The packing of the van has begun, subject as ever to great indecision and panic about which clothes to take and what kitchen equipment is needed.
The one item that was not questioned is this one:
It will help to pass those long evenings until the Pablo’s ATH begins. We have purchased vol 2 of these puzzles but think that one hefty book should see us okay for this trip and, after all, I am supposed to be keeping the payload down. If I leave the second book behind I can take another jumper… Will we need jumpers? Not if last winter’s weather is anything to go by, at least not after the snow and the rain ran out. I think we need to pack for three seasons.
We shall be heading to known territory initially and hope to be in Arcachon the day after leaving home. If I remember correctly, it was warm and sunny in Arcachon last year and we were eating ice cream on the prom.
Night one will be on an Aire somewhere between here and the coast.
We have been having some difficulty with cooking plain rice of late. Neither of us has been able to turn it out nicely. It is possibly because we have not had a suitable pan. Previously I used the smaller pan of my two-base pressure cooker with its close-fitting glass lid. The pan was very heavy bottomed and the seal was good. Since selling up to go travelling, I no longer have that pan.
The Tefal Ingenio pans that we bought for the van are very good and suitably heavy but the lids have two cut outs, one for pouring and one for fitting around the clip-on handle. It is impossible to effect a good seal, though we tried adding a foil insert and so on.
So, possibly the pan but, more likely we think, poor quality rice.
What if… we ruled out the pan issue by using our new Mr D’s Thermal Pot? We had curry tonight and I duly tested out the thermal cooking of my rice. I used the same rice that we have been using (it’s the only Basmati that we had to choose from at our local shop), washed it well (it takes forever to get the starch out of this stuff) and drained it, leaving it to dry for a couple of hours.
Using 1 1/4 cups of water to 1 cup of rice, I added both to the smaller/top pot and brought the pan to the boil, then put the pan in the vacuum casing for thirty minutes.
Now, can I say that it produced perfect rice? No, unfortunately not. However it did show improvement and I do think that I have proved that it is the rice at fault and not the cook. If we find a good Asian supermarket on our next travels I will invest in some good rice and repeat the test. I did like the ease of preparation and the fact that it requires no supervision at all. Also a plus: no sticking to the base of the pan. None whatsoever. That will make washing up in a tiny sink a lot more pleasant.
In Other Culinary News (sorry, I know this is a travel blog and not a cooking one but travellers need to eat too) I have invested in a Kindle copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple. I think that it might be just what I need to kick off some culinary inspiration when we are travelling.
SIMPLE includes recipes made in under 30 minutes, one-pot meals and store-cupboard recipes. Ideal in a small van, I suspect.
Two Snails are making preparations for the 2018/2019 Winter Tour. Mr Snail has a hankering to repeat last Winter’s experience of spending the turn of the year in the warm sunshine rather in Rain, Frost and Snow. So, we are off to Spain and Portugal again. Or not. There is still a possibility of going Somewhere New.
It turns out that there are complexities associated with crossing borders when it comes to gas bottles. This had never occurred to me as the last time that we were down there we had an onboard tank and did not have to consider such matters. With two French bottles on board we hope to manage for a couple of months without the complication of ditching one in exchange for a Spanish or Portuguese one plus the new necessary fittings.
How to conserve gas supplies? Eat salad! That’s fine if the weather is as good as it was last winter. What if it’s not? and the journey down could be wet or cold or both, it certainly was at times last year. Eat out! Can’t do that all the time though…
Enter Mr D and the concept of thermal cooking.
Mr D’s Thermal Cooking pot is a modern take on the old haybox cooker and also, if you like, a Slow Cooker that needs no power to do its cooking. It has useful application for the off-grid traveller. More importantly for us is the matter of using less of our precious gas. Instead of cooking a meal for half an hour, an hour, or more on the hob (depending on what you are actually planning for dinner of course) it’s simply a matter of getting the pan going on the hob. Once it is fully hot, the pan goes inside the insulated casing and cooking continues with the residual heat. So you can slow cook a stew that would normally take two to three hours on the hob top with just ten minutes use of gas, or thereabouts. A slow cooker would do the same job but requires an electric hook-up to be available, this thermal pot needs no input.
There are other benefits to using a thermal cooking pot. Of interest to Snails is the ability to cook on the move. There is the potential to start dinner off before we pack up and leave a site, leave the Mr D’s sitting in the sink for security, arrive at our night stop and find dinner already cooked for us. Awesome!
Similarly, we can set dinner away to cook and then go off walking the dog or out for the day. No safety worries about leaving things plugged in. Nothing burns. Nutrients are locked in. Odours and steam are locked in. This latter is also very useful when living in a van.
We dithered for a while about a Mr D’s; they are not cheap. It was the gas bottle issue that swung the decision. We ordered one up.
It took a while to get here; two weeks from ordering. We were watching the tracking and it left Hythe, in Hampshire, and sallied forth via Bournemouth, then Hinckley (!) and… Poland (!!), where it sat for at least 48 hrs. It moved on, to The Netherlands (!!!). We were losing hope of it arriving before we leave.
This morning, tracking indicated that our package was still in The Netherlands but later in the day it updated to say “Out For Delivery” and this afternoon it arrived – just as I was about to make soup for dinner.
Well, what’s a Snail to do? I made my soup in the Mr D’s. It was late in the day but my leek and potato soup had two hours in the pot and was both properly cooked and hot enough to eat without any re-heating.
Notes so far:
The manufacturing quality is apparently good
This 3 litre size is ample for two
The internal pan is narrow and deep, boiling up the soup took quite some time
Instructions are to cook in the closed thermal case for a minimum of three hours but two hours was plenty for this simple leek and potato soup.
Much less liquid is required than when cooking on the hob, where the liquid evaporates. I thought that I had used sufficiently less but it turned out that I should have cut back further – my soup was somewhat lacking in body (though full of flavour)
I look forward to further adventures with my thermal cooker.
We are moving Two Snails to a new server. Things may be up and down for while.
As part of the moving process we plan to try inserting the archive posts from the old Koken blog into this WordPress blog. Not sure how that is going to go but if we manage it, the old posts will appear under the category of History
Things that I hate about the new Hymer: the cab aircon delivers tepid air.
Things that I love about the new Hymer: sitting in the middle of a vineyard, windows wide open with fly screens down, listening to crickets and drinking wine with a cool breeze blowing.
After our stopover in Adriers we ordered up some parts. The parcel arrived on Tuesday whilst we were out cavorting but The Driver was able to start work on Wednesday. (The grey waste issue was previously sorted on our arrival home from Adriers.) The hab door is now firmly held back when opened and no longer prey to capricious breezes. The broken roof vent came off only to discover that no screws were included with the new one, necessitating a trip to the local Brico store on Thursday as overnight rain was forecast and the job was in need of finishing.
The roof vent is now completed.
The bathroom door problem has not been reproduced since we came home.
A cargo net is waiting to be fitted. Once that is done then the current ticky list is completed. Our next trip may reveal further issues but we can at least hope that it does not.
We should be away some time in the next couple of weeks for a night or two, then we will start packing for a larger adventure.