Living in a van or a home that doesn’t have mains electricity, you learn to navigate and adapt and do things differently. Cooking and preparing food may take a little longer, but it’s incredible how quickly you start finding joy in preparing meals a little slower using your hands rather than appliances.
To get you started on your tiny kitchen, here’s a list of equipment of what I use in mine almost every day – and three recipes to make.
Heavy-based frypan: for any meal that doesn’t require cooking a lot of sauce: eggs, french toast, fish, searing meat, and even pancakes.
Cast iron pot: for boiling pasta and rice, making cakes, cooking on the fire, boiling water, making curries and soups, or as a second frypan if it’s needed.
A sharp knife (or two): I have a simple stone for keeping my knives sharp, but you can get plenty of handy gadgets that do the same job.
Utensils: my go-to 95% of the time is a wooden spoon for cooking. I also use tongs a lot, and I have a little egg flip which I find perfect for scrambled eggs.
Strainer or colander: great for rinsing grains and legumes and for making cheese, draining pasta, or rinsing salad greens and herbs.
Chopping boards: we carry two, one for meat and one for everything else.
Bowls and plates: although these are a given, I want to point out that we don’t use anything “camping” specific. Our bowls, plates, cups, and serving ware are all things we could use in our house.
Measuring cups and spoons: having a whole set of measuring cups and spoons will take up too much space, so just have measures for one cup, one tablespoon and one teaspoon.
Different sized jars: for making salad dressings, storing grains, spices and other pantry items. Also essential for homemade ferments and pickles.
Different sized containers: for storing leftovers and food scraps to make stocks and broths.
Mortar and pestle: great to have for making pesto, nut and seed-based sweets, aioli, dips, salad dressings and curry pastes, especially if you don’t have electricity in your kitchen.
A grater: I would suggest getting a good quality, small, but sharp grater that you’ll use for cheese, veggies and zesting citrus rinds.
These are super affordable, full of protein from the yoghurt, contain very few ingredients and are quick to make as the resting time is minimal. We also use them to replace store-bought wraps and fill them with our favourite sandwich ingredients.
Prep 25 mins
Cook 15 mins
1 cup bread flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ cup full-fat Greek yoghurt
2 pinches flaky sea salt
Olive oil or butter for pan frying
Combine the flour, yoghurt and salt in a small bowl and stir it to combine. Lightly flour the bench or a chopping board and bring the dough together until you reach a non-sticky and smooth dough. This will only take a minute. You don’t need to knead this flatbread.
Place the dough back in the bowl with a little flour in the bottom.
I have found that it’s easier to roll out these breads once the dough has had a little time to rest, either in the fridge or in a cool place in your small kitchen. It doesn’t need much rest time; about 20 minutes is fine.
Once the dough has rested, divide it into six equal parts. Form them into balls and then roll them out with a rolling pin or a floured wine bottle (or any other glass bottle you have handy).
Next, place your frypan on medium heat and add a small splash of oil or butter – just enough to lightly grease the pan. Cook the dough until golden on both sides – it should only take a couple of minutes. Wrap the breads in a clean dish towel to keep them warm as you cook.
These are best served immediately, sprinkled with dukkah.
Dukkah with walnuts and almonds
Dukkah is an essential condiment in our campervan. We add it to salads and sprinkle it on eggs, dips and flatbreads. Macadamia, Brazil nut and pistachio are excellent substitutes for walnut and almond here.
Makes ¾ cup
Prep 5 mins
Cook 5 mins
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup walnuts
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp flaky sea salt
Toast the almonds, walnuts, and sesame seeds in a frypan on medium heat until the nuts are golden and fragrant. It should take about five minutes. Be sure to toss the pan regularly to prevent the nuts and seeds from burning.
Add the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin and salt and heat the mixture for another one to two minutes before removing it all from the heat and allowing it to cool. It will be much easier and more effective to grind the nuts and seeds once they have cooled.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind your dukkah down as fine as you like, but be careful not to blend it for too long, or it will turn into a fragrant nut butter. I like to leave it a little bit chunky for additional texture.
Dukkah will store indefinitely in an airtight container or jar.
Pan-fried pizza with zucchini, ricotta and cherry tomatoes
There were many nights camping in the bush that we’ve craved a delicious, hot pizza. So with some time, wine and our favourite kitchen staples on hand, we came up with this recipe.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 1 hr 15 mins
For the dough
1½ tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp raw sugar
150ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
250g strong bread flour
For the topping
1 red onion, finely sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp coconut sugar or raw sugar (optional)
2 small zucchinis, finely sliced lengthways
400g cherry tomatoes, whole
1 garlic clove
2 cups ricotta (store-bought or make your own)
1 handful flat-leaf parsley and basil
1 handful rocket
Salt and pepper
Add the yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water and stir to dissolve. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Allow the yeast to activate for a few minutes. The top should start to bubble and foam a little. Once it has, add the yeast-sugar water to the bowl of flour and salt.
To cut down on mess in your small kitchen, begin mixing them in the bowl until you have a rough, sticky dough. Once all the liquid has absorbed into the flour, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and elastic.
Place the dough back into the bowl with a dusting of flour. Cover it with a tea towel and leave it for about 45 minutes to rise, until it has almost doubled in size.
Meanwhile, finely slice the red onion and fry it with two good glugs of olive oil and a few cracks of salt. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir it regularly until onions have cooked right down and are sticky and sweet to taste.
Fry the cherry tomatoes with some olive oil, salt and pepper until they have softened and charred on the outside. Add a splash more oil and fry the sliced zucchini until golden.
Cut the dough in half and roll it out to as thick as you like. I recommend it to be around the same size as a dinner plate.
Keep your frypan on the stove and, if it needs it, add a splash more olive oil; not too much as you don’t want your bases to be too oily. Cook the pizza bases until golden. Keep the heat low, so the dough becomes golden outside but still cooks right through. Once the dough begins to bubble, flip it over and cook the other side. Keep it warm and repeat with the other pizza base.
Give each base a rub of the garlic clove to add a subtle garlic flavour. Spread on the ricotta, then top with the charred cherry tomatoes, zucchini and onions. Garnish with parsley, basil, fresh rocket, salt and pepper.
This is an edited extract from The Small Kitchen Cook by Ashleigh Butler, published by Exploring Eden (RRP$39.95)