Cooking in the Grand Californian heat – The Parkers guide to cooking in a campervan

We’ve been testing some nifty space-saving kitchen gadgets to see if we can cook a three-course meal fit for three well-fed journalists.

A man in an apron stands in a campervan holding a celeriac.

by Ryan Gilmore |

If your idea of campervan cooking extends to spam and tinned hoops eaten from mess tins with a house key, you’re in for a real surprise. Camping cookware has come in leaps and bounds in the last few years and we thought it was about time we looked into some of the latest space-saving cooking accessories and set ourselves a challenge, namely making a three-course meal in the kitchen of a VW Grand California.

What we’ve assembled

A selection of camping gadgets on display
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

Progress BW09640EU 7 Piece Non-Stick Clip and Cook Pan Set

Progress BW09640EU 7 Piece Non-Stick Clip and Cook Pan Set
Amazon

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When space is a premium, ungainly handles eat up valuable space and contribute to that unholy racket as you desperately try and pull the frying pan out of a cupboard to make some bacon. Can these space-saving options from Progress cut it, however?

Salter COMBO-6736 Cosmos 3 in 1 Blender

Salter COMBO-6736 Cosmos 3 in 1 Blender
Amazon

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A real premium addition to your campervan, this tiny blender also works as a chopper and a whisk, unlocking a whole host of recipes for a varied diet. Whether it can justify the sacrificed workshop space remains to be seen.

OXO 11223200 Good Grips Mini Grate & Slice Set

OXO 11223200 Good Grips Mini Grate & Slice Set
Amazon

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A slicer, spiraliser and grater in one small device. Is it better than a set of knives and a grater?

Brabantia Tasty+ 3 Piece Chopping Board Set

Brabantia Tasty+ 3 Piece Chopping Board Set
Amazon

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A small chopping board will protect your campervan. This set of three includes a tray but the small chopping board is available separately.

Sea To Summit Lightweight X-Pot Collapsible Camping Kettle

Sea To Summit Lightweight X-Pot Collapsible Camping Kettle
Amazon

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Collapsible equipment is always going to be cool in our books, and it'll take up way less room than a conventional kettle but just as useful.

Barista & Co Brew It Stick Coffee Maker

Barista & Co Brew It Stick Coffee Maker
Amazon

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A small gadget that makes coffee like a tea infuser, is it as good as the Nanopresso though?

WACACO Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker

WACACO Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker
Amazon

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The reigning champion of portable coffee delivery, this espresso maker is simply excellent.

MAGWARE Magnetic Camping Utensils

MAGWARE Magnetic Camping Utensils
Amazon

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Beautifully made from aluminium and magnetic to stop you from losing them, this camping cutlery set certainly sounds impressive and offers 15 pieces of cutlery. Will the step price harm its chances, however?

Viners Organic On The Go Cutlery Set

Viners Organic On The Go Cutlery Set
Amazon

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A more affordable option than the Magware, the Viners is made from stainless steel and recycled wheat fibre. Not as space-saving, but a lot cheaper the Viners look impressive.

Draper 32373 13 Function Pocket Multi-Tool

Draper 32373 13 Function Pocket Multi-Tool
Amazon

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An essential for pretty much any holiday, a good multi-tool will come in handy for basic DIY, kitchen prep and opening beer bottles.

Putting the kettle on

Making coffee
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

The obvious starting point of any camping adventure is sticking the kettle on the gas and enjoying a warm drink. There are loads of camping kettles on the market (a testament to how much us Brits like tea and coffee) from the old fashioned whistlers to the fancy Sea To Summit collapsible option we're testing here.

It's a fairly simple kettle to use, pop it up, add water and heat the bottom. The kettle doubles as a pot if you're tight for space, perfect for boiling noodles or eggs. It's best to use a small ring as the sides can melt if exposed to flame but aside from that the kettle impressed us.

We also took this opportunity to test two portable coffee makers, the Wacaco Nanopresso and the Barista and Co Brew It Stick. Both are designed for making different coffee with the Nanopresso makes a pressurised espresso, the Stick is more of an infuser. As to which one is better depends on your needs; the Stick is a lot cheaper and can make infusion teas too but the coffee isn't that far off instant. The Nanopresso costs more, is a bit of a workout to use (hand pumping can become tiring after a while) but the espresso it makes tastes amazing and the item has a real quality feel to it. I'd personally opt for the Nanopresso even if the Brew It Stick is arguably more versatile.

A solid soup starter

Using the slicer to cut a red onion
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

The perfect test of the Salter blender and OXO slicer would be to get a load of root veg together and see if we could make a decent soup with it. So with this in mind, we're making Parkers winter veg soup.

What we used:

A man spiralises a carrot while wearing an apron
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

I'll be the first to say that this soup was problematic from the off. Celeriac was a last-minute substitute for swede and once it was time to blend the soup we realised the VW Grand California required a proper electrical source to power the three-pin plug. What this meant was our Salter Blender became a rather useless lump that ate up space.

I've since used the Salter at home and have found it to be a clever kitchen gadget that's expanded the recipes I can make rather a lot. It also provides a nice campervan warning, make sure you know the gadget will work before loading it into the caravan.

The OXO Good Grips Mini Grate & Slice Set thankfully needed no electricity and proved incredibly useful for food preparation. Its small size encompassing two graters (fine and coarse), a slicer and a spiraliser (the coolest thing in the culinary world) all neatly held in a box. It found immediate use thinly slicing onions and spiralising both carrots and parsnips, and the small footprint meant it's the perfect low-tech kitchen gadget for a campervan.

It's since found regular use in my proper kitchen for all sorts of prep duties and the only real flaw I've found is the blade can be difficult to clean without slicing a kitchen sponge in half.

The final item on trial was the Progress Non-Stick Clip and Cook Pan Set. A clever way of solving how ungainly traditional saucepans are to store, this set comes with removable handles. The pans take up a tiny bit of room when not in use and best of all, can double as baking tins. For campervan cooking they're excellent, the non-stick finish was useful for frying onions (for the burgers) and the only drawback I could find was the lack of lids. While they take up a fair amount of room, they would make the set way more versatile.

Eating the soup was an excellent way of testing both the Viner and Magware travel cutlery. The Viner's is probably more suited to a lunchbox, but the eco-credentials (50% recycled wheat fibre) are good and the set didn't feel compromised as some travel cutlery sets can be. The Magware, on the other hand, were excellent. For a start the colours are gorgeous, it's milled from aluminium for a real quality feel and

Saved by the Italians

The finished bruschetta
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

With the interesting soup still fresh on our minds (and massive lumps of celeriac littering the campervan), it was time to try the iconic bruschetta, as explained by Chris Williams.

What we used:

A man salts some bruschetta in a theatrical manner

'Bruschetta is one of the best starters or snacks. Period. It’s as simple and as tasty as a fresh strawberry. And you don’t need to own a toque to make it. Some red onion, tomato, lemon, salt and pepper, and olive oil. If you’re feeling a bit fancy pants, you can include basil and balsamic if you wish, but we can testify that you don’t need these two.

While we did have the outdoor table, having two people use the Grand California kitchen simultaneously would prove how well designed it is. The centred sink and stove flanked by a bit of bench space on either side work as well as you could hope in a kitchen of that size. It was a squeeze, but manageable.

With the topping made, we then utilised the Weber Traveler barbecue to toast our hoity-toity Waitrose bread. Splattered with olive oil, the sliced bread coloured beautifully, gaining that desirable charring. Bread toasted and topped with the mixture, plus some chunk rock salt expertly sprinkled, the bruschetta, erm, complimented the soup starter.'

The Parkers burger van

A man in an orange top cooking burgers
©Photo: Adam Binnie/Parkers

What we used:

Some really nice burgers on a bbq
©Photo: Chris Williams/Parkers

The cook-out favourite, proper burgers are simple but require a level of finessing that'll cause more than a few arguments. Blue cheese or American sliced? Yay or nay on the tomato etc. What we all agreed on under the tutelage of burger-prodigy Adam Binnie were American sliced cheese, grilled tomato and pan-fried red onion alongside the wagyu beef and lightly toasted burger buns.

As pretty much all the cooking took place on the Weber Traveler Gas Barbecue, the stand-alone review will cover how good it was. All I'll add is the burgers were delicious and an easy thing to cook in a campervan.

Caffeine and ice cream

The Nanopresso being used to make espresso
©Photo: Chris Williams/CAR

What we used:

With plenty of coffee left and an onboard freezer that had been unused until now, it was time to set about making some affogato. Simply pour a fresh shot of espresso (we used the Nanopresso) over a big dollop of ice cream and enjoy. It's incredibly tasty and sounds fancy but it's incredibly easy to make as long as you can keep the ice cream cold. The Wacaco Nanopresso again showed how good it was and why it should be part of any coffee lovers camping arsenal. And while traditional affogato requires vanilla ice cream, our choice of salted caramel was deliciously sacrilegious. With some amaretti crushed on the top, it's even nicer.

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