The Culinary Life of a Dreamtime Traveler
In my life, I’ve eaten Wild Buffalo and freshly caught Barramundi, cooked in a traditional campfire oven in Central Australia with outback style Damper, slurped Spaghetti Carbonara in the heart of Italy and puckered up for Salted Mango in Colombia’s Caribbean. After three years of continuous traveling, however, I have now discovered that there is no place like home…cooking!
The spices and scents of the world’s regions always infuse our ‘kitchen’. Mixed with the sizzling of onions caramelizing in the pan, the scent of our meal of the day wafting out from under the closed lid pot, coupled with the warmth inside my stomach and the smiles that emanate love, that’s what comes to my mind when home cooking is mentioned.
In the three years since leaving Australia to travel the world, home cooking has been one of the constants of our journey. From the small crowded kitchenette in our RV, to the cockroach-infested kitchen of the hostal we were staying at in Ecuador, I can connect my journey in one sense from the many memories of Dad seasoning a Thai Red Curry or us making a Coriander infused Dahl together, or Mum pulling out from the oven a freshly baked onion bread or apple crumble.
Being a family who no longer eat meat, poultry, fish, dairy and other animal products, you might think limits our choices as we travel, but you may be surprised to hear that it actually opens up a whole new world of tastes, sights and scents, and we’ve discovered them together as a family. Wherever we travel, the culinary adventure of the places we visit, infuse themselves into the journey itself. Eating meat with everything is only a recent choice for most of the world’s culinary cultures, something relative to the way mass producing meat industries grew out of a global economy, to influence the consumption of meat on a global scale – post World War II.
So wherever we travel, we always find traditional meals on every menu that are free of animals and animal by-products. From the lentil chorba (soups) of Turkey to the mushroom paprikas of Hungary, to the humble Dahl of India. Even in the most meat-eating of meat-eating countries in South America, we were able to find excellent local fare, sans meat, which would represent the traditions of the cultures and still provide a satisfying culinary experience. As part of our journey of life learning, we have taken these experiences and added them to our kitbag of culinary delights. Wherever we travel, most of the time, we like to cook, to immerse ourselves in the places, cultures and influences of the countries we visit.
A very important aspect of this is sourcing good locally grown produce and if possible, produce that is sold directly by the people who have grown the goods. While traveling in North America there was always an abundance of Organic and sustainable Farmer’s Markets that we would seek out. In South America, we would always find the local market in every town in which we stayed. We would take great care in making a connection with the people who sold their home grown products, taking the opportunity to understand how they grew it and how they suggested we cook it.
Even today, living in Spain, Saturday marks Market Day. Our little ritual involves our trek through the arid Spanish hills around our home, down to the local market, filled with almost every mouth-watering fruit, vegetable and local produce that you can imagine.
We have especially taken the opportunity to get to know our local growers and sellers such as Rita, Isi and their brother Luis, a small third generation family business, that provides some of the best veggies at the market. And then there is our Moroccan friend Abdul. His Fuji apples, grown on his land have the crispest and sweetest taste of nearly all the apples I have eaten on this planet. Don’t get me started on the olives… I can almost go nuts telling you about the friendship we have struck with David and his family, our vendor of local dates and nuts.
The fact is, in most places in the world you can find the local and fresh market alternative to shopping in the supermarkets. In most instances, you will find it cheaper, with more organic and GMO-free options and usually the most fun and interesting way to make connections with the local people. For us, when it comes to our food, this is what it is really about.
For those of you who wonder how I went from eating buffalo and barramundi to not eating any animals, I will tell you that it was not a process that happened overnight. In fact, it happened steadily over two years. I just didn’t feel the need to eat animals anymore. It had something to do with visiting a Petting Zoo and making the connection that the roasted leg of lamb on our table had come from a similar lamb that was nuzzling up to us. Or, the realisation that those cute little fluffy ducks following their mother into the pond were one in the same as what was in my Peking Duck pancakes. It was a decision made unanimously with my twin brother, free of our parents’ influence. Despite the protests from relatives like…“You’re taking away their protein source for growth! You are depriving them of being healthy!”… in the last five years, I haven’t been sick one day. Not once, not a cold or the flu or even a sniffle, nothing, nada.
In fact, you may want to doubt me when I say that vegetables have all the protein that our bodies need and that as a society we consume far too much protein in our diets. I am not on any crusade, and I do not expect you to follow me. I’m certainly not saying that everyone should throw out the steak that’s in their fridge at this moment and become vegetarian at the drop of a hat. No way. Like our travels, this culinary journey has been one of personal discovery and I invite you to find yours. Travelling gives you a great opportunity to do so.
What I will share with you today, however, is a couple of very simple favourites of ours that we often make on the road, which meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike can enjoy in harmony. These two recipes are quick, healthy, gratifying and easy to prepare, even when you are travelling. Most importantly they are delicious.
I have chosen a Coriander / Cilantro Pesto, something that a Raw Vegan can eat, and a Roti for those who are gluten and/or lactose intolerant. Before you scoff at Gluten Free Roti, try my recipe out. I have a variation that is simple and easy to make, as well as being simply delightful!
Gluten Free Vegan Roti
Roti is a traditional Indian bread that is served next to the main meal. In restaurants, it is usually cooked in a Tandoori Oven and comes out either simple or with a garlic spread.
500 g Gluten Free Bread Mix Flour – combination of Rice, Corn and Locust Bean Flour or similar (we found Schär’s Bread Mix in Europe the best so far)
50 g Coconut Flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Mix all dry ingredients and add as much water to the mixture as needed to make an easily kneadable bread dough.
Tear off golf-ball sized chunks of dough and knead into balls. Roll them out into flat, 2-3 mm thin pieces and stack them up onto a plate with non-stick/grease paper in-between.
Heat the pan with a very small amount of coconut oil and cook them without burning them.
To make for a colourful combination, add 100ml of beetroot juice to the dough mixture, before you add as much extra water as needed.
Makes about 20-24 Rotis, depending on the sizes you choose to make.
Coriander / Cilantro Pesto
Coriander or Cilantro Pesto is a hearty and healthy accompaniment to your Roti. It is a fragrant taste explosion in your mouth, with so many nutrients that I could live off it constantly.
175 g -200 g Coriander / Cilantro, washed and cut into smaller sizes with scissors (even the stalks)
150 g Raw or Roasted Cashew Nuts
2 cloves of garlic
juice of half a lime
50 g Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A pinch of black pepper
Salt to your own taste
Use a food processor (we use the Thermomix ) to chop your garlic cloves, and scrape down bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse in food processor until you have a paste consistency.
Serve with fresh Roti!
Happy culinary journeys!