We’re onto the fourth video in my cooking on the road series and this week I take a look at mussels. They’re cheap and when you’re near the coast you can’t beat them for a quick and easy meal. An excellent source of Selenium, and vitamin B12, and a good source of Zinc, and folate, they also have a high calorific value – making them the perfect food for on the go.
1. Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won’t close when lightly squeezed.
2. Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell.
3. Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter with the herbs, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels – it should only be half full.
4. Add the mussels and wine or cider, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then.
5. Add the cream and more chopped parsley and remove from the heat.
6. Spoon into two large warmed bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread.
Cut everything into thin slices,except the sugar peas and nuts. Stir fry in above order. I usually precut all ingredients at home,so this meal is best eaten on a weekend trip, also, buying so little quantity ingredients in the local market may be more trouble than it’s worth in our part of the world.
Is it worth the hassle? Yes, it is so much better than expensive dehydrated packets, though they have their time, and with a good pilsner beer you are satisfaction guaranteed.
I brown off the cubed chicken an onion and some green or red peppers then chuck in one of those little packets of chinese sauce. If you can’t find fresh chicken then I’ve used frankfurters (Norway of course!), which are lovely. I’ve made a sauce from tomato puree when nothing else was available. Throw some rice in there and you’ve got a decent meal.
One of the simplest things to carry when traveling is rice – it’s light, packed full of energy and provides a hot filling meal when you need it most. My favorite traveling recipe is really simple. In this video I show you how to make it.
Boil the rice for about 3/4 of the required time before adding your meat, at this stage also add your herbs and spices and your vegetables – mix well before adding the cup-a-soup straight from the packet. Stir in the powder for a few minutes and you’re done – simplicity itself and a hot, filling, energy packed meal in a little over 10 mins.
Do you have a one pot recipe you wouldn’t be without on the road? Email me (or leave a comment below) and tell me how you make it and I’ll turn it into a video… credited to you of course.
Buying a new tent can be incredibly difficult. There are so many choices out there that it can be very confusing if you don’t know what to look for. As the northern hemisphere heads into spring, and camping becomes a comfortable alternative to the B&B again I wanted to share some tips on how to chose a good tent.
I made a little video about choosing a tent which you can watch at the bottom of this post, or over on YouTube.
1. How far from help are you?
Before you decide how much you want to spend, work out why you’re buying the tent and how far away from shelter you are. If for example you’re travelling in a Land Rover, then your tent – whilst being your primary shelter – is not as important as it is if you’re camping 10 miles from anything else on your own. Ask yourself, how near shelter am I if the tent fails? The further from help, the more you want to spend, and the more consideration needs to be taken.
2 . Materials
Simple enough, do some research on what materials work best in which senario. Are you going to be spending time in the desert? What about rain? A good tent for northern Europe, may not be the best bet for the hot climbs of central Afrrica. A swag bag works wonderfully in the dry conditions of Australia, but is simply not suited to a wet trip in Canada.
3. Size, weight and dimensions
Are you carrying the tent on your back, on the back of a motorcycle or in a car? If you’re carrying a tent you’ll need to explore high-tech options with suppliers like Exped and Tatonka. Both companies offer options with light-weight short poles and highly compressible materials – ideal for hiking and the motorbike.
If you’re in the car you have a greater range of options – consider a tent that goes up in seconds from Quecha or something designed to fold out from your vehicle in a few simple steps from people like Oz Tent.
You’ll be amazed how many tents don’t come with the essentials. Make sure you have:
Ground sheet / footprint
Good quality pegs
Strong poles / pole repair kit
Material repair kit (for fixing holes)
The ground sheet will really help with keeping condensation to a minimum – they also act as a barrier between the cold ground and your butt, but most importantly they protect the material of your tents bottom from sharp stones on rough ground. A good ground sheet means you can keep your ventilation vents open in most weathers.
Pegs are so important – many tents ship with really weak simple pegs that will not drive into hard ground and have no grip in soft ground. Try a v shaped titanium peg from people like Alpine Kit – they don’t have to be expensive! Make sure you drive the peg in at a 45 degree angle.
There are really three major tent designs. Geodysic, dome and tunnel. Depending on what type of camping your doing you’ll need to consider the different types.
Tunnel tents generally pack up very small, they also tend to have very short poles and are quite often very easy to erect. They do however require some thought when pitching – they can be badly affected by wind and you should try to pitch with the front or back facing into the wind – if you get caught side on in a gale it can not only end in a very noisy night- but can also bend the shape of the tent inwards, affecting it’s thermal capabilities and how much rain it can deal with. This is the type of tent that it is really important to buy the best of – money really does have an impact here and the more you spend generally gives you a very sturdy, tough option with all of the benefits.
Dome tents tend to be the cheapest option. You’ll see them in the supermarket for very little cash and for many applications are the ideal option. Their pack size is small, they generally only have two poles and can be purchased as an inside up first option or a fly up first option. In wetter climates the outer (fly) up first option is ideal, but in dryer hoter climbs you’ll find the option of being able to pitch the inner tent without the outer ideal – it keeps the bugs off, and lets the heat escape more efficiently.
Geodesic tents can be rather complicated to erect – but once you’ve worked out the knack they are without doubt the most stable shelters around. They tend to be more expensive and they’re what you’ll see the professional expeditions using as they head out into the great wilderness. They deal with very bad weather well, will see a gale through with hardly a twitter, these are the best options to ensure you’re safe and snug inside.
Finally I’ll come back to that first tip when choosing your tent – remember that it’s your primary shelter – if you can sleep somewhere else if it flys away or gets soaked through then don’t stress it – if you HAVE to get a good, warm, dry nights sleep then spend some money.
The best place to start is with a reputable supplier – I recommend Travel Dri-Plus – call and ask for Les – he’s the most knowledgeable person I have ever talked to about tents – if he doesn’t know it – it’s not worth knowing about.
Since I’ve been bombing around the world my Casio Exilm Z850 has been a constant companion. I rate it really highly (must write a review soon) – it’s constantly dropped from the height of my motorcycle tank bag, it’s been soaked by sea-water on at least two occasions and still it ‘just gets on with it’ and takes photographs that when I got the camera I thought were awesome and now, think are pretty good.
Some background – when I was in school I desperately wanted to be a Photo Journalist – I worked for the local paper for free and I badgered my Dad until he bought me an Olympus OM-10 from the local second hand stor
e – complete with ‘manual adaptor’. It had a light metre inside but other than that I was totally on my own. After months of paper-rounds and being paid to take my friends band photos I managed to scrape enough money to ‘upgrade’ the the Olympus OM-2n .
It made a big difference to my shots, as did the purchase of a 2x adaptor and, at great expense, a 75mm Olympus lens. I held onto the dream of becoming a Photo Journalist right through my engineering apprenticeship (where the camera managed to earn me some money on the side in Caerphilly town centre of a Saturday morning) and right into University in Swansea, where finally, the dream died and I sold the camera for much needed rent money.
Since then I’ve had a succession of crap compact cameras that just didn’t cut the mustard. The Casio has rather re-ignited that old desire to take wonderful photographs and I find myself slipping it into manual as much as the fully automatic settings – I’ve even bought an old Konica Minolta 35mm SLR to mess around with (it’s been out of the bag once).
My composition needs a little work , I need to get my head out of snapshot mode, but I feel the old juices still flow and can’t wait to get back into thinking through a shot properly before I take it. So now the tough part – I need a new camera.
Decent video mode
Solid lens support
Easy to charge (I’m running this from the motorbike / powermonkey)
Easy to transfer images (no propritary connectors – worst case – SD cards are good)
Let’s ignore the money side of things for the moment and work the ‘perfect world senario’.
What do you suggest? I have a totally open mind and no legacy kit to support.
I can hardly begin to describe to you the utter bliss of any kind of shower after eight hours on a 777. Those of you that do the long-haul flying thing will understand that eight hours is about the limit, to then consider doing another 11 hours immediately afterwards fills most people with the heeby-jeebies.
So I find myself in Kuala Lumpur for the second time in as many months, doing 28 hour jaunts to Australia and back. It’s worth it – but only if you can find some way to pass the time in KL.
First time here I discovered a bad cafe with bad beer, bad coffee, and even worse service. I wasn’t looking forward to my second visit. The comparason however is difficult to describe. I’ve discovered that they have an airport lounge (normally reserved for those lucky enough to be flying business class) that you can simply pay to use.
It’s called the Plaza Premium Lounge and costs just 120RM for five hours use. That’s about 20 GBP. Amazing. For this sum I got a cold shower (which here, just over the equator, was rather nice) free food, free diet coke, and most importantly one of the best massages I have ever had.
But unfortunately I’ve aslo had an experience with an aging British chap, who didn’t have anything on. Poor old love thought that the wash-room / shower complex thing was an exlusive deal. He was under the impression that he had paid his 20 quid for full use of both showers, the two toilets, and the two basins. How do you explain to a someone most definately your senior, that perhaps it’s not exclusive, and perhaps, if it’s okay with him, he could maybe put something on his bottom half.
All embarasment was saved however, when he walked out into the reception area (towel now drapped around his mid-rift) demanding to speak to the manager whilst I quickly tried to have a wee before I was thrown out. I’ve never been good at having a wee under pressure, and this was definately pressure. Never mind. I managed to squeeze out a small one, retire back to the lounge and hide behind one of the free PCs to write this.
I’m back in blighty – not only that but I’m back in London as it all seems to be kicking off. Grabbed a copy of MCN on the way out of the country a few weeks ago and caught a large article proclaiming to be organising a ride through Central London to let the government know what we think about road pricing.
londonbikers.com have a great article explaining why RiderConnect and MCN have teamed up to deal with this issue – it’s worth a quick read – but what gets me, and what worries me is why MCN are involved. I have a horrible feeling it’s only to increase their circulation rather than do any good. It’s that dreadful double edged sword of getting into bed with any red top… you get wonderful publicity, but you’re also sleeping with the Devil.
It’s a great cause, and I’ll be there with the others ready to have my voice, or engine, heard outside No. 10.
… ahhh the wonderful constant warmness that is a shower that works. The amazing one touch bliss of Sky TV, and the soothing pleasure of a computer monitor and keyboard in English… it can only mean one thing.
I’m sat in a little cafe on the harbor front at Dieppe. Wonderful little place that sums up France perfectly. It’s full of locals chewing the fat, drinking extremely strong coffee, with extremely strong cigarettes, whilst a dog sniffs around their feet being greatly ignored by all but me.
Other locals sit in a corner on their own contemplating the rain and cold that has gripped this coastal town. They nurse their larger (you simply can’t call it beer) with two hands, hoping that by clutching it so close they’ll some-how warm it, and turn a 1 euro bier turn into a 10 euro brandy. I do love the French.
I don’t know if it’s the rain, the fact I have 2 hours to kill or the idea that this is the last stretch of time I’ll have on this trip where I’m not within England’s borders, but I’ve been going over my thoughts for this trip; I’m troubled.
It seems that after 2 weeks I’m starting to get a taste for this travel lark. I actually want to head back to Morocco right now and finish what I started. Another part of me is screaming that I’m insane. Perhaps.
I’m coming to the conclusion that travel isn’t easy, it’s not something that you can just pick up and ‘do’. The problem is of course we’ve all learnt that travel is easy, it’s as easy as a few mouse clicks, a trip to the airport and a genial conversation with your tour rep in Tanger to arrange a nice air conditioned bus trip out to the ‘real’ Morocco. Once there you can buy pottery and Fez hats to your hearts delight. In the evening you can settle down to your steak and chips, enjoy the pleasant company of your fellow country men, then retire to your European hotel – complete with bidet – has anyone in the UK actually worked out how you use one of those?
But travel isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be. When I decided that it was time to come home it was a decision that meant 5 more days on the road to even get back to the UK, never mind home. Had I made that decision on a package holiday I could have been home within 24 hours.
I like the idea that this is hard, I like the idea that this is something I’m going to have to work at, something that doesn’t come naturally to me, and something which I’m going to struggle at.
I’ve worked hard these past 2 weeks, and I’ve learnt so much. The most important of which is that I need to learn French before I even attempt to go away again – and I need more than a smattering of the local language before I even attempt to travel there. Language is so important. I feel I’ve broken the back of this travel lark, that I know what to expect and what I need to do in order to make it what I’ve always dreamt it would be.
It takes work, it takes dedication, and most of all it takes more than 2 weeks before you start to lose the feeling of being ‘away from home’ and instead start to adopt the feeling of ‘on the road’ – I may change all the tags for my articles to ‘away from home’ until todays post; it would be more fitting.
I envy people like Wilfred Thieger and Ted Simon, people who can pick their things up and depart for the wild regions of this planet and enjoy them without the pull of family. Perhaps that’s too strong, Wilfred loved his mother dearly and his letters home show how much he missed her and his brothers. He had no close tie to a wife, a partner, certainly no close tie to anyone other than his aids and comrades on the road.
Wilfred Thieger made his friends on the road, employed them, and took them with him ensuring a constant companion that was there when he needed a crutch. Ted Simon on the other hand, as he says in his own books, has lost several women to his travels; something which he says he doesn’t regret, but still…. perhaps that’s something I’ll never be able to achieve. I must find a way to do this without the heartache of wanting a family who does not wish to travel this way.
I still have an hour before I leave for the ferry, I’ve already drunk 4 espressos, can I stomach another, or should I order another Croque Monsieur? These are the questions that only another 2 weeks on the road can answer. Roll on Russia.