Desserts in the Desert

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There is nothing nicer than being in the middle of nowhere and being able to have a pudding that is more than toasted marshmallows.  Don’t get me mistaken, my kids LOVE toasted marshmallow squished between two Marie biscuits with Nutella.  It is my quick go-to treat when camping but a warm pudding can’t be beaten.  My son Jesse absolutely loves apple crumble and it is the biggest treat when away.  It’s also really easy to take along on long trips as tinned apples work perfectly well and the makings for the crumble just need butter brought.  It’s been a bit of a hit and miss trying to get the crumble to be more crumble like and not turn cakey.  So I have finally managed to get it right!  So here are my tricks.

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We love to throw peaches or apricots in with the apples for added yumminess

Firstly, when putting your fruit into the pot try to not add any of the juice or as little juice as possible.  This will minimize the amount of moisture lessening the steaming effect. With regards to what to use, cast iron works well but be careful not too much heat.  I have a standard Cadac pot which I prefer over my bread pot as the fruit doesn’t stick.  The crumble must not be too thick on top either.  And then the final winner, instead of putting a sealed lid on top, you put a few layers of tinfoil.  Pierce holes around the outside quite close to the edge.  This lets steam escape while still being able to put coals in the middle.  The first time I let the coals burn down and then ash fell through the holes.  So rather use larger coal pieces and rotate them.  We always take the heavy duty tinfoil on our trips, so if you have the lighter stuff be careful.

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Our first attempt with tinfoil.  Credit goes to my brilliant friend Nena, who suggested it after I moaned about the steaming!

 

It takes roughly 45mins to an hour and you need to rotate it so that all the sides get the fire heat too.  As with making bread on the fire, you just need an even spread of light coals underneath the pot.  Again, rather have too few and add a bit more than start too hot and burn it.  You will need to replace the top and bottom coals a few times during this time.  I generally make the apple crumble before prepping the rest of dinner and as soon as the fire is lit.  This is because it can go on the outside while the fire is burning down for the braai.  Any leftovers are great for breakfast the next day!

So here is my recipe.  It is more of a basic guideline.  I am no chef and more of a taste as I go and adjust.  So try it out, change it up and share with good company in beautiful places.

RECIPE

I generally make for roughly 4 adults and 4/5 kids

2 large tins apples

1 tin peaches or apricots

Drain all the juice and put in the pot.  There should be an even covering on the bottom of the pot.

If the apples are sugar free you may need to sprinkle some sugar on

You can add cinnamon sugar and raisins depending on your kids and friends

For the crumble:

4 tblsp soft butter

8 tblsp stone ground flour

6 tblsp sugar

I add some oats as we like how it makes it a bit chewy

Mix together with your fingers until the consistency is ‘crumbly’.  My standard test is if I squeeze some in my hand that it can stick together.

 

Put it over the top of the fruit.  You want a good covering but maximum of 1.5cm thick.  I then put a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top.  Cook until golden on the coals next to the fire.

 

Irish Soda bread in a pan

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Our recent trip to the Richtersveld was magical and this is a pic from our buschcamp at the fluospar mine.

When you are in the middle of nowhere your options for buying bread at a corner shop are….well….not possible.  So you are either left with stale Woolies rolls which last so long because I dread to think what is in them.  Otherwise dry provitas or rice crackers….which lose their appeal after a few days.  Wraps last pretty long and are lovely with salads and veg.  Again, fresh ingredients are limited in the middle of nowhere and there is only so much tuna mayo you can eat in a wrap before gagging.

We do have a cast iron bread pot, but by the time you have set up camp and got supper ready the last thing you feel like doing is kneading bread and leaving to rise etc.  I always have these grand ideas to make bread everyday and pre kids I did it quite a lot on our trips.  But the reality with kids and camping make it seriously unlikely.  My time is now spent finding toys left in cliff holes or rounding up kids from chasing the locals goats up the mountain or stopping them from scorpion hunting without gloves..  The glamorous life of parenting!

Yet again my friend Elaine came to my rescue!  She gave me the amazing beer bread recipe.  I was moaning about the limited option while chatting through logistics on one of our sanity cycles (she is my cycling partner, so many hours are spent together on our bikes).  She then said her family had a recipe, one of those passed down from the grandmother to mother, where you make a semi flat soda bread in the pan and it all mixes together in one bowl and no rising and kneading needed.  I begged and pleaded and promised lots of chocolate in repayment for the recipe.  Woohoo!

So I tried it on our recent trip to the Richtersveld and it was amazing…well the third attempt was.  In typical me fashion I didn’t read the recipe properly.  I was so eager I scanned over it and assumed by the name that baking soda was used….a whole whopping two teaspoons!  The first ‘loaf’ looked amazing and I thought it smelt a little strong, but without trying it I promptly made a second (we were having bacon and eggs for breakfast).  My husband sneaked past and nabbed a piece…and promptly nearly threw up.

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It tasted disgusting!!!!!  I re read the recipe and suddenly realized it was baking powder and not baking soda.  Stupid name!!!!  It was also a weird yellow color when done with the baking soda but I had ignored that as well.

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Anyway, attempt 3 and 4 worked out a dream and what a brilliant, quick and tasty bread.  I made it a few times on our recent Richtersveld holiday.  So without much ado, here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 Cups Flour

2 tsp Baking POWDER

pinch of salt

(mix dry ingredients through with a fork)

270ml warm milk

(will flop if milk isn’t warm)

METHOD TO MAKE

Put all dry ingredients in, run a fork through and add the warm milk.

Mix together using a spoon.

I used a 25cm pan and I lightly olive oiled it but you can use butter too.  We just didn’t have much for our trip.

Pour batter into pan.  It will sort of lump in the middle.  I then dusted my hands in flour and could then spread it out on the pan with my fingers.  You sort of work it outwards.  Put over a medium to low heat and cover and leave.  When the sides start to look more ‘cooked and firm’ and you can get a spatula under, then flip.  Roughly 5mins a side….very roughly as I never timed it.

Then slice horizontally and eat warm with whatever you have available or wrap in tinfoil and keep for lunch.

I made 2 ‘loaves’ and they comfortably served 4 adults and 5 kids.  You cut the loaf into 4 triangles and then in half horizontally.  You then get 8 ‘slices’ per loaf.

As I said before, it’s the small things that make trips to remote areas heaven 🙂

 

It’s the Little Things that count

Just because you’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean you have to suffer.  I have come to realize that when you are out in these remote amazing places it is the little things which just ‘make it’.

 

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Finding a small shop in the middle of nowhere and getting some ‘luxuries’.  Below is a picture of the shop….we nearly missed it

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So here are some of my non negotiables to making all things good while camping:

  • Good coffee – thank God for aeropress
  • Good wine – pack more red than white so don’t have to worry about chilling
  • Good food – you can do more than just braai on a fire
  • Clover full cream or low fat long life milk tastes the best (it doesn’t kill the taste of your Rooibos tea)
  • A comfy pillow – I will sacrifice clothes for my pillow
  • A sheet or kikoi to sleep on – it really makes a difference
  • My Paez shoes – they pack flat, light and are closed! Socks and takkies can get very hot but slip slops aren’t always practical and your feet get dirty
  • Facial wipes – means I can wear some make up 🙂
  • The solar shower bag – nothing better than a shower after a dusty day
  • My kindle
  • Good music
  • A good comfortable camping chair (a lot of time is spent sitting round the fire)

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Bees and Desert Camping – not a match made in Heaven

I thought the puff adder was bad but the bees were something else!

In 2014 we were on Khiding pan in the Kgalagadi.  Water is scarce in this area and animals come for miles to the water holes.  We had a beautiful campsite overlooking the pan with not a soul in sight.  We arrived quite late in the day, so by the time we setup camp dusk had fallen. In the morning once the sun had come up we started to hear a bee or two.  Within 30 minutes there was a low din and within two hours the campsite was swarming.  They were trying to climb up the trailer taps, in the kettle or any water bottle left out.  Any moisture left on any surface was infested and they only left at sunset.  They were relentless!  Olivia got stung for the first time and luckily wasn’t allergic.  We ended up just going for drives in the car to get away.  Any other car we stopped to ask had no bees in their campsite, we were just unlucky.

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We had left a small bowl of water out to rinse hands in and soon it was filled with drowned bees 😦

And we thought it was a once off but in 2016 we were in the Hoanib valley in Namibia looking for the desert lion and elephants.  The wind was howling and we spent most of the morning trying to find a valley to camp in that was slightly sheltered.  We finally found a spot at lunch time and again, within an hour of setting up camp, they started to arrive.  But this time it was 50 times worse than Botswana.  The water is so scarce that they were desperate.  We put the kids in the bubble tent to play and watch a movie but they had water bottles and the tent was soon crawling on the outside with bees trying to get in.  The kids were beyond freaked and on top of that boiling hot.  In the end we again ended up having to climb in our cars just to get away as it was too hot to lie in the tents.

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Me trying to see if sitting under the mosquito net would help at all – it didn’t but at least it provided some amusement.

We had planned to spend two days in that valley but as soon as the sun rose the next morning they already started arriving so we had to pack up and go find another campsite.

Being no expert this is what I have learnt from these two experiences:

  • Fruit scented dishwashing liquid makes it muuuuuuuch worse
  • Citronella candles do nothing to keep them away.  We were burning 5 of them to try and get the lunch out but they still were everywhere
  • Anthisan works better than calladrel for the stings
  • The mozzie net helped a bit but ours had a stupid split in the middle to tie closed so a full one would work better
  • Basically, if they start arriving rather pack up camp and move
  • If you can’t move, grab snacks and drinks and rather go for a drive till sunset
  • As soon as the sun goes down they leave

So here’s to hoping that we have a bee free trip up next

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected surprises while Bush Camping

 

In 2013 we did our first trip with Jesse (5) and Olivia (3) taking them up to the Kgalagadi.  Our campsite on the Khiding pan was beautiful with not another person in sight.  We had put very strict rules in place for how far they could move from camp drawing a line in the sand as their boundary.   They also had to be in view of an adult at all times, so no going behind cars.  So Jess gets his spade and starts digging around a tree right next to the braai area.  He played for hours there with Livi and our friends son Sven, with their dinky cars and dinosaurs.  We thought it was great, being under a tree and in the shade but little did we know.

Later that night my husband took a pee against said tree and not five minutes later THE biggest, laziest and fattest puffadder you could imagine came out of the hole where the kids had being playing!!!!!   I still shiver at the thought.  Now the rules include no holes at the base of anything!

So here are a few things we now do with the kids camping in the bush:

  • Take tape or rope to cordon off the boundary area for them.  This is not to keep animals out but to give the kids an end point to the camp area.  We just took that plastic traffic tape and would tie it from the car to a tree and back to the car.  If no tree we stuck a stick in the ground.  When their heads are down and they are involved in play it is amazing how quickly with distraction they can move and unintentionally too.  If you don’t have rope or tape then draw a line where they can’t go beyond.
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    The Matopi Camp on the way to Nossob from Khiding.  The grass was very high around us so we ‘fenced’ off the area for the kids, putting all vehicles in a half circle

     

     

  • Check where the kids are playing and digging.  In the story above we didn’t realize Jesse had started digging where there was already a hole.
  • If you are bush camping with high grass, put all the vehicles in as much of a half circle and then the chairs on the other half of the circle and then the kids to play inside of this space.
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Jesse, Olivia and Sven playing at Matopi.  You had to worry about spraining your ankle with all the holes and trenches they dug