How to appreciate the art of camp stove cooking in the Scottish wilderness
I spend a lot of time train-bound. Moving back to Scotland back in 2013 was a calculated risk; had we secured independence there would have been no shortage of work in a new, vibrant Scotland with all the challenges that entailed. No-one was saying it would be easy but it would be ours; independent and in Europe.
That didn’t happen. So I spend a third of my life in Glasgow, a third in London and the remaining third on Virgin Trains and the plethora of other rail operators that populate the privatized panorama of passenger peregrination.
The coffee is generally risible; the food hardly remarkable; the beer (with the exception of Virgin’s surprisingly drinkable Tilting Ale) as clichéd as it is warm.
But the views can be spectacular. Hastening and hurtling through the heartlands and hinterlands of the lush lakes of northern England, crossing Cumbria and Carlisle into the distinct delight that is Dumfries. The verdant vistas of Lanarkshire indicate imminent arrival into Glasgow Central. Some days, exhausted, emotional and glad to be home, I feel genuinely inclined to invoke memories of Pope John Paul II; I want to kneel and kiss the concrete concourse on Platform 1 or 2.
While I journey I am constantly struck by the beauty of Scotland. On clear days I’ll take a photo and tweet a vista, sharing my view with the office bound, the city dwellers and any others interested. Last week I noticed that my Samsung-captured landscape was favourited by an artist. Me and Julie got talking, our shared loved of landscapes more than enough to start a conversation.
Julie Arbuckle is something of an expert when it comes to landscapes. It’s her passion and with it the changeable weather and the wilderness that defines Scotland. She spends much of her time camping out, sketching and experiencing.
‘I never feel more at home than when I’m up a hill. I feel liberated; everything I need is on my back. My art is about the act of travelling through the landscape, spending time within the wilderness, experiencing the passage of time within that landscape rather than simply trying to recreate the view.’
Julie’s studio is chocked full of views; the gamut of nature, the wild, untamed, the majestic. In and amongst the expected artist’s paraphernalia you will find wet weather gear, tent pegs and a camping stove. This woman submerges herself in her art, for her art.
‘A typical ‘overnighter’ for me starts with me planning a route, studying maps to find a suitable camping spot, high enough to see the sun set over the mountains, an ever watchful eye on the weather. I find a spot to pitch my tiny tent and then get sketching with watercolours and pencils. I camp as high as possible; 3,000ft is great. From the side of a mountain I’ll watch the sun go down. Then I set an alarm to awake to witness it rise again from that same mountain. It’s magical.’
She invited me to her studio to see her work. I offered to buy her lunch. She laughed.
‘My studio is a ramshackle barn on a farm. There’s not much around here, food-wise. But I have got a camp stove…’
Her joke became my inspiration.
‘How about I cook you lunch?’
Half an hour later, two motorways travelled and a country lane navigated I was cooking. In a barn. On a camp stove.
1 tbsp olive oil
120g Chorizo, roughly chopped into 1cm cubes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
salt and pepper
Turn on your camp stove. Attempt to regulate the heat before realizing you can’t. Add the sliced garlic to the cold olive oil. As the oil heats, the garlic will emit flavour. Before the garlic colours too much remove it. Add the chorizo and fry hard, keeping it moving around the pan. After a few minutes throw in the cumin. You want the cumin to fry in the oil before adding the chilli flakes, salt and pepper, followed by the tomatoes and coriander. This should be soon followed by the lightly beaten eggs. Julie likes her eggs lightly scrambled. Take the pot and a fork and enjoy Arbuckle’s eggs with a large chunk of amazing Scottish sky and wonder-filled wilderness.