I am always looking out for good ideas for delicious meals to cook at home and on holiday, so “Van Life Cookbook: Resourceful recipes for life on the road: from small spaces to the great outdoors” by Danny Jack and Hailee Kukura caught my eye immediately. It is an absolutely gorgeous book, full of tempting recipes, made even more tempting by Holly Ferrier’s beautiful photography showing the food in relaxed and sunny outdoor settings.
The introduction sets the scene nicely, describing the book as a ‘handy, visual guide packed full of tried and tested recipes that celebrate the unexpected joys and opportunities that modest spaces can bring to cooking – be it in a campervan or caravan, on a canal boat, at home, on a budget, or all of the above.’ The authors also say that ‘our diet is 90 per cent vegetarian and that’s reflected in this book’. Some of the recipes also have suggestions for how to make them vegetarian, or in a few cases vegan. This suits me really well as I am mostly vegetarian with occasional bit of fish as a treat.
The introduction then has some useful tips, tricks and kitchen hacks and recommended lists of store cupboard ingredients used throughout the book and cooking equipment. And there are a couple of pages with some basic cooking tips on how to cook rice, pasta, lentils and other staples. Lots of helpful stuff here, whether you are a complete beginner at cooking or more experienced.
None of the recipes in the book require an oven or more than two cooking rings, as most campervans have fairly basic kitchens. The book includes photos of the authors’ beautiful self-build campervan, and it looks like they have a bit more kitchen space than we have in our very compact touring caravan. So I will be bearing this in mind when considering whether all the recipes would be practical to prepare in our caravan. In good weather this is less of an issue as we can do some stuff outside, including chopping vegetables and cooking on a camping gas stove. We also eat outside whenever the weather is nice enough.
It is definitely worth doing a bit of planning before a trip to make sure that you have ingredients that might be harder to get hold of, for example fish sauce. We usually arrange for an online supermarket delivery the day before we head off on holiday and then purchase a few items of fresh food locally while we are out and about. Some of the recipes require quite small quantities of fresh ingredients, for example the curry uses half a cauliflower, so you need to either take the right amount or have a plan for what to do with the rest.
We usually try new recipes out at home before cooking them in the caravan, and that is exactly what I have been doing with the recipes from this book.
The first recipe I tried was Menemen: Turkish one-pan eggs from the Breakfast and Brunch chapter, described as being ‘an unchallenging, delicious plate of spicy eggs with tomatoes’. This dish was quick and easy to make, and the end result was very tasty and quite soothing to eat. My husband was impressed too and described it as ‘rather special’. I will definitely be cooking this again in the caravan. The recipe listed smoked paprika as optional, but I think it would have tasted a bit bland without this ingredient. There is also the option of preparing the tomato mix ahead of time and then reheating before adding the eggs, which might work well if you fancy doing some evening prep in order to have an even quicker breakfast.
Next up was Budget supermarket pasta for 4. Like many people, I am always keen to find ideas for affordable meal options. And this recipe was particularly appealing because I have always enjoyed the combination of pasta, garlic, broccoli and cheese. Some patience was required to slowly sweat down the base of onion, garlic, chilli and anchovies at the beginning, but end result was definitely worth it. This was so much more delicious than the meals I remember from my student cooking days. This recipe serves 4, so I had a portion to reheat the next day and it was just as tasty if not more so. Next time I cook this I will try it without the anchovies to make it properly vegetarian. The recipe also suggests garnishing with nutritional yeast, as a vegan alternative to grated cheese.
A few days later, I was in the mood for a substantial salad with lentils and I spotted the Puy lentil and tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella recipe in this book, and decided to give it a try. This is one of the few recipes in the book without an accompanying photo. I used feta as an alternative to mozzarella as suggested in the chef’s tip, because it is easier to find nice feta in small local shops, and I was pleased to be able to use fresh parsley. It was a fantastic, fresh tasting salad with a wonderful combination of flavours and textures. Cooking the lentils from scratch worked fine in my kitchen at home but it would be easier to use ready-cooked lentils in the caravan.
The final recipe I tried out for this review was the Amok peanut vegetable curry. This has a longer list of ingredients than most of the other recipes in the book, but I realised that we already had most of the store cupboard items. I decided to try a vegan ‘fish’ sauce to make the dish completely vegan and it worked well. We were totally and utterly wowed by this peanut vegetable curry. The combination of the peanut and coconut milk sauce was lovely with the carrots, cauliflower and peas. It was creamy and flavourful and we enjoyed every mouthful. It worked well served with rice, and then I reheated a leftover portion with noodles the next day and that was also very nice. It was one of my favourite home cooked meals so far this year.
In summary, we were very impressed with all four meals cooked from the Van Life Cookbook. The recipes were clearly written and straightforward to follow in our kitchen at home. Some of the recipes, particularly the Amok peanut vegetable curry, might be a bit ambitious to cook from scratch in our little caravan, but might be doable with a bit of advance planning and preparation.
The Van Life Cookbook has already become one of my favourite cookbooks. I will definitely be making all of these delicious meals again and trying out more recipes. The tiramisu looks particularly tempting!
Recipes from Van Life Cookbook
We have permission from Pavilion t to share some recipes with you from the book: [coming soon]
Kavey Eats received a review copy of Van Life Cookbook by Danny Jack and Hailee Kukura from publishers Pavilion. Book photography by Holly Farrier. Home-cooking photography by Ruthy Jenkins.