Guinea Pig Kitchen: Shakshuka

This is the first installment of Guinea Pig Kitchen. The most frequent questions I get asked about touring are generally related to food. Usually it comes down to, what do you eat? Since my first tour in 2008, I have put down about 15,000km touring and since that first tour everything has changed. Then I was on a track bike with an overloaded backpack eating at cafes and staying in hostels (or under the occasional bridge). Now I have 2, going on three tourable bikes (including that old track bike coming full circle), I own multiple stoves, switch regularly between tent and hammock camping. I would say I have my grub down pretty good.

I like food. I like good food a lot. I fancy myself a pretty damn good cook. When I became a vegetarian, half my life ago, my mom told me it was time to learn to cook. The memory mangled press worthy quote was a long the lines of “I’ve have too many children to cook for one that wants to be different”. So I have some practice.

OK, STFU now and talk about the food.

Shakshuka! This is a recent addition to my arsenal. A friend and fellow Team Moustacher taught me this one about a year and a half ago before we threw the Team Moustache Albany Bulb race.

Shakshouka (Arabic: شكشوكة‎; Hebrew: שקשוקה‎) (also shakshuka) is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoeschili peppersonions, often spicedwith cumin. It is believed to have a Tunisian origin.[1][2]

 

This is as delicious as it sounds. Having realized last year carrying eggs isn’t as hazardous as it sounds I quickly adopted this as a touring food. This is my recent Hawk Overnight rendition along with some prep tips for short trips.

Ingredients:

  • Mushrooms
  • Green Onions
  • Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • seasoned with salt and pepper
  • container
Ingredients
Ingredients.

Since I was just doing an overnight I was only going to cook breakfast, this meant I could prep everything ahead of time.

Dice up all the veg, chuck it into your container, add seasoning and your preferred cooking oil for a light saute*.

* optional, see next step

The veg is contained
The veg is contained.

Next you can optionally saute your veggies. It will be just as good if you wanted to chuck them straight into the sauce and soften them up there. Ideal if you want to minimize your cookware kit. Just leave out some or all of the oil from the previous step and give the veggies 2-5 minutes before adding the eggs.

Veg in Sauce
Veg in Sauce

Put your veggies in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Once its simmering carefully crack and drop your eggs in the sauce.

 

Eggs in sauce?! You talkin’ crazy!

The eggs cook differently than normal poaching. I usually give it about 10 minutes with the lid on and the lowest simmer I can get my stove (MSR Whisper Lite) to do. This will vary between stoves and cookware but the egg should be much firmer than you’d do for something like Eggs Benedict.

Done
Done!

My egg looks like a dumpling. But it is not, so serve with bread or toast.

Last step is find a beautiful view and enjoy.

Brekky
Brekky

 

Morgan Allen: Hedge Hog Whisperer

In my journey through New Zealand I saw my fair share of hedge hogs. Cute little guys they are. Sadly the bulk of them resembled the bulk of… err… disassembled kangaroos I saw in Australia. So when I saw one if these lil’ fuckers rootin’ around the side of the road my protective instinct kicked right in. Right after a squee of joy!

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Be seen, be safe my little hedge hog.

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Now there is a happy and safe hedge hog.

Next!

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Heading off from Wellington where I’ve been almost a week. Three days riding should get me to Taupo where a mountain bike is waiting for me to ride Caters of the Moon! All up 919km to Auckland with a loop leading up to Comomandel and 15 days to do it. Couple big says and a couple casual days and I should be good.

Followup: Newcastle Overnight

The Newcastle Overnight was an amazing success. The toughest in recent memory would have been Day 13 of Perth to Sydney. I did 186km in a savage head wind. Over night I think this ride was just as hot.

The day started off hot. Ruining my plan to beat one of the challenges of this ride. The plan was simple. Stay up really late as I tend to do and have a nice sleep in. Problem here was that it was so hot, despite the fact I was up well past 4:00am I could not manage to fall back asleep past 9:00am. I prepared a couple of things for the ride and decided to get out of the house for the afternoon and went around for some beers with a friend. About 6 beers and a heap of Indian food later I was back home getting everything together. As is typical for me, I packed too much.

I wish I had had a handle bar bag. Since I was riding my road bike there isn’t much storage space. I decided then to use my Camelbak to hold the bulk of my water as I’d need at least 1 water bottle cage for the light battery. My packing included, rain gear, food (couple sandwiches, nuts, cheese, forgot the crackers), extra battery (not needed), arm/leg warmers, couple other small things. All tools and spares where in a saddle bag.

Once ready I went around to a friends to pick up a loaner light. This is one of the early generation LED lights made in New Zealand. It is a really nice light, very high power but…. it used old NiCad batteries each of which is the size (and shape) of a water bottle. There was concern that the batteries had degraded from there original 8 hours to about half. Fortunately this was not the case and I got a solid 8 with mostly using the medium setting and turning off while riding in lit areas. Unfortunately this meant I had a water bottle shaped (and sized) spare battery in my backpack I didn’t need.

Turned up to Observatory Hill about 8:30, chatted with a couple of folks I knew from Bike Polo and met some new folks, made some really bad jokes and prepared to depart.

The ride started off nicely with a couple of people jamming right off the front. I took my time but was still near the front of the main group. I held in this group for the first hour or so but as the climbing started getting more intense I dropped of a little more each time. Apparently I don’t have climbing legs since leaving San Francisco. This group had been pulling a fairly intense pace so I was probably for the best to back off and join the next group back.

I stuck with this next couple for a couple of hours. At least until the tea stop. This group also had the toughest/craziest guy on the ride. Sporting an old Shogun funny bike converted to fixed gear with a not so sensible gear ratio. He did manage to throw down a Herculean effort but the climbs of Mt. White left him walking. As there was a large gap to the next group back, he’d not much of a light and there was the occasional speeding car, I walked with him until the crest. A small group caught us just after the top and we jumped in with them until the tea stop. The last group I was with was still there and I jump in with about half of them a few minutes later.

Some people rest on descents. I think if you are resting on a descent you are not going fast enough. Sadly this attitude, fun as it is, didn’t leave a lot for the next climb, which I did very slowly. I spent the next hour or so on my own until I decided it was time for a rest. I had a lay down on the lawn outside a gas station until the next group was coming up. Got my shit together and hoped on. We arrived in Swansea together and continued on to the straight flat marsh lands to the North. I was working with one other in the group taking turns on the front. This is when the lack of sleep was really starting to hit me bad. I wasn’t hungry but should have been, my stomach was hurting and I was starting to see spots.. okay I gotta throw up. I jumped out of the group and relieved myself. There was a small parking lot which I used to rest up, took a power nap, ate some food and was feeling largely much better. That is until the next group past.

I didn’t see them until they where just passing, I packed my stuff up quickly and tried to catch them. Bad idea, basically wasted the little rest I just taken. I’d given up on trying to catch when I noticed one (of the three) pulling off to the other side of the road. Water stop or rest maybe, said it he was okay. I then ended up catching the other 2 while they where stopped. I managed 2 big efforts with them but I just wasn’t on the same pace. Turns out heavy weight touring and light weight hammer aren’t really transferable skills, who’d of thought.

On my own again I decided some motivational music was in order. Riding with no hands selecting some music I didn’t see the giant pile of glass until I’d riden through it twice. Before I was even done wiping the front tire down the rear went flat. And turn out matching Mavic tires and rims are impossible to remove without tire levers… which I didn’t have.

About 15 minutes later a lone riding pulled up. I’d recognized him and turns out we’d met through a mutual friend a couple of weeks earlier. He was happy to stop at this point and take a break. We then departed together and were on very similar pace. The company was very welcome at this point. We’d both been having similar nights. We had about 60km to go about this point.

It was still very hot at this point in the night and there was a thunderstorm cracking away on the horizon. Interestingly this is the same place I was absolutely hammered on during the first night on my Sydney to Brisbane tour.

The rest of the ride was fairly routine. Will and I stopped occasionally for rest and food (I was thankfully hungry at this point) and chatted while knocking down the distance. The last 15km where great. We left the main highway and took a Rails to Trails route that was extremely beautiful with natural Australian coastal growth.

We arrived at the rock pools right around 7:00am to a cheering crowd and a croissant. Getting off the bike knowing I was done was an amazing feeling. Everyone around the table looked shattered but with the most amazing smiles of haggard satisfaction on their faces. Through the sharp feeling of pain and exhaustion I felt that look on my face too. We sat around for the next hour sharing our story of the journey, most of the people there I’d riding with at least once through the night. A great bunch of people whom I am very glad I was able to meet and ride with.

I cannot thank the people who organized this enough. Ollie and Garth are super nice guess and did an amazing job bringing us together. If you are in or around Sydney this time next year you must do this ride. It was a truly amazing experience.

No Newcastle Overnight, Thank You.

Going for a little ride

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I found out about it just a couple of days ago and decided to jump on. Tonight is Sydney to Newcastle Overnight. 160km starting at 900pm. We are about 30 minutes off and everyone is quite excited. Should be a great ride, its hot as and quite humid. The dip in the pacific at sun up will be very rewarding. Hopefully I manage to record the entire route.

Damage Report: Taupo Tapout 2

Apparently there are quite a few little sharp bits on my new polo bike. It also does not turn quite as tight as the old one. The concrete in Taupo turns out to be pretty tough but I wasn’t about to give up the fight.

I now have two nicely busted up knees. Road rash covering most of my right elbow. Half a dozen cuts on my legs and some quite tender ribs. Oh, and I seem to have misplaced a largish bit of skin from my left big toe (How?!?).

Once again, Taupo Tapout was a huge success and the T-Town boys pulled it off without breaking a sweat despite the fact that one volcano had already erupted and a second was threatening to.

My trip started last Wednesday. 4am to ride to the airport and get checked in at Sydney which is notoriously fickle. I got threw mostly okay but my well loved passport is being called into question more and more. To the degree this time that I was offered an on the spot refund as she was convinced New Zealand would not let me in. The ride into Auckland was as unpleasant as last time, except I was on a smaller gearing so it took 2 hours.

I stayed with a friend in Auckland who lived in one of the coolest communal houses I’ve ever been to. I’ve lived in a couple communal houses that couldn’t touch this with a poo covered stick. Good people, good food and an overall sense of social responsibility.  Played some pickup that night, out for drink, repeat Thursday with beach and riding around Auckland.

Headed for Taupo Friday morning with some of the Auckland polo crew. Nice drive and stopped in, sorry to make you jealous, Hobbiton. Friday night pickups in T-Town and partied back at the hall.

The post tourny shenanigans is what really makes the Tapout of the best. Thermal springs in the river, thermal springs in the lake and all a close ride across town. And since there has been so much volcanic activity lately the lake was especially nice. Or probably just by comparison to gale force winds of last year.

Thats all I got. I’m hurt, I’m outta here. Posts coming soon, new touring bike, plans for Tasmania tour next month, next years NZ tour and a stupid plan to get one more stamp in my passport.

 

The Pigeon has Landed

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This is some progress right here. I am happy to see more bike stations at airports. This one is at Auckland International. The first one I had seen was at PDX. Hopefully I will continue to see more. I am back in Auckland and headed down to Taupo this weekend for Taupo Tapout II. I placed second in this tourny last year with two noobies. Since then one of them has been training non-stop and I have the pleasure of having him on my team again. Taking up the third spot is Sydneys own V. Looking forward to a weekend of shinanigans with good friends.