8 years ago when we decided we might buy a van, we thought we’d get a second hand one. We were instantly put off by those that previous owners had cooked or smoked in-those smells seemed to linger on. Eventually, we bought a new van and decided from day one not to cook inside-after all that’s where we sleep, and who cooks in their bedroom?
Mostly we’ve upheld that ideal, only coming inside to cook if it’s cold and dark, or raining and miserable, or the insects beat us. We do cook stuff like rice, pasta, and potatoes inside quite often though.
On our first trip with our first van (or “shake-down” in caravanner-speak), to Gol Gol near Mildura, I remember meeting and chatting to a woman at the camp kitchen as she made dinner. She was cooking lamb chops, eggs and tomatoes in a frying pan and asked what we were having for dinner. When I replied “risotto” she said “oh you’ll learn to cook more simply soon”. Funny, but we were having risotto because I thought, and still think it IS simple. Cut, slice and dice a few things, fry, boil and stir a few more, slap in some butter and (freshly) grated Parmesan and dinner’s done. And all that can be done whilst you enjoy a glass or two of the wine that’s gone into the making of it.
Lastly after travelling a while, some friend or other suggested we probably ate lots of BBQs. Now I love a BBQ but I think it’s something to be shared. Russ likes to cook up a couple of nice big pieces of meat (we tend to cook roasts instead of sausages and chops) and we make a few salads etc-hardly the thing for a couple in a caravan. No, we don’t eat lots of BBQs and in fact I think you could count the number we’ve had in 7 years on the fingers of your two hands.
So what do we eat? We eat exactly the same sort of meals as we do at home. Russ and I both like to cook which is lucky, because we both suffer from the “we could have done better at home, in half the time, for quarter the cost” syndrome. We have plenty of time, so why not eat good food cooked using good local ingredients?!
The caravan has a 4 burner cooktop (3 gas and 1 electric hotplate), microwave, domestic freezer built in and the second largest van fridge available. Outside we have a two element electric hotplate, pizza oven and AC/DC fridge. The van has it’s own crockery, cutlery, pots, pans, knives and gadgets, electric jug, sandwich maker and an iron.
When we pack up to travel, we empty the pantry of all dry and canned goods, sauces and condiments, herbs and spices. Everything from the fridge and freezer goes too and we can store it all in the van. Everything has a home. Sometimes though, when we visit more remote areas, we shop for a month. That’s when under the bed, seats and wheel arches become extra storage for stuff like potatoes, whole pumpkins, long life milk, boxes of cereal, and casks and cartons of wine and beer.
So with all that cooking gear on hand, we eat stews and casseroles, I make stocks and soups, roasts and meatloaf, bread and pizza (the yeast is in the fridge). I love to make chutney and relish and continue to do that as we travel as I find it’s a really relaxing hobby and we get such good produce to do it with. We obviously eat a lot of seafood when we’re catching it. We eat a lot of Asian style salads and stir fries, and curries are a favourite too.
Our freezer leaves home full of chicken, pork and red meat, and as that gets used, we replace it with fish. Russ skins, fillets, pin bones and vacuum seals the fish and right now we reckon we have around 20kgs frozen. The freezer holds around 30kgs. Although the freezer only runs on AC, we’ve had it turned off in 40c heat for 24 hours and opened it to find everything perfectly frozen still. When we free camp, we run the generator mostly for it.
When we traded in the last caravan for this one, Keith of Coronet Caravans, where we bought them both, commented how well we’d kept it. I reckon that’s because we cook outside.
Last night, I made Easy Chicken Parmas, but I made my own tomato sauce, once again using those lovely tomatoes we bought two weeks ago in Carnarvon. I asked for plenty of green ones in the bottom of the box and they are just reaching perfection. No need for any sugar when they are this ripe.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
- 6 large tomatoes, skins removed (you cut a cross in the bottom of the tomato, pour boiling water over it, count to thirty, then pour off the water. Skin when cool enough to handle.)
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- plenty of freshly ground black pepper
- Dice the skinned tomatoes.
- Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the onion and garlic until softened but not browned.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the mixture is well thickened and sauce-like (chunky sauce-like!).
I used my fresh tomato sauce to make Easy and Fast Chicken Parm by Chef 1MOM~Connie. It’s another recipe from food.com for another swap I’m participating in. I’ve taken the liberty of “Australianising” Connie’s recipe and explain how I made it for the two of us. Check out the original recipe though-it’s a great one for a quick tasty meal. I think our chickens may actually have been emus-the breasts were huge as was this meal, but oh my, it was so good.
Easy and Fast Chicken Parma
- 4 cups chunky Ragu tomato sauce (or your preference- I used my own but any kind you like is good)
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 large tomato chopped (1/8 ths)
- 90g shredded cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan)
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 smashed garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- cooking spray
- Cooked spaghetti to serve
- Spray casserole dish with oil.
- Place chopped onions on casserole base, sprinkle over smashed garlic. Next top with chicken breasts.
- Top those with the fresh tomatoes slices.
- Use 1/2 the sauce to cover chicken breast.
- Bake in oven 25-30 minutes at 190c degrees
- 5 minutes before chicken is finished sprinkle the cheese on top so that it can melt into the chicken parma.
- In the meantime boil water and cook noodles.
- Simmer remaining sauce and toss through the cooked noodles.
- Serve the chicken parma on top of the spaghetti.
Today I’m making bread rolls. Russ likes to use leftover bread, baguettes and rolls to make little dried toasts for cheese, dips and to eat our pickled fish on. The bread at the bakery here is just not “gutsy” enough in his opinion, so I’m making my own whilst he fishes for our dinner tonight.
Easy Bread Dough
- 1 cup warm water (blood temp)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then sprinkle over the yeast. Allow to sit for around 10 minutes in a warmish spot until the yeast activates (it looks frothy). Mix in the oil.
- Pour this liquid over the combined flour and salt and work it with a knife (imagine it’s a dough hook!)
- Depending on the flour and the day, you may need to add in a little more water. I added two tablespoons for a perfect dough
- Lightly flour your work top and tip the dough out.
- Knead by hand for 10 minutes (it’s fun and good for you)
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and set aside in a warmish, draft free spot until it has doubled in size. Once again, how long this takes depends on the day.
- Heat your oven to 200c.
- When it’s risen, knock it back then form into one loaf or two baguettes or 6 roll. Whatever, it’s up to you. Allow it to rise again, then slash with a sharp knife or razor.
- I like to spray water on it here to give a crusty finish. You can glaze with egg or sprinkle over poppy or sesame seeds-that’s up to you.
- Bake for around 25 minutes for the loaf, and about 15 for a baguette. It’s done when you tap the bottom and get a sort of hollow sound.