Travel Journal

Pasta, pizza and potatoes a story about food on the road

(Monday 25 November 2013) by Mariken
Okay, after my 'women emancipation' rant two days ago, a U-turn in perspective: cooking! As a woman! But no, this will not be a post about 'how to become a domestic goddess'. We all have to eat, don't we? And this is purely about my hobby, which I came up with by free choice. Independently. Like an emancipated woman should. :-p

Those who know me, also know that I like cooking. Not that I am an exceptional cook, far from, but I like to experiment in the kitchen and try out new recipes (rarely coming up with something my own), especially 'themed' ones, like medieval or Moroccan dishes etc. Since February I seemingly have convicted myself to culinary wasteland by condemning myself to cooking on a one pit petrol stove with only two 'subtleties': extremely hot and melt down. Simmering is not an option. Because of this, dinner usually is not much of a challenge, or an enormous one, depending on your point of view. In the past few months dinner has mostly consisted of pasta with tomato sauce and variations thereof. There have been days, no weeks, when my biggest culinary challenge was to decide whether I was to use sardines or sausage, peppers or zucchini (or both). To a certain extent this is fun. It is a challenge when you do not have a nicely stocked pantry and a fridge, but lug everything around in a big crate in the trunk of your car. It is fun to dig in that crate after a long day of driving to see what tins are available for dinner and to try to actually create an edible meal out of that. We have had some interesting results so far. But mostly it is pasta and tomato sauce, which becomes kinda boring after a while.

At work in Rovinj
At work in Rovinj
This is why every time I come across a 'real' kitchen (like in El Chorro or in Rovinj) I turn into something like a loose cannon in the kitchen and start cooking and baking all kinds of interesting things that I would never have dreamt of when still in the Netherlands, simply because I lacked time. That is the irony of it all; when I was still working as a junior researcher I had endless rows of interesting spices and herbs, full shelves and a big fridge and every cooking utensil an amateur cook needs. The only things I lacked were time and energy. Now I have plenty of that but not the means to come up with anything more creative than fried eggs and pasta. When in a 'real' kitchen, I make up for that big time.

Cinnamon Scones
Cinnamon Scones
Both in El Chorro and in Rovinj I made a quiche with spinach and goat cheese (no pictures unfortunately). This is a quiche that I made quite often in Maastricht too (as some of my more frequent dinner guests can testify), but in Maastricht I always cheated by using prefab dough sheets, as it saved time. As most countries that I visit during this trip don't sell prefab dough sheets in the supermarkets that I have been to (hurray for that!) I decided to stop cheating and do the real deal: make short crust pastry all by myself. It is not exactly rocket science but I was very proud when I first managed to do this with the still limited kitchen utensils I had at my disposal (using an empty wine bottle for a rolling pin). In Rovinj I decided to upgrade my dough making experience somewhat by making cinnamon scones. That was an interesting experience, both in the supermarket (do you know what all-purpose flour is in Croatian? And they sell a million different kind of flour and bread mixes and whatever kind of grained wheat) and in the kitchen (I used all my collected sugar bags! And do you know yoghurt in dough sticks like hell?*), but the result was very satisfying. Now I have to start drinking a lot of tea on terraces and in bars again to replenish by supply of sugar bags. :-D

Kefta tajine
Kefta tajine
Another feat I am very proud of is kefta tajine and nasi goreng (with sateh sauce made from peanut butter), which I both managed to make on our dear petrol monster as well. It turned out that making kefta tajine is just a dirty job (only to be undertaken when a tap is near) and nasi goreng with sateh involves a lot of juggling with all the different pans. And what about this: pizza! In order to make the dough for the quiche I bought a 1 kg bag of flour (that was the smallest they had) and since I did not think flour and campsite cooking would go hand in hand I decided to use as much flour as I could in the time I was cooking indoors in a semi-decent kitchen with an oven. That resulted not only in the aforementioned quiche and cinnamon scones, but also in said pizza (fortunately I found one forgotten sugar bag, hidden in one of the dark corners of the tiny kitchen).
Pizza speciale
Pizza speciale
By the way, this was not the first time I made pizza. The first time was about ten years ago in Turku, Finland, which was great fun, until the day after when I discovered that it is possible to eat too much pizza... Nothing than fond memories though! Nevertheless, I made (and ate!) a bit more civilized portion this time, and boy, it was good! Eat that, Italians!

To be honest, it is not just the fact that I have a fully fledged stove with an oven at my disposal which allows me to let off steam, it is also the benefits of a fridge, which allows me to do grocery shopping and buying fresh products every few days, instead of running to the supermarket every single day at 6 pm because otherwise everything will go bad before it has had the time to reach a pan. Of course, the benefits of only having limited space and possibly no fridge are also that it forces me to think a little longer before buying large quantities of many different products, of which half goes to waste because it was simply too much to eat within the limited time frame it lasts. I can still count the number of times I threw out food since I left the Netherlands in February on the fingers of one hand and even then it was mostly because I was stupid enough to buy cheap ass tangerines at the supermarket instead of good ones, hand-picked at a local market. And if there is one thing that I hate when it comes to food, it is throwing food away (yes, that comes first, even before red cabbage, imagine!). There is so much hunger and malnutrition in this world; it would not hurt to think a little longer before indulging ourselves in large quantities of unnecessary food, that subsequently is thrown out. So, I should not give our little petrol monster too much of a hard time. In fact, it has served me well in the past few months, with hopefully many months to come! :-*

*I do not know whether it is sticky in hell, but as it is supposed to be hot there...

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