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Cooking in a campervan

Food, buying it, cooking it, and most definitely eating it, is a big part of my life.

Ever since I can remember I have loved food, which probably explains why I am overweight, but faced with a choice between hungry and skinny or sated and fat, I choose the go large option every time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not clinically obese, but my dress size is probably one bigger than I would prefer (okay, two) and I have not had a thigh gap since high school. Just call me cuddly.

So when planning our year in a van, the kitchen area was my number one priority.

Most European vans don’t have an oven or grill, so when we decided to look for a classic left-hand drive Hymer, I knew I was probably going to be restricted to three rings on a gas stove, a small fridge with a tiny freezer compartment, and a sink with a tiny worktop.

And that is exactly what I have, but despite its obvious limitations, my kitchen is one of my favourite areas of the van and I am having great fun cooking with local produce, especially now I am in Greece.

Last night we had Greek oven roasted lemon potatoes, which are supposed to be done in the oven, with trout and green salad.

Tonight we are going to enjoy aubergine and green pepper stew, and tomorrow, either a frittata or a traditional Greek bean soup and assorted meze.

We have toast every morning, even without a grill.

And, of course, gallons of freshly brewed, strong black coffee,

The most obvious restriction in the van is the lack of an oven, but while researching living full-time in a motorhome I stumbled across a double skillet.

This is exactly what it sounds like – two deep non-stick frying pans which are linked together, one top of the other, to form a crude oven.

They were all the rage a few years back in the motorhoming community, but the UK suppliers seemed to have gone out of business, and I couldn’t find one anywhere.

Until, that is, I stumbled upon a frittata pan – a pair of inter-locking skillets – In Lakeland. Sadly, these too are no longer available (why?), but mine is probably the best piece of kitchen equipment in our van.

I can make most things that require to be cooked in an oven, including Greek oven roasted lemon potatoes, though I think baking a cake might be a bit of a challenge.

I have a long, narrow, cast iron grill pan which I found on Achica, which fits my tiny gas range perfectly, and makes terrific toast, and my folding colander and grater work like a dream without taking up any space.

Other pieces of kitchen equipment I cannot do without include my cafetiere, three sharp kitchen knives, a couple of (very light) plastic chopping boards and my cheery cherry red whistling kettle with a fold down handle, another Achica find.

I use real crockery and glasses, though have some bamboo plates from Habitat, and I even have Anthropologie napkins, a gift from a dear friend. I just can’t imagine eating for a year on melamine.

But even the best equipped kitchen needs decent produce. Lidl is a life saver for all my basics, from French red to kitchen roll, but I was surprised at how many of their products are more expensive in mainland Europe than at home.

Here in Greece life is not cheap. VAT is charged on food, from feta to chocolate. Basics attract 13% and packaged goods, like rice or pasta have had 24% tax slapped on them since earlier this year.

The best place for fruit and veg are local markets, and I spent seven euros yesterday on enough produce to last a week from the Nafplio market, including a bag of green olives for 70 cents and some courgettes, complete with flowers, for forty.

And my Greek odyssey would not be complete with Vefa’s Kitchen, a recipe book that weighs almost as much as my entire kitchen.

Vefa Alexiadou is Greece’s Delia, and over the years she has collected hundreds of recipes from all over Greece for her brilliant book.

It is now my favourite bedtime reading, that and Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly (MMM).

Changed days.

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