It’s important to eat well while you’re on the road — drink a couple of litres of water, have five serves of fruit and veg, not over-do the alcohol. However, it can be a challenge — the hostel kitchen might not be very well-equipped, or the supermarket might not have the ingredients you need. Eating out can get expensive and often isn’t particularly nutritious either.
It’s a good idea to have a couple of tried-and-true recipes up your sleeve, that can be adapted for locally-obtainable ingredients. The following mince recipe is one of my staples — it can be used with nacho chips for nachos, or with tortillas and salad for burritos. It can be used for tacos or lasagne, can go in small pastries for an interesting finger-food option, and it can be frozen. Plus, if mince (aka ground beef) isn’t available, you can chop steak into thin strips and it works almost as well.
Versatile mince mix
- 300g mince/ground beef
- One large onion or several small ones
- Optional other vegetables: red peppers, courgette, mushrooms
- Two cans of chopped tomatoes (or about 10 fresh tomatoes, chopped finely and heated in a saucepan with a little water until soft)
- One or two cans of mixed beans (or use soaked beans)
- One can of lentils
- Three (or more) tablespoons of tomato paste
- Oil for frying
- Salt, pepper, chilli powder, mixed herbs
Brown the mince in a frying pan or wok and drain to remove fat. Remove from frying pan. Chop the onions finely and fry until clear. Add other vegetables if you want, such as peppers, courgette and mushrooms. Put the mince back in the pan and add tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and seasonings — I always add sweet Thai chilli sauce when available. Heat until bubbling then lower the heat and simmer for at least half an hour, until a lot of the liquid has steamed off and you’re left with a thick reddish mince mix.
It’s pretty healthy, since it contains a lot of vegetables, and you can make it healthier still by serving it with a salad of locally-grown produce (carefully washed, of course). If avocados are available, a logical accompaniment is guacamole — see below!
- One ripe avocado
- One medium-sized tomato
- Half a small onion
- Half a teaspoon of salt
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- One tablespoon of sour cream
Dice the onion into tiny pieces. Sprinkle the salt over the top of the chopped onion and squeeze in. Set aside. Chop the tomato into small (3mm cubed) pieces. Mash the avocado and stir in the lemon juice and sour cream. Add the tomato and onion and stir until mixed in. Easy.
If sour cream isn’t available, thickened cream also works, or just leave it out for a less-creamy flavour.
Serve with burritos or nachos, or alone — crackers or bread are a good accompaniment, or chop carrots or red peppers for a tasty, healthy alternative.
If you need something filling and don’t have much time, fritters are a good option. The batter can be adapted to be sweet or savoury, and they can be a good finger-food option or form a part of a larger meal, accompanied by salad.
- 3/4 cup of flour
- One teaspoon of baking powder (or one cup of self-rising flour instead of plain flour and baking powder)
- One egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- One cup of “something” (banana, cream-style corn, canned tuna and tomato: be creative)
- Oil for frying
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper together. Add the egg and “something” and mix until combined. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in frypan and add tablespoons of batter (use a teaspoon if you want to make cute finger food). Cook until golden then flip.
If you don’t have access to a kitchen or cooking equipment, don’t despair — many healthy dishes can be made with just a knife and something to cut on.
Craig and I have a lightweight kitchen set, which consists of Orikaso plates, cups and bowls (well, one bowl — we lost the other one in Peru), two sporks, two small containers for salt and chili powder, and two bottles for oil and/or vinegar.
We used to carry a pocket knife but now tend to buy a cheapish lightweight knife when needed, which we then throw away or donate before going on a flight (travelling with carry-on bags only has its downsides). We also carry a potato peeler, because I particularly like carrots and peeling them with a knife is just frustrating.
The following recipes are a good choice for a light lunch or evening meal — when we cook for ourselves, Craig and I often have one of the following accompanied by guacamole and rice crackers or bread.
Dressing for lentil and bean salads
Two or three tablespoons olive oil
One tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or flakes
Mix the oil and lemon juice in a glass or cup. Mix in the garlic and chili flakes.
- One small can of lentils (250g drained weight)
- Half an onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Half a red pepper (or a whole small one), finely chopped
- Optional: avocado or canned tuna
Squeeze the salt into the onions then set aside to rest for five minutes or so. Drain and rinse the lentils, then place in a bowl. Make the dressing (above) then mix lentils, onion, peppers and dressing together.
To make it more of a meal, top with canned tuna or chopped avocado.
- One can white beans (250g drained weight)
- Half a cucumber, finely chopped
- Half a red pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 of an onion (about two heaped tablespoons), finely chopped)
- Two pinches of salt
- Small bunch of fresh parsley or coriander, roughly chopped
Squeeze the salt into the onions and set aside. Drain and rinse the beans and mix together beans, cucumber, onion, herbs, and dressing.
If you can’t find pre-grated carrots, you’ll need a grater to prepare this recipe.
- Three medium carrots, peeled and grated (or a small bag of grated carrots)
- One tablespoon lemon juice
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- Four heaped tablespoons desiccated coconut
- Four heaped tablespoons raisins or sultanas
- A large handful of chopped nuts
Place the carrots in a bowl and mix in the lemon juice and olive oil. Add the coconut, raisins, and nuts and stir until mixed through.