We might not have a house but it doesn’t stop us from making delicious home-cooked meals.
We got our first taste of domestic bliss when we moved into a flat together in 2009 whilst studying. Since then we’ve moved from flat to house, to flat and to another house again, going from playing at grown ups to eventually becoming the real thing, or as close to adults as we’re ever going to get, with full-time office jobs and a regular routine.
Throughout these years of living together we’ve both enjoyed doing the cooking, experimenting with different foods and recipes and developing our own set of stock meals that we cook regularly. We’re not massively adventurous eaters but we aren’t afraid of giving new things a try, even if it means getting it wrong every now and then.
Now, of course, we’ve given up the routine lifestyle and nice domestic kitchen full of utensils and electrical appliances for a more simple, laid back approach.
When we first moved in to the van we thought that cooking would become more of a challenge and we’d have to go back to basics, or put in a lot more effort to make the more interesting dishes that we liked to cook. But, it turns out, we do more cooking now than we ever have and even though our kitchen is more compact and basic, it’s so enjoyable to cook in and we have everything we need.
Not only is it the most satisfying thing using something you’ve built and seeing that it works, it’s also a great feeling having the time to enjoy cooking which, now we’re travelling, we have lots of!
Our van kitchen is situated opposite our side door which slides open and running alongside this is our storage unit which also provides extra worktop space for preparing food and chopping veg. This is amazing because it means that we can open the door and take in the view while we’re cooking.
We had to think carefully about what we really needed to keep when moving out of our house and in to the van, and when it came to the kitchen we had a lot of stuff! We cut down to the more essential things with a few bits of nice ceramics and crockery to keep it homey, then we designed our kitchen around this. We went for drawers instead of cupboards so that everything can be organised and stored in a way that keeps it stood in place while we’re on the move and is also easily accessible.
We have a beautiful 1960s Calor gas oven that we have been extremely happy with! For a while we lived in the van with only a camping stove to cook on which was fine but being able to bake bread and pizzas in the oven and use the grill is so much better.
Here are some of the things we’ve found super useful in our van kitchen:
- IKEA desk cover – Our worktops are made of pallet wood and whilst it is brushed and oiled to stop splinters and warping, it’s not the most hygienic and has a tendency to catch crumbs. Most of the time this isn’t a problem but for things like rolling out dough or anything more ‘involved’ we whip this out on the work top then wipe it clean and roll it up again to store back in the cupboard when we’re done.
- Wine bottle rolling pin – When leaving the UK we decided that a rolling pin was too much of a luxury, then realised how much we like food that requires rolling! Fortunately, we like wine too 🙂
- Pots & pans – In our van we have 1x saucepan, 1x frying pan and a 1 tier steamer. So far we haven’t felt at all short of anything and the steamer base gives us an extra saucepan if needed.
- Enamel bowls and plates – We went for these because they’re fairly lightweight, pretty much unbreakable and also double up as pie/oven dishes for roasting or a frying pan lid.
- Measuring jug – We find this comes in handy a lot when following recipes. Also it doubles up as a mixing bowl.
- Kilner jars – We store things like cereal, pasta, biscuits/cakes in Kilner jars on our shelf storage. These are great because they keep things fresh and stand up neatly on the shelf.
We generally cook vegetarian meals and as we’re travelling on a budget we keep costs down by making up big batches to eat over several days. Some of our favourite things to cook in the van include…
Dough – We love homemade pizza with the base made from scratch and as a delicious treat to go alongside curry or pasta we love flatbread drizzled with garlic oil. We’ve found the best recipe for dough which we regularly make in the van is Hugh Ferney Wittingstall’s ‘Magic Dough’ recipe which can be found in his River Cottage Veg book – we just use 500g of regular plain flour rather than going for half and half and it works just fine.
Spinach and pepper frittata – This is a regular favourite to cook as it’s cheap to make and a nice way to use up any leftover bits of veg. Simply fry up your chosen veg in a pan with seasoning of your choice, we usually like to go for cumin/paprika, pour over some eggs and cook for a few minutes then sprinkle on some cheese and place under the grill for a few seconds until its cooked throughout.
Curry Pie – Sounds strange but works surprisingly well. This is something we tried making after having a delicious spinach and chickpea pastry at our favourite vegan cafe in Salisbury. It’s basically a shortcrust pastry pie with curry filling, very satisfying and tasty. One of those foods that tastes even better cold from the fridge the next day.