Spring and thoughts of Wanderly Wagon

Sunshine!!!!!

Fearghal

Torino- Italy

Cold Hands, Cold Hands Cold Hands Cold Hands, COooooooold HHHHAAAAANNNNNNDS…. Sing it like a fooball chant and it will distract you from the fact that your hands are getting numb, that your body has done a quick cost benefit analysis and decided to stop supplying your digits with its lovely warm blood. At least, thats what worked for us in Iran and Turkey. When Cooooold Hands and Feet developed into cold shoulders knees and toes we’d pull out the ultimate pick me up: a few bars of the Bosco theme tune also sung in the Millwall style(for those who aren’t familiar with RTE’s midday schedule circa 1989 here’s the wikipedia explanation)    

Truth is, its been a fecking long winter. It was in Kyrgyzstan early November that I was first shocked into the brittle significance of the minus symbol on the Centigrade table. And ever since we’ve been trying to escape entropic inevitiblity, wearing too many clothes, lighting big fires, blagging our way indoors and drinking the odd nip of local hooch. When that didn’t work we’d sing the cold hands chant.  

The minus C’s are bloody cold, especially if you’re moving at 30kmph and your clothes are damp and greasy and all you’ve been drinking is the frozen slush puppy from your water bottle. I realise now that I never quite understood this before this winter.

I don’t mean to moan, or bang on about how hard it was, or rather, how soft I am.

Just to impress that until you spend all day every day outside in a winter, until winter gets into your bones, something that you can’t get away from, that rules your every move and descision its simply an inconvenience. An awkward time when you have to turn on the lights earlier and run from the heated car to the heated house.

I’ve never anticipated a spring with such zeal before. Checking trees for buds, hedgerows for flowers and canvasing locals for their vote on when the weather would turn for the better. 

For the month of March we got the odd tease, a crocus here, a bird’s song there. A few times the mercury rose enough to let us get our legs out and stock up on Vitamin D. Then we’d wake up to snow or iced up roads and we’d put on all of our clothes again and sing our football chants to numb our minds to the numb extremities. 

Finally, after a detour to visit KTM in Austria we crossed the Alps via the Brenner Pass and dropped into a fresh new world of springtime in Italy. Now birds tweet, the air smells of flowers, vines and fruit trees are fecundly decorated with buds, and best of all we don’t look like forty coats(that’s another reference to the quality children’s programs on RTE at 3 o’clock circa 1989).   

Spring! I’m loving it.

 

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Another Day, Another Dollar

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Sun dips below the horizon, and treats us to another peaches and cream lightshow. In the golden dusk we look for somewhere to pitch our tents and wood for our fire. Light dwindles and camp is set, methodical and automatic, a well rehearsed set of economical movements unthought but precise, like a sodlier cleaning his gun. Blinfolded by dusk, tent poles are clicked together and pegs placed with little attention.

As the twigs and logs crackle and damp socks slowly steam dry, two tired boys watch the sparks trace skywards, past the canopy of branches and out towards a star studded midnight blue sky. The moon is out, glowing full and cool. Little is said as dinner sizzles, after 15months not much needs to be said now, and the silence is golden. Both ponder the day`s sights and highlights, lost in a train of thought trailing 26,000kms eastwards around the globe. 

Increasingly, this ribbon of thought is interrupted with a question… what next? Indeed, what next… what next.

For the moment, we´re just content that for now, we´re two lucky bastards. 

Road Recipes- Caramel Oranges

Caramel Oranges- Step 1

Fearghal

For the next few mondays we`ll be posting recipes from the road.

Here’s a simple recipe for desert that can be made on the road. Whether you’re riding in Argetina, Iberia or Iran, pick up some of those juicy oranges, a packet of hard caramels and a pot of cream or yoghurt.

Caramel Oranges

Ingredients
1 packet of Hard caramels
6 oranges
1 packet of ginger nuts biscuits, or any biscuits you can get yourhands on.
Anything sweet crunchy will also work.

Method :peel oranges with a knife, taking care to remove the pith, and cut into rounds.
Put caramels in a plastic bag and crush with the base of a pot/ rock/brick/pump etc.
Add oranges and crushed caramels and leave to sit for three hours or until the caramel is dissolved.
Whip cream- if you’ve no whisk put in a container with a lid, a jam jar is perfect, and shake till stiff.

Serve oranges with whipped cream and ginger nuts crumbled over.

Road Recipes- How To Cook Pasta

How to Cook Pasta-Step 3

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Silly subject for a blog perhaps? Surely even a culinary retard can manage to cook a few pasta twirls. Perhaps, but there’s a difference between cooking well and just cooking, and when you are on the road for a long period, cooking well is an essential skill for mood and health maintenance. I have to admit feeling sorry for those cyclists we meet who talk of eating pasta and a stock cube every night. Especially since cooking something interesting is just as easy.

Heres a simple 5 step fool proof and versatile recipe for a one pot pasta dish that is as useful in a student bedsit as it is on the roadside.

Fry It:If using raw meat, fry your Chicken/Beef/Lamb/Horse/Llama/Dog, make sure the meat is cut into small pieces and your pot is hot before you add it. When your meat is nice and browned move to the next stage.

Sweat It: sweat your vegetables with loads of olive oil/butter/duck fat/the fat from frying your meat, or whatever tasty lipid you can get your hands on. Working in professional kitchens for several years, I learned that sweating veg is really important, no one ever gave me a satisfactory reason why, it just is, so sweat. Start with onions first, then add root and more robust veg. Stir regularly and keep the lid on. Don’t add delicates like greenbeans, at this stage, wait till the final touches part of the process. If you are using chorizo or dried bacon, bang these in now too.

Pasta In: once your veggies are beginning to get soft, pop in your pasta. Now, this bit is key, only pour in
enough water to cover everything then pop the lid back on, if you don’t have a lid keep topping up as the water evaporates. Always keep everything covered with water, but no more. The water will be your sauce, so its important that there’s not too much as it will be insipid. I also like to add garlic, cut in big chunks, and pepper and chilli now.Add a stock cube now too, I prefer to err on the side of not enough cube as you can always add more later.

Nearly There: When your pasta is almost cooked, add your delicates; green beans, courgettes etc and boil till they’re done. If you are adding tinned stuff, beans, pulses, tuna add when delicates are done. As tinned stuff is already cooked but needs to be heated through.

Final Touches:For a final flourish add lots of chopped fresh herbs, parsley, dill, coriander- whatever you can get your hands on. Now taste, and add more salt, spices, etc if necessary.

Changes: The great thing about the dish above is that its versatile, you can swop the pasta for- rice,potatoes,bulgar wheat, barley or pretty much any carb you come across. You can also add pulses, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans too, though you might have to soak them for twenty four hours first if you cook them from dried. Once you learn to sweat your veg, and when to add your delicates, meat and carbs, and season properly you are guaranteed a decent if somewhat one dimensional meal at the end of a day’s cycling/tramping/climbing/walking. To keep it interesting buy
local veggies- and add them at the “Sweat It”,if they are hard like carrots, or at the “Nearly There” stage if they are soft like mushrooms. You can also skip the frying stage and add your meat when you add your pasta, provided its cut small, if you are feeling lazy.

Voila! No excuses for boring meals in your tent each night.

Road Recipes- A Hot Punch

Revolution Punch-step two

Fearghal

For the next few Mondays we’ll be posting a new recipe from the road.

This winter warmer is great for rosing the cheeks when its cold outside. We drink it after dinner, as we watch the last flames of the campfire die down, readying ourselves for sleep in our frigid tents.

It can be made with or with out hooch, a few cloves will provide enough spice to fill in the gap and if you have some bitters, a few drops will help too. As with all of our recipes its also very flexible and can be tailored to use your favourite spirit, or whatever’s on the reduced to clear shelf at tesco. We’ve made it with Armenian Brandy, Uzbek Vodka, Georgian Grappa…- whatever’s cheap and available. 

Ingredients:

1 orange sliced

1 Lemon Sliced

100g sugar

100mls Vodka

700mls Water

 

Method: Combine everything except the vodka in a pot and bring to the boil, stir till sugar is dissolved then add vodka. Serve  hot from a flask on a snowy hill top or somewhere cold, windy and beautiful. Click here for step by step instructions.

Fancy Permutations:

Hot Pink Gin: Replace the vodka with gin, and the orange and lemon with two pink grapefruits(peeled) use brown sugar and add a few drops of angostura bitters to taste.  

Hot Orange Brandy: Replace lemon with orange and the vodka with Cointreau.

Hot Spiced Rum: Replace vodka with dark rum, add 5 cloves a stick of cinnamin and a vanilla pod to the mixture. Remove the cloves immediately after boiling.

Cheers

Courting Impossible

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8235991&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

The Global Triathlon from Daniel Martin on Vimeo.

Fearghal

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men, at least that’s what Mohommed Ali reckoned. He was a big man, and didn’t seem to be held back by impossiblity. Dan Martin is another big man who doesn’t let im get in the way of his possible.  

Dan’s planning a global triathlon! Even trying to think up the craziest expedition I could imagine I never would have dared dream of something like this; swim the Atlantic, bike across Siberia in winter, then run across North America!

Quite simply its nuts and maybe not possible.

But, Dan is going to give it a bash all the same. He’ll be spending four months at sea then hopping on his bike to the bearing straits then running to New York in time for the City Marathon. Like I said nuts, and maybe impossible.

We’ll be following Dan’s historic adventure closely. I really hope he can redefine a global Triathlon as possible.

Dizi Rascals

Dizzy

Fearghal

Mum always told me not to play with my food when I was a nipper. I was never one of those chop it all up and build it into a fort  kids, but sometimes culinary and architectural curiosity would meet, and I’d indulge the urge to see if potato would make a good bridge, or perhaps just a nice mound with sausage stucco.

Dizi, an Iranian dish, requires you to play with your food. You’re even given a special masher to do it with. Made from mutton meat and fat, chickpeas, whole tomatoes, potatoes and onions its not unlike an exotic Irish stew, at first.

A lunch dish, its served in individual clay or pewter pots accompanied by flat bread and a raw onion. The liquid is decanted into the bowl provided and the fat spooned out, bits of bread are added this is then mashed with the masher. Then all of the solids are added and mashed again until it looks like the mess below. This is then eaten with flat bread.

Dizzi is one of the best dishes we’ve come across on our little jaunt, ribsticking, wholesome and fun.

Dizzy