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I was reminded recently that travelling in self-catering mode can be both fun and frustrating! For those of you readying yourself for a trip away over Easter and the school holidays, this is something that might just be on your mind.
The experience that jogged my memory was a brief one. I had reason to embark on a road trip down the NSW coast and while it was long in distance it was short in time. To juggle that constraint, I needed dining flexibility, but I also wanted to enjoy my meals. So, with that in mind, I’d booked self-contained accommodation.
The great thing was that I got to experiment with and sample some fantastic food: think local produce and products mixed in with a couple of sneaky treats along the way. Simple, quick and easy was plat-de-jour.
It sounded like a great plan until some of the practicalities hit home, and I felt the discomfort of cooking in a kitchen that was not my own. Does a bar fridge and a microwave even constitute a kitchen? It got me thinking about the kitchen essentials I wish I’d had with me, and those I’ve often taken with me when travelling with the family. Something better than the awful, awful knife which was my only option at one overnight stop. With that in mind, let me outline the ten travel essentials not to leave home without this Easter holidays.
A sharp knife and a chopping board that you trust to use it with. Enough with the dull knives that are a liability to produce and fingers! And while I’m not germophobe, if I’ve got space, I’m taking a chopping board that I know is hygienic.
Small cannisters or bottles of the basics like salt, pepper, olive oil and a few allrounder spices. My picks would be things like fennel or cumin seeds, chilli flakes, dried rosemary, cinnamon and at the risk of sounding like Ottolenghi, sumac. So many tasty possibilities and you won’t have to go near a supermarket.
Matches, foil and baking paper. Now this one sounds like an odd combination, but the number of times I’ve been caught out by gas burners (or BBQs) that won’t light and oven trays that I couldn’t use have taught me well. You don’t need a whole roll of foil or baking paper: just fold a few small pieces up and you’re set.
A tea towel, if only to wrap and carefully pack that sharp knife! But really just because you never know when it’ll come in handy.
A roll of paper towel or a big box of tissues, or better still, both. Cleaning up, wiping down and in a pinch, napkins. Sorted.
Tupperware containers or ziplock bags, because some ingredients – and any leftovers – need a happy home.
A non-stick fry pan that you trust. Nothing ruins my morning like a sunny-side up egg that I can’t get out of a pan safely.
A flat sandwich press, that is, one without the ridges. I’m slightly odd in that I refuse to use a toaster for my sourdough, so this is essential in my books. But I’ve also been known to adapt to gas-shortages or a lack of a non-stick pan by using my trusty sambo press to cook an egg.
The coffee and/or tea bags that you like, because you like what you like, and at least for the first morning, getting that trusted caffeine hit is fundamentally important. Go local after that.
A bottle of wine! Picture this: you’ve finished a long week at work, loaded everyone and everything into the car, driven for however many hours to your holiday accommodation before battling to unload the car. You. Are. Exhausted. You may also be in the country, miles from the nearest bottle shop. Think ahead my friends and throw in some supplies!
Now if you’re on the OCD scale like me, neatly packing these items can be achieved without taking up half the boot of your car. Of course, if you’re not driving, things are a little trickier and you’ll need to choose wisely. I have flown with a trusty knife in my checked baggage before, but yes, a sandwich press would make for some interesting carry-on luggage!
But how do you know which of these things to prioritise if time, space and logistics are challenging?
Well how’s this for a crazy idea… When speaking with the local accommodation providers we regularly deliver to, they all tell me the same thing: if you want to know what’s in a kitchen before you leave home, just give them a call to check. That’s a great idea, especially if you’re going to be staying for more than a few nights.
But still, I’d pack that bottle of wine! Then you’ll be ready to get out and meet real people making real food at real places.