For me, it is very important to eat well, wherever I am.
I have recently returned from a nine week trip in Western Australia. It was in a very simple campervan with a basic pull out stove, but as always, I manage to eat well even if some supplies were difficult to purchase.
I realize that the range of vegetables I am accostomed to where I live (Melbourne and previously Adelaide) were not to be found even in the larger towns I visited. Supply and demand is important and I consider myself lucky to live in cities where the the different ethnicities have contributed to what is grown and available.
But maybe I am expecting far too much.
I need to acknowledge that much of the produce I bought was in small, often remote communities and, as in the rest of country Australia, what was mostly available was limited to pumpkins, iceberg lettuces, carrots, cauliflower, cabbages and tomatoes (not the greatest). Potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes were everywhere. Beetroot, sometimes – but without their leaves. the sort of vegetables that my family was able to purchase when we first settled in Adelaide and I was eight years old.
In some places I found broccoli, green beans, spring onions and sometimes boc choy and red cabbage. On rare occasions there was asparagus and, if I was lucky, there were good bunches of silverbeet. I made sure to buy bunches of this leafy green vegetable wherever I could and cooked it in various ways: braised with chillies and anchovies, sautéed in butter with a final dash of lemon juice, sautéed and deglazed with vinegar and a bit of sugar, or mixed with other vegetables.
Sometimes, I found curly Kale, but never Tuscan Kale, the Italian Cavolo Nero. Having said that, I acknowledge that growing seasons may be different in the West, especailly the North West, but if there was Kale there was never Cavolo Nero/Tuscan Kale which grows in the same season. I saw and bought Brussel sprouts in a few places but they were extremely expensive.
Capsicums/ peppers were pretty abundant, especially red ones.
In the larger cities produce was more varied. One of the things that I found quite perculiar is that zucchini were were exceptionally large and old singly. I only once found small zucchini (the size they should be) which was in Albany and I bought all they had. Green grocers seem few and far between and people shopped in supermarkets, but perhaps, on reflection supermarkets don’t necessarily have a wide range .
The produce in the Fremantle market was certaily fresh and excellent in quality and i stocked up there as much as I could. Occasionally, we’d pass through a place that had a Saturday Market but most of the stalls had a limited range, usually more of the same. On one rare occasion I found a market stall that had broadbeans and English spinach, fresh bunches of basil, coriander and parsley. Heaven! I’m an opportunistic shopper and while I do pine for leafy green vegetables, I know I can always make a meal of whatever I have in the pantry. The occasional tin of borlotti, canellini or black beans came in very handy as a mixer.
Whenever I saw red, teardrops tomatoes, as I did in the market in Fremantle and Saturday Market in Carnarvon I bought plenty.
I made many salads using what vegetables I had. In one supermarket in Denmark I found a celeriac. I teemed this with beetroot and dressed it with a mustard vinaigrette.
I bought fennel in Fremantle and on another occasion radicchio in Albany. As well as salad I braised some with leeks and chicken breasts. Pretty good with mashed potatoes.
I bought a 2k tub of bocconcini and a burrata in Margaret River.
That was a real find!
My pantry in the campervan is always well stocked with extra virgin olive oil, vinegars, capers, olives, nuts, anchovies and a farly generous supply of spices including different types of pepper. The only dry herb I use is oregano. I am a big consumer of fresh herbs and I picked fresh rosemary wherever I saw it and kept it fresh in a container in the small fridge in the van. In some places I was able to buy fresh basil. I make harissa – strong and fragrant and take this with me.
For camping trips, I also marinade feta in extra virgin olive oil, bay leaves and black peppercorns and store it in the fridge. Feta is very versatile and when it is marinaded it lasts for a long time. I add this to salads, dress pasta with it and spread it on bread.
I also use wine or one of the vinegars (cider,wine, balsamic, chinese brown) for deglazing.
I bought fish wherever I could and even made fish stock for a risotto with the crayfish shells.
Meat was pentiful and there was some grass fed and organic in the larger places. I even braised a whole chicken. And there was stock.
And with stock, there is risotto.
Pulses are also plentiful in my camp kitchen as are different types of rice and pasta of various shapes. I have quinoa and couscous as well.
So as you can see, not much is impossible to cook when camping and I do enjoy making do with what I have.