A long and lonely journey is always a joy this time of year.
An extravagant purchase right before the shutdown was just what I needed after brightly burning the wick of the winters catering along with the busy cafe. I chose a luxuriously purple push bike (catalogued as ultra violet of course) to be my accompaniment for the months of peace to ensue. (I will call myself a trendsetter as three others purchased the same bicycle within three weeks, who knew we were all paid so well!?).
With this I had to plan the first big trip!
Inevitably I had to cancel it all at the last minute.
I took a backseat to readjust and try again. A week later, myself and bicycle both properly padded and set, ventured into the first long ride of the year. No destination, just a direction. South, towards a ferry, towards a spring, towards solitude. (How amazing are padded bicycle shorts by the way?)
A long journey gives you time to think, many people ponder many a problem. I myself indulge in a simple game of ‘what if’; what would I cook if… Of course being a slight way from home and just a little lost, I thought to a new friend of mine: a back country cook of refinement.
How should we nourish our bellies and souls after a long day out in the wilderness? How can we make something ostentatious in the most basic of settings? What are we craving when we are away from home comforts? Are we more experimental or less? How much can I safely drink in the woods? She could answer all this without me having to work for anything, perfect.
She would not. Apparently life is journey we are meant to take ourselves, she would at least be both a wonderful guide and wonderful company, still- shame. Having to do my own work and think for myself is something I confess I do quite enjoy, lucky. It turns simple exercise into a very philosophical jaunt. So time to spend an evening pondering.
I craved Chinese food. Traditional, not ‘chow-mein’. Perfect for skillet cooking. Allows me to not pack a grill, just simply forage for fire. This simplicity got me thinking of repurposing the cabin classics, baked potatoes and burgers. Two of the humblest ingredients. Two of the regulars in most world cuisines. Surely these ingredients can become something new to me.
I am a prepper and planner in only the finest sense, just small tins of fun things to take on the road with me (no repair kit or first aid eh!). ‘Minced prawn in spices’ is the tin rather too obvious to take on a journey, so that simply must go in first. some beef and some spuds, some soy and some pickled ginger. A book on the subject of something outdoorsy. A pen, as we never know when we need to deface a perfectly good book with a perfectly laughable idea. An iced tea consisting of cold infused jasmine, gin and a little grapefruit to brighten my afternoon.
Time for journey number two. 50km with skillet heavy panniers is very achievable with a suitably filled ‘Nalgene’ and boring sports podcasts. The destination is always more important than the journey though folks, please plan your trips accordingly. A stony spot by the river, food and a few hours of sunlight was sufficient for me.
Campfire potato pancakes and Chinese prawn beef.
Bake potatoes wrapped in foil near the campfire.
When the potatoes are cool enough peel if desired or leave the skins on, sprinkle with a handful of flour and smash in plenty of eggs. Add some tasty liquid you have lying around like beer, wine or even coffee creamer- until you get a pancake batter. This is so easy and works no matter how bad you screw up the ratios. It is just potato and eggs at the end of the day.
Fry them up in your skillet on the fire and put to one side until ready.
For the Beef, place the skillet as close to the fire as you can and add the mince (the fattier the better for the beef as the pancake will soak it wonderfully well). When the beef is nicely browned, add some of our magnificent little canned prawns. They are seasoned high so only a couple of spoonfuls yield a spectacular result. Finish with anything else that you normally enjoy, soy, sambal, mirin, ketchup- anything will truly go well here.
My go to is a simple classic but I cannot give weights and measures as your palate will simply know as you go!
This is an absolutely fool proof recipe- as long as you taste as you go.
I serve it on potato pancakes with whatever pickles you care and perhaps a shredded carrot or radish.
‘Minced Prawn in Spices’- A tin that is available in most supermarkets in the world foods isle
-Skillet on a spanking high heat.
-Lil oil or if you please chicken fat.
-Fry Beef Mince- Do not crowd out the pan too much, we want a lot of colour in a quick time (this works great on a fire outside as well).
-Peel and slice the ginger thin or mince if preferred.
-Smash the garlic with the back of the knife.
-Add both to the beef when you feel it is about half way cooked.
-Stir as much as seems reasonably possible.
-When the beef is cooked to your liking, deglaze with a little soy as our salt element.
-Add in a spoonful or two or three of both the sambal and the tin of minced prawns to taste (it shouldn’t need a whole tin).