Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh my oh my! What a big camera you have!

Camera, lights, action!!

Ah yes, the freaking great big DSLR camera and all it's paraphernalia.

Some people travel with no camera, or just a small point and shoot or smartphone camera. I did just that in New Zealand in 2012 and enjoyed the freedom of less bulk, yet still managed to take some great photos with my iPhone. But I prefer making pictures with a camera I can tweak lots, and have invested heavily in improving my knowledge, technique and art. I see myself pursuing my passion for photography post retirement from the doctor job. Which means leaving the DSLR behind just isn't an option.

Mt Hutt panorama using iPhone and stitching Apps

This trip I'm changing it up a bit. I've tended to travel with a Tamron 17-250mm lens, a Canon 10-22mm wide-angle, and a 50mm prime. All too frequently I failed, through sheer laziness, to change to either of the latter lenses and found myself with quite a few shots that are a bit soft. So this trip I'm dumping the Tamron and just taking the wide angle and prime. It will force me to work my camera more to get the shots I want, rather than relying on a zoom lens. I'm going to concentrate on landscape shooting, street portraiture, and a few flower shots. I am particularly looking forward to spending some time in the Botanical Gardens in Bogor. I'm such a plant geek!!

Heliconia in Tropical Gardens, Yunnan Province, China

The camera with 10-22mm lens mounted weighs 1317g which is stowed in a Thinktankphoto holster strapped to my chest. The original holster used 2 padded straps crossed over my back to secure it comfortably where I could access my camera easily at any time, but it was a crude design and quite bulky.

original holster and harness

They've come up with a better designed harness, which  I've ordered, but the lower strap requires 2 anchor points on the holster not one. Yes, they redesigned the V2.0 holster with 2 anchor points, but I don't really want to buy a new camera bag just for the sake of a couple of eyelets. There were none in stock anyway.

mmm, much more streamlined..
2 anchor points for bottom strap

I'm sure I can work out something.

Inside the camera bag I stow my spare memory cards, 2 spare batteries and my shutter release cable. Bag and contents (excluding camera) weighs 934g.

Then there's my tripod. I spent a small fortune on a carbon fibre tripod quite a few years ago, and it has faithfully followed me to the summit of many hills, mountains and volcanoes, has allowed me to capture some beautiful sunrises, helped me experiment with long exposure photography, and provided selfies for all my fans  - OK, for my mum! It isn't one of those dinky gorillapods or lightweight travel monopods, because I wanted strength, durability and flexibility. Especially height flexibility, and if there isn't a tree or fence to curl your gorillapod around, you're a bit limited ain't you? It weighs 1037g, I accept this.

Still to pack is a memory card reader, a camera battery charger, and something to download the photos onto. Since I purchased my camera, there's been huge improvements in the cost and quality of electronic components. This means I can now find a CF card reader weighing 16g, and DC/AC battery charger weighing 68g. And neither cost more than a few bucks.

old CF card reader and cable on the left, new one on the right

The 50mm prime lens weighs 152g, including caps and a reversing ring for doing macro. I've a selection of neutral density filters and polarising filters for my wide angle lens so I can play with waterfalls and long exposure dreamy moving water shots and I'll also pop in the Olloclip for the iPhone! Filters 178g in soft case, Olloclip 24g.

Aside from the tripod, which will be stuffed into a side pocket of my backpack, most of this gear will be in my pockets or in the camera bag across my chest. At least to get through the check in. I'm not including most of it in the challenge, because I'm pretty sure I don't need to. No airline has ever asked to weigh it in the past although I have been asked to stow it for takeoff and landing. I look like a freaking tourist - I am, so what? - but I haven't had to worry about my camera being stolen either.

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan, China and geeky tourist!

I have a few thoughts on the "freaking obvious you've got a big expensive camera" debate. I figure that if I am in a really unsafe place then my camera and bag should be totally stowed away out of sight. BUT, and here's the bit that doesn't make sense from all the paranoid people: If I pull my camera out of whatever bag I am stowing it in and take a photo then I'm outed. So I choose to wear my camera close to my body, where a thief has no chance to opportunistically steal from me. I've also exchanged the brand name camera strap, for a smaller, stronger, generic strap.

But the main reason I wear this set up is so I can be mobile and have camera access in seconds. Awesome for hiking and street photography, I love it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

10 Reasons why you shouldn't travel with me

I really enjoy reading other people's travel blogs and following along in their travels. Although I often feel an affinity with their experiences on the road, I quite frequently feel quite the opposite. So here's a few reason's why my sort of travel may not be your cup of tea.

1. I'm not afraid

How many times have I read about people's fear of doing this or that, their struggle to overcome it and their eventual triumph? I'm truly happy for that traveller, I really am, but it's not something I can relate to. Because I am not racked by fears and uncertainties and have a healthy self esteem and a realistic idea of my physical capabilities there are very few adventures I'll baulk at because of fear. This doesn't mean I'll do anything, far from it, but my choice to not do something is more likely to be based on reason than on an atavistic emotion.

This lack of fear on my part makes me rather insensitive to the insecurities of fellow travel companions. I'm probably going to tell you to "toughen up princess" than empathise with your unrealistic fears. You just might resent me for that...

2. I dress for comfort and practicality

If you are really into image, looking cool or chic, and not looking like a dorky tourist, you are not going to want to be seen anywhere near me. I choose my clothing based first on it's comfort and practicality, and anything else comes second. My favourite colour is red, but there's a real paucity of practical travel apparel outside black, beige and khaki which I find really annoying. I don't wear collarless or sleeveless tops when travelling (to prevent sunburn and upsetting conservative local mores) meaning I often look like I'm on safari, particularly with my big camera strapped to my chest. I also wear a hat. I read somewhere some north american disparaging the fact that tourists wear these dorky hats when they travel but would never be seen dead in said dorky hat back home. Ummm, I'm Australian, go out in our sun without a hat at your peril, idiot!!

Needless to say, you might think I stand out like a sore thumb, and you want to fit in, not be so conspicuous. You don't wanna hang with me then...

3. I go native

I eat at busy local street stalls. I am not vegetarian and enjoy trying new food. I am addicted to durian. When in Asia I avoid any restaurant that sells pizzas, burgers or banana pancakes, as even the "local" food in these establishments will be bland and overpriced. I take local transport rather than VIP buses or backpacker transport, not only to save money but because I cannot stand listening to the whining and complaining of my fellow travellers. At least if they are whinging on the local bus I have no idea what they are saying!

I have absolutely no wish to spend my time travelling with other westerners. More than a couple of westerners together and opportunities to interact genuinely with locals just evaporate. Would you strike up a conversation with a gaggle of rowdy tourists you saw on a bus? But the quiet girl reading her book, or smiling and giggling with your baby, you might well. I have literally been invited home to stay with families after chance encounters like this. But if you prefer to sit with the other westerners up the back comparing crappy bus journey stories with each other, you might not notice that I've slipped away to spend a night in a village somewhere.

4. My comfort needs are surprisingly simple for a girl my age

Maybe because I'm a doctor, and grew up camping, climbing, caving and getting dirty often, I don't have a paranoia about hygiene. Dirt is dirt, not a big bogey monster, and there has to be a real sense of squalor before I'll pull the pin on an accommodation option that ticks all the other boxes: great location, good vibes, and cheap. Real filth is quite different to a bit of dirt, and after living a few years in Newtown Sydney where the laneway to my house was literally crawling with cockroaches and my current house is regularly invaded by mice, I'm somewhat blasé about such things. I always carry a silk sleeping sheet and have never been bitten by bedbugs, though no doubt one day I will...

I thought that I'd only go for ensuite bathrooms when I left to go travelling in 2008, but quickly found that that quickly reduced my options. A great room with a view but a bathroom down the hall will win me any day over the aircon suite up the back. Oh yeah, I'm fine with fans too!

Let's just say you might want to find your own accommodation somewhere more salubrious...

5. I get up early and go to bed early

One of my great loves is markets, and the earlier I get there the better. Also an awesome place for breakfast. The light's better for photography too, and in tropical parts it's by far the coolest time of the day. Sunrises on top of mountains and volcanoes are another of my passions. So that means early to bed too.

Totally not the party animal, boring...

6. I like nothing better than getting off the beaten path

I mean this literally. Not only do I enjoy the less touristy parts of a destination but I frequently walk long distances with my backpack on, usually in the countryside, often on small roads or paths that only local traffic frequents. I'm usually much more physically active when travelling than I am at home with a sedentary office job and often do training before a trip so I'm in condition for it. I trek, I camp, I climb quite a lot of mountains. I pack accordingly.

You may not be into this, or are carrying too much luggage, or not be fit enough to find this enjoyable...

7. I'm a know it all

I research my destinations extensively. It teaches me about the people and culture, as well as what tourist attractions might be in the vicinity. It allows me to gauge the amount of time I might need in a place to explore it fully, but it never prepares me for the actual experience once I get there. It means I have a rough plan in my head of what I want to do, although it's never a fixed schedule as I often take up other opportunities that present themselves. It means I already have a good background knowledge of a place prior to visiting, and find my visit provides the nuances and complexities. For someone with less knowledge of the place, I'm a bloody know it all.

Or a pretty good tour guide...

8. I spend a lot of time taking photographs

I carry a tripod, a dSLR, a couple of lenses, some filters, a reversing ring, and a phone camera with a few dinky lenses and lots of photo apps. I am a serious photography geek, I think nothing of spending hours, even a whole day, in a botanical garden taking photos of plants and insects, or in a jungle photographing fungi and orchids, or getting that perfect waterfall shot - not yet folks! - or a spectacular sunrise panorama. I also adore old architecture, windows, doors, street art, bicycles and rickshaws and markets, oh yes, markets. I'm also keen to do a bit more portraiture.

You might find this extremely taxing on your patience...

9. I am impulsive

I may start off with a plan but I'm happy to change it. This means I rarely book anything ahead of time, unless it's absolutely necessary. I'll have done enough research to know if pre booking accommodation is my only chance of a bed for the night, and I usually have a flight booked home if I have a return date for work. But otherwise, I come armed with knowledge and just take my chances. Usually this results in some awesome experiences.

This level of uncertainty might not appeal to you

10. I won't have sex with you

I'm really not interested in holiday romances, or hooking up with fellow travellers. I've only once succumbed to a sexy stranger I met on a plane, and he and I are still friends more than 10 years later. I prefer the ease of platonic friendships over the power struggles of relationship politics. I don't miss sex enough to want to hook up with strangers, and I value my independence too much to seek comfort in any man's arms. It's not to say that if the right man came swashbuckling into my life...

And you thought you were gonna get into my pants?

Would you travel with me?

I've travelled with some awesome people over the years, and they're usually easy going, good at interacting with the locals, and not overly concerned with the minutia of discomfort on a road less travelled. They are flexible, and fun to be with, and they usually become lifelong friends.

My kind of travel isn't for everyone.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Seven Kilo Challenge Part 2

After working out a rough itinerary of where I'm planning to go in Java, I got together all the gear I wanted to take. You see I plan to go trekking, climb a few volcanos, and do some camping, so I won't just be staying in guesthouses the whole time.

My last trip to Java there were a few times when I was limited by my lack of outdoor equipment, this time I want to be more prepared. But it all has to meet the 7kg challenge.

So: what's on the list?

Sleeping bag, hammock, sleep sheet, cook set and stove, sleeping mat, mosquito net.

DSLR camera with 2 lenses, batteries, cards, card reader, battery charger, filters, tripod, camera bag

Clothes, towel, toiletries, warm jacket/vest

Computer, 2 hard drives, charger, spare battery, cords

Phone, Kindle, GoPro, cords

Backpack and wet weather gear

First things first: Backpack. A heavy bag will chew up anything from 2-5 kg, especially those with wheels. Heavy duty backpacks can also weigh upwards of 2kg empty. I want to be mobile, and I don't want my bag to be weighing me down.

I have an Osprey Talon 33L backpack that I bought for my last trip to Java in 2010. It weighs a mere 820g, is exceedingly comfortable to wear and it performed really well over 3 weeks of walking and bouncing around on public transport. I had concerns back then that it wouldn't be tough enough, but it's not showing much in the way of wear, so it's my go to bag for this trip. I may end up purchasing a slightly larger volume bag for subsequent trips, but for 2 months, this one will do the job just fine.

Wet weather gear for me is a poncho. A cheap plastic poncho and a waterproof bag protector has worked well for me through lots of tropical deluges. I won't say I always remained dry, but I survived. Being wet isn't the end of the world, as long as there are dry clothes and warmth at the end of the day. I'm also an umbrella fan, but it's not always practical when you need both your hands to scramble around tree roots and such on some of the jungle climbs I've done. Poncho 49g, Raincover 79g.

Camping stuff has been a tough one, because I'm trying to work out what the absolute minimum I need if I wish to camp halfway up a mountain somewhere. Although it's easy to carry a couple of days of pre cooked meal packages - we did that in Sumatra - it's awesome to have a hot cup of tea or noodles when you've been up before dawn to see a sunrise at 2800mASL. So the cooker stays in. Weight 383kg with the penny stove. I will probably purchase a small gas canister and stove element at a camping store in Java.

Some of the treks I'll do will require guides, and so it's possible to hire camping gear. But I've found that some Indonesian guides can attempt to be amorous when you're a single girl travelling solo, so it helps to keep your options open. I love my Hennessy Hammock, and as long as there's trees or a few posts or big rocks, it's possible to have my own personal space. It's also lighter than most tents, gets me off the ground and the creepy crawlies, and is water and insect proof. I really wished I'd had it on my last trip for some clandestine bush camping. Weight 947g with snakeskin cover.

Keeping warm when trekking at altitude in the tropics is really important. With a sleeping mat and space blanket under me, and a sleeping bag and silk sleep sheet, I'm prepared for most temperature variations. I'm still unsure about bringing the sleeping mat as it's one item I may not need to use at all, given I'll need to hire a tent for those treks without trees and can hire a mat as well. I can probably survive a night here and there without padding - we did it sleeping on those bamboo platforms climbing Fansipan - and I think the space blanket will keep me warm in the hammock, so it's likely that I can take that out of the kit. That's 292g saved.

I've also decided to ditch the mosquito net now I'm not going east to Nusa Tenggara. Malaria isn't really an issue on Java.

Sleeping bag. My 25 year old Macpac down bag, weighing 1.2kg, has been forsaken for a new kid on the block. A Sea to Summit Micro II 850 loft down sleeping bag. This is a spring/summer bag, and a much better option as it has features that my Macpac bag doesn't. Like being able to put your feet out to cool down, and zipping out into a duvet. If I was to combine this bag with the Macpac in future trips, I'd have 4 season capability. It only weighs 550g and compresses into a teeny tiny package.

Sleep sheet 127g Space blanket 48g. So far we have 3kg on my back.

Next time we talk electronics.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A little word called Respect

Recently I got a little annoyed about something. It wasn't a big thing, but somehow it hit a nerve for me and I wrote a comment about it on Facebook. It was about disrespect of one's peers and involved a sports player. I don't usually give a shit about the antics of celebrities but the lack of respect shown somehow hit on one of my core values and it meant enough for me to do something I don't often do, which is make a remark about it.

Then, one of my brothers decided to diss me on Facebook and say: Who Cares? And the other brother joined in the chorus.

Now they are right, who really cares about what a celebrity says or does, but the fact remains that I cared enough to make a specific comment about it. So in reality, they were saying: who cares about your opinion?

That hurt. It hurt a lot. It didn't hurt because it was obviously a quick off hand comment from the brother concerned, but because there was likely to have been a whole lot more baggage behind my hurt. It's just likely that this wasn't the first time I might have been treated to that type of comment from my sibling/s.

What my brother said was: I don't respect your opinion.

What my brother should have done, and what I do when I don't care for the person's comment, is ignore it, don't comment at all, just move on. I mean who on earth has got time to comment on everyone's FB posts, especially the inane ridiculous ones. If their comments really start to annoy me, I just remove them from my news feed, and occasionally I'll unfriend them. I do this in real life too.

When one makes the effort to comment - just like in a normal conversation one can choose to participate or not - then what you say matters. And when those comments come from people you care about, it's highly likely they just might carry a bit more weight (and a little baggage).

So don't tell people that their opinion doesn't matter - that's called disrespect. And it's pretty downright rude too.

Just walk on by.....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


This week I have been trying really hard to take advantage of the goodies in my garden and so I didn't buy many veg at the market on Sunday. Walking out into the patch this morning I had a sinking feeling, thinking what can I put together for lunch today? Not much lettuce yet, no ripe tomatoes, not even a strawberry to munch on. I'm a little tired of salad anyway, how do I spice it up a bit?

I had an omelette with chives and two iced coffees whilst I contemplated this. Then I remembered my New Zealand ski lunches. Of course, hot noodle soup!

Cut up a little onion, a clove of garlic, and a bunch of greens (a few leaves of Asian choy, some parsley, some chives), a small capsicum, add soy sauce and sesame oil, and a thinly sliced kaffir lime leaf, stalk removed. I also added some of my meat stock and half a teaspoon of my home made chilli paste. Add protein of choice - you guessed it, chickpeas - and more mung beans. Seal up and take to work with a packet of 2 minute noodles.

At lunch, find a big bowl, put the noodles at the bottom of the bowl, throw all the sachets in the bin if you have any respect for your own health, and add your own home made concoction. Pour boiling water over the lot and let steep for a couple of minutes. Microwave if you must but I prefer the crunchiness of semi raw vegetables (I have nothing against gamma radiation).

Slurp and enjoy!

Dinner. Again a little uninspired. I had the other half of the yummy rockmelon for a post work snack, along with a handful of nuts, and then found myself lurking on a bunch of feminist women of colour blogs which were quite an eyeopening education. Particularly after a really interesting conversation today over lunch with a colleague about rascism.

I've used up the chickpeas, but tonight it's one of my favourite veg of all: kangkung. I discovered these in Asia - probably Vietnam - and have been a fan ever since. They are also so easy to grow. I started my plantation by sticking a few stalks in a pot and then putting in a tub of water. Yep, it's that easy.

Fry some garlic, chilli and belacan (that's the smelly fermented shrimp paste y'all, but if you omit it you'll be sorry!) in some coconut oil then add kangkung and cook quickly. Eat with rice.
Yep, that's it! Seriously, the kids next door love it too (though I think I may have toned down the chilli for them).

No money spent today. Tomorrow it's lunch with friends, and we're trying a new restaurant. Can't wait!

Monday, January 6, 2014


Full day at work today. Basic breakfast of muesli and yoghurt then found a pretty paltry harvest for lunch. Mixed with a cucumber, half an avocado, mung beans, chickpeas and the last of the beef roast it'll do.

I'm shattered by the time I get home. Work tires me out. It certainly doesn't leave me invigorated. A sneaky Cherry Ripe from the servo after fuelling up the gas guzzler helped me feel slightly better, but I didnt feel like cooking up a storm. This is where it's time for comfort food. Boil up some Basmati rice and add whatever's around: a clove of garlic, soy sauce and chilli sauce, chickpeas and mung beans, fried shallots. Quick nutritious meal in less than five minutes.

Mung beans, if you haven't noticed, are pretty popular in my diet. They are so nutritious, and always having a spoonful of beans working away in the sprouter keeps me in continuous supply. Once one lot of sprouts is almost ready I put the next lot on. You don't need to have a sprouter as I have, you can just use a jar. One kilo of mung beans costs $3.10, one teaspoon of beans makes a batch big enough for 2-3 meals.

Spent today: $2.50 (the Cherry Ripe!)

Sunday, January 5, 2014


A solitary strawberry whilst watering the vege garden, an iced coffee, an omelette with chives and asparagus for breakfast, then off to the Farmers' Market for my week's supplies.

2 small rockmelon ($2), a bag of cucumbers, a dozen eggs, a couple of onions, a zucchini and a kaffir lime ($10), a bag of locally grown garlic, 2 avocados ($8.40), a tub each of goat's feta and haloumi ($13) then into the supermarket on the way home for a kilo of Aussie sultanas ($7.45). That's my shopping for the next week done.

Time to make another batch of thai curry paste. This time I went a bit easier on the chillies - fresh red ones straight out of the garden - after I went a little overboard on the quantity last time and gave myself heartburn! I still have a freezer full of chillies from last year and the plants are madly producing more. I'm drying some for camping trips and one of the ladies at the market says if I have a fresh supply during winter she can sell them. Who knows, I may be bartering for veg this winter.

I forgot to buy coriander, which is really hard to grow here in Geraldton. The heat makes the plants bolt to seed very quickly, except during our mild winters. However, I'm trying something different to see if I can grow them year round. I only planted seed on Friday so we'll have to see how they go..

So, chilli paste made and my arms having had a good workout pounding everything in the mortar, it's time for lunch, but I'm not that hungry so half of a small rockmelon will suffice. I cannot describe how tasty and juicy it is - so much better than a store bought rocky.

Too sore and tired to brave the wind today I've been planting more vegetable seeds and installing shelves in the laundry. Not to mention a little nap and finishing a book about Sicilian food. A case of the munchies mid afternoon solved with more nuts, then an early dinner.

This is a variation on a Turkish stuffed eggplant dish, but because I only have a teeny tiny aubergine I decided to make a few alterations. Chop half an onion and a clove of garlic and fry in olive oil. Add chopped tomato and capsicum, a handful of sultanas, another handful of cooked chickpeas and some cinnamon and sugar and cook for about 5 minutes. Season to taste. Remove from heat. In a small dish layer the grilled eggplant slices with vegetable mix and top with some haloumi. Bake in oven at 200 degrees for 12 minutes. Top with chopped parsley and a drizzle of  olive oil.

Nom nom...wash down with a hearty glass of vino rosso!

Money spent today on food: $40.85

Saturday, January 4, 2014


This morning, with coffee, I had muesli and yoghurt, supplemented with two fresh strawberries and a few passionfruit from the garden.

I don't know where the morning went, and with the wind rattling the windows it was time for lunch and to go windsurfing.

The lettuce seedlings aren't yet big enough to harvest daily, so today's greens consisted of lots of Italian parsley which grows everywhere in my garden. It self seeds from previous crops and makes a great salad accompaniment.

The rest of today's salad were chives, a Black Russian tomato, more haloumi fried in olive oil, another slice of beef chopped into cubes and the last of the current batch of chickpeas. Also a handful of mung bean sprouts and a spoonful of those yummy fried shallots again!

The afternoon was a wild old day out on the waves getting tossed and smashed in some big swell. The waves weren't quite as good as yesterday and the wind a bit gusty. Just can't please some people can you...

A handful of nuts saw me through to dinner, by which time I was far too exhausted to cook anything special so I went for an old favourite: pilau. Out to the garden to pick some veges and greens.

Chop 1/2 onion finely and add to oil in a frypan - I used coconut oil - with a generous teaspoonful of curry powder and a couple of fresh red chillies. (Feel free to omit the chillies!) I was out of garlic, but I'd usually add a clove if I had some. Once the onion is soft and the aromas are releasing, add your chopped veges. From my garden I used a small aubergine, 2 small red capsicums and one small green capsicum and one large Roma tomato. Fry these for about a minute then add 1/2 cup of rice and fry for another minute. Add a small slice of cooked meat that has been cubed and one cup of water, bring to boil then cover with a well fitting lid and turn the heat down to low. Allow the rice to soak up all the liquids (about 3-4 minutes) and then add chopped greens - in my case some Asian spinach and parsley from the garden. After a minute turn the heat off and allow the meal to fully soak up all the liquid - don't take the lid off.

Pig out - I've earned it. Celebrate 2 great windsurfing days in a row with a nice glass of Margaret River Shiraz/Cabernet Savignon.

No money spent today, all the fruit and veg except the onion came from the garden. Must put some chickpeas to soak before I go to bed...

Friday, January 3, 2014


The morning began with a single ripe strawberry. Then ice espresso with a dash of milk and a single egg omelette with today's garden finds: 2 asparagus spears and some watercress.

Then I headed down to Greenough to purchase some extra virgin olive oil from my friend Beth at Bentwood Olive Grove. I just refill my 3L can each time. $24 spent. Had a cuppa and a chat and a couple of mint slice cookies. I am always tempted by chocolate...

Back home I had a handful of nuts and soon enough it was lunchtime. Off to the vege patch for lettuce, chives, tomatoes and parsley. Add half a cucumber, a slice of haloumi pan fried in olive oil, a handful of mung beans, another of cooked chickpeas, a spoonful of fried shallots, olive oil and vinegar. Nom nom.

Then I had an appointment at Coronation Beach with a nice rolling 3m swell and a good southerly. Perfect 4.5m sailing, with some nice clean waves for some awesome turns. Sailed down at windmills so had the waves to ourselves. It gets very tiring riding wave after wave after wave after.....

Had a handful of nuts on the way home (love ziplock bags) and then dinner.

A few months ago I bought a box of 30 packets of 2 minute noodles for $15. The seasoning sachets are suspect, so I usually throw them out and just use the noodles. Here are the ingredients for my beef noodle soup.

In a large saucepan boil some water and cook the noodles. This only takes a few minutes. Don't drain the noodles but use a sieved scoop like they do in Asia, so you can still use the noodle water in your soup. Same as pasta. In another saucepan put coconut oil, stock concentrate and thai chilli paste and cook for a minute to bring out the aromas before adding chopped vegetables. For this soup I used snake beans and kale (both a bit old from the market 2 weeks ago), and eggplant and red capsicum freshly picked this morning. I decided against adding tomato. Cook veg till just soft, adding noodle water as needed. Then add cooked beef. The beef is a rolled roast I cooked earlier in the week. A small slice chopped into cubes suffices. The stock concentrate is the juices and onion left in the bottom of the pan when I roasted the beef, which I pureed in the blender and froze in small portions. A spoonful in my noodle soup is enough. Toss the beef around, throw in the cooked noodles and then plate up in a bowl. Now add mung bean sprouts and some chickpeas, and season with a dash of sesame oil and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce from Indonesia). Add some more noodle water so you have a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. This allows you to mix everything up well and coats everything with the yummy flavours.

Then devour!

Money spent on food today: $24. Should be a few months till I need more olive oil...