Campfire cooking – Italian arrabbiata in wilderness Scotland

Bulked to the bulwark with a ballast of pasta and rice on sea kayak trips, this is a classic recipe on standby — just in case the fish don’t bite.

Arrabiata is a rich tomato based pasta recipe using basic ingredients such as passata and items from a boat’s dry-packed stowage larder. Most items are bottled or dried and impervious to the rigors of being at sea for stretches of time. It’s just the bruises on the onion that might need explaining.

Fresh herbs

In addition to the onion I prefer to pack some fresh items which make every bit of difference to morale – garlic cloves, fresh chilli and fresh parsley. And, depending on which shores an expedition passes, wild thyme can be found on a south facing, well drained sandy dune whilst ransoms garlic thrives on shady shorelines during early spring.

Lighter foods

Dried survival foods are handy for the likes of packing–light mountaineers but think of your kayak like a mule and it will do all the hard lugging for you – a sea kayak can pack as much as a yomping Marine, with considerably less effort. Just don’t let you’re beautiful craft know you think she’s a stubborn beast of burden.

Load capacity

A sea kayak with a carry capacity of 400 pounds and a paddler weighing 11 stone will safely allow for about 50 to 80 pounds of kit. There are online forum discussions on the matter of kayak load ratios but a sensible maxim is to ensure your combined weight (paddler and equipment) remains at about 50% of a kayak’s recommended load. That’s a lot of capacity for onions.

Load cap

Traditionally arrabiata is eaten with penne but I prefer spaghetti which is more efficient with space when packing a sea kayak. The very tubes enabling penne to hold rich sauces also pack air taking up valuable space in a small boat. On the other hand packing items containing air makes one’s bags more buoyant which is useful in capsize but that’s probably another discussion.

Penne prima

Don’t produce this recipe if you have Italians in your group, they can get awfully touchy about their penne.

Recipe feeds 4 people.

Ingredients

Olive oil
– Two onions, diced
– Five garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 x fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced
– 700g passata
– Fresh parsley
– 
Handful of ransoms garlic, chopped
– Sprigs of wilde thyme, ripped
– Handful of black olives
Salt and pepper
– 300gsm spaghetti
Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Heat the pan for a minute, pour in three tablespoons of olive oil
  2. When oil is hot, add onions to soften
  3. As onions glisten, add garlic and chili. Sauté for another 2 minutes
  4. Pour passata into the pan
  5. Once bubbling, add olives. Add salt
  6. Simmer slowly for at least an hour with lid on. The richness comes from the amalgamation of flavours condensed over time – the longer this sits on the campfire, the richer the reduced sauce becomes
  7. About 15 mins from serving, get a water pan onto the coals for pasta
  8. Once simmering, add enough spaghetti to feed your crew – noting recommended cooking times (ave. 10 mins for dried spaghetti)
  9. Sieve the pasta and add to the sauce for 1 min whilst still on the heat. The porous pasta will absorb the sauce and combine flavours
  10. Serve with a few sprigs of fresh wild thyme, freshly chopped ransoms garlic leaves and parmesan shavings

To serve

If there are any disgruntled Italians about, agog at being served arrabiata with spaghetti, this is your chance to win them back – only now break out the pepper from the kitchen and offer some. Italians never cook pasta sauces with pepper, it is always added to taste on the plate. You might have just recovered the penne situation.

Forgiven

Apart from with Bolognese, Italians also never pour pasta sauce onto pasta on the plate. Pasta sauce is otherwise always added to the pasta in the cooking pot for a couple of minutes so it absorbs the juices and flavours of the sauce. If your Italian guest sees you do this all is forgiven.

Probably.

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