How to Cook Great Food On The Road

Back when I was first training to be a chef, I travelled around quite a bit and because of financial constraints, I more often than to stayed in hostels and budget accommodation. During this time, I couldn’t really afford to eat out and as you can expect, I was more than happy to grab some ingredients and cook back at my digs. Since then things have obviously changed for me somewhat but I still get loads of people asking me how they can live a budget travel lifestyle, and still eat well. I thought I put together a few helpful hints and tips for anyone wanting to know how to accomplish this.

Flavor is Key

Ever since I was a younger traveler, and still now, I have carried around a few little bags of flavor so that I can breathe life into even the most boring of meals. Usually I will pack a bag of mixed herbs such as parsley, oregano and garlic mix, as well as a bag of ground salt and pepper for seasoning plus a red bag with ground paprika and chile. With these three bags, you can revolutionize any meal.

Go One Pot

You never know what kind of cooking facilities you may have and for this reason I used to always aim for one pot meals. With this type of cooking you are far more likely to have the equipment and you will also have far less washing up. My go-to one pot meals would usually be simple stuff like a chile, a curry or even a poor man’s paella. These dishes are tasty to eat and they just make the whole cooking process much simpler.

Local Produce

If you are traveling on a budget then the one thing that you can usually rely on, regardless of where you are in the world, is some great local produce. Make sure that you are willing to be flexible as to what produce you eat. If you are buying locally sourced stuff then it will be far cheaper and far tastier, buying your favorite fruit and veg which had to be imported will set you back much more cash.

Markets

I love shopping in markets and I always have, and it is the best place for anyone who is traveling on a budget to find their supplies. The reason for market shopping is simple, the food is usually fresher and of a higher quality, the cost of the food is cheaper and most importantly, you can get the quantity which you need. This means that you can avoid buying large packets of stuff from super markets when you are only staying somewhere for a night or two. If you want the tastiest and most cost effective shopping option, go and find the nearest market.

What tricks do you use when you are traveling around and trying to cook great food? Let us know all about it in the comments section below this post.

Top Tips For A Proper Aussie-Style Barbecue

The barbecue is one of my favorite ways of cooking, it is a communal activity which takes us back to our hunter-gatherer roots. In fact, there are few things better when the sun is shining than to fire up the coals and cook up some delicious dishes in the most traditional way possible. There is so much to love about this type of cooking, the smells are amazing, the theater of it all is equally as impressive and then of course, there is the taste of the flame-grilled food. One of the countries which does it best in my view, is Australia and the Aussies have perfected this way of cooking. If you want to get outside this summer and fire up the barbie, here is how to make sure it’s perfect.

Coals not Gas

Whilst modern technology has created many great things which help us cook, one of my least favorites is the gas barbecue, I understand why it exists but for me, it takes away the true essence of a barbecue. If you want to do things right then you need to get some coal, some firelighters and cook your food the old fashioned way.

Preparing Food

It often surprises me how few people actually prepare the food before they cook it and if you want to do it properly, then your barbecue actually starts the night before. When it comes to the meat, you want to ensure that it is properly prepared, if you want some flavor on the meat then make a mix, place it in a bag with your meat and let it sit overnight. Even if you just want a basic steak, salt, pepper and a splash of oil the night before will ensure that it tastes great and keeps its succulence.

Beyond Meat

Meat tastes great on a barbecue but don’t be fooled into thinking that it is the only thing which you can cook. Fish also tastes amazing on the grill and so too do many vegetables like peppers, onions and my personal favorite, corn. Do be restricted when it comes to cooking on the barbie, almost everything tastes great on here and you can even use the coals to prepare some foil wrapped baked potatoes.

Clean, But Not Too Well

You may not find this in too many food safety guides but a barbecue, in my view, should never be spotless. Once you have finished cooking, by all means give that barbecue a good scrub to get any left over meat off the rack, but do not worry if there is still plenty of blackness on the grill. There is no scientific reason for this, nor is it probably the safest in the eyes of those with high food standards but the additional taste which comes from it is well worth it. I have been cooking on less-than-clean racks for years and the only thing that has ever happened as a result, was that I had some damn tasty barbecue food.

The Foods That Make The Middle East My Favorite Region

I have sampled foods from all over the world, I have enveloped myself into cultures through their street food and traditional offerings and I have eaten at some of the world’s finest restaurants. Throughout my travels, I have constantly changed my ‘top 3’ food destinations and regions and the one which has always featured, and the one that I now consider to be my favorite, is the Middle East. I know that this is a very wide region and that within that, there is a plethora of foods, styles and ingredients. With that being said however, there are also many constants throughout this area of the world in terms of cooking styles and delicious dishes and here are the foods which made me fall head over heels in love with this region of the world.

Hummus

One thing that I love most about the Lenbanese/Middle Eastern foods is the simplicity with which they present and chief among my favorite, and most simple dishes is hummus. Made using blended chick peas and tahini and the mixed with a wide variety of additional flavors, this dip is absolutely to-die-for and a plate of this served up with some warm flatbread is all I need to be happy.

Falafel

Again relying on chick peas, falafel is blended peas mixed with flour, a little cumin and saffron and then deep fried in balls or small patties. Falafel will be served either in pittas or flatbread, alongside a healthy serving of fresh yoghurt and some salad. This is also the perfect replacement for hamburgers for anyone who does not eat meat, fresh, flavorsome and very filling.

Halloumi

I am a huge cheese fan and for me, Halloumi is right up there with my favorites. If you taste this cheese on its own, cold, then you will probably not think much of it, heat it up over a grill however and this cheese completely transforms into a gooey and delicious addition to any meal.

Tabouleh

Tabouleh is the perfect accompaniment to any dish and it has a taste that instantly takes me back to Morocco. Made using chopped parsley, tomatoes, mint, garlic, lemon juice and bulgar wheat, this side dish is aromatic and super refreshing.

Skewers

The Middle East is a perfect place for vegetarians and vegans such is the locals non-reliance on meat, with that being said, when they do cook meat, it is succulent, moist and tasty. The best example would be the meat skewers which you can get on the streets, seasoned meat wrapped around metal skewers and then blazed over an open fire. The finished product is a crispy exterior and perfectly cooked center, you can get these all over the Middle East and lash it in your favorite type of sauce, quick, tasty and readily available.

Vegetable Treatment

I love the way they treat vegetables in the Middle East, they take out the boredom attached with many veggies and they love a wide variety of cooking methods when it comes to the veg. Steaming, frying, roasting, grilling and stuffing of veg is all common practice here and they are some of my favorite ways to cook vegetables.

Top Mexican Street Food Dishes

As a chef, I used to be a huge fan of fine dining, fusion food and the general art of the plate, in recent years however, traveling the world has brought my back to the very heart of what cooking actually means. This new approach of mine has made me fall back in love with the beauty and simplicity of food and more specifically, with the street food culture. When done in the right way, street food can give an insight into a country’s culture and very often I have found that food cooked by someone who cares, on a small gas stove or hotplate, to be the finest food which you can find. My favorite place to eat street food is in Mexico and here are some of my favorite dishes.

 

Tacos

It would be foolish not to mention tacos, here they are not the hard-shell variety which you may have tried in the past but a soft tortilla filled with any number of ingredients. Different vendors will specialize in varying types of fillings and serve it with me chopped onions, some cilantro, a splash of salsa and finally some fresh cut limes. Here are some of the fillings that you can expect to find.

  • Pastor- Lamb which has been cooked on a spit
  • Carnitas – Braised or roasted pork
  • Longaniza – Chorizo-like sausage
  • Lengua – Ox tongue
  • Tripita – Grilled tripe

Tlacoyos

These little delights are made using a dough which comes from blue corn and gives a green color to the dough, they are formed into thick pads about the size of your hand and then fried with ingredients both inside and out. Often these will be stuffed with black beans and served with salsa, cheese and napoles (cactus) on top.

Tamales

Each morning in Mexico City you can here the men and women shouting at the tops  of their voices that they have tamales, beautiful packets of joy which are usually served by the person shouting, direct from their bicycle. Tamales are made from a corn-based dough, which have been mixed with any range of meats and spices which are then formed into a packet and cooked in a corn husk. They are steamed and sold hot, still inside their husk. Traditionally you will eat these with a chunk of crispy bread and a splash of lime.

Quesadillas

If you haven’t tried a quesadilla in Mexico, then you haven’t tried a quesadilla and that blend of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese which you’ve packed into a flour wrap, is nothing close to what you will experience here. The quesadillas in Mexico are made using corn tortillas which are packed with delicious cheese from Oaxaca which melts perfectly, the quesadilla is then deep fried quickly and served with cream and white cheese sprinkled on the top. Quesadillas to vary somewhat, often you can find the tortilla made from wheat, and also how they are served in terms of the amount of fillings which you can add and even in size, some places specializing in footlong versions!

Mexican street food is my favorite in the world, let me know what your favorite kind of street food is in the comments section.

Avoiding Food Poisoning on the Road

It is said that travel actually makes us healthier as human beings, this comes as a result of being exposed to different types of bacterias throughout the world and the new defenses which our bodies create as a consequence. Whilst us travelers may be healthier in the long run, those new bacterias can also cause us a bit of trouble in the short term.

One such illness that many travelers run into is food poisoning, this happens either as a result of our stomachs not being accustomed to new foods, or poor cooking practices throughout the world. If you want to do your bit to try and avoid food poisoning, then here are some of the best ways to do it.

Ice Cubes

Ice cubes may appear pretty innocent but they are one of the biggest causes of food poisoning throughout the world. The reason for this is that there are only a handful of countries in the world with good enough filtration systems that allow us to drink water directly from the tap. Many bars and restaurants will use tap water for their ice cubes and then us unsuspecting foreigners order a drink with ice. The best way to avoid this is to simply ask whether the ice is made with tap water or not, or alternatively, say no to ice altogether.

Salad

If you are buying salad from markets around the world then you have to spend the time on thoroughly washing it. Food poisoning from fresh salad can either come directly from the dirt where the salad was grown, or from the treatment which the salad receives on its way to your plate. Lettuce in particular offers bacteria the perfect conditions to thrive and if you are not careful then you could easily be struck down with painful food poisoning, from a simple salad.

Street Food

Most street food vendors around the world are not exactly well versed when it comes to food hygiene and if you look carefully you will see many ingredients sitting out all day, which should be refrigerated. If you are worried that this is happening then avoid the food altogether, alternatively, the best way to stay safe is to go to the busiest street food vendors, if it isn’t making the other people sick, you should be alright too.

Trust Your Instinct

No matter whether you are eating on the street or in a fancy restaurant, it is important that you trust your instinct regarding what you put in your mouth. If the food which you are eating doesn’t look good or smell great then you shouldn’t eat it. Food poisoning can take you completely out of the game for many days and it will be painful and uncomfortable, for that reason you need to do all that you can to avoid it and if any food is giving you doubts, do not put it into your mouth.

The Amazing Flexibility of the Tagine

The tagine, or tajine, is a cooking dish which originates from Africa and is the tool with which many cook their daily meals. The types of tagging vary but they are usually made from clay and are made up of two parts, at the base is a clay plate, of varying sizes, with a pyramid shaped lid which sits on the top. The reason a tagging works so well to cook food is that the design ensures that the steam from the cooking process, re-enters the dish and creates a moist and succulent batch of ingredients.

Evidence of people using tagines throughout Africa have been found as far back as the 9th century and there have been many discoveries throughout the years of different types of pottery which were used to make the cooking pots, all identical in their plate and cone-like design. The beauty of these cooking pots is that you can make a wide number of dishes and I love experimenting with different types of meals. Let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of your tagine.

Moroccan Tagine

The Moroccan-style tagines are almost always slow-cooked stews of the savory variety, they use a wide mixture of ingredients from sliced meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. The key to creating a beautiful Moroccan dish is to get the herbs and spices just right and there is a really wide variety of these available to you in order to create that perfect Moroccan flavor. Here you can expect to use any combination of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and paprika as well as African favorite, saffron. Here are some of the types of dishes which you can expect to find with a Moroccan tagine.

  • Slow cooked lamb with fruits
  • Chicken with vegetables
  • Almond tagine
  • Lamb and mango
  • Lamb with prunes and almonds
  • Slow cooked beef in herby gravy

.Tunisian Tagine

The Tunisian tagging is completely different to the type that you will find in Morocco and it is a dish which is probably closer to an Italian fritatta. This complicated blend of ingredients is cooked in similar pots to the meals in Morocco but the outcome is instead, a thick slab of beautiful ingredients, packed full of flavors. Using a basic ragout recipe, the liquid is thickened using the likes of chick peas, potatoes, cannellini beans or bread. Tender meat is then flavored with a blend of herbs and spices before it is added to the stew with some eggs and cheese. The whole mix is then laid out on to the cooking plate and usually heated over an open fire or hot coals. Once the tagine is ready it is taken out and served in squares, much like a quiche would be. The dish is served with nothing other than a slice of lemon, absolutely beautiful.

Have you tried cooking with a tagine before? How did it work out for you? Let us know how you got on in the comments section below.

 

Which Are The Best Countries to Visit as a Vegan

A lot of my best travel buddies have chosen the vegan lifestyle and I was talking to one of them recently about our experiences across the world in terms of which countries are the most accommodating for vegans. There are many cities which I have visited which really promote veganism and have wide options for restaurants and cafes, today however I want to take a look at which countries are the best to visit for vegans, which aren’t actively trying to remove meat from the menu, because it they already have.

India

India has one of the largest populations of vegetarians on the planet and this in turn lends itself to a an easy-to-find vegan lifestyle. Animals are sacred in the religions throughout India and as such, meat features very rarely on the menu, the only watch outs therefore for vegans are the uses of cheese, butter and cream in the cooking process. Thankfully, such is the beauty of the curry, almost all of these are either vegan by design, or can easily be turned into vegan meals. The approach to India food is more about the flavor of the ingredients and the use of vegetables and potatoes is enhanced with a wonderful blend of herbs and spices. The sheer amount of grains, pulses, lentils, cereals, beans and vegetables gives a vegan more than enough options to get live a tasty and fulfilling lifestyle here.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei has really cemented itself as a vegan mecca in recent years and the culture here just continues to grow year on year. Speaking to all of my vegan buddies, they tell me that this is the place which they would happily keep going back to in order to enjoy not only a beautiful island, but also a wide range of outstanding vegan food. The food choices here range from the locally cooked, and mightily delicious vegan street food, right the way up to high-end restaurants who are constantly striving to put new and exciting vegan dishes on the menu, in fact, Taipei offers over 6,000 vegetarian and vegan establishments! Because of the abundance of ingredients in Taipei, vegans can also count on some pretty cheap options, vegan food on a budget is very easily done here, perfect for the conscious traveler.

Morocco

Throughout my travels around northern Africa, I found so many countries which offer plentiful options for vegan travelers and Morocco is most definitely a favorite. Even raw food vegans can find a wide range of options here and whilst there is plenty of meat about, the meals do not depend on it by any stretch of the imagination. Fruits and nuts are regularly used in cooking, so too is a vast range of vegetables as well as beans and lentils being heavily depended upon. The key to great Moroccan food is often plenty of veg, rice and most importantly, a tasty blend of local spices. If you are looking for a great vegan lifestyle then Morocco is a great place to consider.

Dishes You Simply Must Try In Indonesia

Indonesia is an incredible place to discover new foods, this vast archipelago has been influenced by a wide variety of different cultures throughout the years thanks to its various years of colonization and the result is a blend of food choices which are widely considered as the best in Asia. If you are fortunate enough to make a trip to the Indonesian islands then here are some of the finest foods which I recommend that you try during your time there.

Satay

You will do well to find anywhere in Indonesia that doesn’t sell these beautiful meat skewers, you will find them in restaurants and in the streets. The meat which is used is usually lamb although you can find pork varieties. The meat is seasoned with light spices and then cooked over coals until it is ready. The satay is usually served with lashings of tasty peanut sauce and accompanied with rice cakes.

Nasi Rawon

This delicious beef stew from the East Java region is just about as hearty as it gets and it will leave you with the strange of feeling of being incredibly full, but still wanting more. The stew is made with beed which has been slow cooked using a variety of different herbs which are added during the cooking process. Thanks to the addition of the keluak nut, the stew is deep black in color and incredibly fresh and fragrant in taste and smell. Grab a bowl of this with some freshly cooked rice and you will be set up for the day.

Siomay

This dish is the Indonesian variety of a dim sum and can be found in any street food market across the country. This beautiful dish contains steamed fish dumplings which are served with steamed eggs, cabbage and potato before the final addition of a tasty peanut sauce. You will often see this dish served from local vendors who sell siomay directly from the back of their bicycle, now that is true street food!

Nasi Uduk

One of Indonesia’s many national dishes, Nasi Uduk is an aromatic serving of rice cooked in coconut milk and which is served up with crispy fried chicken, a shredded omelette, some onion and tempe, you will also find some nut crackers around the outside as well as some fresh anchovies in a meal which I would consider Indonesian tapas on a plate. If you are looking for a lunchtime meal which packs in flavor, freshness and variety then this is the one you should be going after.

Sweet Martabak

I often feel that Asian foods in general are often overlooked for their tasty deserts and this is a prime example of how well they can do them in Indonesia. Sweet martabak is a thick pancake mixture which is served up in a sweet sandwich, only sold on evenings, you can pack your martabak with any mixture of chocolate, peanuts or sweet cheese and it is a perfect compliment to any main meal.

So there you have it, my favorite Indonesian dishes which you must try, let me know if you think I’ve missed any out!

How to Make The Perfect Hot Pot

The hot pot is a classic English meal which has been served for generations and it still remains as one of the most hearty meals which you will find in the country. The story of the hotpot starts way back in the 17th Century in northern England, before the industrial revolution. Such was the cooking facilities that people had as well as the amount of time which they would spend working, spending a great deal of time and effort over food wasn’t possible.

During those days, mutton was usually the meat of choice and the women would leave scrags of it cooking over the fire for large periods of time. Once the mutton was slow-cooked, it would have vegetables and potatoes added to it with water and stock. Once the casserole was ready, the women would take their meal in a pudding bag down to the baker’s oven to finish cooking, and the hot pot was born. These days the cooking method has changed somewhat and there are variations on ingredients, it still remains as a beautiful dish and here is how to make one for you and the family.

Season and Cook

The first step is to season the meat, in this recipe we are going to use beef braising steak, perfect for this kind of dish. Once the meat is seasoned you need to fry it until browned. Remove the meat from the pan and place to one side. Set the oven to 170 degrees and place an empty casserole dish inside.

Veg Next

Add another knob of butter to the pan and start frying off the onions until they are lightly browned, towards the end of cooking, add the carrots in for around 1 minute.

Preparing the Casserole

Add the meat back in to the frying pan and gradually add in about a liter if chicken stock, as you stir in the stock, add flour to thicken up the gravy. Season with freshly ground pepper and some salt and if you want to add a little something extra then you could also place a couple of sprigs of time into the mix. Bring it all to the boil and then take it off the heat.

Next up you will need to slice your potatoes, you want these about 5mm thick. Now begin to add the mixture to the casserole dish and then add a layer of potatoes on top of the meat, repeat this process two or three times and then add a further layer of potatoes on the top.

Finally, cook the casserole in the oven for 1 hour with the lid on and then remove the lid for the last 15 minutes to make sure those potatoes are nice and crunchy.

Eat

After the casserole has finished cooking, take it out of the oven and leave it to stand for 10 minutes, then serve with some nice crunchy bread and enjoy this delicious and hearty meal.

How do you cook your hotpot? If you have any variations then please let us know.

Italian Foods That Will Change Your Life

Throughout my career, the one thing that has often surprised me about foreign foods is that they are terribly bastardized when they are imported and so many people want to domesticate these great foods in order to fit their own tastes. Food will always taste better when you are eating it in its home country but that is not to say that we shouldn’t at leas try to replicate it when cooking it back home. One such type of cuisine that this often happens to is Italian and pizza in particular. I traveled throughout Italy last year and discovered true Italian cooking, away from the pizza and here are some of the finest offerings that I sampled.

Bigoli

Spaghetti is a beautiful dish and has been one of my favorites for a while, this take on it comes from the Veneto region and is absolutely sumptuous. The spaghetti here is tubular and more of a thick pasta noodle than the traditional spaghetti, it is made with buckwheat flour and duck eggs. Traditionally served with some kind of reed wine sauce or some slowly cooked duck, this stodgy spaghetti tastes absolutely delicious.

Ribollita

The origins of ribollita comes from the poorest communities of Italy when food was a luxury and the women who cooked were forced to make do with  what they could, the result was outstanding. This hearty dish is a soup based meal which consists of boiled vegetables with the addition of bread to thicken the soup. The thing that sets this vegetable soup apart from any other is that beautiful blend of Italian herbs, the best place to go if you want to try this tasty dish is the region of Tuscany. 

Canederli

This is also a meal which has its origins in the poorer areas of Italy and this dish in particular comes from the Trentino-Alto Adige region.  The dish is made up from using leftover bread which is mixed with eggs and mil and formed into large dumplings. You will usually find that the bread is then mixed with speck or cured meats as well as herbs and cheese before the dumpling are boiled in beef broth. They say that this is a great hangover dish and whilst they may be right, this dish is great at any time of the day, filling and delicious.

Torrone

Something that everyone can agree on is the ability of the Italians to create outstanding deserts and torrone is one of my all time favorites. This dish combines egg whites, sticky nougat, toasted nuts and some citrus which is all mixed together and formed into a big, tasty slate. A slice of this devilish desert is the perfect compliment to a true Italian meal or you can enjoy it in a local cafe with some strong coffee.

What is your favorite Italian dish, aside from pizza? Let us know in the comments section below this post.