Van Life Cookbook: ‘How we ate whereas we travelled the UK’

Is there something extra quaintly 2020 than travelling the UK by self-renovated van, foraging or thrifting your meals wherever you find yourself, and cooking it collectively over an open fireplace (or, extra precisely, a two-ring fuel range)? It’s the pipe dream of each full-timer within the Metropolis.

Nicely, chef Danny Jack and Hailee Kukura have finished it, and so they’ve additionally written a helpful pocket-sized information so you’ll be able to too, stuffed with “resourceful recipes for all times on the street”.

What began as searching for extra significant methods to spend their free time in between busy careers has turn into a decade-long DIY project-slash-lifestyle change that lastly got here to fruition in the summertime of 2020 – conveniently simply when each different pandemic prisoner was turning their consideration to the long-forgotten staycation.

Now staycations are fashionable once more, you’ll in all probability need to get your arms on the Van Life Cookbook, through which Jack and Kukura have distilled their many travels across the nation – and even the US – into greater than 80 campervan-friendly recipes, in addition to ideas, tips and kitchen hacks, and each potential checklist you will want.

Masking comforting breakfasts, quick-fix lunches and fireplace feasts (assume tahini porridge and Turkish one-pan eggs, winter inexperienced minestrone, BBQ fish parcels and do-it-yourself path combine), Van Life is a celebration of the sudden alternatives that modest areas and smaller budgets can supply.

Forward of the busy college vacation season, we catch 5 minutes with the van virtuosos about rediscovering the easy pleasures of life spent within the nice outdoor.

How did the Van Life start?

Danny: Having lived and labored in London since 2011, I started searching for extra significant methods to spend my free time and have become impressed by self-build campervan movies and other people’s tales on Youtube. These supplied up a brand new DIY problem in addition to a cost-effective various to purchasing a purpose-built camper or RV.

The enchantment of getting a spontaneous metropolis escape car grew rapidly and in early 2018 after buying a 2011 Renault Grasp, the van construct commenced. What began out as a part-time mission throughout evenings and weekends grew to become a two-year on-and-off programme, becoming round work commitments and ultimately getting it over the end line in 2020.

The e book is A5 sized so it’s the right companion for on the go


Hailee: The concept of Van Life Cookbook took place in the summertime of 2020 after we each wanted a artistic mission to get caught into. Danny completed the construct; I painted a mural inside and we named the van Jean Claude Van Dan (JC for brief). JC got here into its personal later that yr and gave us a vital house to breathe a bit, escape to nature, and join with family and friends after we might.

It was that summer time when journey restrictions eased that basically ignited our ardour for exploring and adopting the ideas of van life: consuming effectively, having a deeper appreciation of nature, dwelling merely and frugally, and celebrating “the nice life” that led to the thought for the e book.

The pandemic birthed a brand new, easier way of life, with a concentrate on staycations and purchasing native. Do you assume that mindset is right here to remain?

We definitely hope so. Van life and small house dwelling is nice for that. We’re seeing individuals from all walks of life turning into impressed to bake, develop their very own veg, take up foraging, eat in another way and customarily desirous to really feel extra related to the meals they eat and the pure world.  We significantly take pleasure in @_spicymoustache_ who does wonderful issues from his modest backyard in London and @lagomchef who campaigns towards meals waste – one other mindset that’s fortunately gaining extra traction.

What are a few of your favorite spots or routes within the UK?

Ashdown Forest is a daily favorite. It’s near the place we stay in southeast London and has stunning views with a mixture of expansive fields and woodland. Excellent for bike rides and picnics with mates.

Wiltshire is a hidden gem with its pagan websites and rolling hills (plenty of wild swimming spots too).

And if you happen to’ve obtained time, the North Coast 500 route within the highlands of Scotland is likely one of the finest. The Proper to Roam legislation, which supplies everybody freedom to stroll anyplace, could be very particular.

Let’s get sensible. Are you able to share your prime three ideas, your prime three important components, and your prime three must-have items of apparatus?

1. Danny taught me the significance of at all times placing a tea towel or damp paper beneath your chopping board. Makes a world of distinction to prepping components.

2. Obtain the Park4Nite app.

3. Spend money on a small, hardy cafetiere or tea pot. It’s usually a lot nicer than tea luggage, you may make your individual blends, and it reduces packaging and cash in the long term.

High three important components must be:

1. Soy sauce for immediate umami flavour throughout breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2. Citrus fruits for his or her versatility.

3. Date syrup for a wealthy, flavourful various to sophisticated sugar.

High three will need to have items of apparatus:

1. A transportable camp range or BBQ is essential – we’re at all times cooking outdoors of the van on lengthy summer time evenings. Take a look at JoyStoves on @joystoveuk.

2. A forged iron skillet. It’ll final a lifetime and make cooking on fireplace a lot simpler.

3. Tongs for barbecueing, mixing and serving all types of scrumptious creations.

Cooking with fireplace may be intimidating. What’s your finest recommendation? 

That is the place the forged iron skillet is available in. Begin with a dish that you’re conversant in and don’t be afraid to place your pan proper on a mattress of scorching embers (away from the flames) and cook dinner as you usually would on a range. If cooking on a grill over charcoal, let the coals flip ashy gray earlier than putting something on them – it takes longer than you assume to get to this stage!

We’re seeing individuals from all walks of life turning into impressed to bake, develop their very own veg, take up foraging, eat in another way and customarily desirous to really feel extra related to the meals they eat and the pure world

Are you able to share any horror tales/failures and what you learnt from them? 

Many classes learnt. A few years in the past, we went on a browsing journey with some mates to Devon. We stayed in a ravishing campsite and parked JC on the backside of a steep grassy subject. We had some heavy rain over the weekend and obtained caught on the backside – we needed to ask the resident farmer to tow us up the hill along with his tractor. That taught us to be a bit extra thought-about on the place we park up, and to not go off-roading in our van (with rear wheel drive).

What’s one of the best ways to search out out about native components and suppliers?

We pack important retailer cabinet components from dwelling – issues like rice, pasta and condiments however make it our mission to go to farm outlets for our recent components. There’s at all times extra round than you assume; even when it’s only a tiny operation promoting freshly laid eggs from a farm stand or potatoes straight from the sector. From our expertise, it’s no more costly and the journey provides a lot extra pleasure to your weekend or vacation than having to spend time in a giant grocery store.

How a lot do you depend on foraging and the way might a newbie get began with that?

We by no means depend on foraging absolutely for our meals – discovering wild components is at all times a bonus and gives an fascinating and flavourful dimension to all types of dishes. All the time purchase a guidebook and by no means an app. The Collins Meals for Free e book is pocket measurement and fairly complete.

We at all times sit up for March when wild garlic begins to return up. Makes nice pestos and soups. Rosehips within the Autumn are additionally sensible for a newbie – we’ve a recipe in our e book for making a vitamin C-packed cordial excellent for the winter months.

What’s your dream street journey, if you happen to haven’t finished it already?

Hailee: We’ve had a long-time dream of occurring a street journey round Europe. The Portuguese coast and Scandinavia are prime on our checklist and an epic 2023 journey is looking.

Danny: Earlier this yr in April, we visited Hailee’s household within the Pacific Northwest and rented a van for every week. We went round Washington State, Idaho and Oregon in slightly below every week. It might be fantastic to have a number of extra months and spend a bit longer exploring Utah, Colorado and the Southwest area.

Huevos ‘van’cheros: This was one of many first breakfasts Kukura made for Jack and he’s been in love ever since

(Holly Farrier)

You’re cooking for a crowd throughout one in all your journeys. What are you making? 

Our campsite breakfasts are a agency favorite. We cooked for 12 mates from our tiny van kitchen at Wilderness Pageant a number of years in the past. An enormous one-pan omelette with plenty of eggs, leftover veggies thrown in, some new potatoes and a dollop of chilli sauce on the aspect by no means fails.

What’s a straightforward dish you come again to repeatedly?

Our tofu scramble recipe within the e book. It’s simpler than it sounds – merely break up some tofu and fry with some ginger and turmeric. Serve with some leftover brown rice and no matter recent veggies want utilizing up for a satisfying meal at any time of the day.

Danny, you might have a background in kitchens. How simple was it to adapt to an easier approach of cooking?

I nonetheless work as an expert chef – being away within the van is leisure time so I’m not desirous to spend plenty of time within the kitchen. The recipes we cook dinner on the street are often the quickest path to a tasty and dietary meal however at all times constructed from scratch utilizing the very best components we are able to get. It’s how we prefer to eat usually, and hopefully this “make do and mend” method to cooking comes throughout in our recipes or for anybody with a modest kitchen seeking to choose up a number of ideas and tips.

What can’t you reside with out on one in all your journeys?

Hailee: Needs to be our massive tartan picnic blanket. We picked it up in a classic store in Edinburgh and it has seen us by means of many picnics, events and BBQs in all types of locations.

Danny: Our 12-volt fridge for holding our meals and drinks chilled and recent even throughout the hottest summer time days. And a set of sturdy reusable wine glasses.

‘Van Life Cookbook: Resourceful recipes for all times on the street: from small areas to the nice outdoor’ by Danny Jack and Hailee Kukura (printed by Pavilion Books; pictures by Holly Farrier) is offered now. Observe the journey @the_vanlifecookbook.


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