880243239aa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Eating up the miles780243239aa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____Eating up the miles<i>Nick March</i> is inspired by a cookbook for car enthusiasts and uses the engine of his mid-sized SUV to rustle up a fish supper.<p><embed src="http://multimedia.thenational.ae/pic440_new.swf?xmlfile=http://multimedia.thenational.ae/ssp_director/images.php%3Falbum=2041&xmlfiletype=Director" quality="high" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" width="440" height="360" name="The National" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" allowFullScreen="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer"/></p>
<p>"Is it done yet?," might become a more common refrain than "are we there yet?" the next time I venture out with the family for an off-road trip, after my first experiment with Manifold Destiny - a relatively obscure cookbook for car enthusiasts - proved a roaring success.
And, in case this entertaining book has passed you by, it is, simply, a guide to slapping a steak on your car's engine, then "driving until you reach delicious".
Manifold Destiny first hit the bookshelves of the world in 1989, the year when we were all being driven crazy by Fine Young Cannibals with their "Raw and the Cooked" album and Homer Simpson first uttered the word "Doh!". It was then, and still is now, something of a little-known classic tome for hungry petrolheads the world over, particularly in North America.
Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller, Destiny's co-authors, do not claim to have invented car cooking but, when they first published their book two decades ago they were, surely, the first to explain the pleasures of hub cap dining after a spot of driving.</p>
<p>Now, fully updated for the book's third edition, Maynard and Scheller introduce the latest issue with the premise that cooking on your car engine is a perfect piece of motoring multitasking.
"What better way to get every penny of value out of the pump than to make gasoline do two things at once? And think of how much less guilty you'll feel about your automotive contribution to global warming if, to use a lousy metaphor, you're planting two feet at once in the same carbon footprint," they say.</p>
<p>For all this, I suspect most copies of Manifold Destiny are bought as seasonal stocking fillers or birthday surprises and once opened, bring a smile to the face of the recipient before being quickly relegated to a dusty, unloved bookshelf.
Not this copy, however. I'm game to turn my hand to one of the more than 50 recipes inside, but as a novice to car cooking I've chosen a relatively simple dish. Most of the recipes have a strong North American flavour to them, so I've opted to rework Maynard and Scheller's fish supper and renamed it "Salam Street Salmon", mixing a finely cut salmon steak with a few baby carrots, some garlic and a little seasoning.</p>
<p>The book advises chefs to keep recipes simple, to bone and thinly cut your meat and fish during preparation and not to put too much liquid in your recipes.
Mixing the raw ingredients together, I then foil-wrap them three times (never more nor less than thrice, according to Maynard and Scheller), in preparation for perching the parcel within the confines of my engine's housing. The ingredients will then be allowed to slowly cook until done.</p>
<p>The book carries suggested distances for achieving the best results, but warns that all cooking times are advisory. Car cooking is all about metaphorically going the distance and when it boils down to it (or sometimes doesn't), time on the hob is a more important part of the equation than miles travelled.
I have also prepared a side salad to finish the dish off, which I have stored in a cool box in the back of the car. In addition, I've packed some more foil, some napkins and tissues, cutlery, plates and some extra seasoning.</p>
<p>With everything ready to go, it's time to put the food on the hob which is, for the purposes of this experiment, a 2007 Ford Explorer.
Safety is a key issue in parcel placement and all wannabe chefs are advised not to tinker with linkages and cables.
What I was looking for though, and eventually found, was a place that was snug enough to keep my lunch secure and warm enough to heat it through, but one which does not mess with any moving parts or the air intake. A perfect place presented itself in a recessed area in the middle of the engine. The book offers plenty of advice on this subject.</p>
<p>Before my journey began I had estimated that a warm engine coupled with the high ambient heat of the day would cook my salmon in around half an hour. I was to find out that good things rarely come to the impatient.
After 40 minutes behind the wheel, during which time the Explorer had been stuck in the worst of the afternoon traffic, I pulled over to assess the salmon, expecting it to be simmering nicely. Instead, the food was barely warm, so it was time to push on. Another check a half hour later, it was still not cooked, and Phil Cheung, the photographer assigned to witness my car cook-off, asked me if I thought fast cars produced faster food than my family-friendly slow-cooker.</p>
<p>It turned out that an hour and a half's driving was enough to bring my salmon up to its peak condition. The food tasted fresh and clean, thankfully without a hint of oil or grime. The salad and taboulleh set the dish off perfectly. From raw to cooked in 90 minutes.
Would I repeat the exercise? Emphatically yes, but only on certain journeys.
After conquering my initial scepticism and any mild concerns about the benefits of cooking in this fashion, I enjoyed driving around town with a packet of fish strapped to my car's 4.0L V6. The experience was akin to knowing and keeping a deliciously guilty secret. I could happily sit calmly in traffic without anyone in the world knowing, let alone imagining, what lay beneath my bonnet.</p>
<p>If I was a regular inter-emirates commuter, I would genuinely consider slapping that steak on at the beginning of my journey and driving to delicious Dubai, multi-tasking my way up the motorway. Likewise, I'd be happy to lay down a few hot dogs at the start of a long weekend off-road trip, so I could pull over after a couple of hours and let my family munch their way through a reviving rest-stop roast. If life's a journey, at least we won't be hungry along the way.