We're almost two weeks into lockdown, and Easter weekend and school holidays are looming. With the weather still glorious for much of the North Island, now would be the perfect time to head off on
a camping adventure - perhaps the last hurrah in the great outdoors before winter is on us.
This year, that's not to be. We're collectively faced with at least two more weeks in our own homes and neighbourhoods, staying safe in our bubbles. But that doesn't mean camping is completely out of the question.
• The beginner's guide to family camping
• Camping: Getting close to nature
• New Zealand's best camping spots revealed
• Six top tips for a campervan holiday
Backyard camping was all the rage a few decades ago. So if the kids - or the adults - are in need of a change of scenery, why not bring the campground to you?
Pitch the tent, blow up the airbed and turn your Easter weekend into a glamping holiday with a difference.
How to set up a glamping holiday at home
Bring your best linen
Forget the old sheets that usually come camping with you. Now's the time to create your dream boudoir, under canvas. Pile up those pillows and add a throw - bedrooms should look beautiful, even at worm-level.
Light it up
Bring whatever you have - fairy lights, glow sticks, solar lamps, glow in the dark dinosaur stickers and head torches (LED candles only, thank you). Lighting is the single most important way to create a mood. Have you created a goblin's grotto? A love nest? A family movie theatre? The lights set the scene.
Bring in the comforts of home
Got a bluetooth speaker? Perfect. If not, stick your phone in a bowl. Keep the Wi-Fi on and the laptop for an instant cinema. The soft toys that are too precious to go on holiday are welcome here, as are colourful rugs, fresh flowers and the cast iron frying pan. Which leads to the next point...
Eat like royalty
There'll be no beans on toast for this camping trip, and no sneaky trips to the microwave. Challenge yourself to cook outdoors. There are no weight limits on what you can bring this time, so set up the dream kitchen, and get cooking.
How to cook up the perfect backyard camping dinner
Fabian Low makes friends as easily and readily as he makes noodles. And he can make them anywhere. Backyards, no exception.
Cooking out of a tent at music festivals or while hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, he shares his food and cooking tips with almost everyone he meets. His recipe for one-pot dry Thai noodles is a favourite.
"Funnily enough if you just add garlic and onions to your pan, people appear saying: 'Something smells good!'"
Indoors or out, Fabian's cooking has always been about self sufficiency. Moving to Christchurch as a teenager he longed for familiar flavours. The Garden City was a wilderness for Asian food and the recipes he knew growing up in Singapore. He quickly had to learn to cook for himself.
However, his biggest test came with the opportunity to cook in the United States.
Working with a company that catered for festivals and events he was preparing meals in the harshest of environments. There aren't many harsher than the Nevada Desert.
In 2015 he was on a catering team for 300 artists at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock.
"No one goes as a spectator. You go with the expectation of contributing something."
His contribution had to be very carefully planned. The nearest town for stocks was two hours' drive and entering the camp was "like clearing border security".
"We had to load up our stuff on a truck, set up the kitchen, and get it working with water, sewage, black water, and rubbish." Essentially they built a professional kitchen in the desert.
More impressive still was the whole thing had to disappear by the end of the week.
While cooking they were told not so much as an onion peel could be left behind. Vacuum-cleaning spilt flour from the desert floor might sound like the definition of futility, but for Fabian it was important to do.
"It's such a beautiful place in nature. Whatever we bring in, we have to be responsible for it," he says.
If you can cook in the Black Rock Desert, you can cook anywhere.
Back in Auckland, Fabian runs cooking lessons from feastlikeasage.com, and specialises in remote catering.
These are challenging times for anyone who loves cooking for groups or hiking outdoors, however Fabian is philosophical about the whole thing.
"Part of the charm of Burning Man is putting yourself in a really challenging environment to see how far you can be pushed.
"It's what we need for the human psyche - to challenge ourselves in our jobs, our lives, our family environment."
One-wok dry Thai noodles
A simple recipe that can be cooked in a single pot and scaled up to feed a campsite.
There are three parts to this recipe: preparing your broth, soaking the noodles and seasoning. It works best with dried rice noodles, there's limitless space for variation. This Thai-inspired recipe has a rich smokey base complimented by zingy tamarind and lemons.
1 packet red rice vermicelli
1 red onion - finely diced
5 cloves garlic - finely chopped
6-8 kaffir lime leaves
3 Tbsp minced lemongrass
4 Tbsp rice bran oil
2 Tbsp tom yum paste
4c boiling water
½ tsp paprika
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Tofu puffs - 1 packet
Chives - chopped
1c fried shallots
2 Tbsp lemon/lime
• Soak noodles in cold water for 10 minutes.
• Over a low heat, fry onions, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass in oil.
• Once onions are soft, add tom yum paste, stir.
• Add boiling water to create a broth, add tamarind and tomato paste.
• Season with paprika.
• Add the noodles to the broth with the tofu puffs.
• Let reduce until the noodles have absorbed the sauce.
• Top with fresh chives, shallots and the juice of one lemon.
• Let steam, and serve hot!