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Meals on wheels; Author shares camper van culinary tips in new book.

Byline: SARAH O'MEARA

FACED with a blunt knife, some old mushrooms, and a dubious-looking tomato, it can be tempting to give up on the idea of cooking outside your tent. It's one thing to whip up a barbecue feast in your own garden, when the kitchen's just metres away; quite another to start from scratch in a field.

Cookery writer, Annie Bell, author of The Camping Cookbook, began her bucolic, culinary journey last year, when her husband Jonnie decided to celebrate his birthday with a family trip.

Having agreed with his wife that he would rent a camper van for themselves and their 12-year-old son Louis, he returned that night looking rather sheepish.

"Jonnie came home and told me he'd bought one instead," she remembers, laughing.

"It's been a very steep learning curve," she adds. "You have to envisage what the key facilities are in a normal kitchen: Running water, something to chop on, and a bin - and make sure the equivalents are within easy reach."

She recalls trying to make meals, before realising half way through her water source was 50 yards away.

"You need to build a little kitchen, as it were," she says.

Having spent a year learning to cook outdoors, Annie says she's now got her own system.

"I buy enough perishable food for the first 24-48 hours, surround the food with cold blocks, and then buy fresh for the rest of the trip.

"Shopping is part of camping; going to local markets and farm shops. You don't want to do a week's shop in advance."

Annie is also very aware that a camper van chef must be practical about their limitations.

"All of the recipes in my book start backwards," she laughs. "I tell readers how much washing up they're going to be left with.

"You can cook some fantastic things outdoors, but if you're left with eight saucepans to wash, that's not much fun."

Two of her favourite recipes don't even involve utensils.

"I'll use great big beef-steak tomatoes as containers. I mix up the insides, put the lids back on, pop them on the grill, and then scoop out the middles to create a sauce.

"You can do the same with mushrooms. I'll fill them with creme fraiche, chopped onions, and herbs. Then let the juices mix up while it cooks, and without any frying or anything that involves a saucepan, end up with a ready-made sauce.". The Camping Cookbook, by Annie Bell, is published by Kyle Cathie Ltd, priced pounds 12.99. Available now FRANKFURTER GOULASH (Serves 4) Variation on the theme of bangers and mash, and not dissimilar to Dublin coddle.

Frankfurters are great camping material, as they don't require any grilling or frying.

This is real soul food, the sort of dish any ravenous herdsman would welcome at the end of a dusty day.

1/2 tin mug of unsmoked bacon lardons (1 x 100g packet) 3 large onions, peeled, halved and sliced 8 medium waxy potatoes, scrubbed or peeled 12 frankfurter sausages A couple of bay leaves Sea salt and black pepper 1 tin mug of chicken stock DIRECTIONS Heat a large saucepan or casserole over a medium heat, add the lardons and fry in the rendered fat until golden.

Add the onions and continue to fry, stirring frequently, until caramelised.

Add the potatoes, frankfurters, bay leaves, some seasoning, and gently mix.

Pour over the chicken stock and gently simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and sitting in a rich gravy - but keep an eye on it towards the end to make sure it doesn't cook dry

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Annie Bell's Frankfurter Goulash, one of the recipes from The Camping Cookbook (inset)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 13, 2010
Words:618
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