(Not a bad spot to cook dinner)
A common complaint or question you hear from people on the road is, "What (and how) do I cook, with such a small space inside, no oven and only a BBQ? I don't want to have sausages every day!"
(Not your usual sausage on bread meal, Crocodile, Camel, and Spanish sausages)
My philosophy is that whatever we would have at home, we will have on the road, with the added proviso that we will try and use fresh and local ingredients as much as possible. I also wanted to do some camp oven and open fire cooking.
We were certain we would not be eating anything like this:
(typical service station food selection)
I reckon we have pretty much hit this goal. If anything, we are probably eating healthier than at home, less fried food and a lot less noodles and curry puffs for morning tea (we did live in Malaysia for five years before starting our trip).
When we lived in China, we had a mega tiny kitchen (basically only one person could stand in it at any one time) so I am used to working in a confined space, although cooking bacon in the caravan leaves the place smelling like a roadside diner for hours (and usually sends Tanya outside) so now bacon and eggs is cooked outside on the BBQ.
Speaking of the BBQ, it took a lot of research, deliberating and searching to find the right BBQ, I wanted something small enough to fit in the tunnel boot, cook like an oven and of course sizzle great steaks. I settled on a Ziggy, a small portable BBQ from Ziegler and Brown and am very happy with it.
Tanya found a secondhand one in Brisbane, which also included a few extras like a grill plate and an attachment to turn it into a camp stove. I have managed to cook pretty much everything on it including mini quiches (for lunch), lasagne, pork knuckles, pizza, ribs, roast potatoes, falafels, zucchini fritters, corn and, of course, sausages and steak.
We have tried some interesting and yummy local foods and produce including kangaroo, buffalo, camel, crocodile, local mangoes, nectarines, mettwurst, cheeses, Barossa jams, pastes and pickles. We have also splurged out on some market food and a super yummy lunch at a winery.
We have purchased a few cooking gadgets (I can't help myself) including a USB powered mini blender (great for smoothies) it is not high powered but it does the job.
We also have a jaffle iron, camp oven and my favourite my Japanese version of a DreamPot (or maybe the Dreampot is a Aussie version of the Japanese thermal cooker).
A thermal cooker is like a slow cooker, except it doesn't need continual power, you start the cooking and then the super insulated container keeps the food cooking for up to eight hours. It saves energy and produces wonderful slow cooked meals. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the food exactly how you like it, but it is worth it.
What I really like about it is that it has a second pot so you can cook rice or pasta at the same time. That means you can start a meal in the morning, leave the pot in the car or van all day and when you get to your destination your meal is cooked and ready to eat. Very hand for those long driving days when you don't have the time or inclination to prepare food.
It is also super versatile, I have cooked pumpkin soup, beef rendang, chicken curry, Mexican beans, ribs and even yoghurt. You can use it for bread but I haven't tried that yet.
What then do we eat for each meal?
We have lots of toast, raisin toast, toast with jam, toast with avocado, cheese on toast (all cooked on the caravan griller). We also have fruit, yoghurt, cereal, and the occasional treat of bacon and eggs, corn cakes or pancakes. Breakfast depends on our plans for the day and what time we can get the kids out of bed. This isn't any different from what we had at home in Malaysia (except no roti canai YET)
Snacks on the road
As any traveller knows, snack are a vital part of your daily diet, we try to make this as healthy as possible, fruit, carrot sticks, cucumber, trail mix, home made energy balls and slice, the occasional muesli bar (they are always on special) and cheese and crackers.
(some of the best strawberries we have ever had and picked by the kids)
Lunch has been the most challenging meal to find interesting combinations, once we started travelling we pretty quickly got sick of ham sandwiches. We have since mixed things up a bit and have found a good mix of options for lunches, including hamburgers (rest stop BBQs are great), toasted sandwiches, soup (when it is cold), BBQ cooked quiches (made the night before), home made sausage rolls, sausages on bread, chicken and salad, leftovers (pasta, lasagne, curry), wraps and quesadillas. I have even made mac n cheese and put it into muffin tins to make mini lunch snacks. We occasionally have pies, fish and chips or even just chips on bread as a treat. We still have sandwiches, just not every day.
We eat dinner pretty much like we would if we weren't travelling. BBQs (steak, ribs, chicken, veggies, sausages, zucchini fritters, falafels), pasta, rice and curry, nachos, pizza, burritos, soup, lamb wraps, char kuay teow, you name it we probably have had it. The only thing I haven't made yet is schnitzels, but that is on my radar (to be done on the BBQ)
Very occasionally we splurge on a meal, usually at a market, somewhere different or for a special occasion.
(birthday dumplings in a winery)
When I get the chance I cook big batches of spaghetti bolognese or Mexican beans and freeze them to use for quick and easy dinners. I also try and make double batches of curries that can be used the same way. I found some excellent ready to eat Indian curries from an Indian spice shop in Townsville. They were really tasty, easy to heat up and suited the vegetarians on the trip. I just need to find them somewhere else.