Van Life: How we fed ourselves while travelling the UK in our van – The Independent

Van Life: How we fed ourselves while travelling the UK in our van – The Independent

Is there anything more quaintly 2020 than travelling the UK by self-renovated van, foraging or thrifting your food wherever you end up, and cooking it together over an open fire (or, more accurately, a two-ring gas stove)? It’s the pipe dream of every full-timer in the City.

Well, chef Danny Jack and Hailee Kukura have done it, and they’ve also written a handy pocket-sized guide so you can too, filled with “resourceful recipes for life on the road”.

What started as looking for more meaningful ways to spend their free time in between busy careers has become a decade-long DIY project-slash-lifestyle change that finally came to fruition in the summer of 2020 – conveniently just when every other pandemic prisoner was turning their attention to the long-forgotten staycation.

Now staycations are trendy again, you’ll probably want to get your hands on the Van Life Cookbook, in which Jack and Kukura have distilled their many travels around the country – and even the US – into more than 80 campervan-friendly recipes, as well as tips, tricks and kitchen hacks, and every possible list you will need.

Covering comforting breakfasts, quick-fix lunches and fireside feasts (think tahini porridge and Turkish one-pan eggs, winter green minestrone, BBQ fish parcels and homemade trail mix), Van Life is a celebration of the unexpected opportunities that modest spaces and smaller budgets can offer.

Ahead of the busy school holiday season, we catch five minutes with the van virtuosos about rediscovering the simple pleasures of life spent in the great outdoors.

How did the Van Life begin?

Danny: Having lived and worked in London since 2011, I began looking for more meaningful ways to spend my free time and became inspired by self-build campervan videos and people’s stories on Youtube. These offered up a new DIY challenge as well as an economical alternative to buying a purpose-built camper or RV.

The appeal of having a spontaneous city escape vehicle grew quickly and in early 2018 after purchasing a 2011 Renault Master, the van build commenced. What started out as a part-time project during evenings and weekends became a two-year on-and-off programme, fitting around work commitments and eventually getting it over the finish line in 2020.

The book is A5 sized so it’s the perfect companion for on the go


Hailee: The idea of Van Life Cookbook came about in the summer of 2020 when we both needed a creative project to get stuck into. Danny finished the build; I painted a mural inside and we named the van Jean Claude Van Dan (JC for short). JC came into its own later that year and gave us an essential space to breathe a bit, escape to nature, and connect with friends and family when we could.

It was that summer when travel restrictions eased …….