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:
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?
- 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.