Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
At festivals the music often takes centre stage, but nowadays, the lineup of food is almost as vast. When dancing, camping and getting by on very little sleep, we all reach that pivotal point of ravenous hunger, and once it hits there’s just no shaking it. Packed full of guides and interviews with music talent and food truck vendors, our new franchise, The Hunger Stage, celebrates the sheer joy of food at festivals in all its messy, greasy glory.
By now, you’ll know of our love for the food at music festivals – it really is no secret. But, let’s face it, buying three meals a day for a weekend or even longer can break the bank.
Some people weather this storm by bringing snacks with them, like cereal bars and fruit, whilst others even pack their own BBQs and camping stoves, so they can rustle up quick meals.
We’ll admit, we always thought the latter option seemed like a bit of a faff (save for heating up a pot noodle or something) but then we spoke to outdoor cooking expert, Krzysztof Szymanski, and now we’re utterly obsessed with the idea.
Krzysztof is one half of TikTok’s Men with the Pot, and as a lifelong outdoor cook, the Polish social media star is a firm believer that there’s “something special” about cooking amongst the elements.
“The fresh air, [having to] wait a bit longer for your food, good conversation whilst you’re cooking…,” he muses. “It’s all part of the experience.”
He and co-star, Slawek Kalkraut, post videos of themselves cooking on an open fire in the great outdoors to their 10.5 million followers – and whilst you can’t very well light your own fire like them in the middle of Glastonbury, Krzysztof says there’s no reason you can’t knock up something special with the equipment you are allowed.
“You can absolutely cook [food like us] at festivals,” he says. “No matter if you’ve got a BBQ or a camping stove, there’s still so much you can do.”
But where to start? We asked for recipe suggestions for different Hunger Stages you might encounter whilst at a festival, and we can guarantee you’re going to want to drive to a field and cook all of these *immediately*.
A bleary-eyed breakfast
Imagine how celebrated you’d be if you woke up before all your pals at a festival and decided to make them a slap up breakfast.
“I think the third dish [we ever made] was the Full Irish Breakfast,” Krzysztof says. “We had black bacon from the local butcher, which was delicious, with sausages, black pudding, beans, eggs… everything.
“We’ve also made an extra large omelette with loads of ingredients inside it [obviously, you can just make it with whatever you manage to bring with you].”
“You could easily make either of these at a festival with a camping stove and a really light aluminium pan,” he adds.
We think having a crack at this would be a sure-fire way to hail yourself the hero of the festival (and bag some appreciative free drinks from all your mates).
Check out Men with the Pot’s omelette in action here.
A slap-up lunch
Picture this. You have just awoken, it’s midday and you and your friends are all feeling a little grouchy.
Sure, you could go and get your fourth burrito of the weekend, but do you know what would really satisfy those hangover pangs? A big, juicy home-made steak sandwich.
“I think this would be something really simple you could make yourself,” says Krzysztof. “All you have to take with you is just some oil, butter, thyme, rosemary and the steak. Then cook off the steak on a BBQ – a small stove would be even better.”
Of course, there are several ways you can elevate this dish if you have space to pack the fresh ingredients (or a shop nearby to grab them).
“You can roast vegetables and add them in too, or make your own bread, which would be impressive and doesn’t need much equipment. You could even make a chimichurri sauce. The sky’s the limit.”
Need inspo? Try this recipe for size.
Granted, you don’t want to be cooking all the time at a festival, so putting in the leg-work on day one (before any carnage) is a great way to ensure you have a slap-up meal to look forward to.
“We did a lovely Irish Stew once. At a festival, you could cook it in the evening before you started partying, then cool it overnight. So, in the morning you just have to warm up the dish and it’s perfect,” says Krzysztof.
A stew does need a lot of ingredients, but that’s why this is a good one to knock together at the start of proceedings, so you can fall back on it when you’re craving home comforts.
Krzysztof made his Irish stew with lamb, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and, of course, Guinness – but you can adapt yours depending what you’ve got with you. Whack everything on a camping stove to cook low and slow. Crack open a tinny whilst you wait and Bob’s your uncle.
This recipe pretty much sums up what to do.
When you want to show off
If you’ve tried all of the above and you really want to flex your outdoor cooking skills, there are plenty of showstoppers you can make, too.
Men with the Pot’s YouTube and TikTok is full of much more complex recipes, like lasagne, calzone and even crispy chicken burgers, but when at a festival, Krzysztof suggests the best thing to do to show off would be to make one of the options available at the food trucks… but better.
Imagine your mate coming back to their tent with a droopy fish and chips they forked out seven quid for, only to see you cooking off a battered cod on your camp stove? Now that would be a smug moment, wouldn’t it?
“It’s nice to prove to someone else that the impossible is nothing,” says Krzysztof. “People think cooking fish and chips outside is a lot of hassle, but we prove on our social media that that’s not actually true.”
This is a recipe you do need a lot of equipment to make, but Krzysztof laughs and says that if you can lug a tent into the festival, a dedicated outdoor chef can manage some cookware, too.
“It takes a bit more time, but lovely fresh fish and chips with a salad and some tartare sauce is so worth it,” he adds.
Men with the Pot’s fish and chips recipe can be found here.
Now you’ve got the recipes, you’re almost ready to go. But firstly, let’s just leave you with a few more tips to ensure you absolutely boss your outdoor cooking:
What to pack
Of course, the main thing to remember if you’re looking to elevate your DIY food at a festival is to bring the right stuff with you.
According to Krzysztof, the essentials are a sharp knife, a chopping board, a bowl and a cooler bag to put all your ingredients in (bonus points if you’re in a camper van and you have a fridge). Plus, you’ll need that BBQ or camping stove (obvs) and a light pot or pan, whilst more complex recipes like bread will require a cast iron.
In terms of ingredients, it’s best to plan ahead so that you know nothing is going to go to waste, and to avoid any trips to the shop once you’re at the festival site.
How to keep things cool
If you’re without a fridge (which, let’s face it, you probably are), you need to keep tabs on how long you can keep things fresh, too. Nobody wants stinking, gone-off food at their campsite.
The general rule is that perishable food should maintain a temperature of 4°C (40°F) to avoid food poisoning. Krzysztof advises you can keep food cold for around twelve hours in a good quality cooler box with plenty of ice, depending on the weather.
However, an electric cooler can last much longer (a couple of days), so it’s your best bet if you are willing to fork out for one (they can cost anywhere from £80 to a few hundred quid).
Check the rules
Last but not least, make sure to check your festival’s policy on camping stoves and BBQs – they vary! The last thing we want is anybody getting kicked out for trying to make a steak sandwich.
Oh, and psst, if these recipe ideas tickle your fancy, you can buy Men with the Pot’s cookbook online and in all good bookstores now. There are plenty more where that came from.