Eating and travel are very closely intertwined. It is impossible to set out on a trip without food playing a major part in the experience, from the meals we eat on the road, to the people and storeies associated with the delicious produce we might encounter.
I would argue that the ability to sample foods and regional delicacies that are not available to us in everyday life is one of the greatest pleasures of travel, particularly motorcaravanning.
I have lost count of the number of times we have been driving through a small village, or past a little roadside market, and pulled the motorhome over on seeing purveyors of local produce that we would otherwise have little opportunity to cook with. Sampling their goods and hearing the stories behind them adds to the experience, not just of our trip, but also of the meal we eat as a family at the end of the day.
For us, that’s one of the great advantages of travelling in a motorhome, rather than being in a car and staying in hotels or B&Bs – the ability to buy and cook the foods that help to give the region we are exploring its identity.
From fine cheeses found in the Alps, Murcia’s paprika and Portugal’s piri piri sauce, to olives in Provence, chorizo rom the Iberian Peninsula and an abundance of fish all along the Mediterranean coast, there’s an endless supply of wonderful ingredients that we can use when on the road.
A taste of something new
It’s also an opportunity for us to introduce our children to all manner of different foods, some of which they love – others not so much. I will never forget the look on our son Harrison’s face when, aged just two, he insisted on tasting a very spicy chorizo in Spain, despite being warned that it might be a bit hot for him!
On the other hand, it’s hardly surprising that croissants fresh from the boulangerie in France have always been a firm favourite for Harrison and his little sister, Dorothy. The leftovers (which are admittedly something of a rarity) are also great the next day for making French toast.
There’s a common misconception that cooking in a motorhome is an inconvenience, given that you’ve fewer facilities than at home. But it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of planning and organisation before your trip, you can be well equipped to rustle up all manner of tasty dishes and snacks every day, no matter where you are.
Just as it is at home for us, cooking when we are on the road is an integral part of the day and we look forward to it. Yes, there are nights when we arrive at a campsite later than expected, or turn up to find the site has a brilliant restaurant (our weakness is anywhere offering wood-oven pizzas), preferably with a cold local beer!), but on the whole, we take great pleasure in cooking.
Freedom to eat where you wish
What’s more, in our motorhome, we have the freedom to cook and eat almost anywhere we please, be that high in the mountains looking out over great ranges of peaks, or on the edge of sandy beaches tucked away from the world.
It’s as if we have our own roaming restaurant and we can set it up wherever we please, which is ideal when we need to feed two small children at a moment’s notice. On more than one occasion we have found ourselves rustling up a meal in some bizarre location, to keep the kids happy.
We always look forward to family meals in the ‘van. As Luciano Pavarotti once said, ‘One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” But first we cook, and there is just as much pleasure in that as there is in the eating. So, here we’re sharing some of our favourite recipes and tips.
As much as we love buying produce we come across on our travels, we also take some essentials with us, so that no matter what, we are able to cook. We will have a few set nights when we know exactly what we are cooking in advance, with the rest open to using whatever we happen to buy on the road.
Be it at home or on the road, we always try to support small, local businesses and independent sellers when it comes to food. We may end up paying a little more at times, but we always get far better produce and, when on our travels, enjoy great food that we simply wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.
Keep it simple
You don’t have to become a Michelin star chef to create tasty meals in your motorhome. Speaking from experience, the best dishes are often the simplest ones, using just a few pots and pans, and eating as a family in a beautiful location.
Make it fun
We involve the children in our cooking as much as possible, be that peeling vegetables or helping to mix ingredients together. It all gives them a sense of purpose and a feeling that they’re contributing – even if, half the time, they would prefer to be outside playing! But the focus for us has always been on having fun, whatever we are doing.
There’s nothing worse than not having the right equipment to cook with, so make sure that you have a good set of knives, pots and pans that fit the smaller hobs and a selection of other basic kitchen equipment. This will allow you to cook a wider variety of dishes and not end up frustrated because you don’t have the right kit to make a particular recipe or meal. One luxury item that we have in the motorhome is a compact food processor.
Carrot and walnut flapjacks
When travelling with two children (Kim would probably argue, three!), it’s essential to have plenty of snacks on hand both for the drives, and for when you are out and about on adventures.
Rather than filling our kitchen cupboards with shop-bought stuff, we prefer to use a few go-to recipes – these are quick and easy to prepare, and a hit with everyone, adults and children alike.
- 275g jumbo oats
- 100g Medjool dates
- 2 large carrots
- 100g walnuts
- 40g coconut oil
- 2 bananas
- juice of one orange
- Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.
- Place the dates in a pan with 50ml water and allow to simmer gently until they begin to soften and the water is absorbed. Now add the coconut oil, stir and take off the heat; allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Put the oats in a compact food processor and blitz for around 15 seconds until they are broken up; this will give a more even consistency to your flapjacks. Empty the oats out into a large bowl.
- Now put the dates in the food processor with the bananas and blitz until you have a smooth paste.
- Peel and great the carrots and roughly chop the walnuts before adding to the bowl with the oats, orange juice and the date and banana paste. Mix thoroughly until the oats are evenly covered with the mixture.
- Place the mixture in a non-stick baking tin, spread evenly and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting into pieces.
Sweet potato and fish curry
This dish was created when we were away in Spain, after Kim stopped at a small spice market while I was riding my bike. It has been a family favourite ever since.
On every trip, we always make sure to pack the spices and dry ingredients we need for it, but we source the rest locally. It can easily be adapted as well, to include more vegetables or chickpeas instead of fish, making it vegan, or you could swap the fish for chicken if you prefer.
- 4 white fish fillets
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes
- 1 bag of fresh spinach
- Small bunch of coriander
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon tandoori masala powder
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper to season
- Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic, and add to a large pan with a splash of olive oil. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, until the onion begins to turn translucent.
- While the onion cooks, peel and cut the sweet potato into large chunks.
- Add the turmeric, cumin, tandoori masala and chilli flakes (if using) to the onion, stir and cook for a minute to release the flavours.
- Then add the tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable stock and sweet potato, before mixing together, covering and allowing to cook over a medium heat for 40 minutes.
- Add the spinach and allow to wilt before mixing in.
- Place the fish fillets on top of the curry, cover with a lid and allow to cook for five minutes before serving.
Prawn and roasted vegetable linguine
This dish conjures up memories of lazy evenings on the Mediterranean coast, sitting with a glass of chilled wine in the warm evening air, without a care in the world. If possible, head to a fresh fish market for the prawns, but at a pish, you can get them from the supermarket.
- 12-16 king prawns
- 400g linguine
- 250g cherry tomatoes
- 2 courgettes
- 1 large red onion
- 1 large orange pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- Chilli flakes (optional)
- Preheat the oven to a fairly high heat. While it heats up, roughly chop the onion, pepper and courgettes. Place in an ovenproof dish and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Add the tomatoes after 20 minutes.
- When the vegetables are almost done, add the linguine to a pan of boiling, salted water and cook according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and season with cracked black pepper and a touch of olive oil.
- Crush the garlic and add to a pan with two tablespoons of olive oil and the king prawns. Cook over a high heat for a few minutes, until the prawns change colour. As soon as they are done, remove them from the pan.
- In the same pan, add the linguine, roasted vegetables and chill flakes (if using); mix well. Divide between four bowls and add the king prawns at the end before serving. If you prefer, you can sprinkle the chilli flakes over each dish at this stage instead.
Egg fried rice
Given Kim’s Chinese heritage and upbringing, it is hardly surprising that one of our go-to dishes, both at home and in the motorhome, is Chinese. This is not the most traditional Chinese dish, but egg fried rice is a family favourite and very easy to prepare in the ‘van.
- 300g rice
- 2 eggs
- 1 large red onion, finely diced
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 small tin sweetcorn
- 100g frozen peas
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet. While this is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients, including beating two eggs in a bowl.
- In a large frying pan, cook the onion and carrot in a little olive or sunflower oil, over a high heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Then add the peas, sweetcorn and garlic, and cook for a further few minutes.
- Add the rice, soy sauce and seasme oil, and mix well. Create space at the bottom of the pan and add the egg, allowing it to cook a little before mixing in and cooking for a further two minutes, while stirring the rice.
- This can be served as it is, or with grilled chicken thigh fillets or a nice piece of fish, simply cooked.
Apricot and dark chocolate granola bars
- 200g porridge oats
- 100g dates
- 2 bananas
- 40g coconut oil
- 75g unsalted nuts
- 100g dried apricots
- 100g dark chocolate
- Soak the dates in some boiling water for 10 minutes and then drain. Place in a compact food processor with the bananas and coconut oil, and blitz until you have a smooth paste.
- Roughly chop the apricots, nuts and chocolate, and place in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Stir everything together until well mixed. Transfer the mixture to a non-stick baking tray and spread evenly.
- Place the tray in the fridge overnight – this will allow the mixture to cool and set. Remove from the tin and cut into equal-sized pieces. These delicious granola bars are best kept in the fridge.
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One of the great advantages of travelling in a motorhome, rather than being in a car and staying in hotels or B&Bs is the ability to buy and cook the foods that help to give the region we are exploring its identity