Cooking up a storm on a camping stove

I love to eat good food and, fortunately, I also love to cook ūüôā While cooking on a camping stove (especially our MSR Whisperlite, which is basically OFF or VERY HOT) does present an additional challenge or ten, I am hoping to encourage fellow travellers to be a little more adventurous than the staple of pasta and sauce, at least when in the vicinity of a reasonable supply of ingredients. ¬†So here goes!!

Before I launch into the recipes and instructions, here are our top tips for successful campsite cookery:

  • Most carbohydrates will cook if you simply stand them in boiling water, with the lid on. ¬†If it’s cold, it’s better to isolate the pan from eg the ground, and perhaps use a ‘pot cosy’. ¬†It’s surprising how hot things stay!
A pan full of pasta
Pasta cooking away from the heat. Note that it is placed on the lid from the other pan to isolate it from the cold ground.
  • The key is to be very organised. ¬†Chop your ingredients, open your tins and have everything to hand before you even light your stove.
A selection of ingredients
All set to make the sauce
  • Bring a sous-chef if (like me) you find point 2 challenging!
A man opening a can
A bit of help can come in useful at critical moments if you’re as scatty a chef as me!¬†


  • Some stoves (looking at you, Whisperlite!) don’t really have much temperature control (although it does help a bit if you don’t have the Whisperlite on full gas). ¬†You can get around this by taking the pan off the heat from time to time – so that it boils / cools down rather than actually simmering (which is pretty much impossible). You can even take a break from eg cooking your sauce and give your carbs a boost.
  • We carry a small store-cupboard around, usually containing oil, garlic, soy sauce, veg stock, curry powder, and chilli flakes.
  • If you don’t want to carry oil around, and haven’t picked up any of those handy portions of butter or marg, skip onion and just use garlic. ¬†Reduce the quantity slightly, chop it as fine as you can and simply cook it in your sauce.
  • It’s worth having some sort of well-sealing container for carrying leftovers.

Note: ¬†everything in this blog assumes that you have two pans, and that at least one of them has a lid. ¬†If you were thinking about skimping and leaving one at home, we’d highly recommend that you think again!

Now for some recipes for inspiration!  All vegetarian, and all can be made vegan (eg use tofu or chick peas instead of halloumi in the curry).
Pasta with simple bean and tomato sauce 
Level:  beginner
You will need:
  • Oil or butter / marg (see top tips for a way around this)
  • Garlic and/or onion, chopped
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • A tin of beans (optional, we used cannellini. Lentils would be good. You could also use soya mince, if you can get hold of it).
  • Seasoning of some description (we use soy sauce; salt or stock powder would also work)
Optional extras:  other veg (eg peppers, courgettes, mushrooms), chilli powder
Get everything ready and arrange it so you don’t have to move far! ¬†Then you can light your stove.
  1. Boil a pan of water for the pasta. ¬†Tip: ¬†boil a bit too much so you can make a cup of tea ūüôā
  2. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and bring back to the boil. ¬†Then pop the lid on and remove from the heat. ¬†Try and isolate the pan from the ground if it’s cold – we use the lid from our other pan.
  3. Put the oil in the other pan and add the onion. ¬†Fry until softened (you may need to keep lifting the pan off the heat occasionally to prevent burning). ¬†It will brown more than you might like, but that’s fine.
  4. Add the garlic and any other veg and cook until softened, but don’t worry too much as it will cook in the tomatoes.
  5. Add tomatoes and beans cook until you’re happy with the consistency. ¬†Again, you may need to keep lifting the pan off the heat.
  6. When you’re happy with your sauce, drain the pasta and stir it all together. ¬†Season to taste. ¬†Done!
A woman stirring food in a pan
Saut√© that onion ūüôā
Adding beans to the pan
Add tomatoes and beans 
Adding soy sauce
The all-important seasoning 
A finished pasta dish
Mix it all together and hey presto!


Coconut curry with halloumi

Level:  intermediate

You will need:

  • Oil
  • Onion and garlic, chopped
  • Other veg, chopped (we used green beans and red pepper)
  • Curry powder
  • Coconut milk (we used powdered, but tinned would be fine of course! ¬†You could use tomatoes for a different type of curry. ¬†If using powdered, follow the instruction to make it up with warm water)
  • Halloumi, chopped into large chunks (or tofu, or chick peas)
  • Optional: ¬†some sweetness for balance. ¬†We used chopped dried peaches because that’s what we had! ¬†Raisins would work, or honey, or sugar.
  1. Boil water for your carb of choice. ¬†We used couscous. ¬†For couscous, simply soak in an equal volume of water. ¬†It’s best to ‘fluff’ the couscous after 5 or 10 mins, otherwise it does tend to solidfy! ¬†Add some oil or butter and seasoning. ¬†If you really have to have hot couscous, make it when your curry is ready.
  2. Saute the onion in the oil.  As before, you may need to lift the pan off the heat from time to time to prevent burning.
  3. Saute the other veg until slightly softened.
  4. Add the curry powder (1-2 tsp) and stir in for 30 secs or so.
  5. Add the coconut milk and stir well.  Reduce a little if required.
  6. Add the halloumi and cook for a couple of minutes. ¬†Again – don’t be afraid to lift the pan off the heat to moderate the temperature through the whole cooking process.
  7. Season appropriately (including sweetness if required).  Done!
Adding vegetables to the pan
Sautéing the veg 
Stirring a pan of curry
Stirring well after adding the curry powder and coconut milk 
Halloumi cheese in a pan of curry
The halloumi will melt slightly in the sauce. Yum! I’m prepping dried fruit in the background, as ours was a little bitter.¬†
Curry served with couscous
The finished dish, served with couscous


African peanut stew

Level:  advanced

This is a slightly ridiculous thing to try and cook on a camping stove, but actually it worked really well! ¬†The recipe originates from our friends over at, who nagged me to write this post in the first place. ¬†Not sure they expected this one to feature ūüėČ ¬†If you want some more precise quantities, please see this other post that I wrote a while ago. ¬†We made an absolute mountain on this occasion – good job we have a tupperware for leftovers!

You will need:

  • Onion, garlic and ginger, chopped. ¬†(TIP: ¬†you can peel ginger with a spoon! ¬†Try it! ¬†Thanks to our good friend Luce for that tip ūüôā
  • 1-2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes (it would probably fine if you didn’t bother peeling).
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Tin of beans (we used a mix but any variety will do)
  • ‘Half a cup’ of peanut butter (two big splodges)
  • Veg stock (couple of tsp?)
  • ‘Some’ leafy green veg (we used some left over pak choi), torn into smallish pieces. ¬†(We used a lot less than we’d use at home, due to availability and also pan size!)
  • ‘Some’ tinned sweetcorn (we used about 2/3 of a tin. ¬†The recipe asks for frozen peas but we couldn’t get any – sweetcorn adds similar sweetness and was very yummy)
  1. Boil water for your sweet potato
  2. When boiling, add the sweet potato.  Bring back to the boil, then set aside with the lid on, preferably isolated from the cold ground.
  3. Fry the onion in the oil until softened.
  4. Fry garlic and ginger for 30 secs or so.
  5. Add the coriander and stir briefly.
  6. Add the tomatoes and beans. Heat it through again (until it bubbles).
  7. Add peanut butter and stir well. ¬†It takes a little while to ‘melt’ into the sauce. As ever, take the pan off the heat to regulate the temperature if you’re using an MSR.
  8. Add veg stock powder, and as much water as you need to keep the sauce at a ‘good’ consistency. ¬†I don’t add water at home, but the MSR cooks much hotter, so I kept adding a splosh from my water bottle.
  9. Stir in greens and sweetcorn.
  10. Check that the sweet potato is cooked, then stir in.  Ours was well cooked, which surprised me.  Another option is to set the stew to one side, and give the sweet potato a boost on the heat.
  11. Season to taste, and serve!
Man peeling a sweet potato
Even more important to prep in advance for this one. Wine optional ūüėČ


Sweet potato cooking
Get the sweet potato going first


Adding tomatoes to the pan
Sauté your onion, garlic and ginger, then add the tomatoes


Stirring stew
Add the beans, then stir in the peanut butter and stock powder.  Watch the heat, it can easily stick!  Add water as required.


Pan full of stew
Stir in the greens and sweetcorn, and finally the cooked sweet potato


Woman stirring a pan of food
Season to taste


Two bowls of stew
Done! We topped ours with extra peanuts. It was honestly just as good as at home!

So there you go! ¬†Even if you don’t fancy trying these very vague recipes, I hope that this post has given you some inspiration. ¬†It’s surprising what you can do on the humble camping stove! ¬†Please drop us a line if you have any questions.

An administrative aside: ¬†for regular readers who were disappointed by the lack of a flickr link in yesterday’s post (all 2 of you ūüėČ please check out our latest album here: ¬†

As ever, you’re welcome to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, @unprofessionaladventurers….. ¬†Updates somewhat infrequent at the moment, apparently it’s harder to find free wifi in New Zealand than most of South East Asia…..

More soon ūüôā


Nice to meet you

Vietnam is quite a character. ¬†It’s like that friend – great fun to go to the pub with, always joking and teasing, sometimes to the point of tedium. That person who treads the line between acceptable and unacceptable, and definitely isn’t the friend your Mum let you go to the park with because they were ‘sensible’. ¬†Yet underneath the colourful exterior, they are incredibly loyal, kind and warm-hearted, and will do anything for you. ¬†Vietnam is all of these things.

Exceptionally sweet staff in hotels and coffee shops, who might not speak much or any English but still want to interact, and bend over backwards to help us. ¬†‘Nice to meet you’ they say, as you arrive. ¬†Old ladies in plastic-bag waterproofs and trademark conical hats rubbing shoulders with immaculate, fashionable young people. Women labourers, chopping logs or harvesting vegetables by the side of the road, shouting ‘helloooOOOOooo’ and literally CACKLING with laughter when we respond. Grungy local restaurants, with tiny plastic chairs and rubbish on the floor, dishing up mouth-watering meals for less than the cost of a snickers. ¬†Cows lying on the highway. ¬†Cockerels crowing in the morning (no change there). ¬†A thousand (million?) mopeds buzzing around, weaving inbetween those strange white people wobbling on their bicycles. ¬†And the incessant honking from every single motorised vehicle. ¬†I would honk if I could!

Every day we see something that surprises us. ¬†Overloaded mopeds were common in Thailand and Laos as well, but Vietnam seems to take things to new levels. ¬†Lots of passengers goes without saying. ¬†It’s also perfectly acceptable to have your pillion passenger hold onto your cargo, be that a TV, a bicycle or a wheelie bin (admittedly, that was being dragged). ¬†We’ve seen a washing machine. ¬†5 metre-long metal poles over the rider’s shoulder. ¬†Even longer trailers. 50 flapping ducks. ¬†MANY piglets in a cage on the back. ¬†A FULL SIZE PIG. ¬†It’s a constant source of incredulity and entertainment, although we do fear for their safety of course!

Since my last post, we’ve spent a day chilling by the pretty river and beach in Dong Hoi, soaked up the hustle and bustle of go-ahead Hue, cycled the Hai Van pass (of Top Gear fame – it rained a lot) and admired the impossibly pretty streets of Hoi An. ¬†Lots of other nice cycling inbetween as well of course! ¬†A common thread holds all of this together, and that is food ūüôā ¬†One of my very favourite things about Vietnam is the surprising abundance of vegetarian restaurants…..and now they’re MUCH easier to find as, given their use of the roman script, we can find them on google maps! ¬†Brilliant.

Menu in Vietnamese
No problem if you can’t read with menu when it’s all vegetarian!

Let’s start with breakfast. ¬†If you’re feeling adventurous, you might ‘go local’ and grab yourself some classic pho noodles:

Eating pho noodles

If you’re somewhere on the tourist-beaten track, you might go for muesli or pancakes, enhanced with fabulous local fruit:


Of course, at some point you’ll need a coffee. ¬†Can we recommend the ca phe sua, coffee with milk. ¬†Condensed of course, for that double caffeine-sugar hit:

Vietnamese coffee. Always served with tea.

The day starts early here so, if you find yourself feeling a little peckish mid-morning, there’s always the banh mi sandwich:

Eating a Vietnamese sandwich

So many lunch options, so little time!!  How about a steam pot?  Also known as steamboat / hotpot / shabu shabu / fondue in various parts of the world, this interactive dish is not only delicious but also easy to order Рalways a bonus when the menu is somewhat baffling:

Eating and cooking hotpot at the table

Mid-afternoon, you might find a cake if you’re somewhere catering to westerners but failing that, there are plenty of milky, sugary drinks to choose from. ¬†Personally, I’m becoming rather partial to the matcha latte – also available iced, but the hot version is particularly appealling in the wet season!

Matcha latte

Before you know it, your stomach’s grumbling again and it’s time to think about dinner! ¬†Why not order a selection of dishes and share? ¬†Beer is the most important element of course – fresh ‘bia hoi’ if you can find it but, if not, Saigon or Huda will do!

Eating a selection of Vietnamese dishes

Tasty indeed.  Admittedly, this is all somewhat offset by our cycling diet of oreos, haribo and crisps, but there you go!

If you’d like to peruse our photos from Vietnam so far, I have pulled them together in two new flickr albums:

Border to Phong Nha:

Dong Hoi to Hoi An:

Enjoy! ¬†And please wish us luck with the weather – apparently it’s going to rain solidly for the next 4-10 days, depending on who you believe…..

Two people in raincoats
Did I mention it was wet…..