camper witterings

camper 

It seems that camping, caravanning and camper van trips are becoming very popular and one thing that puzzles me is that people seem to be obsessed with eating very basic, bland and tinned foods whilst enjoying such a break, indeed it seems that many campers will indulge in dishes such as tinned potatoes and tinned ham that whilst at home they would shun. For me good food and drink is very much a part of a good break.

Indeed as a self confessed foodie I do like to eat well even if cooking in a camper van; so you won’t find any burnt sausages, flabby bacon and mushy beans on my camper-van expedition menu. I like good food and drink and I like the freedom of pottering off in a camper-van and allowing my roaming instinct to make the plans and that is why I’ve developed a new style of gourmet camper-van cooking that can be created easily with minimum fuss.

Armed with just one saucepan and a bit of know-how you can rustle up a meal that is just perfect for sitting down and relaxing with and one that is less own-brand lager and more organic Chardonnay. I’m not a great fan of camping food as it conjures up memories of burnt barbecue sausages and terrible cooking. My parents were into caravan holidays when I was a child and I just dreaded the chaos of meal times in their tiny 1980’s Monza caravan, it used to involve split eggs baked beans that sat on the plate as a heap of orange mush and some sort of fine, retro delicacy such as a reconstituted Steak grill topped off with a portion of part frozen oven chips. Though these dishes were always better than the time my Mum decided to have a barbecue in the caravan awning and smoke out the entire caravan; then serve burnt yet still frozen sausages. Whilst she maintains to this day that burnt soup is part of the camping experience it is safe to conclude that delicious and gourmet my mother’s camping cooking was not whilst edible was a bonus! Though cooking and eating in a camper-van or indeed caravan doesn’t have to be like this, it can be simple and delicious!

There is nothing I love more than settling down after a day on the road to a plate of sumptuous comfort food and to me this is what camper-van food is really all about. So chill a bottle of white or pop the cork out a good Merlot fire up both gas rings on the camper cooker and get ready for a feast as you watch the sun set and hone into your open road wanderlust.

My top Four camper-van Comfort Food Recipes

This is mobile comfort food of the highest order, and the limited source of cooking heat and space for preparation will not impair the results at all. Good food, great outdoors and a bit of freedom, this could be your beautiful life.

Broad bean, walnut, pea and mint leaf salad with honeycomb and goats milk Gouda

This is quick and easy to make and you add in things like young dandelion leaves and sorrel to satisfy the hunter gather spirit within you.

150g small broad beans, shelled and papery skins removed

150g peas, podded

75ml extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 handful mint leaves, finely torn

50g goats cheese Gouda chopped into small cubes

50g chopped walnuts

50g fresh honeycomb cut into small pieces (a sticky job)

Salt and pepper

Put the beans and peas in a bowl toss with the cheese cubes, walnuts. Mix together the oil, vinegar, mint then season. Dress the peas and beans mixture, and plate up. Place a portion of honeycomb on top of each salad.

Great served with fresh sour-dough bread or a touch of French stick!

Baked fresh goats’ cheese with cinnamon, figs and olive oil

I really love this recipe because its just so indulgent and simple. Can’t beat this dish for chilling with a glass of wine and just watching the world go by.

1 small fresh goats’ cheese, about 150g (I often use the Somerset Goats cheese for a milder, creamier flavour)

4 dried figs chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp honey

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground rock salt

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut out a piece each of tin foil and baking parchment both large enough to wrap the cheese in , and lay the parchment on top of the foil, so you have a double layer. Place the cheese in the middle and fold up the sides a little, so you have an open parcel. Sprinkle the cheese with the cinnamon, drizzle over the honey and olive oil, then add in the salt and dried figs, then fold up the sides of the foil and parchment to create a sealed parcel. Make sure you crimp together the edges of foil , making sure you have a tight seal all round (you don’t want your cheese escaping). Bake in the hot oven for eight minutes. Just before serving, open the parcel, mash the soft hot cheese with the oil and spices. This is great to serve with steamed asparagus and bread for dipping, it really is the ultimate in comfort food.

Boozy vegetable risotto

1 small onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

50ml olive oil

150g arborio rice

125 ml glass dry white wine

125ml calvados

1.2 litres hot stock made with one vegetable stock cube

A few handfuls spring vegetables – peas, broad beans, asparagus, chopped watercress,

50g feta cheese, roughly chopped

1 handful fresh mint shredded

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sweat the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the rice to the pot, stir to mix and to coat in the oil, then cook for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add the wine and calvados, stirring continuously, cook until it has been completely absorbed by the rice. Now, ladle by ladle, add the hot stock, stirring regularly and making sure each ladle of stock is absorbed before adding the next. When the rice is just undercooked – after around 15 minutes – stir in the vegetables and continue to cook until the rice is done but retains just a slight bite. Remove the pot from the heat stir in the cheese and herbs, season and serve. This is great on its own or topped with an egg.

Baked Eggs

Forget your fried eggs and spitting fat over a small camping cooker, instead opt for baked eggs with laverbread seaweed for a deliciously healthy start to the day.

4 eggs

120g tin of laverbread seaweed

1 tsp smoked chilli flakes

400g tinned (chopped) tomatoes (drained)

salt and pepper to season

butter for greasing ramekin dishes

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Squeeze out any excess water from the tin of seaweed and divide between 4 small, greased oven-proof ramekin dishes.

Mix the tomatoes with the chilli flakes and some seasoning, then add to the dishes with the seaweed. Make a small well in the centre of each tomato mixture and crack in an egg. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread, doorstep toast or some nice fresh field mushrooms roasted in the oven.

It just goes to show that even in a small space where there is the need to keep cooking and washing up simple. Whilst there seems to be an unwritten rule amongst campers not top attempt cooking that is anything more adventurous than baked beans, fried eggs, limp bacon and well done sausages, my thoughts are that rules are there to be broken and hopefully my recipes will inspire you to enjoy camper comfort food.