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What could be nicer than cooking your dinner in the Great Outdoors? We offer a few hints and tips on campfire cooking to get you started

There's nothing nicer than cooking your dinner on a blazing campfire. The crackling flames, the sizzling sausages and the delicious aromas of cooking food, mingling with the scent of woodsmoke are a feast for the senses.

Cooking over an open fire feels like an adventure. Whether you're camping wild, on a pitch at a campsite or just eating al fresco in your back garden, the whole experience of building and lighting a fire – then cooking and eating under the stars – creates an atmosphere of being at one with nature.

But cooking a meal on an open fire can be daunting if you've never tried it before. For first timers, keep it simple. Fried sausages, baked beans and baked potatoes are classic campfire fare that everyone will enjoy. To bake potatoes on a campfire, wash them then prick several times with a knife to pierce the skins. Then rub olive oil over the potatoes and wrap them tightly in silver foil. Put the potatoes into the glowing embers of the fire, and leave to cook – but rotate them every 15 minutes or so (use tongs!) to ensure they cook evenly. This could take up to an hour, depending on the size of your spuds – to test if they're ready, give the foil package a gentle squeeze – if it gives a little, it's done!

Pasta la vista

Pasta is one of the quickest and easiest campfire meals you can make. It's ideal fare for camping as it's easily transportable and doesn't need to be kept cool.

For the simplest meal, stir olive oil through just-drained pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan. Or stir in one or two other easily transportable ingredients: pesto, capers, black olives, sweetcorn, anchovies, crumbled blue cheese or chorizo, for example. Or, for a healthy, no cook pasta sauce, combine chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic and fresh basil in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

One-pot meals are another good idea for easy campfire cooking – and there's not a lot of washing up to be done afterwards, either! Stew is a classic campfire dish that can be made in one pot – fry onions, garlic, and cubes of meat or Quorn in olive oil, add chunks of carrot and potato, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some beef or vegetable stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes until meat and vegetables are cooked through and tender, and serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Other quick and easy camp food ideas include scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, French toast, halloumi skewers, Spanish omelette or chilli served in taco shells. And for dessert, don't forget the marshmallows – a campfire wouldn't be complete without them!

Gourmet campfire cookery

Mastered the basics of campfire cooking and ready to step it up a little? The Flaming Marshmallow's Guide to Campfire Cooking by Nikki Fotheringham will inspire you to create delicious camp meals for friends and family – and not a packet of instant noodles in sight!

From breakfast pancakes and fried green tomatoes to sticky pork chops and peach cobbler, these recipes are mouth-watering and imaginative – but easy to follow, even for novice campfire chefs.

There are more than 50 recipes for freshly cooked meals, along with suggested menus and tips for storing food and building a fire. There's also a selection of spooky stories to send shivers down your spine as the campfire embers glow and the night sky darkens!

sausages cooking in a campfire
French toast

How to build a campfire

Make a fire pit with large stones or rocks, creating a smaller area to one side that you can pull glowing embers into to cook over – this creates a better heat source for cooking, ensuring food is cooked through without being burnt on the outside.

Layer small, dry, sticks or twigs in a criss-cross formation (think Jenga), or build a wigwam shape. You'll need some tinder to start your fire with. Birch bark is great for this – peel a few pieces from a dry log and put under your kindling structure. Or if there's no birch bark available, use a little scrunched up newspaper or a few cotton wool pads.

Then you need to add a few bigger branches or small logs to the outside of your kindling structure. Continue the wigwam theme, leaning branches at an angle into the centre – remember to leave access to the tinder so you can light the fire. These larger branches will keep your fire going (tinder and kindling burn away rapidly). They don't need to be big, but they do need to be dry – and you'll need a supply of dry branches or logs to hand (but at a safe distance from the fire) to keep the campfire burning. When it's ready, light the tinder.

Finally, keep it safe. Many campsites have designated campfire cooking areas, and these should be used if available. Keep a bucket of water to hand so you can put a fire out quickly if needed, and don't leave a campfire unattended.

Always build a fire away from tents, trees, bushes or other potential hazards, and never build it on top of dry or dead grass (bare earth is best). Check there's nothing that could catch fire within “spitting distance” of the fire pit – sparks from a fire can fly a fair distance – including branches, bark, dry leaves and flammable clothing, such as fleeces. And never ignore “no campfires” warning signs when out in the countryside – fires can quickly get out of control in dry moorland areas or woodland, and the results can be devastating.

Get the gear

Check out our favourite campfire cooking accessories !

The Glow Company Mystical fire   £6.96

Add a little magic to your campfire with Mystical Fire! Throw a packet onto any wood burning fire and watch as the flames flicker blue, red orange and green. The beautiful colours will continue to change for up to an hour, even if you add more wood. Great for celebrations.

Outwell Bamboo Dining Set   £22.99

A stylish, sustainable, eco-friendly dining set made from biodegradable bamboo. It's sturdy, hardwearing and can be put in the dishwasher (not that you're likely to have one of those to hand!). Everything you need for dining à deux: two plates, two bowls and two mugs.

Cobb Cooking System   £99.99

The Cobb Cooking System is a handy alternative when an open campfire isn't an option. It's a barbeque that also roasts, smokes salmon or bakes pizza. It's very fuel efficient, needing just a handful of briquettes to provide three hours of cooking time. Staying cool to the touch, it's safe to use anywhere outside – and comes in a handy carry bag, making transportation easy as pie.

AnySharp Smart Box Grater   £7.99

A compact, three-in-one camp kitchen tool that can grate, slice and peel. Grating cheese is a breeze: the box fits neatly inside your hand, making it easy to grip, and quality stainless steel blades ensure minimum effort. The grated cheese is caught inside the box, where it's safe and hygienically stored until you're ready to sprinkle it over your pasta. The different tools store away inside the box, making this a great little gadget for campers or backpackers who are short on space – but don't want to compromise on quality campfire meals.

Green Adventures September 2016

Campfire Cooking