Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Recipe 5: Pan Seared Steak with Sweet Potato Fries


"Rotorua is gorgeous! The scenery is just breathtaking. Everywhere we have been so far has been beautiful. We are staying in a hostel with an outdoor pool that is naturally heated by the earth! How crazy! We visited these geysers and sulfur heated springs. I can honestly say that I am just blown away.

Tonight we are off to a native tribal ceremony re-creation. It's in the middle of the forest and a show is put on to recreate how the aboriginal community used to welcome visitors to the area. They follow the welcoming with a traditional meal of steak and potatoes and roasted root vegetable that are all cooked underground in the heated earth! Sounds amazing and can't wait. I will fill you in as soon as I get back."


(serves 2)

Pan Seared Steak and Sweet Potato Fries
photo: Ryan Szulc
Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff - the Hostel Chef

What you need:
  • 2 x 6 oz steaks
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper (depending on your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of chicken powder
  • 1/4 coffee cup of water
  • 1/4 coffee cup of red wine ( You're drinking it anyways...)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

What you need to do:
  • Preheat oven to 400°F or gas mark 6.
  • Cut the sweet potato into thin french fries and place in a bowl.
  • Mix the fries with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the fries to a baking dish or a non stick baking tray and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  • While the fries are cooking, take a non-stick pan (if possible) and heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on med-high heat.
  • Season your steaks with salt and pepper on both sides, and then place in pan.
  • Cook for 4 minutes on each side and then place pan in oven for another 10 to 15 minutes (if your pan cannot go in the oven then place steaks in a baking dish).
  • Remove from the oven using a glove, and allow to rest on plate.
  • For the sauce: Mix the wine, water, and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil.
  • Add the chicken powder and reduce the liquid until you have a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.
  • Place steaks on a plate, drizzle sauce over top, and serve with sweet potato fries.

Hope you enjoy and keep in touch. Let me know how it goes!

The Hostel Chef

Friday, October 30, 2009

Olive oil....Which One to Get?


"Karine and I had such a great day touring the city. We checked into our hostel, did our usual tour and went on our way. It's beautiful here and so different than Australia. It reminds me of Ireland to some extent with it's rolling hills and countryside. We were looking at our guide book and found that New Zealand has their own olive groves so we will be checking those out. It seems that New Zealand has more then just sheep! Guess the Aussie's were wrong! lol.

Auckland is really charming but it's a bit too small for my taste. Great to visit though, and I can't wait to see the rest of the North Island.
We are going to see geysers and hot springs which are all naturally heated. Sounds awesome and relaxing! I love vacation!!!!!!!''


Olive oil is one of those ingredients that people love to talk about. Extra-virgin, virgin, once pressed, twice pressed... The discussion goes on and on and on. People are concerned with its taste level and flavor, what country it came from, and how dark or light it is. These are all important concerns when you are fine dining and cooking for the passion of cooking, but let's be honest: when you are backpacking, these things don't matter to you.

The number one reason that I suggest you to use olive oil is because it is a healthy choice and an important part of a nutritious diet. It will add flavor and be the smartest option when it comes to using fat. In my opinion, I would reach for the virgin olive oil. There is still some flavor but it is less expensive and more appropriate to cook with. If you were to buy extra-virign olive oil - and cook with it - all the extra flavor you paid for would disapear once it is heated so don't waste your money!

Here are some links about olive oil:

1. Food Network Canada

2. TLC - How Olive Oil Works

3. Fine Cooking

Keep me posted on all your cooking adventures. If you have any suggestions for recipes you'd like to see in the future, please let me know. You can twitter me, email me, or facebook me at any time. Have a blast traveling for all of us wishing we were there with you!

The Hostel Chef

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recipe 4: Hostel Frittata


"WOW! I just finished breakfast, came down to the computer room and saw your last email. I can't believe that you guys are coming to visit me! That is fantastic and I can't wait. What an amazing surprise.

We definitely need to talk tonight before I leave for New Zealand to discuss where we will meet. I have my train ticket to Alice Springs to see Ayer's Rock and then we head north to Darwin. From there, Karine and I will be flying to Cairns (top east c
oast) to see the Great Barrier Reef. Our plan is to do a three day tour of Cape Tribulation (rain forest) and then begin our trek down the coast.

I know that you guys fly into Sydney so maybe after a few days there, you can meet us up the coast in Rockhampton... the beef capital of Australia... lol. From there we can go visit Great Keppel Island and Fraser Island. They are supposed to be breathtaking! Can't wait to see you!!!!!!!!!!!

Talk to you soon : )"

(serves 2 - 4)

photo: Ryan Szulc
Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff - the Hostel Chef

What you need:
  • 6 eggs or 4 eggs and 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, cut in half moons
  • 1/2 a coffee cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, and grated (if you don't have a grater, cut into small cubes)
  • 12 small cleaned shrimps
  • 1/2 coffee cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp of salt and pepper for egg mix

What you need to do:
  • Preheat oven to 375°F or gas mark 5.
  • Beat the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat.
  • Sautée the shrimp for a minute until they turn pink and set aside on a plate.
  • Add the onion and potatoes to the pan and sautée for a few minutes turning the potatoes often so they don't burn.
  • Add the shrimp back in the pan with the tomatoes and cook for another minute.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and top with the cheddar cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven using a glove, and slide the frittata onto a plate.
  • Serve with salad greens and toast.

Do I have to use shrimp?

I just made this frittata the other day with onions and zucchini and it was awesome. Try it with sautéed mushrooms or bacon. It's a great way to eat eggs and potatoes and it is just filling enough to get you through till lunch.


**Here is a side note. When Ryan and I shot this picture I had come up with a corriander sour cream to garnish the frittata. This was a basic mix of sour cream with fresh, chopped corriander. After remaking the frittata the other day, I decided to try it with salsa.....WOW! It was amazing! You have to try it!

The Hostel Chef

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Recipe 3: Hostel Grilled Cheese


"Well this is it, on Friday I bid adieu to beautiful Sydney! Can you believe that I have already been away from home for four months?! It has gone by so fast. I have had an amazing time so far and I am so excited for the trip ahead.

We are heading to New Zealand on Monday for two week
s, and we begin in Auckland. We are doing a two week tour using Kiwi Experience. It is a bus service that allows you to get on and off at different stops along the way. The bus takes you to places that the city busses would never bring you like national parks, geysers, and mud baths. It sounds like an amazing trip and I can't wait for it to begin.

After New Zealand, we are returning to Australia for another 8 months! First stop will be Adelaide and then we will be trekking all the way up the center to Ayer's Rock and Darwin. I have to save my money for all this so it looks like grilled cheese will be on the menu for the next little!"

(serves 1)

photo: Ryan Szulc
Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff - the Hostel Chef

What you need:
  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 slices of bread of your choice
  • 2 pieces of bacon or 1 piece of Canadian bacon (peameal)
  • 1 slice cheddar - buy this in a brick or pre-sliced at the deli counter
  • 1 tablespoon of fig jam or fresh figs

What you need to do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or gas mark 4.
  • Cook the bacon in a pan, lay on paper towel and set aside.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a large pan on med-low heat.
  • Brown the bread on each side and set aside.
  • Rinse your pan and lightly grease it with a paper towel that has a small amount of olive oil on it.
  • On a plate, build your sandwich: bread, figs or fig jam, bacon, cheese, bread.
  • Put your pan in the oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Other grilled cheese ideas:

  • Try swiss cheese, sautéed onions with a bit of honey, and some fresh thyme
  • Try goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, sauteéd red onions.

This is one of those recipes that you can do whatever you feel. Have a great idea for a grilled cheese? Leave me your comments and let's have a discussion about it. Looking forward to trying some of your ideas!

The Hostel Chef

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Can't Find That Ingredient...


"This past weekend was amazing! On Friday night, Karine and I went into the city to a restaurant called Shakespeare's for dinner. It's a place that specializes in meat pies. They have a bunch of different flavors and they are beautiful! You order a small french fry and they give you a bag with heaps of chips. It was soooo filling! Another thing they do here is put chicken salt on their fries. It's actually way better then it sounds. After we ate, Karine, Jen, and I went to a pub called Shakespeare's (hmmmm, not too original... lol) for drinks. Lots of Jen's friends were there and we had an awesome night.

Mom - I wanted to thank you for your help last night with the spanish rice. I wasn't sure what to do when I couldn'
t find the marinated vegetables we use at home. Your suggestion to just add a bit of red wine vinegar and fresh vegetables worked perfectly. THANKS! Next time, no panicking... I promise."


When cooking in foreign countries, there are chances that you
won’t find every item that you need for a recipe. You are probably asking, “What do I do if you can’t find an ingredient?” This is a very common question and may happen to you when you are traveling. You basically have two choices: panic or take a deep breath and be creative! This dilemma can actually be the best thing that may happen to you. You may be thinking that if I don’t have the ingredients the recipe requires, then how can I cook it? Recipes are guides that give you direction but there are no rules. Have fun with your food and be adventurous. You never know, this may be the push you need to become an amazing, inventive cook!

My main suggestion is to explore local markets, talk to the people, and experience the flavors of the world. If you are looking for a certain spice to use, and can’t find the one you need, feel free to s-mell the spices on the rack and choose the one you like. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, touch and smell are going to be your guides. If you see something you have never seen before, add it to your cart and try it. The best way to learn about a country is to eat their food so just go for it!

I know, I say this a lot, but foo
d and cooking should not stress you out. It should be a Zen moment for you at the end of a hectic day. When food is comforting, it makes you want to eat it and enjoy it. When it is stressful, it tastes stressed. So please take a moment, relax, and turn on the oven.

Have fun!

The Hostel Chef

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recipe 2: Beer Chili


"I am back in Parramatta, and let me tell you, it is no Surfer's Paradise! I have so much to catch you guys up on, so I will start with the most exciting event... wait for it... wait for it... it happened before we left on our trip to Surfer's. Are you ready for this? Ok... Well they have a "Chili's Grill and Bar" here! It is about a 15-minute train ride from where I am staying here! How cool is that?! The layout was exactly like the one at home and even the bathrooms were in the same place! Too cool! Ok, maybe I'm a little over excited about this, but having a little taste of home is such a treat for us. I had the fajitas (of course) and Karine had the chili. It was really good!

I booked my tickets for the Good Will Games in Brisbane. I know I am really early but the tickets are selling fast. I am going to go see beach volleyball and I am in the 5th row. It should be awesome. Hopefully when I am there, there will be tickets for other events available. It sounds like a great time with all the athletes taking over the city!"

(serves 4)

Beer Chili

photo: Ryan Szulc
Food Stylist: Noah Witenoff - the Hostel Chef

What you need:
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 package of minced lean ground beef (454g - 600g)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped (tip - use your knife to smash the garlic and remove the skin)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, cut on a diagonal
  • 1 jalapeno (optional) seeded and chopped (wash your hands and knife right away to avoid getting any in your eyes)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning mix
  • 2 splashes of beer (adds a lot of flavor and you're drinking it anyways!)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (796ml)
  • 1 can of water (796ml)
  • 1 can of red kidney beans or any bean of your choice, drained and rinsed (540ml)
  • 1 tablespoon of chicken powder

What you need to do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot.
  • Brown the meat for about 5 minutes or until it is cooked through.
  • Add the onions and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the carrot, celery, and jalapeno.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding the beer and allow to cook for a minute while stirring to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom.
  • Add tomatoes, water, and chicken powder and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Eat with bread, rice, or on its own.

Here are some leftover suggestions:

  • Try a sloppy joe on a hamburger bun.
  • Use it as a meat sauce for pasta.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and keep me posted with your recipe suggestions. Much more to come!

The Hostel Chef

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cooking for You + 1


"Today was a gorgeous day. We took the train out to Blue Mountains National Park in Katoomba. It was a beautiful ride and we were super excited to see the Three Sisters rock formation that everyone had told us about. When we got there, we were not surprised to see so many tourists but it did annoy us that we weren't the only ones!

Near the lookout there was a staircase that seemed like it went down forever. We had heard that there was a scenic train that would take us back up the hillside which sounded really cool. We started to walk down and it was breathtaking. I think in all, it took us an hour and half to get all the way to the bottom. When we finally reached flat ground, Karine, Nathalie, Christine, and myself almost died when we saw a sign for the train that read: "CLOSED"!!!! We had no choice but to walk all the way back up the stairs which seemed like they went forever up this forested mountain! It was beautiful but there were times where we thought we weren't going to make it! Moral of the story...always read the signs!

When we got back to our hostel, we made a delicious meal all together. It was the first time that Karine and I cooked with the girls and we ended up saving at least 15 dollars. This is what we will be doing from now on when we are all together. After dinner, we decided to sit by the fireplace in the hostel and just chat. I didn't think that backpacking would be this cool. I have met so many different people that I would have never had the chance to meet."


When you are cooking in a hostel it is always important to think about three things:

  • Budget
  • Waste
  • Leftovers for the next day

When possible, it will always be cheaper to cook for more than one person at a time. If you are alone, you can always cook for two and that way, your leftovers become tomorrow's lunch. This is a great way to save time and money. If you make a big pot of chili one night, you can definitely save it for lunch the next day and maybe even dinner! Another cool thing about leftovers is that sometimes you can use them the following day in a new recipe. For example, if you made chicken one night and you have leftovers, you can use it on a salad, or in pasta, or to garnish a soup. Many options can be made from one meal.

Staying in youth hostels is a fantastic way to travel... because it is almost 100% a social way to travel. Cooking is a great way to meet people and a fun activity to do together. Why not take that pot of chili and share it with some new friends? There were many times that I would be cooking in a hostel, and a random stranger would come over to see what I was making. We would end up sharing the meal and getting to know eachother. I met a lot of people this way, and am still in touch with them to this day.

Here are some tips about leftovers:

Don't forget to have fun! Food is not about stress. Take your leftovers and try something that you never thought would work. Worse comes to worse, you order in a pizza... lol. Good luck and keep me posted!

The Hostel Chef