CAMPSITES HAVE BEEN my holiday destination ever since I was a child in the sixties.
You name it, I have camped in it – two-person tents frame tents, touring caravans, shaky old campervans, glamping pods and static caravans. These days, we have our own caravan.
It is just the two of us now when we go off in the caravan, but, for over 20 years, we were a family of four. We have had some marvellous holidays, in the UK and in France.
Sometimes it would just be a weekend away, close to home, to blow away the cobwebs and get our girls outdoors.
Caravan holidays are also a great way for youngsters and oldsters alike to make friends.
As far as cooking for a family in a caravan goes, I have plenty of tips and experience. As well as enjoying caravan holidays for decades, I have worked in the industry, too.
For seven seasons, husband John and I were a maintenance couple, responsible for a fleet of units. He did the gas checks and heavy repairs, while I looked after soft furnishings, wobbly doorknobs and broken blinds. I am a dab hand with a silicone gun – perhaps that is why I enjoy using piping bags and nozzles!
As part of the season, we often went on what was called montage. During this time, other workers came with us in a group and we worked together putting up tents and fixing the caravans.
It was traditional to have a kitty of shopping money and to cook and east as a team. This is where I gained more experience in budgeting and cooking filling meals for a crowd.
I took that principle to the extreme on year and cooked a threcourse Christmas dinner for 27 people – using a caravan kitchen and a few barbecues. We had all the trimmings, too.
It might sound strange, but it is traditional to celebrate ‘Christmas’ together on 25 June when working on the Anglo/French campsites.
When I am packing the caravan for a trip, I always have some store-cupboard supplies on board. Basics that could be used to rustle up a meal quiclkly to feed the hungry kids.
I always have a few onions and potatoes with me, too, so even if the shops are shut IU can make tasty things using those and store-cupboard ingredients.
Quick and easy dinners would be corned beef hash, veggie chilli, chickpea and spinach curry and spicy chorizo pasta.
I like to challenge myself to see what I can make from the very basic ingredients and it is easy on the pocket, too. Family holiday treats, like ice creams, can get expensive, so it is good to go back to basics and save a bit here and there.
But for me, there’s no better way to relax than with my chopping block and a glass of wine in the evening, getting inventive with my menu.
On our last holiday, we had some cracking dinners – roast chicken breast with mushroom and white wine sauce, green beans and the creamiest mash; beef goulash with homemade bread; stuffed cabbage parcels, with roasted garlic potatoes; eggs Benedict; Viennese whirls; apple fritters; fridge bottom soup and more. It was a bit of a gastro challenge trip, but I proved it can be done.
A special mention for my slow cooker here. Even the most reluctant cook can throw some ingredients in it, go out for the day and come home to a gorgeous meal – assuming you have a hook-up. But cooking together is a great thing to do as a family – get the barbecue on the go, then get the kids to chop up interesting salads and sides.
I am including two recipes here; one from scratch and one using the slow cooker. Try them and see what you think!
Spanish slow cooker campfire stew
- cheap joint of gammon
- 1 large onion
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin baked beans
- Half a chorizo sausage, sliced
- squirt of tomato purée
- salt and pepper to taste
- squirt of garlic purée
- tablespoon of smoked paprika
- small bag of baby potatoes
- Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker; give it a stir.
- Cook on low all day. The meat should pull apart with a couple of forks to resemble pulled pork.
Baked greek meatballs with feta and skordalia
For the meatballs
- 500g mix of lamb and beef mince
- 1 small stale bread cake rubbed into crumbs
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp garlic purée
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the feta
- 1 carton tomato passata
- salt and pepper
- 1 block feta cheese
For the skordalia
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 tbsp garlic purée
- 175ml olive oil
- 50ml white wine vinegar
- Mix the mince, breadcrumbs, tomato puree, garlic and oregano, and season well with salt and pepper. Form into meatballs the size of your choice – I go for somewhere between walnut and golf ball!
- Brown the meatballs in the oil and place in an ovenproof dish.
- Heat the pasta through in the same pan to incorporate any meat juices left, and season well.
- Pour the pasta over the meatballs and crumble the feta cheese over the top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes (if you have no oven, this can be done in a frying pan).
- Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil in salted water until soft. Drain in a colander and leave until the steam has evaporated – about five minutes. Mash and pour in the olive oil, garlic and wine vinegar.
- Serve with the meatballs.
Karen Wright’s essential caravan kitchen items
A few tools that I like to make sure I have with me:
Family holiday treats, like ice creams, can get expensive, so it is good to go back to basics and save a bit here and there