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At the Chef's Table - Gourmet Cooking on the Road

Article by Rob Smith - Caravans Plus

Camp cooking can be made a lot more exciting with a few simple ideas. Before CaravansPlus I was a chef for over a decade. I want to share some of my favourite dishes which can be easily cooked with a BBQ, Camp Oven and Jaffle Iron. These are meals you will be able to make on the road with simple ingredients.


I have always had a passion for cooking and before I joined the family business I was a chef for more than 11 years.

I started my 4 year apprenticeship straight after finishing Year 12. I worked in a variety of different kitchens; restaurants, hotels and cafes before discovering my love of fine dining. "The Boat House" in Canberra was my home for 6 years where I was the sous chef with a team of 10. I then moved to London where I worked for 2 years before the lack of sunshine encouraged me to move on.

The Boat House By The Lake Kitchen Team
The Boat House Team - I am 4th from the right.

I returned home and I started to work part time at CaravansPlus while still cooking in restaurants. As time went by I gave up the knifes (and the nights) to focus on growing our business. While I still help out some old friends once in a while, those days and long nights are behind me. I still love to cook, however now I save it for my friends and family.


Belgium Mussels - White Wine & Cream

This is my take on the classic Belgium "Moules & Frites". It is my go-to for a summer lunch with friends, sitting in the sun with a glass of white wine or beer and reminiscing of past adventures. I love it because it is so quick to cook and easy to serve, I just place the mussels in large bowls or pots in the middle of the table. Everyone gets a spoon, some crusty bread and score card (bowl for shells). We all share, dipping bread into the delicious soupy liquid, searching for that loose mussel that tried to get away, it a very social dish.

Belgium Mussels - White Wine & Cream

This dish can be cooked easily in a caravan or over a camp fire, and you can get all the ingredients from your local supermarket. There are two tricks you can use to make this dish even easier and which allows you to do your shopping as normal and make this delicious dish at your convenience (great if you are heading out of town).

1) Purchase pre-packaged fresh mussel - these days you are able to buy fresh black mussels in a vacuum sealed pack in the fish section of the supermarket. This is very convenient as they have a longer shelve life and won't leak through your fridge.

2) Long life cream - it comes in 200ml tetra packs and is found on the shelf near the long life milk. I always have some in my pantry at home as I never know what I'm going to cook until its happening.

"Fat is Flavour" was a common saying of a Head Chef in my early years, so you can guarantee I'm going to need some cream when I'm cooking at home or out on the road.

Ingredients - Serves 2

  • 1kg fresh black mussels
  • 1/2 leek or brown onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1/2 bunch thyme
  • 200ml white wine
  • 200ml cream
  • Handful parsley (garnish)
  • Crusty bread (sour dough, ciabatta)

    Preparation

    Place mussels in a bowl, and fill with fresh cold water and leave for 15 minutes. This allows the mussels to spit out their old water and replace with fresh water. Next clean and de-beard the mussels. Although the packaging always reads "cleaned mussels" I give them a quick once over with steel wool to remove any loose grit.

    Bruniose (fine dice) the celery, leek and garlic.

    Rough chop the thyme and parsley.

    Belgium Mussels - White Wine & Cream - Ingredients
    Belgium Mussels - White Wine & Cream - Ingredients

    Method

    In a large heavy base pot add olive oil and sweat off (cook without colour) the celery, leek and garlic. Season with pepper if desired - never add salt! The mussels will be salty enough.

    Turn heat up to high and add white wine and reduce by half, add cream and thyme and allow to further reduce for 3 minutes.

    Add mussels and cover with lid, cook for around 7 minutes, or until the mussels are opened. Stir through the chopped parsley. Serve with thick slices of warmed bread.


    Tuscan Beef with Polenta

    This is winter favourite of mine, slow cooked beef in red wine on a bed of creamy polenta with a rocket and parmesan salad. This dish is so good I cooked it for dinner the night I proposed to my wife (needless to say she said yes). While I cook this hearty dish for dinners at home, it makes for a super easy pre-prepared dish to take camping for a weekend. While others are cooking their sausages or worse(brat), you can simply warm your Tuscan braised beef, throw together a salad and enjoy that glass of red wine.

    Tuscan Beef with Polenta - Ingredients
    Tuscan Beef with Polenta

    Ingredients - Serves 4

  • 800g diced braising beef - I like gravy beef but it does take longer to cook.
  • 1 brown onion - diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 250ml red wine
  • 1tsp crushed garlic
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 nutmeg - grated

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cup milk
  • 2 cup water
  • 50g butter
  • 50g grated parmesan

  • rocket
  • parmesan
  • balsamic vinegar

    Tuscan Beef with Polenta - Ingredients
    Tuscan Beef with Polenta - Ingredients

    Method

    For Braised Beef:
  • Sweat off the onion and garlic and add to the slow cooker or casserole dish.
  • Brown off beef pieces (season with salt and pepper) and add to the slow cooker.
  • Deglaze the pan with the red wine and add to slow cooker.
  • Add rosemary, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, nutmeg and cloves to the slow cooker.
  • Cook till tender and sauce has reduced. (This will likely take several hours)

    For Polenta:

  • Bring the water, milk and butter to the simmer. Turn the heat down low (if heat is too high when the polenta thickens it blows bubbles and spits molten hot polenta, I have seen some bad burns!)
  • Rain in the polenta while whisking, continue to stir until smooth. Add grated parmesan and season to taste.

    To serve, place polenta in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the beef and top with the rocket and parmesan salad.

    When camping I always make the polenta fresh, as it sets like a rock when cooled and its harder to reheat than to make from scratch.


    Cheese Burger Sliders

    I have a BBQ each year to catch up with all my old high school friends. Each year there are more and more kids to cater for so I have started to make more kid friendly options. A few years ago I decided to make cheese burger sliders. I portioned 2 for each child but quickly discovered it wasn't going to be enough. I turned from the BBQ and looked across the table to see the parents devouring my mini cheese burgers. Turns out everyone has an inner child just wanting to come out and play.

    So I raced to the shops, grabbed a few packets of par-bake (semi baked) dinner rolls, a packet of pre-made meatballs (instant mini patties) and some sliced cheese. Before the kids knew what had happened there was a fresh batch of sliders on the table. I learned my lesson! These are one of the most popular things I make at the annual BBQ.

    It is just as easy to make these camping, simply wrap the rolls in foil and place on the edge of the fire, flatten your meatballs on the grill pan, top with half a slice of cheese, tomato sauce, American mustard and of course a slice of pickle. Give it a go and I promise it's not just the kids that will love them.

    Cheese Burger Sliders
    Cheese Burger Sliders


    Chicken & Chorizo Skewers

    Another BBQ favourite, it is so simple yet so tasty. Now let me be firm here, if you don't normally cook with chicken thigh do yourself a favour and give it a go. Any time you're grilling, roasting or braising use thigh, the meat has more flavour and will not dry out like chicken breast.

    Chicken
    Herbed Chicken & Chorizo Skewers

    Ingredients

  • diced chicken thigh fillet
  • chorizo sliced
  • spanish onion
  • lemon
  • thyme, garlic chives

    Method

  • In a bowl mix diced chicken, chopped herbs and the grated rind of 1/2 a lemon.
  • Slice chorizo into rounds about as thick as your finger, cut onion in half and then into quarters.
  • Build skewers alternating each ingredient.

    Herbed Chicken & Chorizo Skewers - Ingredients
    Herbed Chicken & Chorizo Skewers - Ingredients

    Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad

    Something different than your ordinary garden salad, it is a great addition to any grilled meat dish. This tasty salad looks best layered on a large serving platter in the middle of the table. While this salad only has a few simply ingredients the overall result is sensational. Each of the ingredients adds a unique characteristic; the crispness of the beans, the creaminess of cheese, the sweetness of the beetroot, the freshness of the tomato and the the spice of the chilli (if desired).

    Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad
    Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad

    Ingredients

  • 700g green beans
  • 1 tin whole baby beetroot
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 150g goats cheese (danish fetta is an easy substitute)
  • 1 brown onion (fine diced)
  • 2tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 red chilli deseeded (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

    Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad - Ingredients
    Green Bean, Beetroot & Goat Cheese Salad - Ingredients

    Method

  • Remove top of beans and blanch in boiling water then refresh (run under cold water)
  • Slice cherry tomatoes and baby beetroots in half.
  • Sweat off onion, garlic and chilli(optional) in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add onion mix to beans and toss, add to serving platter.
  • Sprinkle, with tomatoes, beetroot and crumbled goats cheese.
  • Squeeze juice of lemon and crack black pepper over the top.

    Best Ever Jaffle Iron Creations

    Everyone loves a good ham & cheese toasty, so I wanted to put the challenge out there for the best idea for a jaffel iron. Now I don't just want to hear chicken and cheese, or bake beans try and think outside of the box. I'll get you started with two I have come up with that are going to be hard to beat.

    Banana & Nutella French Toast

    Mix an egg, sugar, vanilla essence & some cream (I know you have some in your cupboard). Dip sliced white bread into egg mix, then fill with sliced banana and teaspoon of Nutella.

    Apple Tarte Tatin

    Use frozen puff pastry, cut into squares, add tinned apple and a little golden syrup.

    Apple Tarte Tatin Jaffle
    Apple Tarte Tatin Jaffle


    Share your best idea's below in the comments section.

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  • 10 Comments

    • comment-avatar

      Mike

      Jaffle Recipe: Butter bread (as always) SPC Tinned Spaghetti Cracked egg Splash of Worcestershire sauce Or simply Bubble n' Squeak jammed into a Jaffle is good too.

    • comment-avatar

      David

      How about BBQ spare ribs.

    • comment-avatar

      Trevor

      Stir fry, that can kept in the fridge for later.

    • comment-avatar

      Vanessa

      Fantastic can you add some vegetarian recipes as well, & what is the best way to get cast iron clean It was full of rust spots I rubbed with oil & rubbed on salt put in fire then let cool cleaned still have some rust on it but nowhere as bad as it was

    • comment-avatar

      John

      We make up meals like your beef. Put into takeaway container and freeze, then remove from containers and vacuum pack. All meals are the same size, pack neatly into freezer, and will last for months if need be. Just finished meals made in June.

    • comment-avatar

      Tim

      King jaffles Egg Onion Salami. ......hotter the better Cheese Sweet Chili sauce Salt and pepper to taste Method Egg in...if you like it runny dont pierce the yoke it not do then pierce, onion dont overdo it then Salami. . . .last but not least cheese. Toast till desired color. ....Enjoy

    • comment-avatar

      Make apple jaffles all the time, sprinkled with a cinnamon and raw sugar mix. Looking forward to trying the puff pastry. Thank you.

    • comment-avatar

      Anthony

      Jaffles using fruit bread - filled with apple slices and blueberries

    • comment-avatar

      Graham

      Our favourites include .. Butter bread on outside - layer of cheese - left over stew or whatever (even tin spag or bate beans) - cracked egg - nugget of fruit pressed into centre (bananas best) - top with another layer of cheese & the top outside buttered bread, Don't use too much of each ingredient or it will ooze out when cooking. Love your recipies. Have copied them for my caravanning cook book along with those that other readers have contributed. Thanks all.

    • comment-avatar

      Chris

      Dough Boys, a camping treat for the grandkids (and us ) Roll fairly stiff scone dough into a sausage and wrap it around a green stick ( make sure it's not a poisonous plant ) seal end and cook over campfire coals. Fill with butter and syrup or jam.

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