Vegan dinners are great for camping. This one, with fruit, veggies, black caviar lentils and black rice, is colorful, easy, and delicious. Rice and lentils are great for camping because they don’t spoil and are relatively compact until cooked. Carrots, celery, cucumbers, and packaged arugula keep pretty well in a cooler, and don’t get too mashed. Fresh figs really have no business camping, but I love them. I couldn’t resist buying the box at Trader Joe’s.
The difficult part of figs is they are often all ready at the same time, and they don’t keep very well. When they are soft, but not mushy, you have to eat them all. That is how so many landed on our plates.
I always wash produce, even when it claims to be ready to eat. I dislike cutting boards for camping. They are difficult to sanitize and have few other uses. I just use an extra plate, which also doubles as a lid to keep bugs out of the food. Steel plates are not great for my knives, but I buy low end knives for camping anyway.
Black (or Forbidden) Rice
Red, black, and brown rice are all delicious choices. At home, I often use these sturdy varieties to make rice salads in summer, with chunks of squash, bell pepper, green onion and some pepitas. For camping, we typically just eat the rice hot, with a few peas mixed in for color.
Rice with the husk left on takes longer to cook, but it does not stick and it can be reheated without being too clumpy or dry. I have a hard time cooking white rice even at home, because I want to stir. This turns rice into a gluey mess. For me, a rice cooker is the only unitasker in my home kitchen, but it is one I can’t live without. When camping, to eliminate the possibility of a clumpy, inedible mess of rice, I choose colored rices and accept the extra cooking time. The exception is if I can implement option 2 below, and cook the rice ahead of time.
Three options for cooking the rice:
I don’t bring the rice cooker camping, so colored rice simmers in a covered pot over a low burner to produce an edible result. A little salt and oil are they only enhancements needed.
If we are camping for only a few days, I often cook the rice at home ahead of time, then cool and store in my refrigerator. Pulled from the cooler and reheated with a little water, it is ready very quickly. It is not quite as delicious as freshly cooked, but it is still quite good.
Bring a small InstantPot camping with you if you have electricity. Be sure to adjust the altitude setting to your approximate elevation. Let the IP do its thing on the rice setting.
The Black Caviar Lentils
Black caviar lentils are soft, easy to cook, and need just a hint of seasoning. These lentils are smaller than the more common brown or green lentils, so they cook faster. They also have very soft skins. They taste just slightly different than regular lentils, and their name comes from their appearance.
Cooking ingredients according to the package directions helps assure good results, since different products can differ considerably. Other recipes may have been developed on different products, so the outcomes might not be ideas. Many people, myself included, love the ‘fresh’ dried beans from Rancho Gordo, which cook quickly and with less water than similar products that may be older. (I have no relationship with Rancho Gordo other than being a very happy customer. They did sort of turn me into a bean fanatic though.) I also love their hominy, featured in my Posole with Green Chiles recipe.
Cooking time varies with altitude, so taste for tenderness rather than relying on the clock. Once your lightly-salted water is hot, 15-30 minutes should be plenty of time for them to soften in just about any location. Be sure not to add any acid to the pot until they are nearly done. I once made the mistake of adding the tomatoes to a campfire lentil chili at the beginning, and 90 minutes later we were eating tough, chewy lentils.
Once the lentils are soft, add about a teaspoon each of curry powder blend and oil to each cup of cooked lentils. Adjust the salt to taste and you are ready to serve.
We also like these cold, piled atop corn chips. When using regular beans, we would call this cowboy caviar. Perhaps these lentils served cold are vegan caviar?
Curried Black Caviar Lentils
- 1/2 cup black caviar lentils
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Place lentils, water, and salt to simmer in a covered pot.
- Once tender (about 25-30 minutes), stir in curry powder and oil.
- Adjust salt to taste and serve with rice and vegetables.