What to Cook on a Self-Catering Holiday

Whether you are camping, caravanning or renting a cottage, when you have children, self-catering is definitely the easiest option.  Having the freedom to do your own thing, and especially to cook what food and when you need to, is essential for having a calm, relaxed family holiday. But finding self catering holiday meal ideas can be difficult. Here are some of our easiest choices of what to cook on a self-catering holiday.

Of course, no-one wants to spend all their time cooking elaborate dinners, and basically replicating what goes on at home - it's supposed to be a holiday for everyone after all!!  We have worked on getting this down to a fine art and now menu plan and write a shopping list long before we go away.  This means we can make sure we have all the necessary equipment (for camping) and any bits like dried herbs and spices packed up ready to go.  No point buying a whole new jar of something when you have one at home!

Everything we plan to cook is easy, quick, and cheap, leaving some money over for a meal out or a take away - yay!  Our stalwart recipes for holiday self-catering are all stove-top wonders with cheat ingredients.  Here they are:

Pasta Pesto

This is a regular at home anyway, and one of the girls' favourites.  Essentially, grab whatever pasta you have, although Lara prefers penne, add any green veg you have - broccoli, green beans, asparagus, broad beans, peas, and then stir through a jar of pesto (no time for home-made on holiday!).  Sprinkle over some Parmesan and there you go - glass of Soave optional! You can also add cooked potato to this in an approximation of Pesto alla Genovese.

Veggie Chilli

This is another stalwart at home, and because it freezes brilliantly too, it's a good one to have on standby for no time to cook nights. On holiday, it's cheat time again - lazy chilli is the way to go! This gives a better flavour than the other possible 'lazy' alternative - chilli flakes. However, if you managed to grow and dry your own chillies last summer, all the better, just grab one or two of those when you're packing your kitchen bits.

Start with some lightly fried onion, add the chilli, and your base vegetables such as carrots and celery. You can add other veg if you have some left over, but we tend to stick with just roots. When the veggies are tender, add a tin or two of chopped tomatoes, and one of red kidney beans, one of black-eyed beans for contrast. Cook through until all tender, and make sure you check that flavouring! We like to serve with a little sour cream and grated cheese on top.

For your carbs with this one, bought tortilla chips are OK, but you could pop some flour tortillas in the oven to warm if you are in a caravan, or cook some brown rice if you have an extra ring to cook on. An easy alternative is cous cous, which can be popped in a pudding basin with enough water to cover it and then some butter and/or olive oil stirred through. No need to flavour the cous cous with all that chilli flavour.

Stir Fry with Tofu

Guess what, it's whatever veggie time again!  You could use those pre-prepped bags you can get at the supermarket too.  They're a little expensive, but very convenient.  If you don't want to go down that route, the best veg for this are courgettes, peppers, carrots, bean sprouts, baby sweetcorn, mange tout, pak choi, broccoli, and mushrooms.  Just ensure everything other than the mushrooms is chopped into similar sized baton shapes, so they cook evenly.

Again, start with lightly frying your onion, with a little Chinese 5 spice if liked, and then add your other veggies for a couple of minutes.  We always use the ready to eat marinated tofu for this, Cauldron's is nicest and widely available.  Toss the tofu through the veg to warm through, and add some pre-cooked noodles.  You could also add some halved cashew nuts, and/or sprinkle sesame seeds over the top to serve.  Soy sauce essential!

Veggie Curry

Another grab whatever you have, e.g. potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, plus a tin of tomatoes or two, a tin or two of chickpeas, and a couple of big spoonfuls of curry paste. Fry the onions and garlic until transparent, stir in the curry paste, and then add your other veggies. Just ensure your veg are approximately the same size, on their way to being cooked (e.g. parboil the potatoes), and then combine. Stir through with the onion-curry paste mixture, then add your tinned tomatoes and drained chick peas. Serve with rice if you have two rings to use, or just naan bread to scoop up all the yummy sauce.


A great easy take and go lunch, or a supper when combined with a substantial salad, these little Mexican cheese sandwiches are fab!  Again we're going for the easy version - a pack of flour tortillas, a jar of salsa, some chopped spring onions and some grated Cheddar.  You can even leave out the onions and buy the lot pre-prepped and ready to go!

Place one tortilla in a frying pan over a medium to high heat, smear with salsa and sprinkle over some grated cheese and spring onion.  Press a second tortilla down on top, and when the bottom one is browned tip it over to cook the top (now bottom).  When both outsides are browned, the cheese inside will be nicely melted, so just cut your quesadilla in quarters and you're good to go!

Lara likes hers with some sliced black 'owals' (olives) in too, which again you can buy pre-sliced if required!  We love these with a big, substantial salad including leaves and as many fresh salad veg as you can muster - tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, mushrooms, grated carrot, spinach, fennel, beetroot etc etc.  Chuck some smashed avocado or ready-made guacamole on there and you're good to go.  Yum!

Each meal, even for a hungry family of four, would cost about a fiver each.  Especially when you have extra time on holiday to shop at local markets etc for the salad and vegetables.  I hope that's inspired your holiday catering ideas!

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