This surely is my favourite pastime when we are camping in a group – to watch how innovative people can get when preparing a meal with what you have at hand, especially when it is week two of a serious off-road trip. I myself like to keep things very simple!
I prefer to travel as light as possible and keep the kitchen equipment/utensils to the minimum. Fancy cooking is something that I will attempt when I am at home with all the crockery and cutlery at hand. After all, this is why we come to the bush – to get back to basics again and appreciate nature. I can proudly say that I have had a braai in countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast and Zambia!
When camping there are basically two ways to cook – either with a gas cooker or over the open fire. We make a fire every night when camping so that is the obvious choice for us when we travel in Africa. You will find wood or charcoal almost everywhere in Africa as it is an integral part of rural living on the continent.
There are various ways and methods to braai as this is second nature for us South African. Read more on this topic in my post a “Braai – a way of life”.
When we come to potjiekos which is made in a cast iron pot (three-legged or flat bottomed) over flames and not coals like when you are braaiing. I prefer the flat-bottomed pot as my dish normally burns in the three-legged one. I do not know what I am doing wrong!
When making potjie your choices of meat are endless – venison, beef, lamb, chicken, etcetera. I even make a kick-ass lasagne potjie. The best thing about a potjie is that you can add what you can find on the local markets. In our case this mainly determines what type of potjie we are having that night. (I will post on how to buy food on the local markets in a separate post). However, I prefer to make a potjie when we are making camp for more than two days at a place, especially if you arrive late, there is not always enough time to make the potjie as it requires simmering over the fire.
A potjie is a good alternative to a braai as quality meat can at times be hard to find in Africa. I am pretty sure that we had donkey tails once (sold as ox tail) in Choma, Zambia, but we survived that too! When you are hungry and there are not a lot of options available, you just give it and go …. 🙂
My flat bottomed potjie also serves as an oven in which I bake bread.
Buy food that will last in the African heat. Refrigerator space is always limited. Butternuts (hard to find in Africa), gems and potatoes, onions and cabbage can take you a long way and sometimes it is the only vegetables that you will source for a couple of days. So you need to be innovative with your recipes. Aluminum foil comes in handy when doing vegetables over the fire.
I also take some dry rations such as pasta and couscous for emergencies – you never know what can happen in the African bush. Rusks and coffee is also a quick breakfast fix when you have limited options in the bush. Eggs are always problematic to pack and keep them whole, so I only buy it when I am pretty sure that it will be used the same day – boiled for lunch later or scrambled for breakfast.
Share your cooking experience in the commentary section of the post. It may be useful to some newbie camper that is unfamiliar with local customs and conditions.