How to Master Campsite Cooking

Campsite cooking is the cheapest way to eat on a cycle tour of France, but Emma Philpott says it needn't be all pasta and pot noodles.

Campsite cooking doesn't have to be boring. Photo: Toby Bradbury

Campsite cooking when you're on a cycling tour doesn't have to be boring. Photo: Toby Bradbury

If you're camping, carry basic cooking gear on your bike to make use of the produce on offer. A camp kitchen for two people should include a camp stove, pot and non-stick frying pan, plus a good knife and chopping surface. In my kitchen kit I also carry cooking oil or butter, stock cubes, flour, a stirring implement and salt and pepper. Small amounts of vinegar and spices can also be useful but the exact setup will depend on your personal tastes and preferences.

French campsites may have a small shop attached but be aware these usually only carry basics and will most likely be closed outside of high season. An on-site shop may supply fresh bread, eggs and often wine. Many have a morning bread delivery service from a local bakery and those attached to farms may have meat and vegetables for sale direct from the farmer.

Suggestions for your camp stove

Even those dining under the stars can get a taste of traditional French food without much effort. We've enjoyed the following quick fix meals.

Bouillabaisse (Provençal fish stew): Good quality jars are available in most supermarkets. Heat and serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Locally made sausages: Most regions of France produce different types of sausages. Fry on a non-stick pan and serve with warm potatoes, salad or cut up and add to a pasta sauce.

Cassoulet (Languedoc duck, pork and bean stew): Can be bought in a tin. Pick a high quality brand and eat with a side salad or fresh bread.

Cous cous with sauce: Sold in French supermarkets packaged with an accompanying sauce. Pour the cous cous into a bowl and add boiling water. Leave for five minutes to allow the grains to swell. Heat up the sauce in another pot or saucepan before serving, adding any additional vegetables you have to hand.

For more substantial cooking ideas, look to local food for inspiration. Read the Hungry Cyclist's 2009 Tour de France blog, where each stage of the race is tied to a regional recipe. Consider attending a cooking course, taking part in a winery tour or planning a route through regions known for their cuisine.

Whether you find yourself in a restaurant, a major metropolitan city or you're eating outside your tent, you're bound to eat well in France.

Books and recipes

For even more campsite cooking tips, see the Cool Camping Cookbook, The Camping Cookbook by Annie Bell, The One Pan Gourmet: Fresh Food on the Trail by Don Jacobson, or The Complete Trail Food Cookbook.

We also have some of Emma's simple cycle camping recipes.

See also our article on food in France for a general overview of French food, including restaurants and markets. See also our guide to choosing a camp stove and our overview of cycle camping in France.

Emma Philpott is a world-curious New Zealander who packed up London life to cycle back to New Zealand in March 2010, boyfriend in tow. After spending winter in Istanbul, they cycled east during 2011 through Russia, Mongolia, China and South-East Asia. You can read more on their Rolling Tales blog.

Where to buy camping equipment for cycling

Cyclocamping.com is an online camping store run by a Franco-American couple with 10 years' touring experience. It has an excellent range of bike accessories and spares, plus a full range of camping kit, and products are field-tested. They offer worldwide delivery. 

REI is a US-based eco-sensitive clothing and camping store that also stocks a diverse range of bikes.

Camping World is one of the UK's largest camping retailers. Their prices are usually very competitive and they offer free UK delivery, as well as delivery worldwide for a surcharge.

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