The first thing I will say here, is that cooking from the back of your camper van is very similar to cooking a meal at home. The only things that might be different are your refrigeration facilities, limited cooking utensils and no kitchen sink. But, with a well-organised van kitchen, you can make lots of delicious feasts to enjoy outside under the stars. Some staples for your pantry are listed below. These are great to have on hand, as they don’t need refrigeration and can be used in a variety of ways:
- dried herbs
- salt and pepper
- jars of tomato pasta sauce
- coconut milk
- four-bean mix or red beans
- curry pastes of different varieties
- jars of pesto
- canned tomato soup
- taco/burrito seasoning
Here are some meals we have been cooking a lot recently – cheap, easy, convenient and tasty food for the road:
Pasta with tomato-based sauce
The standard pasta dish for a night on the road. Cook desired pasta. Mix it up a bit – there are lots of types of pasta! Penne, spirals, spaghetti, fettuccine, gnocchi and so on. In a fry pan, fry off some onion, mushrooms, zucchini, or really any vegetable you feel like. Add bottled tomato pasta sauce (we use this as it is already cooked down and flavoured with herbs, which means less time wasting the precious gas). Mix the pasta and sauce together in the billy and serve in bowls, topped with cheese.
There are lots of delicious pestos in the supermarkets or local delis, of varying prices. Fry up some onion and veggies, mix in the pasta and pesto, serve with cheese, or some finely sliced spring onions and you have a delicious feast ready to devour.
Put a big knob of butter in the pan. Sweat off the onions and garlic, add mushrooms or asparagus and fry until cooked. Add a dash of white wine and cook a little longer. Add about half a cup of cream and some grated/finely sliced cheese. Stir until melted. Add to cooked pasta of your choice and mix in some finely sliced spring onions. A delicious meal that makes me feel like a chef!
Vegetable and tofu stir fry with rice
Rice can be a bit of a hassle to cook in a billy, but it makes a nice change from pasta. While it’s cooking, fry up some onion, garlic, mushroom, carrot, zucchini, pak choi, sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Fry off some flavoured tofu on the side and mix it in at the end if you feel like it. Serve with rice.
Two minute noodles with a twist
Boil up the noodles as usual. Drain and add seasoning. While the noodles are boiling, fry up some onion, mushroom, capsicum and whatever else you fancy. Mix in with seasoned noodles and enjoy.
Tomato Soup (for when it all seems like too much effort)
Yep, sometimes the effort of getting everything organised for a meal can seem too much, even when you are on holidays. There’s nothing wrong with opening a can of tomato soup, heating it up in the billy and enjoying it with fresh bread rolls and butter.
Buy a pack of burrito/taco seasoning. Fry up seasoning with an onion, some mushrooms and tomatoes. Add a can of four-mix beans. On the side, prepare some lettuce, grated cheese, avocado and maybe some sour cream and salsa if you want to splash out. Fill tacos or burritos with a bit of everything and enjoy.
Canned lentils and a jar of an indian-style curry will do the trick for this feast. Fry up the desired vegetables- carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, onions often work well for a vegetarian style curry. Add the lentils and a jar of curry and serve on freshly cooked rice.
Buy a jar of the green or red curry paste. Fry off a coupe of tablespoons of the paste with some onions. If you eat meat, fry off some chicken or fish. Add desired vegetables – carrots, zucchini, leafy green vegetables, capsicum – anything really. Add a can of coconut milk and simmer until heated through and all vegetables are cooked. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of sugar if necessary.
Serve on top of freshly cooked rice.
Cook couscous according to the instructions on the packet. Mix in with finely chopped, fried or boiled vegetables. To make it easy, you can mix through tinned sweet corn, tinned peas and carrots etc. Obviously, its healthier with fresh vegetables but sometimes refrigeration is limited. Once everything is mixed through the couscous, it’s ready to eat.
When I say homemade burgers, I don’t mean you have to make the burger patty from scratch. We buy pre-made vegetarian ones from the supermarket, or use halloumi cheese. Fry them up and then simply assemble the burger. Bread roll, mayo, chutney, burger patty, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese, canned beetroot, maybe a fried egg and some onion if you want to put in the effort. Delicious!
Cold and Colourful Salad (for when the gas bottle runs out)
So you’ve already cut up your red onion, tomato and mushrooms and are about to pop in the pasta when BAM! The gas has run out! Never fear – this happened to us recently and here’s what you can do with your ingredients to make a tasty, cold and colourful salad!
Feel free to share any of your on-the-road dinners below. Always looking for new ideas!