I left Santander yesterday and came to Villa de Leyva, which is small mountain town a couple, or few, hours north on Bogota. My good fortune landed me in Hostel Tinva for about 4 days. This is one hostel experience, where the place is small, with 6 0r 7 beds, and the family is about often enough that you feel at home. The hostel is around the corner from the main town plaza, and the aroma of coffee, pastries and chocolate waft up the stairs.
This morning I made it up early to go to the Thursday morning organic produce market. Lonely Planet reports on two markets, Saturday and Thursday, but fails to locate them on the map. Nor anything like an address. Just “3 blocks SE of the main square.” Which is not set on a N/S axis, so SE is a bit hard to determine. I went looking. Nobody seemed to have any idea what I wanted.
Finally I managed to convince a ‘splainin’ sort of dude of which market I was searching. He had the answer always 4 words before I could get to the full explanation in Spanish. He finally listened enough to get the drift and point me in the right direction. I then set out to find about 10 stalls of beautiful fresh produce and locally made products, including pastas, honeys, oils and crafted beer.
I set about selecting fresh red bell peppers, tomatoes, thyme, mangoes, onion, garlic, limes, avocados, hand made raviolis and locally crafted beer.
In the hostel this afternoon I’ll cook up the works, well almost all of it, for my dinner. But first, it is time for a siesta. Then I’ll cook.
Yes, well, a good siesta it was, and now to work. I have the little kitchen to myself. And it is little, but it has what is needed. More or less. The key to cooking in hostels is adaptability. The kitchens will vary widely, and you just have to adjust and be grateful. This little kitchen makes up for it’s size with a splendid view and airiness.
After washing the veges in the sink, I put on a large pot of water for the tomatoes, and then for the pasta.
You won’t have your expensive German blades while you travel in hostels, so just rough cut things as well as you can. I start with the garlic, onion and red bell pepper. While the water for the tomatoes starts to boil, I start sauteing the garlic, onions and peppers. I’m using butter this time because I don’t carry around a bottle of olive oil with me when I travel, and small amounts of butter can be bought locally. Be sure to add some salt.
Don’t add the tomatoes to the water till it starts to boil. The tomatoes are not going be cooked in the boiling water. The trick is to get the skins to loosen so you can easily peel them yourself. As soon as you see the skin break, remove them from the water and put them in cold water to cool off. Of course, you may not find a bowl handy to put them in, but improvise. You can see where the skins have split.
The tomatoes will then easily slip from their skins.
It’s a good idea, but not necessary, to squeeze the tomatoes gently to remove the water and most of the seeds. While you are doing this, pay attention to the onion mixture and don’t let it brown or scorch.
Then coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the onion mix in the fry pan. As this point the onion mixture should be soft but not browned. You will have to pay attention to the heat level on the various stoves in hostels. Don’t scorch the mixture or over-cook it. I like the veges separate and slightly al dente. I am adding some fresh thyme that I got at the market.
After you have removed the tomatoes from the water, get the water boiling again. Yes, the same water. I am in a town in a country that is having a drought. There is no need to either waste the water nor the energy to heat it from cold again. Pretend you are camping!
When the water boils, salt it generously and add the pasta.
The sauce is to taste for me, and I will just add another generous dollop of butter.
Boil the pasta. It is very high altitude where I am now, and I am not so happy with the cooking of the pasta. Water boils fast at high altitudes, and pasta cooks slower than at sea-level. The raviolis have some water in them because they have cooked so long. I’ll be learning more about that I suspect.
The pasta is ready, and I just have to heat the sauce again for a moment, and it will be dinner. Oh! And I just remembered some local goat cheese I have in the refrigerator to top it off.
The sauce tastes super fresh, and the butter and goat cheese give it some breadth and body. The pasta will be better next time, but this time it is just fine!
When you are traveling in hostels, there are often people around to share with, so cook plenty. Tonight, however, it is just me and a glass of wine. Salut!