Just because you’re living a frugal life on the road doesn’t mean that what ends up on your plate has to be primitive too. With a bit of creativity, planning and the freshness of local produce you can cook yourself up something that’ll have you the envy of the whole camping ground. Then you can kick back and enjoy your meal under the stars.
Tools of the Trade
Most vans-for-hire have well-equipped kitchens with pots, pans, cooking utensils and cutlery so check the inventory first. For ease of cooking, you may want to check that these items are lurking somewhere in the van cupboards:
- Can opener
- Bottle opener
- Sharp knife
- Cheese grater
The secret to all tasty dishes is spices and herbs so grab a few essentials like chilli flakes, mustard powder, dried basil and cumin. You’ll find that these add a kick to just about any steaming pot. Then stock up on packaged food like pasta, pearl barley and couscous to provide great bases for any meal.
Canned foods and camping go together like hammers and tent pegs but don’t limit yourself to cheap baked beans; grab a couple of kidney, butter and cannellini beans as well as canned tomatoes and any vegetables that may perish quickly, like peas. A stew made from diced eggplant, sweet potato, canned tomatoes, cumin and cannellini beans on a steaming plate of couscous is an easy one-pot meal that you can whip up in no time.
Fresh is Best
Fresh produce is abundant on the road (and we’re not talking about roadkill!). Stalls manned by local growers are everywhere and they sell only seasonal fruit and veg - for a pretty reasonable price too. Weekly farmer’s markets are also a great way to stock up. Check community noticeboards at supermarkets or at an information bay to find out what day of the week they fall on.
If you’re really feeling at one with nature after a few days on the road, you could give foraging a go. There’s plenty of websites and Instagram accounts out there that will sort out the weeds from the herbs. Surprisingly, the lemon garnish you need for that fresh-caught fish may be growing right under your collapsible chair.
The most glorious part of the day is arguably sipping a freshly brewed coffee while enjoying the new surroundings - wherever you may have pulled up overnight. Often a missed meal back in the big smoke, breakfast on the road becomes something to jump out of your sleeping bag for. Break free from the cereal habit and try heartier recipes like a breakfast burrito with chorizo and avocado salsa, a ham and spinach omelette or bacon and potato hash. Most big brekky meals can be prepared and cooked in one pot – perfect for washing up.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to get a fire going first thing, knead flour, water and a pinch of baking soda into dough and bake it in a cast iron camp oven for twenty minutes over hot coals. Breaking open a crusty, warm damper roll and slathering it with butter and jam is pure breakfast bliss.
Lunchtime may be interrupting something important like, you know, relaxing in a hammock or nutting out the crossword so most likely you’ll want something fresh and easy to make. A grated salad is fuss free and super-easy and can be made out of whatever vegetables are lying around. Grate together a carrot, zucchini or raw beetroot then chop some cherry tomatoes in, add some nuts and finish it off with lemon and chilli dressing or even a dollop of leftover dip.
Hovering bugs and lack of light can make cooking dinner outside a tricky affair, so the first tip here would be to start preparing and cooking early - way before the sun goes down. Then, depending on whether you’ve decided to cook on a gas stove or a campfire, your recipes will need to suit.
A campfire is perfect for big juicy steaks, baked potatoes and 4-hour stews, whereas a gas stove is more suited to quick-cook one-pot-wonders like pastas, stir-fries and curries. For the latter, slowly cook pumpkin and chicken in a mix of spices like cumin, paprika and chilli, then add stock, a can of chickpeas and coconut milk and simmer till you have a simple, creamy coconut curry. Or if you’re after a twist on the old baked potato, try a sweet potato instead and top it with cottage cheese, chives and homemade baked beans.
Because you have taken the time to plan each dish and savour each mouthful, cooking and eating in a campervan becomes the most pleasurable thing you can do. Plus, it’s a proven* fact that everything tastes better under a canopy of stars.
*‘Proven’ by our first-hand experience.