Fell Foodie: Cooking OutSurvive
In Conversation with Harrison Ward
Interview by Alex Roddie // Photography by Kenny Block
For many of us, food while out on adventures is about fuel – getting some energy into our system and then cracking on. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Real food can be enjoyed in the mountains. It just requires a bit of planning, maybe an item or two more gear, a sense of adventure, and taste buds ready to try something new.
Harrison Ward, or ‘Fell Foodie’, is known for bringing a bit of flavour into his adventures. He’s also spoken candidly about how the outdoors has helped him overcome addiction, alcoholism, and obesity. After years of posting about his outdoor cooking on social media, as well as contributing to outdoor publications and appearing on TV – he’s even featured alongside Mary Berry – Harrison has now created his first outdoor cookbook. Cook Out, published by Vertebrate Publishing, presents a range of recipes hill-tested by Harrison, accompanied by stunning photography and all the advice you’ll need to put it into practice.
We caught up with Harrison to find out more about his path into good food and the great outdoors. Keep reading for a sample recipe!
Sidetracked: The book introduces your entry point to the outdoors – ‘the need for a fresh environment and new hobbies’ after struggling with alcoholism and obesity. What role did the outdoors, and food, play for you?
Harrison: Drinking was something I did from the minute I got up to the minute I went to bed each day. So when I started trying to put that behind me, the outdoors provided escapism, solace. I guess it became a way to keep myself active and busy, and try to avoid falling back to the temptation of alcohol. It took me out of the path I was on and gave me time in my own head.
From a young age, food had always been there as a passion. I loved learning from people I worked with in the hospitality industry as well as friends and family. When I got into the outdoors, I was taking packed lunches into the hills to enjoy nice food on the way, because I’ve never really enjoyed fast-food culture – and as time went on these two passions grew.
I was looking more at the nutritional side of things then too, eating fresh food back at home, cooking for myself – because I’d spent the last few years falling out of kebab shops on the way home or eating chips from the pub kitchen. So it was a big part of my recovery.
I’m interested in your idea that cooking outdoors feels primal, that you’re transporting the kitchen back to its origins. Do you think that our outdoor culture loses something when we opt for convenience instead of a slower, more mindful approach?
I favour using a camp stove rather than a fire, but there are certainly nods to the past in terms of communal eating outdoors: slowing down, gathering around the proverbial campfire and sharing stories, all chipping in.
We live in a modern culture these days, and we do see it leeching in – whether it’s checking Strava times, racing to the summit, using more electronics, weighing kit to the gram. Maybe being a bit slower and simpler, more methodical, is about stripping this back and thinking about what the point of doing it is in the first place.
There’s a thread running through several of the things you’ve mentioned: bringing people together and providing this focal point for community and connection. For many cultures around the world, that’s what food is all about, isn’t it?
We’re losing this connection with food more and more – in terms of the produce itself, seasonal ingredients, gathering with friends and neighbours and sharing. Here in Britain we seem far removed from that now. I’m not expecting people to go out there and cook every single day they’re outdoors – especially not on a five-day trek – but it can do so much, both on the nutritional side and also for morale.
That said, things don’t have to always be meaningful or purposeful. We can just go out there and do these things to have a good time. If you’re going to the beach with friends, going for a little swim or just kicking around on the sand watching the sunset, enjoying some good food while you’re there, that’s a great experience in itself. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that, really. They’re all aspects of spending time outdoors, but getting that appreciation from good food, good ingredients, good nutrition, while also having a connection with what’s in front of us… I love that, I really do, and I think that’s a really good attitude to life.
A recipe from Cook Out
Allergens: contains eggs, gluten
Now I could have placed this dish in the breakfast category, but as far as I and the majority of Maghrebis are concerned, it works any time of day. This is a dish that would wow house guests the minute you placed it on the dining table, so imagine the reaction from your hiking or camping buddies. Eat it straight from the pan for the best effect and to save on washing up – it’s everyone (with a fork) for themselves as to who gets the best eggs. Sharing is caring, after all.
Stove, fuel, knife, chopping board, frying pan, spoon
3-5 eggs, ½ white onion, 2 garlic cloves, 200g passata, 175g roasted peppers, 1tsp smoked paprika, ½tsp ground cumin, 20g fresh coriander, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, crusty bread (optional)
Finely dice the onion and soften in good-quality olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Once it is soft and translucent, chop the garlic as finely as you can and add to the onion along with the paprika, cumin, and seasoning. Cook through until aromatic and then add the passata and roasted peppers, chopped into chunks. Stir through with a splash of white wine vinegar and bring to a simmer for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat.
Knock the heat down to its lowest setting and create some small divots in the sauce to cradle the cracked eggs. Depending on the size of your pan, you may get between 3 and 5 eggs in the sauce – make sure you leave a bit of room between them. Once you’ve cracked the eggs into the sauce, place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer and cook through in the pan – it’ll be at least 5 minutes.
Finely chop some coriander and sprinkle over the top and serve in the pan with an extra drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy by itself or with some crusty bread.
Tip – if you and your friends don’t mind a bit of spice, stir through some harissa paste before you add the eggs.
Cook Out: Fell Foodie’s guide to over 80 gourmet recipes to cook in the great outdoors by Harrison Ward is now available from Vertebrate Publishing // adventurebooks.com/products/cook-out
Interview by Alex Roddie // @alex_roddie
Recipe by Harrison Ward // @fellfoodie
Photography by Kenny Block // @kenny.d.block