Posts Tagged ‘kitchen’

Reversing down the Alaska Highway

9th November 2010 by Helen
We joined the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction ready to travel south

We joined the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction ready to travel south

Waking up this morning we cooked up our sausages on our small stove.  Seemed to take forever in the below freezing temperatures.

The campsite is really well catered for in the summer season.  There is a log cabin for public use.  Peering through the windows, we could see a wood stove for heating, a large area set aside for kitchen facilities, big pine table and plenty of seating.  The mezzanine floor is presumably available for sleeping.  We would have loved to have had a look inside but it was already padlocked shut for the winter.  As well as plenty of benches for day campers there were sturdy braziers for BBQs and wood in the wood pile under the porch of the log cabin.  Campers pitch their tents in among the trees.  The launch for the boats is easy to access and runs straight into the lake from the campsite.

We took a short walk around the edge of the campsite looking at all the animal tracks.  Clearly the four-legged hunters had been out and active while we had been asleep.  In amongst the trees was evidence of the squirrels feasting on the pine nuts they’d found.  The surface of the lake itself was rock hard and we could see where fishermen had been down there and drilled holes in the ice to go fishing.  Tyre tracks across parts of the ice suggested the depth of the ice was pretty thick.

Explaining the history of the Alaska Highway

Explaining the history of the Alaska Highway

Sorry to have to rush away we cleared up and headed south again. 

The change in Landy’s plans mean we have to negotiate one of the bureaucratic challenges of travelling again.  In this case it means we have to find an attorney as a matter of urgency to get the power of attorney signed so our US agent can act on our behalf with Customs.  So, we had to stop at the next main town on our route, which was Delta Junction.  No signs to be found anywhere for Lawyers or ‘Notaries’.  The teenagers working in the garage don’t seem to know what an attorney, lawyer or notary is (maybe that’s a good thing, least they won’t already have had to use the services of one in their short lives so far), but they do direct us to the court house who have the power to act as a notary and we got our POA signed.  Then it’s off to the library to get it faxed!!

We hope we don't meet one of these in this manner - not so forgiving as the hind quarters of a horse

We hope we don't meet one of these in this manner - not so forgiving as the hind quarters of a horse

Delta Junction is famed for it being the end of the Alaska Highway, built in just 8 months by the US army in response to security concerns raised by the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1942.

From there we made good time down through Tok (pronounced like ‘oak’ with a t on the front) and camped just short of the Alaskan-Canadian border.  Temperatures still below freezing day and night (average minus 7 C).

Route: Delta Junction / Tok / camped just short of the Alaskan/Canadian border

Roast Dinner !!! (and roasted pine nuts)

24th October 2010 by Helen

Sunday 24th October – Today we had a Sunday Roast Dinner. 

We had roast chicken, roast potatoes, caulflower, brocolli, carrots, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.  Sounds like a boring opening to a blog?  Maybe.  Please just humour me as this is the first roast dinner we’ve had since leaving the UK!  The result of one of the advantages of staying in a backpackers hostel that includes use of a kitchen in which to cook your own food.  And Paul was desperate for a break from one-pot meals.  He didn’t have to do the washing up though!

The range of vegetables across Central Asia has been limited mainly to onions and white cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber (OK, so they’re not vegetables but if you don’t count them there’s often very little left to choose from.  Occasionally we have found a few potatoes, the occasional carrot, even more occasionally some red and green peppers.  And, of course, here in Rusia there is also the beetroot, otherwise there would be no traditional borsch!!

The large vegetable market in Vladivostok city centre was a veritable treasure trove of delight, where we also managed to get cauliflower and brocolli (although there was only one stall selling the latter).  We hoped we had bought swede too but that turned out to be turnip!!  It was the right shape and size but with the outer blackened with soil it was not so easy to be sure.  We could have chosen too from Chinese Leaves and some very puny looking celery.  And with the season to be witchety, plenty of gourds too.

Again across Central Asia, meat is nearly always sold from freezers.  The exceptions have been on finding a meat market, such as the one we visited in Tsetserleg, where they hack lumps off the carcass in front of you.  No fancy cuts here.  Meat is often described as ‘meat’.  If you ask whether it is pork or beef, the answer is ‘meat’.  It makes little difference what animal it came from, it still contains arteries and gristle and is cooked with added fat.  Once again the cities bring some differences and we managed to find a small supermarket with a chiller and some fresh chickens.

The term supermarket needs clarifying for UK readers at least.  Imagine a corner shop, the size of the downstairs of a two up two down terraced house.  Double it.  Selling produce, that makes for a shop large enough to be called a supermarket.  They sell pretty much just as full a range of food and household products as any larger supermarket in the UK, which doesn’t include CD’s, TV’s, furniture, banking, clothes, but will include toiletries and occasionally small items of clothing such as socks and tights.  You can’t get lost in it.  You can find what you need without having to walk for miles.  There is enough choice to choose without feeling bamboozled.  Reminds me of the 1960’s, although even then the supermarkets were six times the size of most of the ones we have seen across Central Asia.  And you know what, I think I’m getting old cos I prefer it this way.

The other advantage of the kitchen in the hostel is that I have been able to roast the pine nuts Dzenya gave us just as we were leaving Khilok. 

For all the years I spent growing up in the cemetery gatehouse, collecting pine cones for Christmas decorations, I never before extracted the nuts from the cones and ate them.  For all the years I spent buying pine nuts in little plastic bags in oversized supermarkets I never thought about where they came from.  Like all nuts (physical and metaphoric), getting to the kernal is a labour intensive operation.  I looked it up on the internet, the gist of which was ‘there isn’t an easy way and should be seen as a means of passing otherwise unoccupied hours’.  By my own methods I found splitting the shell with the point of a short bladed, heavy handled, kitchen knife on a wooden chopping board, fairly effective.  Means the nut tends to come out in two halves and reminded me a bit of picking winkles as a child – time consuming and not a means to growing fat but comes with a delicious sense of achievement.  Alternatively use a rolling pin or bottom of a glass jar to apply just enough pressure to crack the shell without smashing the delicate little nut inside.  Then remove and eat.  Noisy and takes practice and nuts liable to fly all over the kitchen in the process of learning how to do it effectively.  Finally found putting them in a casserole dish lid and covering them with a sheet of newspaper before bashing them with the bottom of a coffee jar the best way.  A bit more messy than the knife but slightly quicker.

With an available oven I took the opportunity to pre-roast the nuts this week, producing another challenge.  The Mexican website said to pre-heat the oven to 325 (325 what??  Centigrade or Farenheight!!).  The Russian oven is electric but numbered like a UK gas oven (1-9).  Paul suggested 325 was probably a hot oven so I set it to 8.  The website said roast for 10 minutes and then check every minute (by splitting open the nut and looking at the colour of the kernal) to see if they are done.  Then check every minute until just cooked.  Overcooking is extremely easy.  On ‘electric mark 8’ the nuts began exploding after 2 minutes.  Think the 325 might have been in Farenheit after all.  Maybe I should have thought that as Mexico is next to America and America uses Farenheit they might too?  Who knows?  Anyway, the other option is the microwave for one minute.  Still have to roll them with the rolling pin or smash them with the coffee jar but they do taste much creamier.

SeeYou Hostel

18th October 2010 by Helen

On Monday (18th) we found the SeeYou (sic) Hostel right to the south of the city and booked in there.  It’s a backpackers’ hostel based in a three bedroom flat in an apartment block in downtown Vlad.  The rooms are all pretty large, with more than enough froom for the six bunks in each room.  Beds don’t make comfy seats but they are comfy enough once you are laying down.  There is also a communal lounge with computer and wi-fi, along with kitchen and laundry facilities.  It’s cheaper in the long run than the hotel and actually quite comfortable.    The one shower and one toilet (separate at least) might be a bit of a crush when the hostel is full!!  And not so pleasant when there is no water (as happened for most of the afternoon and night on Wednesday)!!

There are a few young men who run the hostel and /or live here, keeping it very clean and tidy.  It’s all pretty relaxed, especially compared to ‘hotel living’.  Monday and Tuesday nights there was quite a crowd in but they all left on the ferry on Wednesday (19th) heading for either South Korea or Japan, leaving us with the place pretty much to ourselves.