Recipe: Burritos

Inspired by my trip to America, yesterday night I spontaneously decided to try and make burritos, having been craving them since coming home. (Yes, after visiting the USA, I was inspired to make Mexican food. But they were so good!) I didn’t have a recipe, instead making up as I went along, and while they weren’t quite as good as Chipotle, they were pretty tasty!

I used mostly what I had in the fridge, so if you too are inspired to create burritos I wouldn’t worry too much about quantities. We had plenty left over. Feeds approx. 5.

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Ingredients:

– tortillas

– rice (approx. 300g)

– chicken breasts, diced (4)

– onion, sliced (1 med.)

– peppers, sliced (3)

– tomatoes, chopped (4)

– kidney beans (can of)

– lettuce, roughly chopped

– lemon (1, for juice)

– dressing: salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

– cumin (lots of!)

– seasoning

I feel slightly guilty in that I couldn’t be bothered to make my own salsa or guacamole (heads up, the guacamole I bought wasn’t great – I should have know, it was ‘Guacamole-Style’), but you can make it if the mood so takes you.

Instructions:

So I don’t really know how the ingredients are usually cooked in Mexico (or America for that matter) so I ended up just frying everything (in sunflower oil, if anyone’s wondering).

I started by draining and then frying the kidney beans by themselves.

While they were frying I put the rice onto boil, seasoning the water with cumin, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. (I mostly left the rice to do its own thing, waiting for the water to be absorbed and evaporate, rather than draining it. Just make sure you stir every so often so the rice doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom, especially as the water levels get low).

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Then I put the onions on to fry (in a separate pan from the kidney beans), seasoning them with cumin, a bit of dried chopped garlic and ground black pepper. I like my onions to be soft so I waited until they were browning, but you can let them become translucent if you prefer them crunchier.

Once the kidney beans softened I removed them from their pan, placing them in a bowl, and put the chicken onto fry in the pan with a bit of lemon juice, seasoning it with (what else!) cumin and ground black pepper.

Once the onions were browning I put in the peppers, adding a bit more cumin and a squirt of lemon juice, and frying them until they softened. Once they had softened I added the tomatoes, frying them for about a minute, and then adding the kidney beans into the pan. I also added a bit of sour cream and salsa to the mix (and more cumin!), and covered the pan with a lid to let it sweat a bit.

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To heat the first 4 tortillas, I put them in tin foil and put them in the oven on a low heat (120ºC). When we’d got through them I became lazy and just put the rest in the microwave for 30 seconds. Works just as well both ways.

Once the chicken was browning, the kidney beans soft and the rice cooked, I took the pans off the heat. In one tortilla I placed rice (putting a lot of rice into the tortillas is recommended), a bit of chicken and some of the pepper-kidney bean mix, along with lettuce, and some sour cream and salsa. Then, wrapping the tortillas up, and then wrapping them in tin foil (again, recommended – it stops the tortilla from disintegrating in your hands), they were done! And they tasted pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

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If you decide to give these a go, or if you have any recommendations for improvement, let me know!

Adios USA: Things I learnt

I am currently writing this in JFK International Airport. Not shockingly, I am waiting to board my flight (home, not to another interesting destination). I have spent 3 months away from home, visited 8 states, have spent almost a week travelling on trains, explored 4 national parks and had one experience with Enterprise Road-Side Assistance following a car crash. It’s been awesome.

As often happens to people following long trips, I have come to certain realisations. I’ll skip the self probing discoveries about myself and instead focus on some broader ones about travelling in general. The most important is one that is said a lot, but which I never really took seriously until my road trip: know who you’re travelling with, and know them well!

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After finishing camp and before taking a two-week train trip spanning the US I spent a fortnight with three former coworkers, on a road trip to different national parks and Las Vegas. I had heard and read about the importance of knowing who you’re going to travel with in the past, but dismissed it. Nonsense, I had thought. I have travelled with other people before – friends, family – and had no problems. I’m no longer going to be so cavalier.

Please don’t misunderstand: I really enjoyed that two week trip. However, travelling with people you’ve known for years, sometimes your whole life, and people who you met 2 months before are two very different experiences. I felt restrained in doing what I wanted, worried about boring them or that I was wasting their time. I realised I needed time alone, not because of them but because that’s just who I am, but felt bad saying no to them when they asked if I wanted to explore Vegas with them. One of the members of our group had a really hard time compromising which could sour the atmosphere. Also, realising on day four that none of them had very much camping experience meant that I had to explain how to put up the tent properly, but I did in in an aggravated way because I was tired.

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Being tired was a major problem. Maybe even bigger, however, was money. When you’re with other people your budget is not your own, and as a budget traveller this was probably my biggest issue. It was especially an issue after the car crash (I hadn’t been in the car) when my friend who had been worst affected needed to sleep in motel beds rather than camping. In a crash that should have killed her this was a very small price to pay but it hit my purse all the same.

My new found wariness about travelling with people even affected me in hostels, where I tried to avoid going anywhere with people. At night I felt better, because there was less I wanted to do at night other than experience the city after dark. But in the day this was now my time, and I didn’t want to have to pay for anything I wasn’t comfortable with.

Our car crash brings me to insurance. Here I am going to be a hypocrite: I am going to recommend insurance, say I am sold on it, and yet have spent this last week travelling the US without health coverage (and am currently hoping JFK’s roof doesn’t fall on my head to teach me a lesson). Let’s say, then, that I am sold for sure on insurance, and despite my protestations in Vegas that I don’t like to gamble, when it could save me money I have a bit of a problem (it is something that should probably be worked on).

Finally I discovered that while some people can just rock up in a city, having bought the ticket for the bus in 5 hours before, simply to wander around to see where they can stay, I am not one of those people. Maybe I could do this in South East Asia, or South America, where everything is cheaper even booking on the day, but in the US – and being on a budget – this was just not an option I considered (this was not true when camping however, but there were 4 of us and we had a car that we could – and did – sleep in when times got tough).

So, in the future, unless I know the other person I’m travelling with extremely well, and we’re on the same budget (I can’t explain how important that is for me) then I will travel alone. Total control over travel is not something trifling or small, and it stops full blown arguments because someone hasn’t helped to cook for the fourth day in a row. I will get travel insurance, and I will continue to book at least the travel in and hostel I’m staying in before I arrive. Honestly, these are things that just make me feel more comfortable as a traveller, and when you are on the road feeling comfortable and safe is so important.

Update: Just so you know guys, the roof of JFK didn’t fall on me. Yay!

Do you have any travel tips? Are you an insurance gambler? Let me know.

Virgin Atlantic

The first time I flew on an aeroplane I was 12 years old, travelling on a school skiing trip to France. I honestly cannot remember who I flew with on that first trip – in fact all I can remember was that I flew from Heathrow and I think we landed in Grenoble. Since then, however, I have flown with a few different airways. Nothing to brag about, but I’ve experienced a good selection.

Flying to America was my first time travelling with Virgin Atlantic. It did not beat my favourite airline – Emirates – but did beat EasyJet (but then again, barring RyanAir, who doesn’t!?) One main issue was that the plane developed an electrical problem. First, this meant that in flight entertainment was off for 6 hours of an eleven hour flight. Secondly, as I have said before, I am seriously afraid of flying; saying that there’s an electrical problem with a plane does not help me. So not only was I expecting the plane to crash land ever 30 seconds, I didn’t have any television or films to distract me (#firstworldproblems, yeah?) To apologise, the passengers were all given vouchers though, so that’s something.

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Also, to be fair to Virgin Atlantic, they could not have given us more food. While I was underwhelmed with my dinner everything else was great. Calzone, pretzels. My favourite was the afternoon tea. I even tweeted about it. They had this little chocolate millionaire shortbread which was amazing! I’m not usually a fan of such things – between brownie and shortbread I’d choose brownie every time. But these were so good; they just seemed to melt in your mouth, little slices of deliciousness.

 The staff were also great, the flight incredibly smooth. Even without any technical difficulties Emirates would still be top of my list, but I’m not disappointed to be flying home with Virgin Atlantic in the next few days.

Image credits: Slow Buddy

‘On the Road’, on the road

I’m unsure as to whether I can really call reading On the Road while stationed and working in one place ‘on the road’, but I was away from home so I’m going to claim that it counts.

It was funny; while I was reading it, I didn’t think On the Road had had any effect on me other than providing some enjoyment and making me feel frustrated with Sal (just get away from Dean, for God’s sake Paradise!) But following the end of camp I spent two weeks on a road trip and, bizarrely, I started wanting to experience the thrills Sal Paradise had travelling with Dean Moriarty. I wanted to experience that kind of wild thrill, that electric excitement, that’s possible only when your with someone who’s on another plane of energy and is willing to live life freely, be damned the consequences.

Feeling so American #usbling #ontheroad #usliterature #kerouac

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Dean is a character I loved to hate. In the book he came off as so insincere, for me at least. I didn’t believe in how he could feel life the way he did, feeding off the jazz and the excitement of being selfish; it was a show, a cry for attention. Any time Sal got back together with him I groaned for this naive individual who couldn’t see that his idol was so selfish and unthinking and shallow. However, some time after reading the book – and I’m talking months after – Dean starts to seem like someone you would maybe follow, even if only for a day or two. It could be almost automatic. Because even if his love for life is fake it must be amazing to be around someone who just let’s go and doesn’t care, when usually there is so much to do and think about.

It is a book that lures you out of your everyday life, making you want to travel crazily just as they did. You want to rent a car and do their crazy route across America. When I was doing my two week road trip I felt slightly disgusted and disappointed in myself that I couldn’t drive for 24-hours straight like Dean could.

Maybe that’s the true latch of On the Road. Despite knowing that Dean’s crazy and will leave you dying at the side of the road (or in Mexico) if the circumstances suited, we all want to be a bit crazier, a little more selfish. We want to be able to throw off everything and do stupid stuff just like Dean, in spite of the fact that being an accomplice – Sal’s role – can be so very dangerous.

(Sidenote: A book that I really read while actually on the road was All the President’s Men, which some may know from the screen adaptation starring Robert Redford and Dennis Hoffman. It’s about two journalists journey uncovering the Watergate scandal and coverup and it really is a very good read and highly recommended. I also reread Catch-22. Damn. That book is even better than I remember it.)