Cordon Bleu in a camper van…
Okay, whilst Cordon Bleu may be a bit of an overstatement when it comes to describing our efforts at campervan cooking, it’s amazing just what you can rustle up on a two ring stove! Before we started out on our month long road trip around New Zealand we had visions of living off baked beans and packets of crisps. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and the more we settled into our little camper (hi Fred!) the more confident we became at dishing up some really tasty treats!
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Any half decent rental company will kit your camper out with basic utensils and you really don’t need anything more than they give you. Here is a selection of some of our favourite meals, cooked up by our own fair hands (and yes, all you need is a two ring stove!)…
Sweet chilli chicken
What you need: Bottle of sweet chilli sauce, chicken breast, tinned tomatoes, can of tomato puree, red onion, pepper (aka Capsicum), penne pasta.
What to do: Chop up the chicken and toss it into a saucepan with a spritz of spray oil. Once browned, throw in your onion, pepper, tinned tomatoes, can of puree and stir together. Then add as much of the sweet chilli sauce as you like (remembering to add bit by bit and taste as you go). Give your mix a good stir and leave for around 15 – 20 minutes to cook through. Serve with penne pasta (conveniently cooked on your second cooker ring!).
What you need: Spaghetti, lean mince, Bolognese sauce, onion, pepper, mushrooms.
What to do: Chop up your veg – we chose onion, pepper and mushrooms because that’s what we like, but feel free to go wild! Put to one side as you brown off the mince in a large frying pan, then add to the mince and stir. Unleash the Bolognese sauce onto your mixture then simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Get another saucepan filled with water and bring to the boil then add the spaghetti and cook for a max of 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with a glass of Red!
Chilli con carne & rice
What you need: Lean mince, rice, tinned tomatoes, sachet of chilli con carne seasoning, onion, (optional: kidney beans).
What to do: Rinse the starch off your rice (if you have a colander), then brown off the mince in a large frying pan. Chop the onions and add to pan, followed by the tinned tomatoes and 3-4 tablespoons of water. Add the sachet of seasoning (plus kidney beans at this stage) and stir well into the rest of the mixture. Allow to simmer for 15 mins while you boil the rice over the extra gas ring. I like to fluff up the rice with a fork once it’s cooked, then arrange on a plate followed by a big dollop of your chilli mince.
What you need: This is such a simple one! Bag of frozen stir fry veg, rice, Balti curry sauce.
What to do: Pour the veg and the curry sauce into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Rinse and boil the rice for around 15 minutes. Easy!
Cantonese beef stir fry
What you need: Packet of fresh noodles, slab of beef, sachet of Cantonese stir fry seasoning, mixed vegetables (small pack from freezer section at supermarket).
What to do: Dice the beef yourself (it’s much cheaper than buying pre-chopped packets), then pan fry, add the mixed vegetables and sachet of seasoning and toss until the beef is cooked through. Introduce the fresh noodles bit by bit, stirring them into the mixture as you go. Serve in a bowl. Simples and all cooked in just one pan!
Peppercorn steak & sautéed potatoes
What you need: Sirloin steak, baking potatoes, mushrooms, can of peas, sachet of pepper sauce mix.
What to do: Prepare your potatoes first – this meal is all about timing! Peel and dice the potatoes into relatively small cubes, pop into a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Once your spuds are boiling, fry the sirloin steak in a frying pan for a max of six minutes each side (for well done). After the potatoes are sufficiently par boiled, drain and add to the frying pan with a bit of extra oil. If your pan isn’t big enough, you’ll have to take the steak out and rest on a board while you fry the potatoes. Add the mushrooms to the pan as well. In the meantime, boil up your peas and once cooked transfer the boiling water to a mug and stir in the pepper sauce. If your steak has cooled off a bit too much whilst you were busy with the rest of your ingredients – just pop it back onto the pan whilst you serve up.
Alternative: If you have a portable camping stove with you, use this to boil the peas and heat the pepper sauce to take some of the pressure off!
Bangers, mash and baked beans
What you need: Pork sausages, tin of baked beans, potatoes
What to do: Peel and dice the potatoes and pop them into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook for around 20 minutes. Get out the frying pan and spritz some oil onto it before frying the sausages – turning occasionally. Once the potatoes are boiled, drain and mash furiously with a fork – no need for fancy mashing equipment! Put the beans onto the ring you just took the potatoes off and simmer for 5 mins whilst you make your spuds nice and fluffy. Serve with the sausages and munch!
Camper van essentials
In addition to these meals we managed to put together some simple yet scrummy lunches – even making poached egg on toast without a toaster. Just hold the bread over the gas with some tongs and keep turning!
Whist we’re never going to win any awards for ‘gourmet’ dinners, the trick with camper van cooking is to keep it simple! There really isn’t much room in a camper so don’t take up all your storage space with shelves full of ingredients. Minimum preparation is the key, so make use of the pre-mixed sachets and quick fixes you’ll find on the supermarket shelves. Then you can spend more time enjoying your surrounding rather than slogging over a stove!
As well as the ingredients for your main meals there are a few essentials that you should always have to hand for a quick snack, aka non-perishables like muesli bars, biscuits, crisps and bags of mixed fruit & nuts. Don’t bother stocking up on bottles of condiments like salt & pepper, ketchup or mayo – just pick up a handful of sachets from any fast food restaurants you visit along the way (and yes, you will succumb to one or two after a long day’s driving, whether you want to or not!)
One thing that came in particularly handy for us was our esky/chilli-bin (aka ‘cool box’) – we bought this as a backup for our fridge for those days when we weren’t able to charge the battery (by either plugging into the mains or driving a long distance). Just $3 on a bag of ice can save you from gone-off milk or leaking dairy products. Plus it comes in handy for those picnics on the beach!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our culinary tips for camper van dining, and if you’ve got any of your own, we’d love to hear them!
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