Keen camper Summer Bourne has written a cookery book full of recipes designed to be made in the smallest of camper vans, as she explains to MARION SAUVEBOIS

HOARDING a cargo of canned beans in already cramped quarters, sweating away over a pocket-size gas hob in a camper's galley kitchen or braving the elements to fire up the hotplate huddled behind a wind-battered tent seems more effort than it is worth.

Or is it?

Whipping up a scrummy supper on the road does not have to turn into a survival simulation. Or a costly twice-daily run to the nearest pub for sustenance, according to happy camper Summer Bourne.

In her first cookery book, The Camper Cookie, the keen traveller from Stanton Fitzwarren guides reluctant motorhome chefs through the pitfalls of the portable cooker with her range of easy recipes and cunning food cheats.

"People think it's complicated but it's not if you know what to do," insists the 57-year-old. "You can do a lot of nutritious, quick and easy dishes with just a saucepan, a chopping board and cutlery."

A self-professed lover of the great outdoors, Summer caught the caravan bug with her partner Glyn in 2013, when they received a Groupon voucher to rent a camper for a short holiday. Fresh from their break, they hit the motorhome shows, set on buying their own; but the sobering £30,000 price tag for top-of-the-line models threw a spanner in the works. So the pair investigated affordable alternatives.

They stumbled on a nifty seller who agreed to convert a Toyota Previa (“We called it Trev the Prev,” she chuckles) at a fraction of the cost.

Their future holidays were mapped out but there was one small snag. It dawned on Summer during their first excursion aboard Trev that hotfooting it to the closest watering hole for a bite, as they had done in the old tent days, was no longer a viable option.

"It's nice to go eat at the pub but it's expensive. You don't really have a choice in the tent but, when you travel in the van, you go away longer and you can't do it all the time. And it's nice sometimes to just have a meal, sit by the van and watch the sun go down."

She made the rookie mistake of hauling a battery of pots and pans on board and set about cooking as she would at home.

"It's not until you're in the van that you realise the limitations - cooking normally wasn't going to work at all," she recalls. "If you don't have an oven and just two hobs, you have to adapt recipes, change the way you do things."

Back home, she started experimenting in her garden on a two-ring hob, turning classic recipes into one-pot dishes and focusing on pared-back manageable snacks with few core ingredient ingredients to suit her van's modest kitchenette.

Each new holiday was the opportunity to put her van-worthy recipes to the test. She began sharing her finds, and disasters, on a blog, which sparked the idea for her cookery book.

"I spent, and I still do, hours in the supermarkets looking at the products to find things that can help and save space, like chilli powder mix, or chargrilled peppers - they're just a faff to peel yourself. I read lots of cookery magazines and if something popped out from them I used it.”

The Camper Cookie extols the virtues of van cuisine in 100 simple dishes. From salads and pasta to yoghurt and curries, it is filled with healthy twists on classics. Featuring nutritional fare was key for Summer, who spent seven years managing the debilitating symptoms of ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, through a wholesome diet.

"I always liked to cook but with the illness eating well became really important," she says.

Among her favourites are risotto and Chilli con Beanie, both of which are a breeze to prepare, even in a poky RV.

"Many people are scared of risotto because they think it's tricky but it's great in the van. It's all in one pan. You can store rice easily and if you're on the coast you can use fresh prawns or even use some cold ham. My recipes are more templates. You can adapt them with what you have or what you find on the road."

Nothing is left to chance. Each recipe is carefully considered - from convenience, storage and the utensils required, down to the leftovers.

The frugal cook has ensured every last crap can be reused either in salad or bundled up in quesadillas.

"Storage is so tight you have to make every ingredient count,” adds Summer. “Everything has to multitask. I call it a capsule larder, the same way people talk about a capsule wardrobe. You have only a few ingredients to work with, which you mix and match into different dishes.

"Some people are on a budget and some of these are quite budget meals. You minimise your spending and you get some mileage out of what you get."

One of her greatest finds - she trawled the internet for tips and ideas- is her now adapted 10-10 Chicken, which bypasses the need for an oven altogether and allows campers to steam breasts from the comfort of their van.

"It's magical," she gushes. “Once you've done the breasts you can use them in risotto, as cold cuts or in a salad. Initially I thought I could never do chicken in the van because I couldn't roast anything but this way you just put them in a high-sided pan put a lid on fairly tight and put them on medium heat for 10 minutes. When it's finished, let them rest with the lid still on for 10 minutes. You'll get really moist, beautifully juicy chicken."

The Camper Cookie is just off the press, but Summer is already planning her next recipe book.

"It's all been a bit scary, writing a book is a whole new world to me," she admits. "My life has gone in a direction I never expected. It just started with ME and trying to eat healthy and doing it in the van too.

"I can't stop experimenting now. I've become slightly obsessed with finding new ingredients that make things easy. That's my mission."

The Camper Cookie is available on Amazon for £6.99 or £4.99 on Kindle. To subscribe to Summer's blog for free and receive exclusive recipes go to


Chilli con Beanie

This is a recipe I adapted from the traditional Chilli con Carne when I spent a few years as a vegetarian. It is so delicious and popular with my friends that I still cook it now that I am an omnivore again.

If you want to make the meaty version you can replace the tin of mixed beans with mince but you will need to brown the meat first and drain off the fat.

Ingredients (serves 4)

- Oil for frying (2 tbsps.)

- 1 large green pepper (chopped in to small pieces)

- 1 medium onion (chopped in to small pieces)

- I can of plum tomatoes (400g)

- 1 packet of Chilli con Carne spice mix

- 1 can kidney beans (400g)

- 1 can mixed beans (400g) or any other beans that you like: haricot, black-eyed etc.)

How to Cook

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped pepper. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the chopped onion and fry until both are soft.

3. Add the tin of plum tomatoes. Cook a little and break them up until the mixture is smooth.

4. Add the Chilli spice mix, stir and add some water if it is too thick.

5. Let this mixture cook gently for 5 minutes.

6. Add the drained can of kidney beans and the drained can of mixed beans. (If you are doing the meaty version, you can add the browned mince at this stage to replace the can of mixed beans.)

7. Let this cook gently for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Serve with a dollop of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar. You can eat it by itself or with rice and it’s also nice on toast or on a baked potato (if you are cooking it at home). It also tastes good the following day and freezes well.

Make-Life-Easier Tip

It’s also great the next day in a quesadilla with some grated Cheddar cheese.

Nutrition Tip

Beans are a great source of healthy protein and fibre. They are also full of anti-oxidants and provide important vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, folic acid, zinc and potassium.