Day 96: Hostel cookery

It was my last day in National Park today and the grim weather returned so nothing for it but a day by the fire watching movies and, after a day tramping across Mordor, what else would we watch but The Lord of the Rings Trilogy?

Reaching New Zealand’s hostels has seen my reunion with a long lost friend… the kitchen.

The accommodation in China and Vietnam did not feature kitchens but with street food, especially in Vietnam being so cheap and tasty, this didn’t matter.

In more expensive countries, like New Zealand (though I am still cold-turkeying from Vietnamese prices and by the end of next week, I’ll be thinking: “Actually, that’s not bad” in comparison with UK prices) you can keep costs down by cooking your own food.

With the weather being forecast to be so horrible while I was in National Park, I thought I’d use some of the time to cook for myself.

So, on the first afternoon here I headed off shopping.

There is only one supermarket in National Park and that’s at the petrol station so prices are not the cheapest.

For 68NZD I arrived back at the hostel with this:

Apples, asparagus, bread, cashew nuts, chorizo, cucumber, jar of Rogan Josh paste, milk, mixed herbs, mixed peppers, spinach, muesli, onions, sundried tomato hummus, tins of coconut milk and lentils, tomatoes and…
…three bars of Whittakers chocolate after the cashier informed me that New Zealand has the best chocolate. Well, there’s a claim that needs to be taste-tested.

This was to provide me with four breakfasts, four lunches, four dinners and snacks (including on the hike across the Tongariro Crossing).

Dinner was to be a variation of a Jamie Oliver recipe – yes, for four nights. Bulk cooking and reheating after daily hikes would be cheap and easier than having to summon the energy to cook from scratch each night.

Jools Easy Chicken Curry is a nice easy straightforward recipe and even missing out some of the elements that really add to the flavour (like fresh ginger), the hostel variation is a tasty version.

I like a vegetarian version of this curry so didn’t worry about finding chicken. The basis of the recipe is the curry paste, lentils and tomatoes (tinned or fresh), and it stands up to adaptation, making it a good one for hostel cooks to experiment with.

First step is trying to find chopping boards and knives. In this kitchen we appeared to have three blunt machetes and nothing smaller. I can work with that.

Hostel kitchens are geared up (generally) for group or bulk cooking so it’s usually easy to find a large pan.

Having found the pan, the next challenge can be reading the settings on the old/well used cooker.

I generally try to cook at times when the kitchen is relatively quiet otherwise everyone is getting under each other’s feet, but it’s nice to chat while cooking too.

And while the end result isn’t going to win any prizes for presentation, it tastes good…

…and can be stored for bowls of curry to be reheated on following days.

What more do you want?

Top Tips:

  • Before you set off, learn a few basic recipes that can be made using a few ingredients – I’m not talking complicated, just something that is tasty and when you arrive in the supermarket, you’re not wandering aimlessly, wondering what ingredients to buy and what you will make.
  • Check the kitchen before you go shopping. Some hostels are equipped with spices and basic ingredients so you don’t have to buy far more ingredients than you can use or carry onwards. Some hostels have nothing – jars or packets of ready mixed sauces are going to be your friends.
  • Get used to preparing food with basic utensils and tools – there isn’t going to be a food mixer in the hostel.
  • Head to the market when you go shopping, if there is one – most of the mini-markets and convenience stores around a hostel will charge a fortune and the produce won’t be great.
  • Bring some shopping bags. I have two cotton shopping bags and for buying fruit and vegetables three beeswax lunch bags. They’re all washable and I won’t get charged for buying bags and I’m trying to reduce how much plastic I use.

P.S. My friend Mr “How Fucking Much?” arrives in New Zealand tomorrow. I’m looking forward to his reaction to prices, though he’s arriving from Hong Kong. He probably won’t get too much of a shock.

Standing by with the (overly priced) popcorn, just in case.

Categories: New Zealand, Preparation, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. You must have read my mind, as I was about to ask you about food….other than your love of cakes, how you were finding healthy sustainable meals. Food is my thing you see…well, one of my things. Buying food, cooking it and moving on must be tricky at times.
    Loving the northern humour you inject in your posts……from a fellow northern who was born in Middlesbrough, and who used to live not far from the disastrous renaming of Teesside airport (Durham- Tees Valley), and living in Auckland since 2012. If you call back to Auckland I can highly recommend a few raw cake outlets…..PS Just wait until Avos reach $6 for one!!!!! Love reading your posts and insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks very much for the kind words! I will be back in Auckland so any recommendations gladly taken! We’re from similar parts of the world. I was born in Durham.


      • So I’d recommend The Raw Kitchen and Little Bird Organics. Both have websites and Facebook pages. Their cakes don’t have a grain of unrefined sugar, and if you have an allergy to nuts you are well and truly stuffed!!!
        Durham- was there last summer….lovely walk by the river and a trip to the passport office! Hope you enjoyed your curry and I look forward to reading more about your current adventures in NZ and afterwards.


      • Thank you very much for the recommendations!


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