Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (2024)

Want a cookbook that is interesting, unique, teaches much about cooking and eating outdoors, AND has incredible recipes? Look no further than Wilderness Chef: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Outdoors, the latest book by Ray Mears. Ray is an authority on the subject of Bushcraft and Survival. He has also become a household name through his various television series, including Tracks, World of Survival, Trips Money Can't Buy with Ewan McGregor, The Real Heroes of Telemark, and many more. Ray founded Woodlore, the School of Wilderness Bushcraft, in 1983 and has been teaching ever since, as he puts it, "to enable others to drink at the well of Bushcraft".

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (1)

We were extremely excited to try out every recipe in this fantastic book, but alas, there are only so many hours in the day. We settled for a family favorite: French onion soup. Easy to follow, extremely delish, and good enough to omit bread. Yes, seriously!

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (2)

To pair, we made bread-wrapped sausages, which were cripy, soft, and oh so good. We also added roasted potatoes, because of course we did. Everything was surprisingly easy, and uber-comforting to make. It was just as if we were hobbits making a meal for our friends. This cookbook is now in constant use in our (hobbity) home. We were lucky enough to chat with Ray, AND share his delicious French onion soup recipe.

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (3)

Without further ado, the words and soup of Ray Mears...

What chefs and/or wilderness cooks are influential to you?
The chef's who have inspired me over the years have been Keith Floyd and the superlative Raymond Blanc. I have a great love and interest in French cooking, but always take an interest in local cultural dishes.

How were you inspired to start outdoor cooking?
I first started to really enjoy cooking when I began to study edible wild fungi. Needing to discover the best ways in which to use them opened up for me the world of cooking techniques, ingredients and an appreciation of terroir. I still have the deepest passion for cooking wild fungi many of which can elevate the simplest dish to the highest levels of culinary delight.

What is your favorite outdoor cooking memory/experience?
My favorite cooking memory is sitting beside a fire in the pouring rain cooking canoe country fishcakes for my wife and her friend. After a long day paddling in cold weather they ate them as fast as I could make them. Every chef longs for such appreciative diners.

Are there any foods that you haven't yet cooked outside that you are wanting to?
There are so many foods available to the outdoor cook that this is a difficult question to answer, especially as I am always discovering new and surprising foods. But there are some delicacies that I always look forward to, such as freshly caught wild trout cooked immediately at the waters edge, arctic bramble berries eaten straight from the stem and cold smoked wild venison back steak.

What's up next for you?
I am looking forward to taking a few days out looking for wild fungi, drinking in the glorious colors of the Autumn.

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (4)

A timeless classic that’s easy to make in camp, the challenge comes from finding a way to toast the bread and cheese. I often delegate that task to another member of the party. It can be fun seeing how the challenge is met…

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (5)

Ingredients
Serves 4
2 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp maple sugar or
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
splash of wine or brandy (optional)
4 cups (1 litre) beef stock (see page 262)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
toasted French bread with melted cheese on top, to serve

Method
1 Peel and halve the onions, then slice thinly into crescents. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

2 Heat the olive oil over a medium heat, then add the onions and garlic and cook for about 20 minutes or until very soft and beginning to brown. Be careful not to let them burn.

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3 Add the maple syrup or sugar and the balsamic vinegar, stir, then continue cooking gently until the onions are nicely browned.

4 Add the thyme and bay leaves. If you have some alcohol, such as wine or brandy, deglaze the pan to lift all of the reduced juices. Failing the luxury of alcohol, deglaze the pan with a little stock, being sure to lift all of the reduced onion into the developing sauce.

5 Add the rest of the stock and season to taste. Bring to the simmer, then cook for 20 minutes.

6 Traditionally, the soup is served with two slices of toasted French bread with melted cheese on top. If that proves impossible, just serve it with some bread.

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Recipe published with permission by
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK

First published in 2020
Copyright © Ray Mears, 2020

Cover photo courtesy and copyright Bloomsbury Publishing. All other photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

Eat This! Wilderness Cooking with Expert Ray Mears...and an Extraordinary French Onion Soup Recipe (2024)
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