Al Fresco Dining: A guide to the ultimate outdoor date night

There’s something special about cooking and eating outdoors. Sure, you’re not going to get Michelin Star standard food, but somehow it feels much more intimate and romantic than even the cosiest of restaurants – perfect for Date Night!


My girlfriend and I regularly take my camping stove down to the river on sunny summer evenings – sure it’s in the middle of the city and only 10 minutes away from her flat, but it’s way more fun and heaps cheaper than going out for a fancy meal, plus you get to spend some quality time in the great outdoors. Cooking outside isn’t rocket science, but there are a few general ideas to keep in mind for a successful outdoor cooking date:

  • Keep it quick and easy – the less time you spend prepping/cooking the more time you can actually spend conversing with your date;
  • Try to stick to one pan recipes to minimise washing up – bonus points if you can share the meal from the pan too;
  • Bring at least two spare recyclable plastic bags with you – one for rubbish, and the other to take home dirty pots and cutlery;
  • Bring a rug to sit on – you can get much closer than on folding chairs!

Here are 5 recipe ideas to try out – just don’t forget the gas and a bottle of wine!

1. Easy and Quick Tortellini

Tortellini is one of the easiest meals you can cook on a stove, yet these little Italian pockets of gustatory delight are both delicious and great for sharing.

AlFresco dining ftw on a summer Sunday night in #Innsbruck with @chrisalila! #onlyinibk #alps #innsbrooklyn #outdoorcooking

See this Instagram photo by @clarkleberryfinn * 55 likes

You can buy a packet of fresh tortellini (normally available in both veggie and meaty styles) in most supermarkets for only a couple of quid, and fill up an old bottle with 500ml of water from the tap. Get your stove burning, tip the water into a pan and bring to the boil (a pinch of salt can speed things up a bit). Add the tortellini, pop the lid on, and within two minutes it should be ready. Drain the water, add a little olive oil (or pesto), grated parmesan and salt or pepper to taste. For an extra health kick throw in a few baby spinach leaves.

2. Smug Upgraded Hotdogs

There’s little in this world that smells (or sounds, for that matter) better than sausages sizzling away in the pan. I’ll freely admit it, for me part of the pleasure of this meal is the jealousy of everyone else in the vicinity when they get a whiff of my dinner cooking! Forget cheap frankfurters and cardboard rolls. If you want to impress your date, invest in some decent sausages from your local butcher (I’m partial to Aubrey Allen‘s brilliant Warwickshire Whizzers) and a loaf of fresh baguette or ciabatta. Lightly oil a pan and set it on the stove to warm up. Carefully prick the sausages with a sharp knife and place them in the pan, turning regularly. Meanwhile cut your bread and slice up an onion; once the sausages are done chuck the onion in the fat to caramelise, then sprinkle on top of your hotdog before adding your choice of sauce.

3. Messy Cheesy Pizza

Ok it’s not deep pan, but you can make a surprisingly good pizza on a camping stove! All you need is a few tortillas (wholewheat for the health conscious), passata or a jar of pizza topping, shredded mozzarella, a diced onion, your choice of ham, dried sausage or mushrooms, and a few herbs (rosemary, oregano or pre-mixed Italian herbs all work well).


No need to call Domino’s – throw this stove-top pizza together in minutes

Light your stove and place a frying pan over the burner. Pop in a tortilla, spread the passata/pizza topping over it, then throw a generous handful of mozzarella on top. Sprinkle your onion on top, then add the ham/mushrooms (tear them up into a manageable size first). Season with your herbs and wait for the cheese to melt. If you want to go seriously cheesy place another tortilla on top – you can then flip the pizza over to cook it for longer (to melt the cheese) without burning the base.

4. Sizzling Beef Stir Fry

Beef is the perfect meat for outdoor cooking: it’s delicious, cooks quickly, and tastes better when it’s still pink in the middle! Add some vegetables, noodles (soft wok-ready rather than dried), and decent soy sauce and you have a delicious and balanced one pot meal. Cut a couple of beef minute steaks into strips, and start frying them in an oiled pan. Slice a pepper and onion into similar sized strips and add to the pan. Throw in some mangetout for a bit of greenery, then add the noodles and stir. Add soy sauce to taste, continue stirring until everything is nice and crispy, and tuck in.

5. Backcountry Berry Crumble

Just because you’re cooking outside doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your sweet tooth! This is the ultimate outdoor dessert, and incredibly easy to make – all you need is some berries and granola.

Very Berry No Bake Crumble #backpackingfood #campfood #backpackingdesserts

See this Instagram photo by * 15 likes

Depending on the time of year either pick wild berries (blackberries, raspberries, etc work well, but you can also add slices of apple) or buy a packet. Tip them into a frying pan with a couple of spoons of sugar (to taste) and while stirring constantly cook until the mixture starts to thicken. Set aside to cool a little, then spread a few handfuls of crunchy granola on top.

Want more outdoor recipe inspiration? Our cooking special is packed full of recipes and hacks to make al fresco dining that bit easier.