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.