Easy, Fast, Tasty in VanLife Food
When living out of the back of a van you need to think differently about the meals you prepare and the kitchen apparatus you use. You need to think easy, fast and most importantly TASTY!
Breakfasts for Kings:
Omlettes, Hashbrowns, French toast – the beauty of VanLife when on the road is the time you can take to make a decent breakfast to enjoy with a cup of coffee wherever you may wake up.
Recipe for BBQ French Toast:
Bread – good use for stale bread
Butter (or oil)
A free BBQ spot
Seasoning and toppings to your liking
French toast has always been a favourite of mine. While on the road we went through a stage of using free BBQ’s in the area for almost everything that needed cooking from sausages to fried rice to BBQ French Toast. This is a great way to save gas and enjoy the local picnic spots.
How many eggs you need with depend on the amount of bread you have and the amount of people for breakfast. I sometimes end up beating another egg to finish of my selection of breads at the last minute. Cut the bread in diagonal pieces. Beat the eggs and add milk (if available – probably not if your on the road) and a touch of salt. Soak the bread in the eggs until floppy but not overly sloppy. Generously place butter (or oil) on the heated BBQ. Add the wet bread and wait until sizzling. Keep turning until both sides of the toast are browned. The benefit to using a BBQ is also the surface space for cooking, you should be able to cook all at once. Suggested toppings: sliced banana, cinnamon sugar (made by mixing cinnamon and sugar), bacon (if lucky enough to have some on the road), maple syrup, Nutella, or if on a real budget with nothing else just a bit of sugar sprinkled on top goes down a treat – just think BBQed fairy bread, Yum!
Lunch al Fresco:
Leftovers, sandwiches or something a bit more… whether on the road, or enjoying being able to create a feast anytime of the day out the back of the van, outdoor dinning is the best!
Recipe for Couscous salad:
Salt and pepper
Selection of vegetables
Optional if possible: Cheese, preferably Feta
A favourite quick easy one pot wonder that keeps well in the same pot for the next day. Above is a photo of a Gaucho enjoying leftover couscous salad while contract picking oranges, fast and easy lunch is ideal in this situation.
Boil water. Measure a cup of couscous (or as required). Add boiling water to the couscous. Leave to sit off the heat with a lid on it while preparing other ingredients. Cut veggies in cube or bite sizes. I like to add the veggie raw but they can be cooked if desired. Suggested veggie: broccoli, carrot, onion, cauliflower, mushroom, tomato – but most things on hand will go well. Once you have cut up all the veggie, and taken a moment to enjoy your outdoor location, the couscous should be cooked. Check that there is no water in the bottom. Fluff with a fork and add oil and seasoning. Add the vegetables. If desired, as I often do, add cubed feta cheese. Serve, or if your feeling like a night off the dishes, grab a couple of forks and dig in straight from the pot.
Dinner for four:
Making meals in late winter nights we found ourselves racing sundown with head torches at the ready. To make the most of this time and to make it easy for the journey the following day, we made meals that created leftovers – whatever the next day would bring we would be well fed.
Recipe for Tortilla Pizza:
Tortilla (preferable a size that will fit in your frying pan)
Tin of tomatoes
Toppings as desired or what is on hand
Tortillas was a revolutionary find as a necessary component to our kitchen “cupboard”. For quick quesillas, a substitute for bread, or tortilla pizza they are quick, easy and delicious. When making tortilla pizza, if you are lucky enough to be armed with a wooden chopping board, you can place the previously cut and prepared pizza on the chopping board, while the next pizza is cooking, so it keeps your pizza warm while you eat (though it won`t last long).
Precut all veggie, meat and grate cheese. Suggested vegetables: broccoli, onion, tomato… really anything that will cook quickly. Preheat tortilla with a touch of oil in frying pan. Remove from heat – or be very quick – while putting on tomato base (from tin of tomatoes), and toppings. Add oregano and seasonings as desired. Place a lid to cover the pizza, I use my wooden cutting board but you may have a lid for the pan or a plate that will work just as well. Don´t forget the oregano. It is very important and the master herb of my VanLife kitchen. Cook the pizza on a low to medium heat until the base is crunchy and the toppings have cooked beneath melted cheese. Cut and enjoy! You will not be disappointed.
Dessert and cakes can be difficult with no access to an oven or a fridge to keep dairy products fresh – therefore a bit of creativity is needed. Gracias to our VanLife Recipe book (thanks Kim!!) we have been able to explore some new ideas like steamed chocolate cakes made in orange cases. This was a recipe to try out while working amongst the orange trees.
Recipe for Orange Steamed Cakes:
Chocolate (preferably dark)
(Or as recommended by the original recipe one of those pre-mix horrid cake mixes that usually end up being rather nice)
This was an absolute failure for me but I love the idea and have learnt from my mistakes. (To be updated once have a successful moment with this recipe). It also helps if you are working on a orange farm and have access to unlimited oranges – have to make the most of whats in plentiful supply while on the road.
Empty out the oranges being very careful to keep the skin whole, apart from the opening at the top – a spoon can help with this. Enjoy a vitamin C boost or extract the juice from the orange inside. You can use this juice to add to your cake mix. Prepare cake mix as desired. Place into into the oranges filling only 3/4 (this is very important as cake mix will rise and is where I went very wrong). Place a small amount of water in the bottom of a pot (also another mistake of mine, too much water which leaked into my oranges) and place the filled oranges in the water making sure the oranges do not fall over by placing enough to fill the pot . Place lid on pot and steam until cake batter is cooked. Check with a skewer or knife that it is cooked through. Remove oranges from the pot and let cool. The idea is that you will have a beautiful aroma and infusion of orange through your cake and you can eat directly from the orange. Didn`t quite work for me (didn’t use real chocolate so apart from previous issues my cake mix was not good), but I love the idea and will definitely be trying it again.
NB: All these recipes have been left open ended for you to use what you have on hand or is readily available form your local stores and adjustable to how many mouths need feeding. I`m not one to follow recipes very well so I have created some recipes that are open for interpretation and to add your own flare or local produce. Enjoy!
There is a call for creativity and thought into the food you make and store while living in a van – it can mean some challenges but it can also open up new methods and recipes that you wouldn’t have considered from the comfort of your home kitchen.
We have had a break from VanLife for the last few weeks, with a home to cook in. Staying in a fixed location has opened another food related opportunity: enjoying local markets! Coming soon: Exploring the local markets of South Australia.