Midweek Eat! Aubergine rolls with spinach and ricotta

MIDWEEK EAT!!

We love our culinary delights, but in our travel savings mission we have drastically cut our usual fancy pants food budget. We bring you tasty treats from our budget for two people. We spend £60 ($90) a week on groceries (including food, toiletries and everything else for the house) and most weeks we are closer to £50 ($75) mark. We want to prove that budget doesn’t have to mean bland!

Aubergine rolls with spinach and ricotta

Today we’re going all Italian, but we like to be a bit fancier than pasta sauce! This delicious creamy veggie bake is quick to prepare with very few ingredients. It’s on the table in less than 1 hour.

Servings:

Serves 4

Ingredients

• 2 aubergines (egg plants), cut into thin slices lengthways

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 500g spinach

• 250g tub ricotta

• grating of nutmeg

• 420g tin of chopped tomatoes

• 1tsp pesto

• 4 tbsp parmesan (or any cheese you have in the fridge)

• Salt and pepper for seasoning

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Method

1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with oil and season, then lay on a large baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 mins until tender, turning once.

2. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt. Cool, then squeeze out the excess water, so that it is dry. Mix with the ricotta, nutmeg and plenty of seasoning.

3. Dollop a spoonful of the cheesy spinach mix in the centre of each aubergine slice, fold over to make a parcel and lay, sealed-side down, in an ovenproof dish. Mix the pesto into the tomato sauce and pour over tomato sauce and cheese, and bake for 20-25 mins until golden and piping hot.

4. Serve with salad and potatoes/or garlic bread

Buon appetito

A top tip for making cheap tasty meals is to make more then you need. There are just two of us so we make enough for four people and either eat it again the next day or freeze the leftovers for the following week.

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I love travelling! My body hates it!

My body is a joke!

Our up coming travel adventure generally fills me with joy and excitement; however, I do have small pangs of worry every now and again. Not about the normal things like ‘should I take my anti malaria tablets?’ or ‘what if we are forced at gun point to be drugs mules?’ No its far more serious than that. It’s ‘What the hell am I going to do with my long list of stupid skin conditions?’.

My body is a joke. I came back from Edinburgh yesterday, where we spent four lovely days with friends, eating, drinking and generally having a lovely time. I woke up this morning and my left hand is covered in eczema. What a delight. You see my skin doesn’t like a change in water and likes to let me know this whenever we go away for a few days. Well skin, you’re just going to have to get used to this, you and I are going travelling and there will be lots of changes you are going to have to put up with. (I really hope it’s listening).

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It also does not like sun and we all know that there is no sun in Central or South America. Last year Rob and I went camping in France for two weeks. We enjoyed the French cuisine, beautiful scenery and the glorious sunshine. When I say we, I mean all of us except my annoying skin. Oh no, it did not like this and decided to develop a heat rash all over my arms. We simply referred to this as leprosy. Attractive isn’t it?

leprosy

Heat leprosy

Heat is my Kryptonite

With the sun obviously comes heat, which is like kryptonite for my body. This year we have enjoyed a beautiful warm summer here in Scotland. But my skin has not enjoyed this, instead it has decided that Pityriasis Rosea (big red blotchy marks on my back) is this summers must have accessory. Thankfully this is hidden under my clothes, so it does not have to be inflicted on the general public. Feel free to stop reading if you are eating your lunch.

My skins hatred of warmer climates doesn’t end there though, my feet REALLY hate the heat. Whilst in Thailand in 2011 Rob and I went on a jungle trek, it was extremely hot and being in the jungle meant wearing closed walking shoes. As a result my feet got hot, swelled up and developed eczema on them. Over the next few days they continued to swell until no shoes I owned would fit on them (if only I had taken my clown shoes – silly packing decision), I couldn’t walk and the eczema got infected. It really was a sight to behold. Imagine a washing up glove filled with air.

Fat foot

Fat foot

Rob suggested that sea water might help, so we took a trip to the beach. It turns out unsurprisingly that sand and infected skin don’t mix. Rob could see how much pain I was in so offered to give me a piggy back, but I’m stubborn and refused. This, on reflection, was very dumb. I winced at every step I made, and discovered walking on your heels is not the fastest mode of transport and it’s probably not a good idea to walk bare foot in Thailand at all! So, after struggling 100 metres walking on just my heels, with my fists curled up in agony and my face permanently gurning, I finally agreed to let Rob carry me.

I then proceeded to sob on Rob’s back due to the extreme pain and itching as he lifted me to the sea. The sea water offered temporary relief but we decided a trip to the doctors was probably the best plan of action. Thankfully once home in the cold Scottish winter my feet finally returned to normal size, just with slightly thinner skin after all the steroid cream used to treat them.

The list goes on and on…

Apart from the heat and water my skin also only likes two types of deodorant. A change from these causes an allergic reaction and makes me scratch my armpits like a stereotypical monkey. I am also allergic to bees-wax; I discovered this after having my legs waxed. I was left with soft smooth legs that resembled tree trunks. Nickel is another irritant not favoured by my skin, so any buttons on jeans have to be painted with nail varnish to prevent a rash in an unfortunate place. The list really does go on….

So, as long as I avoid a change in water, the sun, heat, bees-wax, nickel and continue using the same deodorant for the whole of my trip, I think I’ll be just fine. If by any chance this doesn’t happen (which I think considering the long list is pretty slim), I’ll be sure to think of the readers of the blog and post some amusing photographic evidence of my pain and discomfort. Wish me luck!

Be Inspired! Sarah Somewhere – Writer and traveller

Welcome to the first in our new feature ‘Be Inspired’ celebrating all those amazing people in life who inspire others. From unsuspecting heroes, to those performing epic feats, to people who have changed their lives or the lives of others in a remarkable way. It’s a chance to remember all the things that can be forgotten on a day to day basis, life is amazing and so are people!

We are extremely excited to be starting off the feature by interviewing someone who inspired us to make a huge change in our lives. Sarah Chamberlain aka Sarah Somewhere is a blogger and traveller who quit her job, and sold everything all to follow her dream of indefinite travel with her partner Tyhrone. Sarah’s blog is a beautiful and honest account of her life and travels, ranging for crazy adventures across India in a rickshaw to journeys of self realisation. We are definitely grateful for that day, when a random Google search led us to Sarah’s blog and the realisation that maybe, just maybe, travel could be forever!

Sarah

1) What made you decide to pack in your job and head off on a never-ending travel journey?

It was a number of things but mostly dissatisfaction with the way our lives were. We had chosen to buy property and work hard in jobs which paid the bills but didn’t fill us up. It served a purpose, but didn’t make us happy. All our friends were buying bigger houses, getting married and having babies, and we knew we weren’t ready for that yet, but we also weren’t happy with the way things were. We had travelled a lot together over the years, and always talked about traveling indefinitely without an end date, thinking how awesome that would be. It was our dream, but we didn’t know how we would make it happen with two mortgages and two fairly well-paid jobs we were afraid to leave.

When my company offered voluntary redundancies in an effort to cut back on staff, it was the sign I needed to make the break from my job of eleven years. I was really lucky to receive a pay-out for my decade of service, and Tyrhone had been working two jobs for a while in order to save for ‘the dream’. We put the properties on the market and sold them. We lost money on one, but it didn’t matter – we were free!

I don’t mean to make this sound like an easy process, it wasn’t. But one thing I will say is that in a period of a year we went from wondering how to make it happen to it becoming a reality. With no jobs, no home and only the stuff inside our backpacks, we set of for Cambodia with no plans except to take every day as it came along and try to travel for as long as we wanted to.

2) What’s your most memorable moment, the one that always makes you think “that’s why I did this!”?

Watching the most spectacular sunset of my life over Mt Rinjani on the island of Lombok, Indonesia was a pretty special moment. I hiked for two days to the base camp with some fantastic girls I’d met in Bali. The trek was unplanned and just kinda happened, yet it was so perfect. Tyrhone and I had taken some time apart as traveling together for several months started to take its toll on our relationship. We needed some solo time to gain perspective and get some individual experiences under our belts.

The Sunset

I was so used to sharing everything with him, but that sunset, one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever witnessed, was just for me, my new friends, and our six amazing guides and porters. It brought tears to my eyes with the sheer magic of the sight. It looked as though the sky was on fire. It was kind of a bittersweet though, because it made me realise that even though I could travel on my own and make friends and have wonderful experiences, I wished Tyrhone could have seen it too. But I’ll never forget that moment – it was something special.

Visiting the grasslands of Ta Gong in western Sichuan, China, was also somewhere that made me go, “Oh yes, this is why I travel.” Miles of rolling emerald-green hills stretching out as far as the eye could see, dotted with Tibetan monasteries and covered in prayer flags. It was totally surreal.

Ta Gong grasslands

3) What’s been your worst moment when travelling? What got you through it?

We got really sick in China, in Ta Gong actually (at the end of our stay, thankfully). We ate bad yak steaks (seriously! Maybe it was karma). We both got food poisoning, but I got it worse. The altitude didn’t help either (we were at about 3,500m) so we decided to head back down the mountain which took about 3 hours on the bus. I clutched a plastic bag and stuck my face through a crack in the window trying not to vomit.

When we got to town, the hostel we went to was full, and by the time we found somewhere to stay we both hated each other due to us both being sick and me being a whingeing mess. The place was kind of dirty and our room hadn’t been cleaned yet. This was the final straw for me. While Tyrhone went to check us in, I just lost it, sobbing uncontrollably like a baby in a crumpled mess in the hallway.

This lovely cleaner took pity on me (I must have looked quite a sight!). She brought me warm water to drink then after I told her about my paining stomach using pathetic charades, she took me into another room and gave me the weirdest massage. She was pinching me all over, and it kinda hurt but it made me stop crying out of the sheer shock of what was happening. After that, I slept for a day and felt heaps better, so it must have worked! It also made for a pretty funny story….

4) Your blog is an inspirational read and a real voyage of self discovery, which many people can relate to. If you could travel back in time to give yourself any words of advice about the future, what would you say?

STOP DRINKING!!!

Hahaha. I’ve recently shared a bit on my blog about my journey as a recovering alcoholic, so yes, you could say I’ve had quite a colourful ride through life and made many mistakes. But honestly, as corny as it sounds, it all makes me who I am and I really wouldn’t change any of it.

I guess if I could give myself any advice it would be this: Listen to your heart, know you are loved, and that the gifts you have been given are unique and special, so don’t try to be someone else in order to seek the approval of others. You are enough!

5) You have some amazing adventures including the ‘Rickshaw Run’ (driving 3,000km across the length of India, on three wheels, in two weeks!!). Sometimes it seemed a little scary! Were there any moments you really feared for your own safety?

Umm… all the time, have you ever been in Indian traffic?! But it’s funny, because although there were moments of fear, like when we were nearly side-swiped by a truck or run off the road by a bus, the journey actually instilled a strong sense of faith in me.

India is a country like no other and the way it operates without any sense of organisation or reason (that we are used to) can teach us a lot about faith and acceptance. My world got bigger as the result of driving an auto rickshaw 3,000 KM across that frustrating and beautiful land. We were taken care of and shown so much kindness by the Indian people, it also taught me a lot about humanity and how much good there is in the world if we bother to switch off the news and get out and experience it.

6) If you could chose a favourite photo from your journey what would it be? What’s the story behind the picture?

Oh Jeez, tough one! Maybe this one of a little boy in Gokarna, India.

Boy Gorkana

We stopped in this magical little town on day 10 of the Rickshaw run, and it was just a cute moment of him peering out onto the street from his home. Simple, beautiful moments is what travel is all about.

7) We are obsessed with food and constantly seem to be planning our next meal, which leads to the question: If you could travel to one city for breakfast, another for lunch, another for dinner and a final one for pudding… where would you go and what would you eat?

Croissants and café au lait in Paris for breakfast, shrimp tacos in Playa del Carmen for lunch, red curry and pad thai in Bangkok for dinner and gelato in Florence for dessert.

8) Travel can have moments of tedium or time killing, like waiting for flights. We often get through this by filling it with ‘would you rathers’. So, would you rather be only able to shout or only able to whisper for the rest of your life?

Definitely whisper. My boyfriend would happy about this too, as he says I shout all the time.

9) Your journey is very inspiring to us and many others. It definitely influenced our decision to travel indefinitely. Who inspires you?

Russell Brand, Mother Theresa, Martha Gelhorn, Joan Rivers, Arundhati Roy, Oprah, my mum, my sisters, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Glennon Doyle Melton, babies, puppies and basically anyone unafraid to live fully and wholly and follow their true calling. My boyfriend Tyrhone inspires me too. He is unique to the point of frustrating, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him (a quality I really admire) and is really, really kind to people.

10) What’s next for Sarah Somewhere? Do you have any exciting adventures planned?

We’re living in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for another six months, and my sister and my Mum are both coming to visit which I’m really excited about. In February our visas are up, and the plan at this stage is to drive across central and South America. We bought a car in order to do the trip, so we will see how that goes. Honestly though, we’re pretty happy in our pad in Mexico, eating, writing, doing yoga and going to the beach, so the idea of huge overland journey is a little intimidating to me at the moment! Who knows what will happen, but one thing is for sure, this journey has been the best thing we have ever done and I would encourage anyone considering taking the leap to go for it – you won’t regret it.

If you have not already checked out Sarah Somewhere, then what are you doing? Go! GO NOW!! Here’s where:

Website: http://sarahsomewhere.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SarahSomewhereTravelBlog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarah_somewhere 

Midweek Eat! Spicy chicken and bacon jambalaya

MIDWEEK EAT!!

We love our culinary delights, but in our travel savings mission we have drastically cut our usual fancy pants food budget. We bring you tasty treats from our budget for two people. We spend £60 ($90) a week on groceries (including food, toiletries and everything else for the house) and most weeks we are closer to £50 ($75) mark. We want to prove that budget doesn’t have to mean bland!

Spicy chicken and bacon jambalaya

This zesty meal will add a bit of spice to your life, it’s definitely a favourite in our house! A Cajun-inspired rice pot recipe with chicken, bacon, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lemon and parsley. It’s a one pot meal so brilliant for when you want something tasty but really can’t be bothered making a huge effort and also reduces the dreaded washing up.

Servings:

4 servings

Ingredients

• 1 tbsp olive oil

• 2 chicken breasts, chopped

• 1 onion, diced

• 1 red pepper, thinly sliced

• 2 garlic cloves, crushed

• 75g bacon, sliced (Or chorizo)

• 1 tsp Cajun seasoning

• 1 tsp hot chili powder (you can add more depending on your spicy taste)

• 1tsp paprika

• 250g long grain rice

• 400g can plum tomatoes

• 350ml chicken stock

• Juice of half a lemon

• Bunch of chopped parsley

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Method

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid and brown the chicken for 5-8 mins until golden. Remove and set aside.Tip in the onion and cook for 3-4 mins until soft. Then add the pepper, garlic, bacon and Cajun seasoning, chilli powder and paprika and cook for 5 mins more.

2. Stir the chicken back in with the rice, add the tomatoes and stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender.

3. At the last minute squeeze in the lemon and stir in the chopped parsley.

When we cooked it this time we also added some mushrooms but you could add any other vegetables. Prawns also make a good alternative to chicken and go perfectly with the lemon and parsley.

Such a simple and tasty meal! This makes enough for 4 servings so you can have yummy leftovers for lunch the next day, just pop it in the microwave for a few minutes to heat through.

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DON’T GO TO BELIZE! YOU WILL DIE!

“DON’T GO TO BELIZE! YOU WILL DIE!”

This was a gem of advice we received after telling someone we were heading to Central America. I am sure this is not the tagline of the Belize tourist board and after a quick Wikipedia search I can happily tell you it’s NOT scientific fact, more just the result of 40 year old misinformation from an ex-army officer.

It’s just one of the many funny and bizarre responses to telling people our travel plans. Most people have been so supportive in our dream of adventure, but after the news of our indefinite journey settles in, questions concerning the domestics of our trip often crop up.

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Belize, risk it at your peril…. apparently (Image copyright Nick M satanoid)

I revealed to my mum that we would be selling all our worldly goods to help make the break from the 9-5 for a life of travel. I was amazed at how well she took to to the idea of us selling our cars, furniture, stereos and TVs at a fraction of the original price and all with the increasing possibility that we may not return. But there was one thing that really sent her into a spin as we chatted over a brew and a biscuit.

Mum: ‘So, you are selling everything?’

Me: “Yeah pretty much, just keeping a bag of clothes for winter if we ever return…”

Mum: “Ok that makes sense…”

Wow, she took it surprisingly well! Or so I thought, but then came the question. You know the BIG ONE! The massive decision that all travellers have to wrestle with before they leave their homeland. It keeps us awake at night while the rest of the world mocks us with sleep.

Mum’s face became filled with fear, “But… your not selling your sheets and towels are you??!!”

My beardy face became confused “Erm, yeah. Yeah we aren’t, erm keeping the towels.”

I had never even contemplated holding onto our beloved towels from the local supermarket, but in my mum’s world this was a step too far! She now believed her son had lost the plot with his crazy towel selling antics!

We are more familiar with questions like “Wouldn’t you rather buy a house?” or “What about the pension?”, which reveals more about what is expected of a person today than anything else. For me these questions are easily answered with ‘I’d rather have an experience or an amazing memory than a possession’. If they don’t get it, that’s fine with me, no harm done. We just want different things in life. If I am honest these questions are few and far between and we have been overwhelmed with many encouraging messages and tips of where to explore.

I do love the more unusual responses though… ‘What will you do about waxing and beauty treatments?’, before your imagination leaps away with you about my grooming habits and my bald bollo body, this was directed towards Kellie. You will be relieved to know she is packing her razor to keep at bay the 5 o’clock stubble and we are carrying a bar of soap for her beauty treatments.

I guess these things are what need to be considered in every day life; if you don’t have sheets where will you sleep? But once you have made the decision to travel and sell all your possessions your focus changes to; where is my next destination? how do I get from A to B via 6 buses, two planes and a donkey ride without speaking the local lingo.  Where’s my next meal? Does a swim in the sea count as a shower?

I am sure I will be confronted by the domestics of life when I land in Mexico, but hopefully not too much! For now all I see is one big adventure ahead of us.

I am sure we are not alone in these funny and unexpected responses. It would be great to hear any bizarre comments you have received to put a smile on our faces!

Midweek Eat! Mexican chilli time!

MIDWEEK EAT!!

We love our culinary delights, but in our savings mission we have drastically cut our usual fancy pants food budget. We bring you tasty treats from our budget for two people. We spend £60 ($90) a week on groceries (including food, toiletries and everything else for the house) and most weeks we are closer to £50 ($75) mark. We want to prove that budget doesn’t have to mean bland!

Chilli Con Carne and avocado salsa

As Mexico is our first stop on our escapade we wanted to bring you a Mexican or Tex-Mex inspired dish, which we make regularly. This is our take on chilli con carne. Here we have made it with minced beef but we often make a vegetarian version with soya mince. What transforms this meal from a run of the mill chilli is the fresh ingredients and the tasty avocado salsa. Plus it’s versatile, quick and so very cheap!! (If you are feeling a bit indulgent add a couple of cubes of dark chocolate for a richer flavour)

Servings:

4 servings

Ingredients

• 1 tbsp oil

• 1 large onion

• 1 red pepper

• 1 courgette

• 2 garlic cloves, peeled

• 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder (or 1 level tbsp if you only have mild)

• 1 tsp paprika

• 1 tsp ground cumin

• 1tsp ground coriander

• 500g lean minced beef or soya mince

• 1 beef or vegetable stock cube

• 400g can/s chopped tomatoes

• 2 tbsp tomato purée

• 410g can red kidney beans

• 1 lime

•  fresh bunch of coriander

•  grated cheese

•  plain boiled long grain rice or tortilla wraps or tacos, to serve

•  soured cream, to serve

Avocado salsa

•  1 avocado

•  1 spring onion, thinly sliced (I used red onion here as we had one left in the cupboard)

•  Salt for seasoning

•  A fresh chilli chopped (or more, depends how spicy you like it!)

• 1 tbsp lime juice

• a small bunch of roughly chopped coriander

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Method

1. Prepare your vegetables. Chop 1 large onion into small dice. Cut 1 red pepper in half lengthways, remove stalk and wash the seeds away, then chop. Chop the courgette into slices, then quarter. Peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

2. Start cooking. Put your pan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the oil and leave it for 1-2 minutes until hot. Add the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft, squidgy and slightly translucent. Tip in the garlic, red pepper, 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder or 1 level tbsp mild chilli powder, 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp ground cumin. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Brown the 500g lean minced beef, soya (follow packet instructions). Turn the heat up a bit, add the meat to the pan and break it up with your spoon or spatula. The mix should sizzle a bit when you add the mince. Keep stirring and prodding for at least 5 minutes, until all the mince is in uniform, mince-sized lumps and there are no more pink bits. Make sure you keep the heat hot enough for the meat to fry and become brown, rather than just stew.

4. Making the sauce. Crumble into the mince and vegetables 1 beef or vegetable stock cube. Open 1 or 2 can of chopped tomatoes (400g can) and add these as well. Squirt in about 2 tbsp tomato purée and stir the sauce well.

5. Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for 20 minutes. You should check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough. After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.

6. Bring on the beans! Drain and rinse 1 can of red kidney beans (410g can) in a sieve and stir them into the chilli pot. Bring to the boil again, and gently bubble without the lid for another 10 minutes, adding a little more water if it looks too dry. Taste a bit of the chilli and season. It will probably take a lot more seasoning than you think. Now replace the lid, turn off the heat, add the juice of a lime and chopped coriander. Leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Leaving your chilli to stand is really important as it allows the flavours to mingle and the meat.

Making the avocado salsa

Whilst the chilli is simmering halve the avocado, remove the pit, and then remove the flesh and mash with a fork. Scatter in the spring onion, chopped chillies, salt to taste, lime juice and most of the coriander and mix. Taste to see if any more salt is needed before scattering with the remaining coriander and taking to the table.

That’s it, you are done! Serve with soured cream, grated cheese, the avocado salsa, plain boiled long grain rice, tacos or tortillas.

This made heaps! Two evening meals; one night we had it with tortillas and the next with rice. We also had enough left over so we could both take it for lunch the following week. That works out at less than £2 per serving. An absolute bargain, extremely tasty, and so easy![justified_image_grid preset=3 ids=”3663″ row_height=350 caption=off limit=0]