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Campervan cooking: How to eat great food in the great outdoors

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Martin Dorey Martin Dorey | 15:03 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

OK, let’s get one thing straight about cooking in the great outdoors: you won’t have to do without. Your painful memories of scout camp or holiday stew can be made to fade away if you use a little imagination, resourcefulness and humour. You might not even have to open a tin of beans. For me, spending time in my campervan has always been about having fun, living well and not washing up piles and piles of dirty plates - as seen in my BBC Two series One Man and His Campervan. This is my guiding principle for cooking outdoors: if it takes you longer to wash up than it does to eat you’ve gone wrong somewhere. So here's my advice for the ultimate meal out:

Martin Dorey from One Man and His Campervan


  • Avoid dishes that take hours and hours. I don't do this because I’m impatient, but because I might not have enough gas or firewood! There is nothing worse than running out half-way through a scrummy smelling hotpot. This generally means that you need to keep it simple.
  • Fresh, I would argue, is best. Roadside stalls are absolutely brilliant places to find ingredients because the chances are it’ll be home grown. It might be a little muddy and misshapen but then, so what? This is the country! All you have to do is stop, take what you want and put a few quid in the honesty box.
  • Try a little light foraging. I’m no expert but it gives me great pleasure to go out and find free nosh. You have to be brave and you have to be sensible, so take a guide book and don’t pick it if you aren’t 100% sure. If that means all you take back is blackberries, who cares? They will taste fab with a dollop of crème fraîche. And you’ll feel like a hunter-gatherer too.
  • Have something up your sleeve. Couscous has always been my fallback position.  It will go with just about anything and can be used with fresh herbs, spices and dried fruit. And all you need is boiling water and a knob of butter to cook it. If you’ve picked up some fresh summer veg at a roadside stall you can make a great meal if you slice it, griddle it and mix it up with the couscous and some fresh mint and basil.


Martin Dorey from One Man and his Campervan


So how are you going to cook all those amazing fresh ingredients? Whilst you’ve got no oven in the outdoors you’ve actually got plenty of options for creating great food. Gas stoves, open fires, barbecues, even Dutch ovens or smokers aren’t that hard to master. And almost anything is possible.

For starters, you could try a portable hot smoker. They work over any heat source. A freshly caught (or bought) fish smoked for half an hour or so will taste like fish you’ve never tasted before. Try it. Otherwise take a shelf out of the oven at home and use it to cook over a fire. Chuck a big fat juicy steak from the local butcher on it, add a few griddled veg and some couscous and you’ve got an easy meal. Simple. Perfect. Delicious.

What are your tips for eating outdoors or on the road?

Martin Dorey is the presenter of One Man and His Campervan on BBC Two.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Martin

    Enjoying the programme and am very jealous of the Bay. I'm able to borrow a Camper for weekends away every now and then but would love to do an extended trip sometime.

    As to the food, by definition, one is forced (or at least we feel we are) to try something new when you are either on holiday or away from home. If you avoid the supermarkets, the suppliers and local shops and markets are different and if we are in another part of the country we try to hunt out fresh regional and local produce. All part of the fun of being away from home.

    Without wanting to state the obvious, camp/Camper cooking is all about that breakfast smell of good bacon and sausages frying cutting through the damp dew air before being piled onto that morning's fresh bread with a runny egg.

    PS Will be down your way come next half-term for surfing on Putsborough Beach.


  • Comment number 2.

    Good evening Martin,
    I really enjoy your programme, every evening at 19.30 here in Holland. I just saw your very wet stay in de Lake District! This summer I intend to take us (my dog Tommie, my cat Sammie and myself) in my campervan to England for a trip through your beautiful country. As I really don't like big campings I would love to stay on the small campsites you found. But I don't seem able to find a guide or map on which they are stated. Could you please help me how to find these campsites? Many thanks in advance!! Kind regards.

  • Comment number 3.

    @Hatty Blom:

    Hi Hatty - we use a website which is a forum for campers in the UK. It is stuffed with long, well written reviews of campsites written by the members. They really tell you how it is and cover everything from huge camp sites with everything, to the lovely small farm sites with few facilities but don't mind you building a log fire to cook on.

    You will find it here: UK Campsite



    Nice programme Martin.

    When we go camping (dreaded tent, I am afraid) I have converted the back of our camping trailer so it opens out into a baby kitchen.

    I have a two burner stove and a separate single burner on a shelf. Beneath that, a thin shelf where I can stuff plates and utensils as well as keep a decent chopping board. And below that some small plastic draws for cutlery, tin opener, matches and two large plastic containers for ingredients and so forth. I also have a small portable charcoal BBQ.

    However, even with all this equipment, there is a HUGE difference between you cooking for one person, complete with surrounding helpful production crew, and cooking for six (as I did last holiday) who wanted to spend all day out somewhere so I had to cook in a panic in the pouring rain under a leaking gazebo late in the evening with what ever ingredients I could get my hands on because the farmers market was only open in the morning and I wasn't going to keep fresh fish in a hot car all day!

    Having said that, we did have some nice food, even if the table was on a slope so people at one side felt like little kids because they were sitting so low.

    This year they are getting curried beans every night!

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Martin,

    Really enjoyed the programme, any chance you may print some of the recipes you cooked up during the series. The fish ones looked great.

    And, what about fussy grandchildren! pull our hair out feeding ours.
    Any suggestions. They are primary school age.

    Cheers look forward to more progs.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog!

    When I was younger and in the scouts, our troop leader had a great attitude to camping - it's not about 'roughing it', rather it's about making yourself as comfortable as possible in the most resourceful way.
    And that goes for choices about food, packing, equipment, bedding etc.

  • Comment number 6.

    OMG!!! love your programme so sorry its finished! It deals with my two passions camping and cooking :)
    I bought my kids up camping I started as a girl guide leader then holidays with our old escort and a trailer tent all over the Scottish highlands (know what your mean about the hills and my poor ford escort ghia mark 2) and all over Wales, had a caravan for a short while but I have always wanted a VW camper (one day!) now my kids are grown and I have grandchildren I have finally after a struggle introduced my new husband to the joys of camping and bought a 4 man tent (im building up to the camper!)and hes beginning to enjoy the outdoors! Im ordering your book tonight and its going to be part of mt staple camping kit as my new hubby enjoys cooking too! hope the series comes out on DVD I could watch it everyday. thanks Yvonne and Ray xx

  • Comment number 7.

    Loved the programme. would really like the lamb rogan josh recipe with the chapattis, going camping for a month mid march, so would love to have a go.Thanks

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Martin

    Really enjoyed your daily programme. Visiting the length and breath of the UK not only in a Camper Van not only made very interesting viewing but bringing the trials and tribulations you experienced along the way, kept me wondering what or whom you will encounter next. Receipes were not not only kept practical, simple but truly realistic to the climate you were living in. Very entertaining.
    Thank You and look forward to more of the same.

  • Comment number 9.

    really loved the programme thought it was the best food programme i've seen in a long while! unfortunately it will now be impossible to buy an old camper now after people have seen how much fun you can have in one! but still i can keep dreaming!

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Martin

    We love your programme and its made us want to get a campervan and get out there!!! I would love to make the lamb rogan josh that you made the other day but can't find the recipe anywhere - can you let me have it please,

    Many thanks

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Martin,
    Absolutely loved the programme and will miss it now that it's finished. My hubby to be and I have decided to hire a camper van and head around the Scottish Highlands, he has even decided to cook!....well done you! Incidentally, did anyone else notice the barking cow on the yorkshire programme? I thought I was going mad!


  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Martin, thankyou so much for a refreshing wonderful programme.
    I currently own a 1978 Bay and have recently moved from Newquay to Bournemouth and happen to love all things to do with the sea campers and surfing so to have a programme that features all of the above was fantastic, i only wish there was more than 10 episodes please please please make a second series and i will certainly be buying the DVD set.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Martin
    We have just finished watching the last of your programmes which we had recorded. My 2 kids (7 & 10), myself and my husband loved the program as it reminds us of our 1978 green westy camper van called Shrek, who is currently in vw hospital getting ready for the next summer's adventure after doing 2,000 miles down and back the west coast of France. He broke down in the channel tunnel on the way back but after a bump start from the great staff in the tunnel we drove all the way home without stopping. My usually fussy eating kids are keen to try out some of your recipies so I will be sending off for your book. Please do another series - can I suggest France and in particular il de re.

  • Comment number 15.

    @hastings: You’re absolutely right that it’s easier cooking for one than eight. But those meals had to be good because on the trip the food I cooked was actually my evening meal. So there was no trooping off to restaurants for me. It’s all for real. When I was writing my cookbook I spent a very muddy weekend on a slope in a field in a gale at Solfest music festival in Cumbria. I cooked for eight all weekend out of my little van. So we know it’s possible. It just takes a little organisation. And patience. And humour!

    @andy mee and @sminty: Thanks for your comments. I would love to do a second series! It’s all in the lap of the gods now. Personally I fancy Ireland as it’s a great place to go camper vanning if you don’t mind a bit of inclement weather. I’ve done the west coast of France many times in campers and in tents. In fact it was my first ever surf trip. Four of us went in a VW Beetle to Lacanau, where we camped for three weeks. It was a brilliant holiday. In fact, that trip is wonderful. Last time we did it with the kids to visit a friend in Hossegor. The only problem we had was a smashed windscreen.

  • Comment number 16.

    hi martin What a great show when,s the dvd comeing out ? been looking for an old vw campervan for a while now after your programme going to step up the serch . could you please give me the date of that show in wales for 2011 i would love to go .car,nt wait to get on the road and have some adventures like you did .not a very good cook tho but i can make lots of them egg on soft buns and brown sauce had lots since your show .dont know about that forerging .will have to get a book on that would proberley kill myself with what i find to cook haha . look forward to the next series .take care martin . phil.

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi. Having watched the 10 episodes of One Man and His Campervan i must say its been a fantastic series and i’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of my friends and family have watched all 10 episodes and have said that they hope he makes alot more in the near future. So basically this email is to ask if Martin has any plans to make more episodes of One Man and His Campervan?
    Please give him our congratulations on a great series and we thoroughly hope to see more episodes in the near future!
    Best Wishes, Glynn Fores

  • Comment number 18.

    Loved the programme and was given the cookbook for christmas,I have a battered but loved T25 and take my two children to the new forest every year,would really like the recipe for the lemon cheesecake with the honey base so I can give it a go!

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi Martin
    Really enjoyed your programmes.
    We too have a T25 aka Doris , and really looking forward to using her for the first time this summer.

    We loved your recipes and went straight on to ebay and purchased your book to take with us on our journeys.
    We will be trying most out , however on one of your programmes you made Outback Bread in your Dutch oven. We were really hoping this recipe was in your book but we couldn't find it.
    Is there any chance you can forward us your recipe as it looked delicious.
    Also what size Dutch oven do you recommend as the options are mind boggling.

    Thank you very much for your time and look forward to watching any new series you make .

    Best wishes Judy and Dave.

  • Comment number 20.

    Loving the series; I've just caught the last one. What a shame about the van, but really glad to see it didn't dampen your spitits.

    As a an minimal outdoors type, campervan cookery represents the antithesis of my one or two pot cooking on an open fire. I must admit that sometimes I wish I had such "luxuries" as, I don't know, a spatula, cheese grater or measuring jug.

    What I love about outdoor cooking was summed up by what you were saying about the burger meal in the last episode. Fresh, local and foraged ingredients together with a few simple "stock cupboard" herbs & spices using some simple recipes & principals makes for some of the most elegant and delicious foodstuffs which invariably taste better when cooked outdoors and moreso when shared.

    Look forward to future series.

    See you in the pub :)

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Martin, loved your TV show. I've cooked many times in my camper van and I bet you are inspiring many new camper van owners. Not all of us can afford a restored 1970's camper van, but an alternative is to build your own. For information the Self Build Motor Caravanners Club is a great place to find out how to do it. I did it myself and I work in an office, see my van.

    Happy cooking, any news on a second series ?

  • Comment number 22.

    First of all, I wanted to say that I watch the BBC regularly and I simply loved your show. Since my family likes to spend its time outdoors in the beautiful nature at least a couple of times a year, we always try to find the right timing and place to visit. The last time we went camping, it was fun overall, but it was a nightmare to wash the dishes - it took so long with all the kids screaming in the background. It was so annoying that we even decided to enjoy more breakfasts indoors and bought one of those electric griddles for cooking quick pancakes in our home, and it was way easier to clean. However, we are definitely going to use the great tips that you've shared here for cooking outdoors the right way.

  • Comment number 23.

    BEST FOR CAMPING- A Wok. Makes you think one pan dishes. At every convenience store buy bags of Straight to Wok noodles and whatever is fresh. We love big scallops or prawns if poss, or mushrooms, mixed veg and egg if not. Loads of soy. And NO WASHING UP apart from your bowls.

  • Comment number 24.

    A fun programme. By the way "Norfolk is the most easterly county of Britain" !!!

    Lowestoft is Britain's most easterly point. Which is in Suffolk!


  • Comment number 25.


    Ovens! You can go to the oven! Here's a little tip I think you might love: Get an empty biscuit tin, burn off all the paint in your campfire, when it has cooled brush off the roughness with a stiff brush and a cloth, cut an aperture about three inches in diameter in the bottom. Finally, anneal it with your cooking oil to prevent it from rusting:

    Lightly but throughly oil it using a cloth, then but it on the gas ring on a very low flame with the lid just laying on the top.

    (Cut the the aforementioned aperture so it can be positioned over the flame). You can go right ahead and bake! (You only need to anneal it once).

    Start with a couple of nice big potatoes!

    I've had such an oven for years in my little 'camper - size' motor cruiser and it is fabulous. I use one of those octagonal Christmas chocolate tins (Q. St, Roses etc) which also perfectly accommodates a round Pirex bowl - you can do all kinds of bakes in that! (Pasta, fish, etc).

    Give it a try - Never 'fit' the lid when in use, just lay it on the top. To allow for airflow and safe removal for inspection and loading / unloading etc. And I always use a pair of those hide rigger's gloves to handle it when in use.

    When done and it has cooled, fit the lid and stow it away!

    Bon appetite!


  • Comment number 26.

    Erratum: Delete 'but it on the gas', insert 'put it on the gas'.

    (My apologies!)


  • Comment number 27.

    Oh, by the way - it's a good idea to cut the aperture at the side of the base, to allow for better 'floor-space' in the oven and so the flame is not directly beneath any ovenware. It doesn't need to be circular. (Don't forget: the lowest flame you can get).


  • Comment number 28.

    The oven will not only warm your heart and appetite with it's delicious baking aromas, but also your cabin on a 'dark and stormy night'!


    Do spuds, garlic bread, casseroles, pies, vegetable and other 'roasts', fish and other meat (in suitable ovenware), bakes ... Even bread! :-

    Get a 'Suffolk bread-baker' (a piece of terra-cotta ovenware) of suitable 'headroom' for the oven; similarly anneal it, or just the Pirex (oiled before putting the doe in) or modern Teflon tin and: bingo: leaven bread! (25/30 minutes).

    Or just place little rolls into the oven 'off-flame' after kneading; lay the lid down, allow them to rise - with the oven in a warm place - and simply place the oven onto the flame when ready to bake!

    Easy, eh?

    Zero palaver!

    (A particular feature of this oven is that it gets up to baking temperature almost instantly.)

    And of course, at least one¹ item of ovenware can be stowed inside the oven when not in use.

    Now ... a glass of red wine, Radio 3 or 4, a view … and of course … the olfactory delights which accompany all but microwave (Ahgggh!) baking!!!

    I can think of no finer way to enjoy the sound of rainfall.

    (My apologies for 'going on' a bit (I know it's not my blog) but your programme has enthused me - so it's your fault!):

    Nice one.

    ¹ Think: Russian dolls!


  • Comment number 29.

    I have just read about the Biolite stove.

    Its not available on the market yet but you might like to check it out when it is.

    It is nice to see simple technology being developed that might change the world a little.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi Martin,

    We love to cook in the van but find the best way to avoid the dishes is an open fire. A few hickory smoked ribs and blackened fish and those childhood memories of rubber sausages are a distant memory!

    This is quite a good post I found on creating a campfire, do you plan to write any more about campfire cooking specifically?

  • Comment number 31.

    Haha, I was also going to pick up on the Norfolk thing as pointed out by GirlyBrains! I've thoroughly enjoyed the series especially since i'm into camping. However I can't afford a campervan so I had to just dream. I did recently see a [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] promoting a new service called spaceship rentals. These are 'campervan' excursions abroad, although they use converted people carriers rather than the nostalgic VW campervans. Obviously these don't even get close to the romanticism of classic campers but do actually work out much cheaper than hiring a veedub in the UK!

  • Comment number 32.

    I tend to rotate from hot to cold any every other day will have a tasty salad and a good white wine but only a few glasses if behind the big wheel the next day


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