Spatula, Spoon and Saturday

Eating and Cooking all the things in Melbourne

Red Centre Trip: Cooking in a Hostel Communal Kitchen

Wow I never thought I would ever do this. I figured I have already missed my boat on the whole backpacking/youth hostel thing. We were camping out at the camp ground at the Ayer’s Rock Campground near the Uluru-Kata Tjutu National Park because I planned the whole trip out in two days and I couldn’t get us reasonable accommodation that didn’t cost, like, $500 a night. So sleeping in a tent, it was.

(the choice of cooking implements were sadly lacking)

It seemed like, though, that everyone around us was well prepared and came with their own portable stove and cooking equipment. We only had some provisions, plates and cutleries and a billy can! I actually planned to just buy food there but the choice was so sadly lacking that when we by chance discovered the communal kitchen, I decided that I would hit the supermarket and make us some food. It was absolutely packed at first but once we made a trip to the supermarket and came back, the crowd had died down and the kitchen was nice and empty.

(I didn’t realise there was a water boiler there, I actually set a huge wok to boil some pasta)

To the certain extent I was prepared for everything to cost more, but I didn’t expect everything to nearly double in price! Amazingly, the only thing that wasn’t double in price was the steak. They loved their steak out there. That was the only thing in that entire Ayer’s Rock Resort IGA that didn’t cost much more than it would in Melbourne!

(pasta sauce with broccoli, zucchini and bacon)

So I ended up making us two meals there on both nights we camped there. The first night I made pasta with vegetables and bacon, having all the ingredients from the box. The second night, Mum insisted on some more meat and so I made green curry with beef and mushrooms and stir-fried lettuce with bacon.

(we had salad every night)

Things I already had in the provision box (some of which desperately needed to be used up):

  1. 1 x 500g. fusili
  2. 1 jar of Leggo’s Stir-Through pasta sauce
  3. 2 slices of bacon
  4. an iceberg lettuce
  5. cooking oil
  6. fish sauce
  7. seasoning soy sauce
  8. salt
  9. green curry sauce (Mum bought this in Thailand so it really wasn’t so bad)
  10. 2 tomatoes
  11. 1/2 broccoli
  12. 1/2 zucchini
  13. 3 x mushrooms

(our pasta mean on the first night)

The rest I had to acquire at the supermarket, of course. I cut up some bacon, broccoli and zucchini. I stir-fried them in a bit of oil and added the Chilli, Tomato and Olive Stir-through pasta sauce in this mildly-filthy frying pan that I had to stir with a bent-up ladel. The shared equipment’s cleanliness had a lot to be desired I have to admit. Mum insisted on rewashing everything but some of the burnt on filth just wouldn’t come off. Ah well. The food they were selling there didn’t look much more appetising though! I’d rather have something I made!

(pasta dinner for three, cooked in a communal kitchen, served in provided bowls)

I ended using all of the pasta and sauce and we had some for lunch the next day (we needed to energy to climb the Uluru!)

(green curry with beef and mushroom, this is me breaking every Thai cooking rule here)

The second night saw us procuring some very nice and reasonably priced scotch fillets, which Mum promptly grilled up (in a wok I might add as it was the only thing we could lay our hands on because we went in during peak time on that day). I sliced the other one up and marinade it in 1 tbsp of fish sauce.  I brought the green curry sauce to boil and added the steak and mushrooms and simmer and cooked them quickly so that the beef stayed nice and tender.

Yes I know. There is no mushroom in any Thai curry, ever. But I needed to use up the mushrooms as we didn’t have a fridge and I would be damned to store anything in the communal fridge! Again, I made a lot of food hoping to have it for picnic lunch the next day. Not a great idea with the curry as the fat solidified, so we saved it (and thankfully it lasted) until we get to Alice Springs where we had a microwave!

(stir-fried lettuce with bacon)

I also stir-fried lettuce and bacon together quickly in very hot oil. I only used salt as a flavouring ingredient. Everyone thought it tasted great. But the wok was so filthy it really put me off that I just couldn’t enjoy it knowing it was cooked in such a filthy communal wok. I literally added a heap of salt into a heated wok to clean out all the burnt bits that were on there that couldn’t be removed by detergent and scouring. It was rather disgusting to see what came off it. Although I cleaned it rather well, the memory lingered! I know the lettuce probably wasn’t a traditional stir-fry veggie but everyone should try it. It’s rather good.

(Rice cooked in a billy)

I made some rice in a billy! The trick is to use a lot less water because the billy is much taller and narrower so there’s less room for water to evaporate. Still the same ten minutes, just as it takes on the stove.

I guess I wouldn’t mind cooking in a communal kitchen again. I loved the big space and industrial-sized stove. The cleanliness had a lot to be desired but I think I’ll be happy to do it again provided that I bring my own saucepan, wok, frying pan, etc!

I saw a few families cooking in the kitchen together and it seemed like a great family bonding experience. I think that’s what everyone should do at home. Cook with your family. Sit down and eat the meal you have all prepared together. It was an experience for me observing all the family dynamics that were going on. I found it very interesting.