Campfires & Cooking
Advice for campfires and campfire cooking…
We don’t think that camping is complete without a fire, and campfire cooking is definitely one of the highlights of any camping trip. At Thistledown you are welcome to have a your own campfire, as long as you follow a few basic rules.
- Fires must be in the existing firepits – do not dig your own pit, make a fire on the grass, or in the woodland
- Ensure that your tent is at least 6 metres from your fire, further if it is windy (and be aware of the wind direction)
- Keep at least 3 metres between your tents
- Ensure that your fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the site, and never leave a fire unattended
- You can buy wood from us or bring your own supply, but do not collect wood from the woodland as we let it rot down to provide habitat and encourage fungi (you can take some twigs for kindling)
- Always supervise children around campfires – don’t let them run around with flaming sticks!
- Please don’t collect stones to surround your campfire – it makes the mowing much more difficult
- Do not put any glass or metal in your fire – birds use the ash to bathe and children are often drawn to the firepits
- Familiarise yourself with the locations of firepoints – there are buckets and drums of water kept at numerous locations in the camping areas
To build your fire, start by placing scrunched newspaper in the base of the firepit, if using firelighters then place these amongst the paper. Next, lay small sticks (you can collect some small twigs from the wood for this, but don’t rip them from trees – you are looking for dry twigs) over the paper, and then a second layer of twigs across the first. Carefully light your paper or firelighters, and when the kindling is ablaze you can add larger pieces of wood.
- Watch out for boiling sap coming out of the ends of your logs – it’s not just the end which is on fire that may be hot!
- Bring a grill if you’d like to cook over your fire
- If you’re thinking of cooking over your fire then it can be a good idea to rake embers to the side of the fire and cook on those – keep the main fire going and replenish the embers under your grill as required
- Great campfire cooking takes experience – you want to cook on hot embers or coals, rather than flaming logs, which will burn the outside of your food rather than cooking it through
- Tin foil is very useful for campfire cooking – you can wrap up just about anything, keeping it succulent and letting flavours mix
- If you are a very organised camper then a spray bottle of water can be a good idea, you can use this to keep flames down when fat drips on the embers
- King Alfred’s Cake fungi make good firelighters when dry – it is the rounded black fungi often found on ash trees, about the size of a golf ball
Campfire Recipe Ideas
There’s no need to stick to sausages – below are some of our campfire favourites:
Fish is particularly good cooked on a campfire, especially whole stuffed with herbs, garlic, lemon, and butter. Cook it on the grill or wrap in tin foil (which prevents it from becoming too dry). You don’t want too high a temperature when cooking fish, as it cooks very fast, so if your embers are very hot then try to raise the grill.
If you have fillets rather than a whole fish then wrap them in tin foil or cook in a pan as it is very easy to overcook and the fillets may fall apart on the grill.
For dessert, try cooking bananas (in their skins) on the edge of your fire until the are soft and the skins are browned – delicious! If you’re feeling very indulgent then you can slice the banana lengthways, fill with marshmallows or chocolate, and bake in tin foil. You can also try adding a dash of rum to the banana and chocolate mix. Watch out as the cooked bananas will be very hot!
When in season it is hard to beat sweetcorn cooked in its husk. Place the sweetcorn, leaves on, so that it isn’t directly above the fire. You want to place it so that the kernels cook slowly. Some people prefer to soak the cobs to stop them burning, but this isn’t necessary if you are careful. To make the corn even more delicious try peeling back the husk and rubbing the cob with butter, salt and pepper, and herbs. Fold the husk back and tie with string before cooking. If you can’t find corn with the leaves on then cook it without or use foil. Sweetcorn makes a great side for barbecued meats, especially Southern US style pork!
Campfires are perfect for one-pot cookery, and impart a great smoky flavour to stews and curries such as this Spanish-style stew. Start by frying chicken thighs with olive oil in a deep pan until browned. Remove the chicken and add diced chorizo, onion and garlic. When the onion has softened add chopped carrot and celery, or other vegetables of your choice, and dried herbs and paprika. A splash of red wine will help to deglaze the pan. Add a tin or two of chickpeas or butter beans and stir so that the chorizo oil coats them and then pour in tinned tomatoes or passata and top up with stock or water as required. Add the chicken and simmer until cooked through.