One of the questions I am asked frequently is what to cook when away in the campervan. After all, there is no oven or microwave. It can seem a bit daunting to think of meals without these being involved. Especially in my case when you have fussy children. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options and you won’t be going hungry. Here’s some food for thought (ahem..)
Before you go
Make the full use of your kitchen before you go. Bake some cakes and biscuits (if that’s your thing) for the trip. I make bolognaise sauce before I go and then I simply need to heat it on one ring with pasta in a pot on the other ring. The same applies for chilli con carne and curry, with rice in the other pot.
I received a great tip from Shrubbery Cottage Campsite (http://www.shrubberycottage.co.uk )which is to make your favourite marinade for your barbecue meats, cover the meat and transfer to the fridge or cool box and when you arrive, your lovely tender meat will be ready for the barbecue.
Have a think about what you might want to make while you are away and make sure that you bring some essentials with you. In our van, we supply olive oil, mixed herbs, tomato sauce and salt and pepper. You might also want to bring baked beans, tinned tuna and sweetcorn, pesto, mayonnaise, mustard, chutney and stock cubes. As our kids are incapable of eating pasta without lashings of Parmesan, a block always comes with us and you’ll find a grater in the van. Don’t forget the tea, coffee and milk!
For our kids, the big treat is getting the Kelloggs variety pack of cereals when we are camping. Oh the excitement of getting Coco Pops and frosted cornflakes! They are handy as they don’t take up as much space as trying to bring a selection of full size cereals. Although we always bring Weetabix and granola as an antidote to the sugary cereals.
For the grown ups, the big treat is a cooked breakfast! It needs no explanation and is easily cooked on the rings and the grill. You can even have toast done under the grill (got to be white bread though, yes?). Another good idea is a one pan breakfast such as a frittata (Spanish omelette). I often make this for lunch using up leftovers at home but you can simply fry some bacon and peppers together and then when the bacon is crisp and the peppers soft, pour over 6 beaten eggs and cook on the ring a bit longer and then transfer to the grill to brown the top.
One of the pleasures of travelling and being away for the weekend is having the time to visit the local shops and find out what local produce is on offer. We often take the camper van to the Lake District. We almost always walk into Ambleside on Saturday morning and buy from the local food shops. Lunch is often crusty bread sandwiches and treats bought from the famous Apple Pie Bakery.
So any kind of sandwich is good, or salads based on local produce. Toast and cheese is another possibility and baked beans for the kids!
If you are heading away for the just the weekend, you will often arrive at camp on a Friday night, faced with hungry kids while you are putting up awning and getting set up. This where the planning ahead will help; quickly heat up your bolognaise/chilli/curry and accompaniment and all will be well. Sausages done under the grill along with pasta was our kids’ favourite Friday night meal.
If you have booked a popular campsite, ask if they have any food vans visiting on a Friday night. We have been to a few where they have fish and chip vans. It’s a godsend when you are trying to get everything set up for the weekend.
Back to the fussy kids, fish fingers and potato waffles can be done under the grill. (Not all at once; keep them warm under the grill pan until it’s all ready). If your kids are more adventurous, and you’ve brought a barbecue, burgers, sausages and some corn on the cob and/or salad tastes wonderful in the great outdoors. Our favourite is Ribeye steak on the barbecue with British asparagus (when it’s in season) and crusty bread.
A few other ideas from The Camper Van Cook Book by Martin Dorey. Cous cous doesn’t even need a pan, just the kettle to make some stock and pour the stock over the cous cous in a bowl. Risotto is another possibility and not as difficult to make as you’d think. Kebabs are a good idea; we always leave some skewers in the van.
Which leads us on nicely to…marshmallows toasting over a fire (this is why we always travel with skewers!) No simpler pudding than this or with some fruit. Smores are also a big hit with kids (and adults!), basically digestives with melted chocolate (or simply use chocolate digestives!) with melted marshmallows in the middle. Toast the marshmallow and then place between 2 chocolate digestives. There’s usually an ice cream van visiting campsites so you can top up with ice cream or the fridge in our van holds about 8 Cornettos!
I’m definitely hungry now and dreaming of the next trip away and toasting marshmallows. Happy cooking and travelling!