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.

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Road Recipes- How To Cook Pasta

How to Cook Pasta-Step 3

Fearghal

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

Leaving Istanbul

Drying Laundry

Fearghal

Bulgaria

Last Thursday we cycled out of a grey and shiny Istanbul. It had been raining heavily, the road was slippery, and we we had wet feet within a few minutes. Leaving Istanbul was hard. We had spent the previous week hanging out with family and girlfriends, it was difficult to drag ourselves away and get moving again, the cold dirty spray from passing trucks did little to help. By nightfall we had failed to escape Istanbul’s urban sprawl and camped on the only dry land we could find, on the fringe of a petrol station forecourt.

Munching on excellent kebabs, and drinking the endless supply of tea plied by the forecourt attendants it began to sink in- we were on the last leg of our cycle. In a few days we’d be in the EU, in three months we’d be home- the adventure would be over. Somewhere in Turkey the world had changed, and it now seemed behind us. Somewhere along the way, possibly the cold and empty desert of Iran, or the icy passes of the Caucasus we had crossed a bridge, had left a dream and were cycling towards an achievement- and now it was time to start thinking about after. But enough of after for the moment.

Silhouette

Technically our last few days in Turkey were also our first in Europe, but in reality they were our last in Asia. Cycling towards Bulgaria I could feel it, the tea, the dancing with arms aloft, and all the fancy trim of the orient ebbing away. Curved crescents giving way to angular crosses, warm and unquestioning hospitality to reservation. Inshallah to cold rationality. All of this had been happening gradually, but there’s nothing like a border to evoke determinate perceptions where in reality blurry lines exist. Sometimes a line in the sand really helps bring things into focus, and the line in the sand between Bulgaria and Turkey was a bold reminder that most of this is adventure is now behind us and now each kilometre brings us closer to the familiar rather than propelling us into unfamiliar worlds.

Located at the nexus of several realms, where Europe, Asia, Arabia meet Turkey begs cliches and handy metaphors. All of them apt. It is a crossroad and a bridge, it is where the Occident and the Orient merge, its kebabs and beer, ordered roads and pragmatic Islam. For us its where the hard yards, the unknown and unusual begin to give way.

Turkey was good to us. The Turks possibly the warmest people I’ve encountered. They are excellent hosts, generous and undemanding, gregarious and outgoing. I’m sorry to have left.

Tea House

Let Them Eat Cake

Fearghal likes Bread

Simon

I’m always amazed by the sheer quantity of different breads that are eaten around the world. From the same basic ingredients of flour, yeast, water and salt there are breads that are crumbly, chewy, crispy, flakey, bland, full flavoured, thin sheets, long baguettes, round loaves, rectangular loaves and everything in between.

At home, getting bread is a very simple matter but in some places it can be exceedingly difficult. After crossing the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, we stopped in a small village to get some bread from one of the tiny cluttered grocery shops. We were told that their bread normally came from Oruro (about 300km away), but because it had rained, the dirt roads turned to mud and thus the bread van couldn’t get through!

In China bread is pretty much non existent, apart from the XinJiang region (the Capital Urumchi was the location of the riots last June) where the Uyghur people live, but as soon as I crossed the border into Kazakhstan, bread was available in abundance. In Central Asia, the loaves are usually a saucer shape with a thick outer crust and thin patternated centre. At the end of a long day in the Kyrgyz mountains I was searching a town for bread to no avail, when my nose picked up a faint whiff of fresh bread. I followed the sweet enticing aroma to the local bakers where they were cooking a fresh batch in an outdoor clay pot oven. First I watched as the baker placed and spread the slightly sticky dough onto a clay disc (which formed the pattern in the centre), then lean into the open topped oven and stick the dough to the side. Once cooked it was absolutely delicious, and I ate an entire loaf before moving on.

Bread is believed to be blessed by God in Iran and Uzbekistan (and perhaps other countries too), and thus there are certain faux pas to be avoided. For example, you should not put bread on a plate upside down, and if it becomes inedible and you must throw it away, it should be put in a separate bread bin and not mixed in with the other rubbish. If you see bread lying on the street, you should not step over it, but move it over to the to the side where it will not be trodden on.

The best bread I’ve tasted so far was in Mashad, Iran, which was “Sangak” (in photo above, Fearghal did manage to leave me a little!) a gigantic 3ft long sheet of chewy bread that had been cooked on small pebbles which indent the dough and give a lovely proportion of crispy edges and soft middle.

And as Mr Kipling would say, it was “Exceedingly Good”.

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

Tasting Note- KUMIS- Fermented Mare’s Milk

Mmmmm- horses, tasty!

Note: some of the horses in the picture are stallions, and not to be milked ; )

Fearghal

Tashkent-Uzbekistan

Before writing this post I feel I should lay my cards on the table; I absolutely detest milk. I’m lactose intolerant, so I’ve never drank a glass of cow’s milk in my life. As a nipper I was force fed soya and goats milk, all in my own best interests of course, and now as a result I would rather lick the…… of a….. than drink a glass of milk. Its a drink for baby cows for fecks sake, why do grown men and women need to be drinking it?

That said, the thing about travel that I love the most is trying local foods and drinks. So when I was offered a frothy glass of mare’s milk while thawing out in Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago, it was with mixed feelings that I accepted.

Fermented mare’s milk is pretty important to the peoples of central Asia with roots in a nomadic horse culture and is found in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

One of the girls who gave me the Kumis, explained the brewing process:

  1. The fresh horse milk is put into a wide plastic basin
  2. Bread is added to provide the yeasts for fermentation
  3. Sugar is added to boost the alcohol content
  4. The milk is stirred regularly for a couple of days
  5. Mixture is strained through muslin

The result is a frothy drink of 2-3% alc that needs to be chilled and consumed within a few days of fermentation.

How does it taste? I wrote the following note, in the WSET systematic style, in my journal

Details:Kumis, Kyrgyzstan, Homebrew, Horse, price unknown.

Appearance: White, Opaque Intensity, Frothy, No Visible Legs(tasted in chipped mug)

Nose: Clean, Simple, Medium Intensity, Youthful. Yeast, Rotting Apples, Sourdough Bread, Salami

Palate: Off Dry, Medium + Acidity, No Tannin evident, Low Alcohol Level, Medium to Full Body, Frothy Textured and Faint Petialance, long unharmonious finish of cooking apples, salami and sourdough

Conclusions: ????????????

I got a little kick out of sitting at 2,500m in the Kyrgyz mountains, cross legged in a caravan, wearing the same cycling shorts for four days straight and using skills I’d learned in Dublin and Melbourne to taste a mug of Mare’s Milk handed to me by an old woman with bridgework that Goldie would have been envious of.

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