Recipes from the alfresco kitchen

Ed & Mark Ulcombe trail 2009


Trail horse

Providing he’s fit and well, almost any horse (or pony come to that) is capable of long distance trail riding, provided they are not overloaded.

It is considered that a horse naturally grazing will travel 10 miles a day just to eat. So twenty miles a day is not too hard.

Be constantly aware of your horses condition.
Watch for dehydration. Although offered water a trail horse may not drink much during the day, and if grazing the rest of the time, may consume enough fluid from the grass. However, at main rest stops and overnight always offer water.

Loose shoes or stones.
Either of these you should hear, but check hooves at least at every rest stop. (A lame horse is no good on any journey)

If you have been working hard, ease down slowly before coming to a stand still at break times

When working your horse day after day, grooming becomes very important, especially when removing tack.

At a lunch stop, even if you don’t have brushes with you, massage and rub down the areas covered or under pressure by tack  to encourage circulation. When carrying  extra gear check that it is not rubbing or impeding the horses movement.

Whether you've spent the day tending cattle or just a days leisure ride, get the basics right, and even if the rest is a little rough around the edges you’ll more than likely be okay.

Sounds like something from the boy scouts, but nothing beats being prepared. Applies as much to camp life as being around horses.

Trail camp

Number one. Your horse. As a captive animal it’s your responsibility  to look after him to the best of your ability. He worked for you all day; a little time spent for him first will ensure he’ll work for you tomorrow as well.

Travelling light summer 2010

Number two, three, etc.  Good shelter (tent),  cooking fire, a supply of fuel and water. Not forgetting food.

In our climate, get one of these wrong and you could be spending a miserable night.


Cooking fire

Get your fire going, it will be a while before you can cook on it, as you need coals not open flames. Once established use a corner of your fire in which to collect the coals and put on your kettle, either on a stand or supported by stones. Think of your camp fire as a supplier of coals for your cooking fire


Camp living


Set up your tent and get the bedding in to air and prepared for the night. (Always use the daylight to your advantage).

Always keep a watchful eye and ear out for your horse. Eventually second nature will make you aware of what is going on around you and anything out of place.

Having boiled your kettle, you probably now have your fire established enough to start cooking over a supply of coals. (You need to keep them coming because they don’t last long).

Two things here.  1.  Before you start to cook, go and check your horse, his security, water and hay (if not grazing).  2.  Never put a greenhorn in charge of coals production.


Now to cooking

For best results you really need cast iron camp Dutch ovens and skillets for good heat retention and conductivity.

Camp Dutch ovens have three stubby legs on the bottom to raise them off the fire bed and because of their lipped lids you can stack them one above the other and keep a cooking heat by placing coals in the space between them. To prevent hot or cold spots, move the coals around about every 15 minutes. Ideally you want to rotate each oven a quarter of a turn relative to its heat source every 15 minutes, but not so easy with a stack.

Using Dutch ovens you can cook almost anything, bread, roasts, puddings and desserts, using them as a cooking pot or oven.  In fact, you’ve got it cracked when   you can produce sourdough bread from scratch, baked in a Dutch oven over coals and served warm whilst living on the trail.

When using an open fire, achieving a set cooking temperature takes practice, but if you use good quality charcoal briquettes you can almost be sure of a particular temperature. As a rule use twice as many briquettes as the diameter of your oven i.e. 10” dia oven requires 20 briquettes to achieve approximately 350 degrees F. As heat rises you will need twice as many briquettes on the lid as under the oven. (The heat on the lid is required under the briquettes)  Therefore, say 7 under and 13 on the lid. Each additional briquette increases the temperature by around 10 degrees F.  However, consider that in a stack the Dutch oven above this will have a lot of heat under its base.

When cooking in open pans or skillets remember that every time the fire is disturbed ash and dust will rise and it takes no prizes to know where it will land.

Now before you start, plan out your surroundings. Everything you go near around the fire will be hot so work out how to pick it up and where to put it down. (Dutch ovens will be hot. Take a lid off to attend to the food inside, where do you put the lid down. You can’t turn it over because there will be coals or at least ash on the lid, so find a surface you can put it down onto other than the ground unless you want “earth” seasoning.

When cooking using skillets, have the coals prepared to enable you to cook without disturbing the fire, and have a place you can put the skillet down onto  when not on the fire.

Have your cooking utensils placed near by and have something that you can keep them clean on (spare plate), and if you have one its also useful if you have your cooks box close by, so not only do you have everything handy, you have something to sit on.

When cooking large pieces of meat (whole joints or whole chickens) on an open fire it is best to cook them by indirect heat. That is where you part your coals to either side and place your meat in the area between on some sort of rack. (We use a barbeque grill rack).

This way, if the fat drips down it will not ignite or flare and burn your meat. If you also cover the meat (we use a wok lid) it will keep the meat moist . When cooking a whole bird such as a chicken or duck, cut out the backbone on the underside and with the palm of your hand press down the top of the body and put a couple of skewers through a leg, through the body cavity and through the other leg to hold it flat. Not only will it cook quicker, it is also easier to manage. If using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for 30 minutes before use.  


Recipes from the alfresco kitchen

Please only use the following for guidance, as simple things such as a breeze or rain can make a big difference to the heat given off by your coals and therefore cooking times. Always check that food is cooked properly and only cook the amount you need, as you will not be able to keep any extra for long.

An assumption is made that store ingredients such as herbs, seasoning, salt and flour will always be kept in the cooks box, for use as and when needed



Pancakes, bacon & peach.

Separate 3 eggs.  Mix yolks with small cup of milk. (At this point you could add a pinch of rosemary and/or thyme). Stir in 4 heaped tablespoons self-raising flour & a pinch of salt. Mix to thick batter. Whisk egg whites and fold into batter.

Prepare a bed of coals. Pre-heat skillet. Pour small amount of batter into oiled skillet to form circle about” 4” ( 100mm) in diameter. Cook for around two minutes, turn and cook the other side. Remove and put onto warm plate and keep warm while making remaining pancakes.

In separate skillet cook bacon & eggs.  Place over pancake/s on each plate and add a tinned peach half and a couple of fresh strawberries.

Tip.  These pancakes also do well using toppings such as Blueberries added before the first side is set and served as a desert with maple syrup, or even add cooked beans, sweet corn or finely chopped red pepper for a savoury touch.


Trailman’s Breakfast.  

Into 10” hot oiled Dutch oven place alternate layers of sliced potatoes,  bacon rashers, sliced mushrooms and sliced tomatoes. Over the top pour 4 eggs beaten with a little water and seasoned.

Place on lid and place over coals also putting coals on lid. Cook for around 25 minutes until ready.  Serve hot with a chunk of bread


Corned Beef Omelette.  Serves  2 - 4

Tinned corned beef




For each person peel & slice a large potato

Place into hot oiled 12” skillet

Brown potato on both sides.

For each person season and add a slice of corned beef and a couple of sliced mushrooms

Mix two eggs for each person. Season with salt and pepper plus a pinch of oregano and then add to the skillet.

When top is just setting, turn and cook other side.

Alternatively, to cook top of omelette without turning, place 12” dutch oven lid on skillet and cover with hot coals.

Serve hot.


When there’s only a couple of you and you’re riding light or tending livestock, sometimes it’s easiest  having a small cooking fire and just putting the kettle on first to give you the first cup of tea of the day, then in one skillet cook eggs and bacon which can be eaten in a torpedo roll. Put the kettle back on for your coffee while breaking camp and washing out the skillet. Remembering to dry and oil the skillet before putting it away.



Ribs & chicken.

Into 12” hot oiled Dutch oven place 4 washed and dried baking potatoes cut in quarters. Season and brown.   Place 4 half racks of ribs and 4 chicken drumsticks in oven. Add lid and place coals on lid.  Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile prepare veggies and place into steamer with a little water. Place steamer over dutch oven and cook for further 10 minutes.  Ensure meat is cooked properly, Serve hot.

Alternatively skip veggies and serve with salad, but you will still need the completed cooking time of at least 40 minutes.


Lamb Shanks at Ulcombe Camp

This recipe is reminiscent of a time spent in North Africa as if in another life.

12” Dutch oven

4 lamb shanks

8 small onions sliced

2 garlic clove chopped

1 ½ lb carrots

1 cup of sweet corn

1 Tin chopped tomatoes

Mixed herbs 1 teaspoon

3 cups water or stock

1 Large mug couscous

11/4 large mug of boiling water

juice of 1 lime

3 tbls olive oil

Season and brown lamb shanks in hot oiled Dutch oven, – remove.

In the Dutch oven fry onions and garlic cloves.

Add prepared carrots. Slowly stir in 3 cups of water and tin of tomatoes.  Add mixed herbs. Place lamb shanks on top. Fit lid. Put 2/3rd coals on top of lid.  Cook for approx 1½ hrs at 350F. until meat is well cooked.  Do not allow to cook dry

With 15 minutes to go, add sweet corn.

Just prior to the meat being ready place couscous in large bowl, pour over boiling water, add lime juice and leave until all liquid has been absorbed.

Lightly fork couscous to separate grains and lightly mix in olive oil

Place a mound of couscous on each plate, spoon over vegetables and top with a lamb shank


 Pork, beans and apricots


12” Dutch oven

2 cups dried haricot beans

11/2lb (675gm) Pork loin

2 large onions

1 garlic clove



1 cup button mushrooms

½ cup dried apricots

3 cups water or stock

Soak dried haricot beans overnight in cold water.  Place in cold Dutch oven & bring to boil for 15 minutes – drain and remove.

Season and brown pork loin in hot oiled Dutch oven, – remove.

In the Dutch oven fry onions and garlic clove both chopped.

Add prepared potatoes and carrots, haricot beans, button mushrooms and apricots. Slowly stir in 3 cups of water or stock.  Place pork loin on top, fat side up. Fit lid. Put 2/3rd coals on top of lid.  Cook for approx 1½ hrs at 350F. until meat is well cooked.

Serve with a chunk of crusty bread. (You’ll want to clean up your plate)

Tip. For a richer flavour you could reduce the amount of stock or water used and add a little tomato puree and a glass of red wine.

Salt and pepper to season


Chicken Fajitas or Burrito

We cheat a little on this one by using some prepared shop bought items but unless you’re a purist sometimes it just makes life a little easier. (Especially if you’ve ridden for the best part of the day.)

You need at least 2 large soft tortillas per person (Sold in most supermarkets)

To be cooked

4 chicken breasts sliced into strips.

1 red pepper cut into strips

1 green pepper cut into strip

2 onions chopped

teaspoon chilli powder


1 tight lettuce shredded

Cooked pinto beans in tomato juice mashed & fried to turn liquid thick

Jalapeno peppers (if you dare)

Guacamole (bought or blended from avocado pears 2, garlic cloves 1, ¼ onion, tomato small)

Sour cream


Grated hard cheese

In a very hot oiled skillet fry onions with chilli powder. Keep on the move to stop burning. Add chicken and peppers turning as if stir-frying. When chicken is cooked through, place some cooked ingredients across the middle of a warmed tortilla. (Dutch ovens are good for heating tortillas) Add a topping of fillings and roll up as a pancake. Enjoy.

The burrito variation has you turning one side of the tortillas over the contents and then folding over the other two sides to form an envelope with the top open, and eaten like a pasty.


Buckwheat parcels

Almost a French version of a burrito with the tortillas made from buckwheat and folded to form a cone in which to hold all the edible goodies.

Buckwheat is in fact not wheat at all, but the ground seed of sarrasin, a member of the rhubarb family producing a sweet gluten free flour, traditionally used in Russia and Northern China.

Mix 4 heaped tbls buckwheat flour and 4 heaped tbls wheat flour.

Beat 3 eggs, 1 mug of milk and 1 mug of water.

Mix with flour into a smooth batter

Leave for a while to stand.

Pour small amount of batter into oiled skillet to form circle about 10” ( 250mm) in diameter. Cook for around one minutes, turn and cook the other side. Remove and put onto warm plate and keep warm while making remaining pancakes.

Fold in half and then in half again to form a cone shaped pocket.

I like to place shredded salad leaves in the bottom with anything from chilli beef & beans,  ham and cheese or lamb & vegetable kebab on top.

Held in a napkin they are great to eat around an evening fire or even for lunch.


3 bean sausage hot pot

1 cup of each  black eye beans, cannelloni beans, kidney beans

11/2 lbs (675gm) pork sausage meat

1 onion




1 tin chopped tomatoes

3 cups of water

Soak beans overnight in cold water .  Place in cold Dutch oven & bring to boil for 15 minutes – drain and remove.

Roll sausage meat into the size of ping pong balls coating with seasoned flour

Place sausages meat balls into hot oiled 12” dutch oven stirring to brown all over – remove and pour off any excess fat

In the Dutch oven fry sliced onion till soft

Add prepared potatoes, carrots, swede, beans, meat balls and tin of tomatoes. also slowly adding water. Season to taste. 

Fit lid. Put 2/3rd coals on top of lid.  Cook for approx 1 hrs at 350F.

A good variation of this dish is to use gammon cut into 1” cubes instead of sausage meat and replace two cups of water with cider.


Skillet Pizza.  Serves 2

Unbelievable warm weather trail food.

Place a mug of strong flour into a bowl. Form a dish in the centre and pour in ½ a mug of luke warm water. Into the water pour ½ a ¼ oz sachet of dried yeast and a pinch of salt.

When the yeast has started to bubble, slowly turn in the flour until a soft dough ball is formed, adding more water if required. (When finished it should be just on the dry edge of sticky)

Using knuckles and the heel of your hands, knead well for five minutes.

Leave to one side to rise for 30 minutes.

Prepare the topping while the dough is rising.

4 tbls tomato puree

1 onion chopped

1 garlic clove finely chopped

3 rashers streaky bacon chopped to 1” squares

½ red pepper chopped

3 mushrooms sliced

1 mug of grated melting cheese (Mozzarella, Double Gloucester, Red Leicester etc)

Oregano & marjoram

Knead the dough once more to knock it back and flatten out to form an 10” circle, leaving the edges proud to form a lip.

Spread the tomato puree evenly around the base and then cover with all the remaining ingredients except the cheese. Sprinkle a pinch of both oregano and marjoram over.

Finally  spread the cheese all over to cover.

Carefully place the pizza into a hot oiled 12” skillet. Place a 12” dutch oven lid on the skillet and cover with hot coals placing the whole thing over hot coals.

Check in 8 - 10 minutes.  Within 15 minutes it should be cooked.

When you lift the lid after 10 minutes, as if by magic hungry people will appear.

Serve with a bag of washed salad leaves and chopped tomatoes.


Marinade & coating for barbecue ribs or chicken.

1 garlic clove finely chopped

Ginger 2in peeled finely chopped

Tomato puree  3 tbls

Onion 1 chopped

Chilli powder 1 tsp

Honey 3 tbls

Olive oil 3 tbls

Flour 1 tbls

Mix the above ingredients for coating

For marinade omit flour


Quick accompaniment for barbecue ribs or chicken

Large mug couscous

11/4 large mug of boiling water

lemon juice 1 tbls

1 bunch spring onions chopped

1 yellow or red pepper thinly sliced

1 can mixed beans rinsed and drained

3 tbls olive oil

3 large tomatoes roughly chopped

Place couscous in large bowl, pour hot water over, add lemon juice and leave until all liquid has been absorbed.

Lightly fork couscous to separate grains and lightly mix in olive oil followed by remaining ingredients.


Teriyaki Salmon, New Potatoes & Green Beans

4 salmon steaks

New potatoes

fine green beans

1 cup grapes


Teriyaki sauce

(make your own below)

2 garlic cloves crushed

Ginger 1” peeled and crushed

2 tbls sesame oil

1 cup red wine (full bodied)

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp cumin

¼  cup soy sauce

2 cups pineapple juice

Heat an 8” skillet with sesame oil and sauté ginger and garlic for 1 minute.

Add wine and bring to boil to reduce by 1/3

Add remaining  ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Add sugar before simmering if you require a sweeter taste. Leave to infuse.

Put potatoes in base of steamer and cover with water. Fit lid and place on fire to gently boil for 5 minutes

Remove lid and fit steamer top containing beans. Fit lid.  Continue to cook for further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat 12” oiled skillet.

Brush salmon steaks with Teriyaki sauce.

Place into skillet, with halved grapes on top of steaks.

Fit hot 12” dutch oven lid over skillet. Place 1/3 coals onto lid

Salmon should be cooked within 6 - 8 minutes.

Serve with extra sauce on the side.


Roast chicken with ratatouille & roast potatoes

Into hot oiled 10” dutch oven place 4 washed and dried baking potatoes cut in half and 1 clove of garlic finely chopped. Brown and season.

Place 4 chicken quarters into dutch oven over potatoes

Fit  lid placing 2/3 coals onto lid to achieve 350 degrees F

Cook for (basting occasionally) at least 50 minutes or until well cooked.

With 30 minutes cooking time left:

In a hot oiled 12” skillet place 2 sliced onions, 1 aubergine cubed, 2 courgette sliced, 1 green pepper sliced and a few button mushrooms halved. Brown and season, reduce heat. Add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.


Now for one of the easiest and my favourite, but not everyone’s

Mackerel with tomato & fennel

(Turned down by those who can’t cope with the bones)

1 fresh large mackerel each

1 fennel bulb each sliced

1 garlic clove each finely chopped

Tinned chopped tomatoes as required

Olive oil

Clean and gut mackerel. Brush with olive oil inside and out.

Season with salt and pepper.

Place on barbecue rack over coals.

Cook for around 15 minutes turning occasionally.

In a hot oiled 12” skillet place sliced fennel bulbs and chopped garlic. Brown and season, reduce heat and cook until soft.

Add chopped tomatoes and heat through

Serve hot with a chunk of crusty bread



Fruit Cobbler.

Prepare 1 lb fruit. Pears, rhubarb, berries, peaches, apples, apricot (or such fruit in season) pinch of cinnamon. 3 level tablespoons of sugar.

Cook fruit in base of 10” Dutch oven with a little water until soft.

Rub together 6 heaped tablespoons of self-raising flour and ¼ of a 500gm block of butter until the consistency of breadcrumbs is achieved. Spoon in 2 rounded tablespoons of sugar and pinch of salt. Add a small cup of milk and mix until a stiff dough is formed.

Spoon mixture over hot fruit in Dutch oven in separate spoonfuls as if covering the fruit with small dumplings. Place lid on oven . Remove 2/3 coals from under oven and place on lid. Cook for further 30 minutes.


Clootie Dumpling.

Mix together to make stiff dough 3 heaped tablespoons self-raising flour, 3 heaped tablespoons breadcrumbs (can be stale bread), 3 heaped tablespoons of shredded suet, 2 rounded tablespoons sultanas, 2 rounded tablespoons of currants, 2 rounded tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon syrup (or treacle for darker flavour), big pinch cinnamon, small pinch ground ginger and a small cup of milk (can be sour).

Place pudding cloth in boiling water and wring out.  Dredge cloth with flour and place over bowl, pour mixture into centre of cloth. Gather up cloth leaving the pudding enough room to swell and tie with string.

Place an old plate in the bottom of a pan of boiling water (enough to cover dumpling). Place dumpling into pan and simmer for 2 hours checking level of water periodically.

Remove from cloth & serve with custard, or cool and slice.


Cherry pancakes

Break two eggs into a bowl and beat. Add small cup of milk.  Stir in 3 heaped tablespoons self-raising flour & a pinch cinnamon. Mix to thin batter and then leave for 10 minutes.

 Prepare a bed of coals. Pre-heat a 10 or 12” skillet. Pour small amount of batter into oiled skillet to form circle about  8” (200mm) in diameter. Cook for around one minute, turn and cook the other side. Remove and put onto warm plate and keep warm while making remaining pancakes.

Place cherries across the centre of each pancake. Add a dollop of crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt to each pancake and roll up, or make into a folded triangle

For those with a sweet tooth, sprinkle a little sugar across the cherries before rolling up the pancake.


Blackberry cheesecake

Place ½ a 250gm pack of butter in a 10” skillet, gently melt.

In a large bowl place 250gm digestive biscuits. With the back of a large spoon break down to crumbs. (Easier in a plastic bag)

Stir into butter with 1 tbls sugar. Mix well.

Press biscuit crumbs with the back of the spoon onto a dished dinner plate to about 9” (175mm) diameter.

Beat 8oz (225gm) full fat cream cheese with 2 tbls sugar until smooth

Gently mix in ¼ pint (150ml) lemon juice. As you create a creamy mixture add 2 tlbs crème fraiche. Keep cool until it starts to set. Spread onto biscuit base.

Wash and dry blackberries and spread liberally over cheese cake.

Only try this recipe if ;- either you have a functioning cool box,  or it’s a cool day as the ingredients need to be kept cool. Especially to make the cheese mix set.

Further, this delight should be eaten in one go (not so difficult) as it really will not keep without a refrigerator or powered cool box.


Skillet scones

2 cups self raising flour

¼ of a 250gm pack of butter

1 egg


1 tsp sugar

½ cup sultanas washed

Rub butter into flour

Add sultanas

Beat egg with a little milk and sugar.

Stir into flour mix with a little more milk if required to make a stiff dough

Knead lightly and separate into small rounds  ½” (13mm) thick

Place into hot oiled skillet.

Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, turning occasionally.


Key Lime pie filling

Separate 4 eggs

Place yolks in bowl and whisk

Whisk in ½ cup of lime juice

Add 1 cup sweetened condensed milk and whisk in.

In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until stiff.

Fold into yolk mix.

Pour into pie case and bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes



Soughdough bread

When it comes to old time chuck wagon cooking, the only way of making bread was by using the natural yeasts in the flour and the atmosphere to give bread its airy texture.

However, I’ve not come across one modern cowboy or backwoods cook who advocates the use of the stuff.

It’s “soughdough” because it goes sough in the length of time it takes the natural yeasts to get going.  Apart from that, it would appear that any form of modern pollution or additives can upset the growth of the yeasts, let alone let them get too cold and die.

So the option is to take the best part of a week getting your soughdough starter going, or carry a tiny sachet of commercial dried yeast with you.

Don’t take my word for it; it’s been around for thousands of years, so give it a go.

Organic rye flour seems best as rye naturally has a good content of yeasts and bugs in it to start with. Therefore you should find at least a short soughdough recipe on any organic rye flour packet.

Rye flour is low in gluten, so to make lighter bread, once you have your starter going (three to four days in) add strong wheat flour. Read flour packets and you will find that strong flour is higher in protein than ordinary baking flour. This extra gluten and protein adds to the elasticity of the dough when kneading and proving, and for me just makes better bread.

Added to that, I prefer to produce rolls rather than a loaf in a dutch oven because they bake in less time. (Higher rate of success).

When out on the trail, by the time we use our carried tap water, most of the chemical additives have evaporated. (I’ve been told it takes three hours for chlorine to evaporate out of an open water bucket) Therefore, if you make soughdough bread at home, it may be an idea to either use cool boiled water or filtered water as those yeasts need all the help they can get. (I have never tried it using mineral water)


Torpedo Rolls

Place 2 cups of strong flour into a bowl. Form a dish in the centre and pour in ½ a mug of luke warm water. Into the water pour  a ¼ oz sachet of dried yeast, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar

When the yeast has started to bubble, slowly turn in the flour until a soft dough ball is formed, adding more water if required. (When finished it should be just on the dry edge of sticky)

Using knuckles and the heel of your hands, knead well for five minutes.

Leave to one side to rise for 1 hour.

Make into rolls about 4” (100mm) long with tapered ends.

Leave to rise for 30 minutes

Place in hot oiled 12” dutch oven and bake for 20 minutes at  420 degrees F

These rolls are cooked when they sound hollow when tapped on their base.

Tip.  Instead of making into roll shapes, flatten to about 1” thick and push stoned cherries or blackcurrants into the bread. Brush with butter.  You could do the same with sun-dried tomatoes, brushing with garlic butter. Bake as above


What'e for dinner Ed

What's for dinner Ed