From The Van, To The Pan: Tim’s Road-trip Recipes

Living on the road doesn’t mean you can’t eat well!

What follows is a tasty guide to feeding yourself during your road-trip travels. I hope that you find my insights and advice useful when planning road trips and camping trips up the East coast of Australia, across America or even through Europe – wherever you want to go!

Van life and extended road trips can seem both appealing and daunting at the same time. If you are travelling to Australia, you may have heard of an amazing East Coast road trip that many travellers have undertaken. You may already be thinking ‘this sounds like a great Idea!’ and you wouldn’t be wrong. 

As a chef, the first thing on my mind is always food. But I know this can be easily overlooked when planning a big road trip. It is a good idea to think about what you will be munching on during your trip.

That’s where I come in.

What follows is a comprehensive guide to eating on the road with tips and recipes seasoned with my own experiences.

The Australian East Coast road trip is still one of my all-time favourite trips. Katty and I rented a little mini-van for around AUD$24 per day with full breakdown cover (not that we needed it). The rental company provided us with a two gas camping stoves (gas not included – but cheap and easy to find) and the basic essentials of a kitchen – Even a small fridge! If you are more mechanically minded than we are, you may decide to buy your own van as you will be able to sell it at the end. The setups will all be slightly different but they all come with some sort of ‘kitchen’ and cooking facilities for you to make the most of.

Maybe you are not the most confident chef, even in a conventional kitchen. But have no fear I’m here to help with just that.

It is amazing what you can do with just one pot and a gas burner. There are so many simple tips and recipes that you can play around with. Your taste buds will thank you, and so will your wallet.

Australia can be pricey when travelling especially if you’re eating out. We saved so much by cooking for ourselves the entire trip. On the occasions when we ate out it was a real treat.

Our tried and tested formula is simple, easy and flexible.

Formulated and perfected in both Australian and American extended road trips. We would cycle through a range of staples for breakfast, lunch and dinner which helps to make meal planning and shopping a breeze. 

Banging Breakfasts –

>> Oat and fruit bowls. Make your t-oat-ally nutritious and filling breakfast more interesting with some fresh fruit, peanut butter and maybe even a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa. Fast, easy and super-filling. You’re now ready for a day of adventuring!

>> Eggs for days. The number of different combinations of eggs/spinach/avocado/sundried tomato/hummus/baked beans on toast that you can do will never get boring. Just toast your bread in the frying pan and top with your heart’s desire. 

>> A personal favourite – Tim’s Mexican breakfast wraps: (makes about 4-6 wraps)

 ‘The Classic’ a breakfast of champions to set you up for the day.

Ingredients –

> 1 medium onion – finely sliced.

> 2-3 cloves of garlic – Minced.

> 1 medium red bell pepper/capsicum – finely sliced.

> ½ can black beans – drained and rinsed.

> ½ can of sweetcorn – drained. 

> ¼ bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro – roughly chopped.

> Juice of half a lime.

> 1 tsp ground cumin.

> ½ tsp cayenne pepper/chili powder.

> ½ tsp smoked paprika. 

> Salt/pepper.

> ½ an avocado – sliced.

> Wraps of choice – toasted in a dry frying pan.

Method – 

1. Sautee the onion and garlic in a little oil over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until soft and starting to brown

2. Add the dry spices and season to taste.

3. Add the other vegetables and beans and continue to cook until all the flavours are combined and you have the desired texture. Always check and adjust seasoning and the spices to taste at this stage. (you can add a tiny bit of extra water at this to make it softer if it is too dry)

4. Finish with some of the lime juice and fresh coriander.

5. Place inside your toasted wraps of choice and top with the sliced avocado, another squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of coriander. 

Luscious Lunches & sneaky snacks

>> Lunch wraps. All those wraps you brought also make for the perfect lunches which are super easy to put together with no cooking necessary. There are many variations. One of the best and easiest is some hummus / sliced red peppers / fresh spinach / and some sliced deli meats (optional). You can also buy a bag of shredded veggies/coleslaw to save you having to prep it yourself. The possibilities are endless – get creative! A special mention goes out to the roasted red pepper hummus from Coles. We almost always had it in our fridge: cheap and really tasty!

>> Bean salads. Those canned beans and chickpeas are a great source of protein and are hearty, healthy and filling! A true super food. Mix up a simple and filling salad in no time by combining the beans with veggies such as tomatoes and cucumbers (plus many others). Then whip up a quick dressing with lemon juice, dried thyme, oil, garlic and salt and pepper. The trick is to mince the garlic and let it sit in the lemon juice for 5-10 minutes while you do the other chopping. The acid in the lemon juice will cook the garlic and it will add a great flavor to your dressing and salad.

>> Snacks. When you have a lot of miles to cover. You can always fall back on some classic road trip snacks. Nuts and jerky were always my favourites. If you pre-cut some veggie sticks – carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers work well here. You can dip them into the hummus, some salsa or whatever dips look good in the supermarket. Don’t underestimate the fruit. Australia has some amazing offerings. Bananas and peanut butter scooped straight from the jar. Can’t go wrong.

Delicious Dinners:

>> One pot pasta. For something a little more substantial in the evenings, you can’t beat a complete pasta meal cooked in its own sauce.

As the name suggests, you just need one pot – so it’s easy to cook and clean up! The starchy pasta helps to thicken the sauce.

Start by frying up some onion and garlic until they just start to brown. Next, add the pasta and just cover with water.

Throw in whatever extra veggies you would like, a stock cube and can of chopped tomatoes. Let it all 

simmer with a lid on. Don’t forget to season it and add some dried herbs and spices of your choice (Italian herbs go well with a tomato pasta sauce – of course!)

When the pasta and veggies are cooked, the sauce should have thickened up a little. To thicken it up more you can add some tomato paste and a spoonful or two of ground flax meal.

You can make it extra creamy and delicious by cracking an egg in at the very end. Play around with different veggies and flavours!

>> Chickpea and sweet potato curry. Katty is the curry queen and she has been perfecting her curry recipes for a long time.

Curries are another great idea for the road as everything can be done in one pot on a single gas burner just like the one-pot-pastas.

Here is one of her recipes and of course it is open to variations depending on the spices you can find.

Ingredients: 

> Curry Powder

> Garam Masala

> Chili Powder**

> Coconut Oil

> Ground Cumin

> Turmeric

> Garlic Powder

> 1 vegetable stock/bouillon cube

> 1/2 cup water

> 1 can Lite Coconut Milk (or ½ can Full Fat Coconut milk + ½ cup more of water)

> 1 medium Yellow/Spanish Onion

> 1-4 cloves of garlic 

> ½ can chickpeas

> 1 small/medium sweet potato

> 2 large handfuls of spinach*

> ¼ of a head of cauliflower*

*optional  

**most of the time a good Garam Masala will be spicy enough

Method – 

1. Finely dice garlic cloves. Set Aside. 

2. Dice 1 medium Onion (yellow/Spanish). Sauté the onion in a large pot with 2 tbsp.  coconut oil. 

3. Add dry spices to the onion (adjust flavours to your own liking) and sauté until fragrant. Add garlic (use as much or as little as you like). Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add coconut milk & stir.

4. Add stock/ bouillon cube and water. Give it a good stir until everything is (mostly) dissolved.  

Add sweet potato (cut into cubes) – and more water (or stock) if necessary.

Let simmer.

Adjust how much water you use to the consistency that you like- the longer you let it simmer the thicker it will get- or add more full fat coconut milk to thicken.

5. Add salt & pepper to taste (and adjust spices)

6. Once the sweet potato is almost cooked add chickpeas & other veggies you may like. Personally, I like to add spinach or cauliflower. If you are adding Spinach or another leafy green DON’T add while it’s still simmering. Wait until you turn off the stove and then add the greens- the heat in the pot will cook the greens perfectly.

 

Meal planning and recipes are great and all there are a few other things to think about:

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕1  Get to your campsite an hour and a half to two hours before sunset if you plan on cooking that night. It is a pain in the ass to attempt to cook with just a flashlight to see what you are doing. Plus, you will attract ALL the mosquitos. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕2  lookout for the fresh fruit and veg for sale straight from the source and eat things that are in season – The quality is way better and everything is cheaper too! We bought avocados and bananas straight from the farms. I have no doubt you will drive past small stalls and farm shops that can satisfy all of your fruit and veggie needs.

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕3  Invest in some cheap plastic containers / Tupperware. Storage is a small issue but plastic tubs will be super useful for your leftovers and you can eat straight out of them, saving on cleanup. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕5  Another nugget of advice is to buy smaller quantities where possible. The difference in cost is small and you won’t end up throwing away things away. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕6  Space to work is also an issue – Be sure to make the most of the public parks and rest stops. They all have grills, BBQs and most importantly picnic tables on which to prepare and cook up tastiness. You can also get a small fold-out table in your van with no problems along with a couple of camping chairs. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕7  When It comes to the clean-up, it is always advisable to get it done before you turn in for the night. In the northern parts of Australia, bugs are rampant. If you leave dirty plates and pans out over-night you may wake up in the morning to find a small infestation that no one wants to deal with. If you decide to avoid this by locking dirties dishes in your van, you will just end stinking out the place where you sleep. Try not to make the same mistake that I made. We went to sleep without doing our usual clean up. In the morning, I went to move our cookware into the van without thinking. Katty shouted ‘no, wait!’ but too late. A cockroach as long as my finger jumped out of the pot and scurried under the seat. We never did manage to evict him. Luckily, our trip was almost over and we had to clean and vacuum the van anyway. I *think* that I sucked him into oblivion, otherwise, the next occupant of the van could have been in for a nasty surprise. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕8  I recommend investing in your favourite dried herbs and spice combinations. Herbs and spices are fairly cheap and definitely worth it! Making your meals more flavorful and wholesome makes the cooking process more rewarding and less of a chore. Without them, I would find it more difficult to get excited about dinner or whatever it was that we were making. You should be on the road long enough that you will use them. If you don’t finish them – you can pass them onto fellow travellers if you have anything left at the end of the trip. 

Tim’s Tasty Tip ⋕9  Free stuff! Sharing is caring – many campsite kitchens have a communal box containing various ingredients, condiments and seasonings. You can pick up essentials that others have left behind such as cooking oil, salt and other useful things. These are up for grabs so I suggest you have a look here before you go buy a big bottle of oil or a large bag of salt. We were more than happy to take donations from travellers whose trips were coming to end. It wasn’t just food either. Make friends with your neighbours and you could find yourself inheriting some useful items that the previous owners no longer have a use for.

I hope that this article about edibles for your excursion has given you some insight and inspiration. You can take that road trip and embrace the van life without having to sacrifice good food and flavors.   Happy road tripping!    ‘From farm to van’   Fresh and amazing produce straight from the source (and so cheap!)   If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us personally at gokotravels@gmail.comI hope that this article about edibles for your excursion has given you some insight and inspiration. You can take that road trip and embrace the van life without having to sacrifice good food and flavors.

 

Happy road tripping! 

 

‘From farm to van’

 

Fresh and amazing produce straight from the source (and so cheap!)

 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us personally at:

 

info@gokotravels.com

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