Post sponsored by Volkswagen.
Although I can’t really call myself an experienced camper, I’m fascinated by the idea of setting up a tent in the middle of nowhere and keeping the signs of civilization to a minimum.
I got my introduction to camping through my boyfriend. To avoid unnecessary difficulties, he chose wisely and decided to give it a go when we were in his home country – a place where you’re never really completely cut off. He convinced me to take a boat to Comino, Malta’s tiny sister island, which is just the right size to jump bravely into our first outdoor adventure without having to worry about too many risks. Our ‘captain’ dropped us off at the shore, along with our two bags, a tent, and a cooling box. It was August, it was unbearably hot, and I found myself in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, on a rocky island. There was not a single tree in sight. My boyfriend, however, looked at the situation with far more optimism. He knows Comino like his back pocket, thanks to countless trips as a child. He set up our rather basic looking tent within less than 10 minutes, with a little help from his clueless German girlfriend (I really tried hard not to be a burden). And when we were done, we jumped into the gentle waves in a lonely bay and I felt a bit like Robinson Crusoe. All of a sudden I started to like this camping idea.
To prepare our dinner, I collected some twigs and my man made a fire. We even managed to exchange a few of our tomatoes from the cooling box with the fresh catch of a passing fisherman. Then I got comfortable: I couldn’t help but turn the rocks around me into a little desert island kitchen. Olive oil, salt, and pepper were ready to marinate the fish and vegetables for our DIY BBQ and we sat down with a glass of wine (a gift from the fisherman). This dinner tasted so good that I could have cried. Maybe that’s part of the whole camping experience, you’re very close to nature, you depend on the weather, the sunlight, the sea, and the food that nature (or your cooling box) offers you. It makes you humble and it opens your senses, everything feels more intense. To smell, taste, feel, and see is essential when you live in and around a tent or camper van. The night came early and covered our little island in the deepest darkness. As soon as the sun sank into the sea, I felt more sleepy than usual, but also more peaceful. I brushed my teeth in the calm sea and went to bed.
Most of my activities on the Maltese Islands are documented in thousands of pictures, but the idea of camping – at least in my eyes – is about being unplugged and as far away from any technical devices as possible. So there’s no photographic evidence of my first or our following Comino camping adventures. However, when I spoke to my mother about camping recently, she brought many stories and pictures back to mind that I hadn’t thought of in decades. My parents and my sister went to the Camargue, in southern France in the 70s, to a place with the beautiful name Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. They didn’t have a tent but an old Volkswagen van. I always loved the old photographs, of them on the beach and in old villages, on ancient narrow cobblestone streets. The ease of a camper on their faces. One of the nicest camper vans I know belongs to our friends Luke and Jessica in Malta. Their gorgeous four wheeled gem is baby blue, built in 1968, and its restoration took them 10 months, but all the patience, sweat, and love they put into it was worth it.
Stephanie Le from Canada also shared her love for camping with me in our meet in your kitchen feature a few weeks ago. She’s a pro, she even manages to create a Beef Stroganoff when she’s out in the woods. Stephanie made me think about the culinary challenges that you have to face when you limit your life to a few bags and a grill or gas stove. It also makes a huge difference if you’re in a place that still allows you to forage, or where fishermen offer you the best fish you ever tasted in your whole life. I’m talking about a rather romantic kind of camping here, away from the crowds and civilization and its disturbing visual and acoustic side effects.
Let’s say you’ll be out in the wilderness, for 1-2 nights, and you can upgrade your meal with some fruit and dairy products, the cooling box will keep it fresh for a day. When Volkswagen asked me to come up with a recipe – an eat in my kitchen on the road creation – I couldn’t help but think of camping deluxe. A kind of camping that satisfies the longings of a gourmet who ended up off the beaten track. The senses stimulated by the whole outdoor experience, ready to be caressed by a beautiful plate of farfalle with ripe figs, creamy mozzarella di bufala, velvety honey butter, and fragrant basil. The dried pasta and honey are easy to store, the figs and herbs can be kept in a lunch box, and the mozzarella and butter stay fresh in the cooling box. This would be my ideal treat for a night under the clear black sky.
For more delicious recipes and kitchen inspiration, visit Volkswagen’s Pinterest community board Food Blogger for Volkswagen.
Farfalle Pasta with Figs, Mozzarella di Bufala and Honey Butter
farfalle pasta 200g / 7 ounces
butter 3 tablespoons
honey 1 1/2-2 teaspoons
large figs, cut into 8 wedges each, 2
mozzarella di bufala, torn into pieces, 125g / 4 1/2 ounces
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
flaky sea salt
Cook the farfalle in salted water until al dente.
In the pot used to cook the pasta, heat the butter and honey and whisk until combined. Mix in the farfalle, stir, and divide between 2 plates. Arrange the figs, mozzarella, and basil on top and season with crushed pepper and flaky sea salt to taste.
Enjoy warm or cold.