We teamed up with gourmet expedition chef Kieran Creevy, MSR, AeroPress and headline partner Helinox for a wild camping trip.
The aim? To push the boundaries of cooking on the trail. Take a read of Kieran’s remote adventure, his recipes and enter for a chance to win your own wild cooking and camping gear.
Ripples of sunlight bounce off the rear view mirror; early morning light, and the Mediterranean Sea to our backs as we head North and West towards the High Pyrenees.
Wedged tight on the back seats are backpacks loaded with food and equipment for a few days on the mountains, and fast asleep in the boot lies Whip, our photographer’s dog.
Over the last month, I’ve come to call Northern Spain my second home; teaching expedition skills on the mountains of the high Pyrenees. I’ve also been lucky to stay with two friends/locals who have kindly taken me exploring on the hillsides and rocky coves of their ‘backyard’.
Now though, it’s my turn to take them to one of my ‘offices’, a chance to reconnect with the High Pyrenees, where I had previously spent weeks and months over many years. For my friend Carlos; a committed waterman and professional sailor, it’s a good thing we have been outfitted by Osprey, Helinox, MSR and AeroPress.
Instead of the ‘bare-bones’ alpine bivi he had expected, we’re hiking, camping, and cooking in style and comfort.
Arriving at the trailhead, we can see that a few locals have also taken advantage of this spectacular landscape and are off on their own specific adventures. One side effect of the global pandemic and restricted travel is it has encouraged people to explore the outdoors in their towns, regions or countries. No longer do we seek to explore on the far side of the globe for a two week holiday. Rather, this has opened our eyes to new possibilities of what lies close to home.
With packs snugged tight, and Whip already sniffing far down the trail, we head steadily uphill. Peaks of granite and sandstone soar above our heads, spurs and ridges showcasing eons of geological time at work. Waves of rock flow and swirl like their liquid counterparts, speaking of immense pressure needed to create these fantastic shapes.
The high peaks and narrow valleys reflect heat, so it’s not long before we’re searching for a water source to soak our heads and top up water bottles with our filter. High pitched piping calls startle us from a momentary reverie, Marmots on the high scree have spotted an eagle gliding, on the hunt! For the next half hour, calls echo around the valley, the Marmots joined in concert by Pyrenean Chamois, and the occasional scream from the eagle.
Further along the trail we spot a spray of wild blueberries, but they’re too close to the trail to be considered edible. As the valley narrows, the trail steepens, switchbacking up one face. Our pace slows and we briefly question the benefit of going gourmet for our camp food and our chosen campsite. However, we know the reward on both fronts will be worth the effort.
A bare thirty minutes later, we have our answer. Cresting the ridge, the lake below is almost still, only the merest hint of a ripple breaking the mirror effect. Stretching towards the horizon are fold upon fold of mountains and valleys, offering months of hiking and climbing potential.
Packs down, we bend and stretch, loosening up our shoulder and backs. Within minutes, we have a comfortable setup, thick self inflating mats, down sleeping bags, camp tables and chairs. Soon, the smell of onions, garlic, chicken and spices permeate the vicinity, bringing with it the twitching nose and soulful brown eyes of Whip. Like most dogs, ever hopeful for additional food.
With dinner simmering away, we sink deeper into our chairs. Conversation slows, each of us drifting off into separate reveries. Later, replete with full bellies, we hike out a few hundred metres to watch sunset over the distant peaks.
Fast asleep by 9:30pm, I’m woken a few hours later by movement outside. Groggy, I unzip the tent door. Instantly, I’m fully awake. The skies above are suffused with the glow of a billion, billion stars. It’s been years since I’ve seen the Milky Way with this clarity and grandeur, but, here in the High Pyrenees it’s on full display. Food for the soul! After the steep hike, dinner and a light show, we sleep as though poleaxed.
The first hints of daylight have barely reached the tent when I feel a sharp elbow poke through the sleeping bag and into my ribs. Knowing my friends don’t operate without a morning coffee, I guess it’s time to light the stove and get water boiling. However, as a final surprise, there’s no instant coffee, and muesli on the menu this morning. Rather, freshly ground beans for a proper espresso, and spiced potato pancakes all round.
Post breakfast, and mid clean up, I look around to find Carlos and Whip. Both are mid siesta in the tent, crashed out in a tangled sprawl. Eventually I manage to rouse them both, Whip the easier of the two, with the possibility of chasing tennis balls. Unfortunately, all too soon, it’s time to load our packs for the return journey.
Though it’s only been two days and once night in the wilderness; even short forays into the forest, or onto mountains has the capacity to recharge our emotional and psychological batteries, and renew our love for the outdoors.
See you out there.
Gormet Wild Cooking Recipes
Arroz de Montaña (Catalan mountain paella). Serves 2
- 1 cup short grain rice – preferably bomba, senia, or bahfa – can be substituted with sushi or risotto rice.
- 1 large free range chicken breast, roughly chopped
- 60g butifarra negra, roughly chopped – can be substituted with morcilla, boudin noir or black pudding
- 60g butifarra blanca, roughly chopped – can be substituted with boudin blanc or white pudding
- 2 medium green, white or yellow onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cube chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp hot paprika
- 1 glass white wine
- 2 cups water.
- 15ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
For a vegan alternative, replace the chicken and butifarra with 2 cups wild mushrooms and 1 cup Padrón peppers (can be substituted with 1 green or red pepper).
- Camping stove, 2.5l pot and skillet
- 1 x 500ml insulated food flask.
- Bamboo or wooden spatula and spoons
- Small chopping board
- Sharp knife
- 1 litre water bottle
- 2 x 2-3 litre drybags
- 2 x 50ml leakproof container
- Bowls or plates
- Freeze the chicken breast and butifarra overnight.
- Place the food flask (open) in the freezer.
- In the morning, decant the frozen meats into the insulated food flask and seal.
- Pour the wine and 2 cups water into the water bottle.
- Store the rice in one dry bag, the onion and garlic in the other.
- Crumble the stock cube, mix in all the other seasonings and store in a 50ml leakproof container.
- Morning of the overnight camp, divide all the equipment and food between your Osprey backpacks.
- By the time you reach camp, the frozen chicken and butifarra should have defrosted fully.
- If it’s not fully thawed, decant into your camping skillet and allow to defrost further.
- Finely dice the onions and garlic.
- Light the stove, warm the pot and add oil, onions and garlic.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the spice mix, rice, butifarra, and wine/water mix.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes on a simmer until the rice is cooked through, adding a little extra water if needed.
Bon Profit/Buen Provecho!
Potato, onion and chive pancakes with chorizo and sheep cheese. Serves 2
- 2 small or 1 large potato
- 1 white or yellow onion
- Small handful fresh chives
- 50g cured chorizo sausage
- 50g hard sheep cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp saffron – can be substituted with 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 15ml rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil.
For a vegetarian version, omit the chorizo.
- Cooking stove and skillet
- Bamboo spatula
- Small chopping board
- 50ml leakproof bottle
- Small grater
- 50ml leakproof container
- Sharp knife
- Plates and one bowl
- 1 x 2-3litre drybags.
- Store the oil in the 50ml bottle, and the spices in the 50ml container.
- Store the potato/es, onion, chive, cheese and chorizo in the drybag.
- Finely grate the potatoes
- Finely dice the onion or grate for a more compact pancake
- Finely dice half of the chives and all of the chorizo.
- Mix together in a bowl and season with salt, saffron and pepper.
- Squeeze together until you have a compact mix
- Heat the skillet to hot, add the oil and the pancake mix.
- Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Flip over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Grate the sheep cheese and add to the top of the pancake.
- Split between two plates, top with additional diced chive and serve.