One thing that I get excited about when travelling is staying at a hostel that has a kitchen – especially when it’s a brilliantly decked out kitchen. However, the brilliantly decked out kitchen is not usually the case, and cooking in a hostel can be an adventure all in itself.
I tend not to cook for myself if I’m only staying somewhere for one night, which to be fair isn’t that often anyway as I don’t like to move around TOO often. This is because, when travelling alone, unless you want to eat toast or plain rice it’s often cheaper to just eat out than it is to buy the ingredients for a single meal. Hence when I cook, I plan to eat the same thing two or three nights running – or at least variations on the same ingredients.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to one of my culinary masterpieces created many a time in a hostel kitchen, at a budget-beating price of less than €2.25 per meal.
I’ve failed to think of a fancy name for it, but it tastes pretty good. Please forgive the poor quality photos – they were taken with my phone in less-than-ideal light. Being a responsible person, I didn’t want to leave stuff on the stove while I went to find my camera!
- 1 x jar Pesto Genovese [it has cheese in it to make it delicious. Divide the jar by the number of meals you want from it. I find two big tablespoons is enough for two bowls of pasta]
- 1 x brown onion
- 50g sliced salami
- 1 x clove garlic [OK, I should admit that I carried around a whole bulb of garlic for a while. It cost me €0.10 so chucking it out and buying a new one when I moved on was within my budget, but why do that when I had perfectly good garlic?]
- 1 x tomato
- 1 x bag of parmesan cheese [or pasta cheese, or whatever the hell you can find in a foreign country that vaguely resembles a sharp, hard cheese. Buying a block of parmesan costs upwards of €8, and was therefore massively outside my budget]
- 1 x bag penne [or whatever pasta you prefer. For me, a 500g bag gives me about 3 meals]
1. Locate the place pots are kept. It may or may not be logical. Do not expect to find a lid that fits the pot exactly. Also, try to ignore the inevitable bunches of flowers painted on the chipping enamel and the fact that the pot does not sit flat.
2. Identify the stove. Note: it may not look as you expect – I initially thought this was a weird looking microwave. I was wrong.
Boil water to cook pasta in. If you need detailed instructions on boiling water, please stay away from the kitchen.
3. Assemble all knives you can find, testing each until you find one that is capable of cutting an onion without sliding off and into your finger. This may present more of a challenge than expected.
4. Peel and dice the onion, crush and mince the garlic and cut the salami slices into quarters. Or whatever size you desire. It’s up to you. While you’re at it, dice the tomato and set aside.
5. Gently fry the garlic and onion in a little oil or butter [whichever the hostel has in the cupboard/fridge]. Add the salami and fry until most of the fat melts out of it and it tastes delicious.
6. While all this is happening, why not have a drink? You’ve probably earned it with all your hard work during the day. Backpacking isn’t all fun and games you know – sometimes there are stairs.
[Balancing it on the toaster is not a requirement.]
7. Chances are good that the onion and salami were done before the pasta was ready. You should have kept an eye on this – the quality of stoves in hostels varies greatly. If you’ve filled the kitchen with smoke, you’ve burned the food.
Drain the pasta and tip back into the hot saucepan. Add two tablespoons of Pesto Genovese [or normal pesto sauce if that’s what you have] and mix.
8. Add the garlic/onion/salami mix and stir.
9. Put it in a bowl, top it with the diced tomato and some of the vaguely-resembling-parmesan-cheese stuff. Eat. It tastes good, I promise!
And there you have it – a delicious and complete meal that you can make in just about any hostel kitchen. It all works out pretty nicely on a budget if you’re travelling solo, and if you’re travelling with a friend/partner you could still get a full meal each out of it – just double my recipe. Plus it’s much tastier than two-minute-noodles or rice with instant peas and corn, which I’ve seen many a traveler munching down on for dinner. At €2.50 for a jar of Pesto Genovese, €0.10 for a bulb of garlic, €0.60 for a 500g bag of penne, €0.90 for cheese, €0.80 for three tomatoes, €0.40 for three onions and €1.40 for 150g of salami, groceries for three meals came to €6.70.