One of the greatest things about camping is the camp food. Cooking over a campfire is like learning to cook again, but the meal is always worth the effort. And if the meal is fresh fish just caught by someone you love, that makes it taste even better! The biggest reward from your investment in your boat and a trailer for your boat, plus all the gear is the pleasure of a good fishing trip and of course, the freshly caught meal at the end of the day. If you follow these ten tips, everyone will want to fish tomorrow, so you can cook up a storm again!
1. Care for your catch
There is nothing that takes the fun out of camp food quicker than a job that’s hard to do. Keeping fish as fresh as possible makes the meal perfect. To care for your catch, kill it quickly, and store in an esky with a mix of water and ice in the bottom. If you don’t have ice or an esky on your boat , keep the fish alive in a bucket of the water it came from, and kill and gut when you get back to your site.
2. The fresher the better
Just like you wouldn’t buy fish from your fishmonger if the eyes were dull and the scales lacked shine, don’t bother storing your catch until tomorrow! Fresh fish is best eaten fresh, on the day you caught it, after all there’s plenty more fish in the sea/river/lake!
3. Cooking whole fish
Filleting your fish can be time consuming, messy and wasteful. Cooking whole fish is the best way to get the full flavour and experience of camp food. Cooking a whole fish keeps the flesh moist and tender. When cooked to perfection, remove meat from one side of the fish and then gently tap the tail upward, the skeleton will simply pull away from the underside, leaving you a perfect fillet – with nothing wasted.
4. Wrap in leaves or paper
Banana leaves are great for keeping whole fish moist and tender. The leaves also impart a gentle flavour to the fish. If you can’t find banana leaves, newspaper will work (not a print catalogue). You’ll need about five sheets of paper, and wet each sheet before piling them together, to make sure there are no dry spots. You can bury the packets in the coals, or just place on a grill. Keep an eye on the paper, and wet it again if it starts smoking around the edges.
5. Panfry small fish
Panfrying is the easiest way to control your cooking if you’re not comfortable with a campfire. You can cook whole fish if they fit in your pan, or fillets with a light dusting of flour and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
6. Fishy-tasting fish
Bottom feeders and “dark fish” can be delightfully meaty but may also taste a bit… well fishy. Boiling fish is the easiest way to keep a full fish aroma and flavour but if it’s all a bit too fishy, add some lemon and dill to modify the taste. Bring a pot of water (or stock if you plan to make soup) to the boil, pop your whole fish in, and cook until flesh is tender.
7. Keep seasoning simple
Too much seasoning can overwhelm the delicate flavour of fresh fish, so try to keep it light. Throw a lemon and some dried parsley in your tackle box, and you won’t even need an esky, and you can eat like a king. Other herbs to try include dill, marjoram, cayenne, cumin, paprika, thyme, or oregano. A clove of garlic will keep well without a cooler for a couple of days, as will an onion. Don’t use everything in the same dish, pick just two or three flavours for the best tasting camp food.
8. Avoid overcooking
There’s nothing worse than smelling the wonderful aromas coming from the campfire, only to stick your fork into rubber. Cooking over an open flame makes it easy to overcook – forget everything you learned at home – this is camp cooking! It is always better to undercook, and try again, than overcook and throw it in the bin. For small fish, 1-1.5kg in size, 15-20 minutes should more than enough time. After ten minutes, pierce the fleshiest part of the fish with the blade of a knife (gently, you want to keep as many juices sealed as possible). Fish should look opaque, and flake away from bones easily. If it’s still translucent, wrap it up again and pop back into the coals.
9. Try something new
It’s time to give your Aussie tastebuds a little adventure! Why not impress with a new take on camp food? Ceviche is a method of cooking without heat, using citrus juices instead. You just need salt, lemons, limes, olive oil, onion and your fresh caught fish. Cube your fish, and pop into a sealable container. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt, the juice of 6 limes and 2 lemons, and a drizzle of oil. Seal the container, and allow to sit, preferably chilled, for at least one hour, but up to four hours if you can. Before serving, add the chopped onion, stir through and allow the flavours to develop for 15 minutes.
10. Expand your pantry
If you’re lucky enough to be camping for a few days, you’re bound to have a bigger store pantry than just a few herbs and lemons. Try a fish curry, with some chunky root vegetables and a sprinkle of curry powder; or a tomato-based sauce that you can poach your fillets in.
If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll fool everyone into think you’re a culinary whiz, and they’ll want to eat your camp food every time you venture out.
Get in touch with Almac Trailers today on (07) 4152 3737.