have been writing a food-blog at http://blogs.food24.com/Zabwan since January this year, and love it, but I would like to write about more than just food. I am passionate about camping too, and have lots of tips and experiences to share.
So please do come back for recipes, memories, camp-site reviews, camping tips, and whatever else is of interest!