Wednesday, 12 October 2011

‘How am I supposed to manage in here?’ - Food glorious food

Unlike most modern UK caravans Eribas don’t have ovens fitted and they don’t have a grill or microwave either, but there are loads of caravanners out there who confess that their oven has never been used, others that complain bitterly about their grill and are scathing about  the microwave that's usually fitted about 7ft high, rendering it positively dangerous for anyone under 8ft tall. So Eribas do you a good turn by not fitting something you won't use, something that you won't be happy with and something that could injure you. Here's what you do get:
The cooking facilities in an Eriba vary dependant on model and year but generally you get a gas hob with two or three burners, with or without spark ignition. This I’m told is ‘the Continental way’. The fact that there’s really no space for the missing appliances and that not installing them saves money may also be ‘the Continental way’.
An Eriba kitchen in the for'ard position from circa year 2000 with three burners, hob controls on cupboard front, rectangular sink, metal splashguard and folding worktop/cover.
So if you’re the team chef you’re going to be limited to what can be cooked in two/three pans on the hob or go out for meals or order take-outs.
Actually the reality is better than that as demonstrated by Martin Dorey in his BBC TV series ‘One Man and his Campervan’ and in his wonderful ‘Campervan Cookbook’, a copy of which should be chained inside every Eriba in the country, not just for the recipes but for lots of other relevant ideas and information. In fact VW Campers often have better kitchen facilities than Eribas as they can come with a grill. It’s often a highly ineffective and annoying grill, but it’s one all the same.
One quibble with Martin is over the list of ingredients he suggests you take with you in ‘Camper Van Cookbook’. I don’t know if VW Campers are all sprinkled with Tardis dust but taking what he suggests would certainly challenge the storage space in most Eribas kitchens.
You do get a fridge with an Eriba (well with most of them) and oddly it seems to have been the same fridge in all models since forever. It has the ability to run on gas, 12 volt and 240 volt like most caravan fridges and has an internal storage capacity of 70 litres. Now these days 70 litres isn’t a lot for a fridge and most current UK caravans are offering 97 or 110 litres and some even more. This lack of fridge space is again, I am told, ‘the Continental way’.
The Dometic RM4230 fridge fitted to most Eribas for decades
The good old Dometic in the Eriba has a freezer compartment that fills half the top shelf and then two more shelves that aren’t very deep and then a sort of hitching rail across the bottom of an even less deep space which is caused by the need to accommodate a wheel arch. It seems that wherever Eriba decided to place their fridges in their myriad of layouts a wheelarch magically appeared behind it. Luckily the fridge door isn’t so challenged storage-wise and can take a goodly amount of stuff. As to the rest, the team’s storage technician has to be adept at getting the very most out of the space available. Mind you that’s an attribute that’s generally required throughout any Eriba.
Finally in terms of kitchen equipment you’ll get a stainless steel sink, sometimes round, sometimes rectangular, normally with a mixer tap but sometimes with just cold running water. Never fear if you have just cold, ‘tis the matter of a few minutes to warm a kettle on the hob.
Eriba Tip It’s even better to warm the water via the site’s electricity, rather than your own expensively purchased and precious gas.
Usually your Eriba will also have a cupboard with shelves and/or wire baskets and a cutlery drawer. In some fancy Troll models there’s even a pull out piece of extra worktop, albeit with a weirdly shaped sort of hole in the middle to allow the sink pipes to pass into the depths below. And talking of extra worktop you’ll usually find either a worktop flap to help extend the kitchen worktop or that the wooden sink/hob cover extends to provide similar facilities.
The fabulous looking 2011 Troll 540 kitchen gains a fixed splashguard but has lost the fold-down worktop extension to the right and the pull-out worktop above the cutlery drawer.
 So that’s where the gentle art of culinary preparation takes place in most Eribas. It’s not much and it’s cramped, but thousands get by using it every day throughout the world.
Eriba Tip Just remember to duck when you say that to your other half the next time he/she complains.
Of course what you put in your kitchen drawers and cupboards is down to your own and your family's own needs and desires, but in the cutlery drawer you’ll need appropriate numbers of knives forks and spoons, known as ‘gobbling rods’ in our family, together with food serving stuff, usually something to light the gas hob, a tin opener, bottle opener and corkscrew.
Eriba Tip Don’t be tempted to go for really cheap utensils as you’ll often find they’re false economy and you’ll end up paying twice.
Another Eriba Tip On the other hand weird looking specialist camping gear isn’t really necessary and can cost a small fortune.
On the saucepan side we initially purchased a special camping set where the handle clipped onto the pans and everything sort of stacked inside everything else. Very neat, very tidy and very small. But the handle didn’t work very well and made cooking a misery. So the camping kit is stashed away in the garage and we use some brilliant normal pans with fold out handles that just work and store easily. I would also recommend electric kettles over gas (on economy grounds) and suggest that camping toast thingeys that use the gas flame are a pain and that life can actually exist, but only just, without toast if you don’t want to lug an electric toaster about with you.
Eriba Tip A further hint is to decant your teabags, coffee, cocoa, sugar, etc into plastic screw top containers which are safer than glass and less prone to ripping and spilling than paper. Enough for most trips can be fitted inside a relatively small container and so saves precious storage space. They come cheap as twice fried potato slices, ours were from Morrisons. We’ve also recycled a couple of the small fruit smoothies plastic bottles as olive and sunflower oil containers.    
The paucity of space and facilities, should be considered as good for the soul, taking us back to our roots and closer to nature and all that guff. Basically it means you have a sound excuse for living on a diet of fry-ups for every meal, washed down with oodles of tea/coffee/beer/wine as is your preference and as dictated by the time of day. This doesn’t really match up to my understanding of ‘the Continental way’ however.
Anyway in order to keep your metabolism operating at peak efficiency you really do need a more mixed diet than fried eggs and bacon at every meal and to allow this to happen Eribaists have developed a whole range of coping strategies.
Our preferred option is the Remoska Strategy.
For the unititiated the Remoska can loosely be described as an electric saucepan. A non stick saucepan base sits in a chrome wire frame with a large chromed lid that has heating elements inside and is fitted with a mains electric cable and a black plastic handle. There are no controls except an on/off switch and it works by cooking food at a fixed temperature. You obviously need a mains electric hook up for it to work, but it’s amazing the range of dishes you can cook in what is really a portable mini-oven.
A Remoska - exclusively from Lakeland
Remoskas come in a range of three sizes and there are optional extras like cooking grids and pan separators to help with certain dishes. You get a booklet with some recipes included in the box and there’s a large wire bound Remoska Cookbook available to buy separately. And as it comes from somewhere on the eastern side of Europe which ends in ‘ia’ you can be certain that it is ‘the Continental way’.
Other cooking strategies used by Eribanauts with greater or lesser success include:
  •         Cobb Oven
  •         Portable Barbecue (gas, charcoal or one shot throw away job)
  •         Bravoska (similar to a Remoska but with a thermostat control)
  •         Various electric grills mostly made by retired heavyweight boxers

A heavyweight boxer
Websites for some are included in the links chapter and you’ll find information galore about their attributes by searching and other caravanning and camping websites.
It just wouldn’t be fair to end this section without providing at least one recipe, however it’s hard to outdo Mr Dorey and Ms Randell and their magnificent opus. However I have a secret weapon, a recipe thrust into my hand by a grizzled Worcestershire native as he dragged himself up into the cab of one of his many Auto-Sleeper Nuevos. Yes he is a chugger, not a tugger, but we’ve all been tempted by the dark side from time to time and somehow he and Auto-Sleeper deserve each other. Thanks Zebedee.
Zebedee’s Cream Cheese Bread and Butter Pudding
8 large slices of white bread
75g (3oz) unsalted butter
500g (1lb) soft cream cheese (Quark or Ricotta)
3 eggs
50g (2oz) raisins soaked for 15 minutes in dark rum
100g (4oz) caster sugar
Finely grated rind from 1 lemon
500ml (1pt) milk
Cut bread slices diagonally across into triangles, brush both sides with melted butter and place half in the base of the buttered Remoska. Mix the cream cheese with two eggs, the raisins, half of the sugar and the grated lemon rind. Spread the mixture over the bread: cover with the rest of the buttered bread. Whisk up the third egg with the milk and pour over the prepared pudding. Drizzle with any leftover melted butter, cover with the lid and bake to a golden crispy brown approx. 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar whilst still warm and serve.

My arteries hardened just typing it out.

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