Friday, 9 April 2021
Just because you're away from home is no reason to live on just beans and instant noodles. In fact if you are just eating beans and instant noodles you'll either be keen to get back home or be put off camping for life.
I love walking and particularly lightweight backpacking - basically carrying all you need for a 3-4 day walk, including equipment and all supplies except water, but with the absolute minimum of total weight.
This doesn't mean, however, that you should compromise on comfort or good food. As the great Alan Whicker said 'any fool can be uncomfortable'. Similarly any fool can eat boring dull food while out on the trail. I just read on another blog from 'over there' a recipe for spam and noodles. Life is far too short to eat dross like that. Even stuck in tin can in space they do better than that!
Food is more than just fuel, it's a great motivator, something to look forward to as you trudge the final miles or something to savour gazing at a perfect view at the end of a perfect day. Eat well, sleep well and you'll approach the next day's camping with a spring in your step.
Commercially available specialist foods for camping are universally disgusting. Bar none. At all.
There are dehydrated meals in plastic packets that you 'cook' and ambient meals in foil pouches that you just heat up. All the ones I've tried put me in mind of school dinners on a really, really bad day. actually that's unfair. Our dinners were never that bad and I went to a 19th century school.
There are some non-camping ambient meals that are actually nice - the Look What We Found range (http://www.lookwhatwefound.co.uk/) are excellent but as they're not dehydrated they're heavy. As a treat for a one night camp they have a place but they're not feasible for a multi-day backpacking trip - unless you have a Sherpa.
We eat good food at home so why should it be any different outdoors? The answer clearly is to cook and dehydrate food especially for camping trips
I searched on the 'net for camping recipes and was suprised how few there were and how poor the recipes were. Too many other blogs concentrate on US recipes which just make no sense to us metric (ish) and gastronome Brits.
These are recipes I've developed and used - they work!
I hope you'll comment on them & suggest tweaks and improvements.
If you have a recipe you want to share then e-mail it to me at email@example.com and be sure to include your details so you get the glory / blame for your contribution
Thursday, 8 April 2021
Rufty-tufty squaddies and callow youths walking for badges may wish to get their bragging rights with 'my pack's heavier than yours' but for the discerning, ahem, older walker the absolute minimum grammage is where the real kudos is to be found.
Obviously you can take nothing, beyond money, and stay in B&B's, eat take-aways etc but then you'll miss out on camping in your tent deep in the countryside and eating great food gazing at a perfect view (if it's not raining).
The real 'racing snakes' can pitch, scoff, kip, pack-up and carry on with their mega-mile outings with the minimum 'time lost' using this system.
Those who appreciate life a bit more can make themselves very comfortable with their lightweight kit, kick-back, and watch the young speed by while savouring great food that weighed next-to-nothing, was perfectly 'cooked' when required and involved no washing up.
Lightweight is the new black for walkers, the weight of efficient, reliable kit has reduced drastically in recent years. What appeared to be lightweight 20 years ago is now labelled as 'car-camping' gear and everyone compares grammes and ponders how to shave weight from their kit.
Even food hasn't escaped the revolution.
'Wet' food is about 50% water - not counting the packaging.
1 litre of water weighs 1Kg, some 1-man tents are only 750gm!
Plus whisky weighs the same as water so less water carried means the more 'wee drams' you can sneak into your pack.
The countryside is full of free water, sometimes it comes to you, other times it's in nearby streams etc. Obviously sensible precautions regarding which water you use & purifying it before use are important considerations but it makes no sense to carry extra weight as water in your food when there's loads of it lying around.
Far more sensible to carry your food minus the water and then replace it when you want a meal.
Wednesday, 7 April 2021
- Arrive at your selected pitch
- 10 minutes to erect tent, set up your mat and sleeping bag and arrange all your kit so it's to hand
- Boots off and lie in tent or find comfy place to sit and eat.
- Set up your cooking kit
- Light stove and boil a full kettle of water
- While water is boiling decide on which 'brew' you'll have and which of the delicious dehydrated meals you packed will be tonight's treat
- When kettle is boiled pour the required amount of water into your food and pop it in your cosy to rehydrate (about a third of a kettle)
- Use the other third to make hot chocolate in an insulated mug (I have a 'Lifeventure' one which is a brilliant mini flask, secure the lid and shake violently for frothy choccy drink) whisky is, allegedly, optional
- Use the remaining third for a brew now, tea or coffee or even instant soup if you must.
- Enjoy this drink gazing at the view, working out how far you've walked etc
- After about 20 minutes take food from cosy, eat from the bag, remark how great it tastes, re-seal bag, pop it in your pack, rinse kettle and remember the days when you used to have to wash up
- Have a chuckle
- Drink hot choccy 'a la Grouse' while reading a slim volume of difficult modern verse
- Sleep well
Thursday, 9 April 2020
These are a few well worth visiting:
A great forum full of sane, friendly, helpful people with a world of experience of all things outdoorsy. The ideal place to ask technical or daft questions about kit, techniques or walking routes. They're all kit fiends so can give great advice before you buy and often point you towards a bargain.
A brilliant family business run by Bob and Rose. As the name suggests they sell backpacking gear but only if it's lightweight, quality gear that performs. They design some products themselves and source ethically where possible. Plus you get free sweeties with every order and often a personal phone call to check it all arrived OK.
This small company is run by a bunch of climbers and the basic idea is brilliant. They design the best gear, place an order direct with the factory and then sell it at very reasonable prices. The range is limited and often there's a waiting list for incoming items but that's because the quality and prices are outstanding. For example their 'Gamma' headtorch is the best I've found and it's only £15. Free delivery too.
This is an online shop for bikes and accessories but they do carry some camping equipment. Their prices are good but they also hold the record for UK delivery. 33 hours from click to doorbell - and that was using the free, 'slow' delivery option!
This my dehydrator from Westphalia (http://www2.westfalia.net/shops/household/kitchen/cooking_desiccating_grilling/desiccating_appliances/193811-food_dehydrator.htm.)
It has 5 trays to hold the food, a top which includes the 'hairdryer' that provides the hot air which passes down the middle 'hole' and rises back up past the food. As the trays are slotted (it's really designed for dehydrating fruit) I have to use 'baking paper' while the food is wet
The basic idea is the same whatever you pay: you put in 'wet' food, the machine circulates warm air around it removing all the water. When it's done its work you end up with a dehydrated version of what you put in - at roughly 50% of the weight.
This means you can carry far more food for a given weight - a tasty healthy & substantial evening meal can be packed at 150-200 grammes.
To enjoy the food you simply add the required amount of boiling water, let it absorb and then you have fantastic food miles away from home which tastes like it's just come out of your kitchen.
How to dehydrate your food
- Cook your food at home, allow to cool
- Weigh a portion of the food in its wet form (ideally stick to standard weights eg 300 gm)
- Prepare your dehydrator for the food you're going to add - if you bought a cheap one designed for fruit slices then you need to use baking paper or paper plates to hold the food in place in the machine.
- Dehydrate your food, this can take upto 12 hours, check it regularly and be sure to break up and clumps of food.
- Get a supply of 'A5' sized zip-lock bags, most supermarkets sell them, you want them to be just big enough for one portion.
- When the food is completely dry place it in a bag and weigh it again. The difference in the weight is the amount of water that's been removed - 100gm = 100ml of water (apparently this also works in proper UK ounces/ fluid ounces but not US ones).
- Write a description of the food and the water required to rehydrate on the bag and seal the bag.
- Place the bagged food in the freezer until you need it, it'll last for months in there.
- Once out of the freezer your food will stay in perfect condition in your rucksack for at least a week as long as it is kept completely dry.
- You need a cozy to keep your food warm while it rehydrates. Some people use a fleece jacket or hat but I assume I'll need them as a jacket or hat and prefer a dedicated cozy. These are made from insulating material so allow your food to rehydrate while retaining heat. There are instructions for cozy construction elsewhere on this blog.
- I use two cozies, a small one and a large one, hopefully the logic of this will become clear. Place the bag of dehydrated food in the small cozy adding the required amount of boiling water. Squeeze out any excess air and seal the bag. Place the small cosy in the larger one.
- After about 20 minutes (you need to experiment for each dish to find the exact time required) remove the small cosy, open the bag and using the small cozy to protect your hands eat the meal from the heat.
- Using this method you can have good value, preservative-free, tasty food exactly as you like it with the minimum of in-camp hassle and no dirty pans or plates to wash up.
- Be sure to dispose of empty bags responsibly
- Cook a batch of something and dehydrate it 'whole'
- Dehydrate ingredients and the mix them together to make up the recipe
Both work well. The choice of which to use is really down to the style of food.
Obviously for things like curry and stews then you need to use method 1, the cooking times required are completely impractical when camping.
Method 2 works well with quick-cook items such as porridge or noodles.
You can combine both these methods into your normal shopping / cooking routines; make extra portions of long-cooked items and dehydrate and store in the freezer, pick up seasonal items and/or special offers and dehydrate them, store in freezer and then use to make up portion packs. (I recently bought a load of spring onions and courgettes, sliced / julienned them and stored them to use in versions of the chinese noodles recipe. I also did apples for porridge)
Without major effort you can build up a 'bank' of dehydrated meals with a fantastic selection of recipes. This will easily outshine any commercial range for choice and quality as well as being far, far cheaper.
Tuesday, 9 April 2019
Dedicated cosies are easy to make cheaply and much more efficient. A good cosy will ensure the food keeps hot while rehydrating and means you can eat your food, hot, without the need to re-heat it.
To explain their use it's probably worth covering the rest of my cook kit beforehand:
I carry an MSR kettle, a meths coke can stove and a caldera cone which doubles as a wind-shield and pot stand.
I aim to only boil water in my kettle, you can use them as a pot and even eat from them but that will involve dirtying the kettle and require washing up - both things to be avoided IMO.
I boil a kettle of water, use about a third to rehydrate my meal and use the rest for a brew which I enjoy while my food is rehydrating.
You can make cosies out of any insulating material but lightness and durability are the key factors. Some people cut up closed-cell foam mats (EG a 'karrimat') and use that but I find that material stiff and actually quite heavy for the insulation it provides.
The best material is 'Thermawrap' which is a sandwich of 2 layers of foil with a layer of 'bubblewrap' in between (http://thermawrap.co.uk/loft_wrap.html). It's a fantastic insulator, lightweight, can be cut with household scissors, and is flexible enough to be used to make any cosy shape. You can buy this in small quantities from specialist backpacking on-line stores such as Backpackinglight ( http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/product212.asp ) this is enough for 2/3 cosies but it an expensive source for a relatively small piece.
Thermawrap, or an own-label equivalent, can be picked up from DIY stores and at the start and end of the 'insulating season' it's often half-price for a big roll (7.5mtr x 600mm). I paid £14.99 for a roll of the B&Q own-brand version of the same size and one roll is more than enough for all feasible cosy needs. If you and a mate split a roll you'll get masses at not much more than the price the specialists charge.
There are basically two styles of cosy; Pot cosies and 'Envelope' cosies.
These are a bit more work and personally I don't cook in / eat from my pot but the cosy is useful for keeping a drink warm while you drink it.
(Pot cosy for my MSR kettle, I rarely use the lid. If I was using this to rehydrate food in I'd make a flap to cover the bit behind the handles - a lot of heat is lost through this gap. Note the sidewall cut below the kettle lip and the deep lid cosy to keep the heat in)
Cut one circle of 'Thermawrap' the size of the bottom or your pot, one circle just larger than the lid.
Cut a strip of 'Themawrap' as long as the circumference of your pot & deep enough to cover the wall of your pot (I cut mine to below the lip of the pot to prevent dribbles when drinking from it).
Construct a 'dish' of thermawrap using 'duct tape' to join the pieces together, cutting a slot in the wall to allow the handles to stick through (trying to juggle a pot of hot food or drink holding only onto the rim is not recommended)
Construct a shallower 'dish' for the lid cosy which will fit over the base cosy giving all-round insulation.
A close-fitting cosy will keep food / drink hot in a titanium pot for upto 20 minutes - enough time to rehydrate. Without a cosy drinks or food can be tepid within minutes, both aluminium and titanium are fantastic conductors so heat is quickly lost.
These are easier to make and in my opinion more useful and efficient for rehydrating food.
I use two types: A small cosy and a larger one which seals with 'velcro'
Small cosy which is used to protect the hands when handling the food / hot water mixture and provides stability / retains heat while you eat your food from the bag. Basically it's a open-ended envelope or pocket about 2/3 of the height of your zip-lock bag. Place the bag of dehydrated food in the cosy folding the open end of the zip-lock bag over edge of the cosy so you can pour the boiling water into the zip-lock bag - not into the cosy / over your hand.
Seal the bag, expelling any trapped air, shake the contents to ensure they're well-mixed, tuck the end of the zip-lock down into the the cosy and place the cosy and zip-lock into the larger cosy.
When the food is rehydrated remove bag and cosy from the large cosy and holding the small cosy eat your food straight from the bag.
Large cosy - this is a proper envelope just slightly bigger than your zip-lock bags.
Measure a piece of Thermawrap that's 2.5 times the depth of your bag and about 2 cm wider on each side. Fold once so it's almost as deep as your bag. Trim the 'front' so it's just a smidgen wider than your bag, leaving the 'back' 2cm wider on each side. Fold the extra width of the 'back' over the 'front' and seal with duct tape (this ensures insulated seams).
Trim the extra top flap to the width of the finished envelope, round off the corners and fold it down over the envelope to make a flap. A piece of self-adhesive 'velcro' on both surfaces will ensure it stays closed and prevent heat escaping.
(Food in small cosy, small cosy - the right way up!, in the large cosy which is then sealed with the velcro tabs)
Using these two cosies together food will stay hot for over 30 minutes, more than enough time to rehydrate any meal, plus having two always gives you the option to prepare a pudding or starter if you're greedy / posh.
Also I like my food spicy which may not suit all tastes.
You'll also notice I use metric weights but both imperial and metric distances and volumes ('take a 2" piece of peeled ginger and cut into 3mm cubes'). My apologies, it comes from being educated on the cusp of metrication, I can even add-up in 'old money'!
Use these recipes as a starting point. Experiment at home to get the recipes how you like them, the ideal rehydration time etc.
A little effort at home will be of great benefit at the end of a hard day's walking.
Friday, 8 May 2009
This is a brilliant and simple porridge recipe that works superbly for the rehydration / cosy method. I nicked it off 'Captain Paranoia' (AKA Kevin the 'Squeezebox Stove' designer) but then I mucked around with it a bit:
50 gm porridge oats - the normal, cheap kind not the 'instant' variety
25 gm sultanas
10 gm dried fruit*
1 tsp milk powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Pinch of cinnamon
This will give you a dry weight of c. 100gm, store in a ziplock bag and mix contents well
Add 150-170 ml of boiling water to the bag, ensure contents are well-mixed (seal and shake) and put in cosy for 20 minutes.
You can make endless varieties of this recipe by using different fruits, brown or white sugar, try nutmeg instead of cinnamon, or add dehydrated honey broken into tiny pieces. Make a variety and take a selection with you on your trips.
*I use Sainsbury's 'Fruit Mix' which is about £1 for a small bag, it contains dates, mango, sultanas and other yummy stuff. You could substitute coconut flakes, dried apple slice, banana chips etc etc.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
That said it's very 'authentic' and I've served it to Asian friends with no complaints.
This is a version for dehydrating, the normal version is the same but with bigger chucks of meat, the smaller chunks dehydrate / rehydrate more quickly
- 2 lbs (800 gm) of trimmed lamb cut into small chunks (about 1.5 cm cubed). You can either buy it ready-cubed or as 'steaks' or a joint and trim it yourself - it's much cheaper this way
- 40 green finger chillies, a bulb of garlic, peeled, a 4" piece of garlic, peeled and chopped. use a food-processor or a mouli grater and chop all these very finely.
- 2 large onions finely chopped.
- Spices - see below
- The juice of one lemon
- Sunflower / peanut oil
Take a large pan with a lid and a heavy base. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil and add your whole spices.
- 2 tsp of cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds
- 10-12 cardamon pods, you can take the seeds out of the pods if you prefer.
- 7-8 cloves
- 1 tsp of yellow mustard seeds
Fry the whole spices gently for 30 seconds add one chopped onion. Fry until that onion is browning, then add the second onion. Fry until the second onion is brown (the first onion bits will be very brown / black, that's fine)
Add your meat and mix it well until it is lightly browned. Add the chilli etc mix and fry until it is soft (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat / set that pan aside while you prepare the ground spices.
Take a separate pan, a frying pan is ideal.
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil and add:
- 2 tablespoon of cumin powder
- 3 tablespoons of coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric
- 2 teaspoons of chilli powder (cayenne)
- 2 teaspoons of coarsely-ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon of asafoteadia (hing)
Mix the oil and spices and fry gently, add the juice of a lemon and allow it to absorb. Add a splash of water and stir, continue to fry and add water a bit at a time until the oil comes out of the spices. (I use a pint glass ready-filled with water, you'll probably need 1/4 pint+ and 5 minutes of frying to get the right result)
Add the spice sauce to the meat etc in the main pan and return to the heat. Mix well and fry gently for about 5 minutes until the meat is well-seasoned. Add enough water to thicken the mixture (about 1/4 pint) and place in the oven, with the lid on, on a low heat for an hour.
After an hour check it and add more water if necessary.
Cook for a further 1-1.5 hours until the meat is tender, the sauce is thick and the flavour is 'rounded'.
If serving at home you'll need a couple of vegetable side dishes (see below) plus rice or chapattis
To dehydrate dry in your dehydrator until it completely dry, you may need to break up any lumps / pieces of meat to unsure all moisture is expelled.
This recipe freezes well and can be defrosted / reheated in the microwave
This dehyrates / rehydrates well but you'll need to rehydrate the rice separately as it takes slightly longer
5-6 peppers - I prefer the green ones - thinly sliced. Often the supermarkets have 'value' bags of 7-8 peppers which are fine, just not 'display size / shape - these are considerably cheaper
2-3 green chillies finely chopped
Place these in a wide shallow bowl add olive oil, salt and a generous amount of mixed herbs. Mix well to ensure the peppers are coated with oil and herbs. Place under grill and grill them turning occasionally until tender. If some are 'burnt' / blackened don't worry it adds to the flavour. Allow to cool
When cool add a packet of smoked mackerel fillets (flaked), a handful of stoned olives finely chopped (I like the dry black ones for their intense flavour) and a bunch of salad / spring onions finely chopped. Mix well.
Dehydrate this mixture thoroughly.
Place 50 gm of this dry mixture and 100 gms of dry cous cous in a zip-lock bag & mix. Rehydrate to use. You'll need to experiment at home with the right amount of water required to successfully prepare the meal but around 150ml should be about right.
This rehydrates really easily (about 10 minutes) and beats any packet flavoured cous cous (even one signed by a 'celebrity' 'chef') hands-down.
As you get older you come to realise they're overly sweet and bland.
They are, however, very cheap and convenient and with a little imagination can be turned into a decent adult meal that dehydrates very well.
In a non-stick pan fry a 1/4 tsp of fennel seeds and a 3" piece of chorizo (spanish flavoured sausage - this recipe relates to the cooked / preserved variety) chopped into tiny cubes in a little sunflower oil (if you can't find chorizo a hard italian salami-type sausage will do but you'll need to add 1/2 a tsp of paprika as well).
You can add a 1/4 tsp of red chilli powder while you're frying the sausage - sociable campers may prefer to leave this out
When the chorizo is fried and the parika-flavoured oil has leeched out into the pan add the beans, a teaspoon or two of whole grain mustard, black peppper and a tiny dash of malt vinegar or worecestershire sauce.
You can also add 3-4 pieces of grilled bacon, chopped.
Cook for 5 minutes on a low heat.
Dehydrate as normal, noting the lost weight and rehydrate to eat
Friday, 10 April 2009
This version, however, uses left-overs and is easy and quick to make.
It does not rehydrate well (I haven't tried as I think it'd be horrible) but it makes a great pre-walk breakfast and carried in a screw-top container ('party' pack tubs of peanuts are ideal and free) it makes a mid-walk great lunch.
Method (this makes about 4 portions)
Cooked rice - just make double the quantity for a meal the night before and store in the fridge or just in a covered bowl
4 hard-boiled eggs but still warm
5-6 rashers of grilled bacon
1 pepper finely chopped
1 onion (red is better for colour / interest) very finely chopped
2 green chillies very, very finely chopped (optional)
Shell and roughly chop the eggs
Chop grilled bacon
Add to rice
Add chopped vegetables
Add Worcestershire sauce
This can be eaten 'cold' or can be warmed for 1 minute in the microwave
You can add any other veg to suit / use up any you have. Chopped coriander, peas, sweetcorn etc can all be added.
1 lb. round steak
4 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. salt
Remove all fat from the meat and place in freezer. When it is semi-frozen, cut it into 3/8 to 1/4 inch strips. Meat cut against the grain will be tender and break easily, meat cut with the grain will be chewy.Marinate in the above sauce for at least 1 hour.
Drain in a colander and place on dehydrator trays. Do not overlap the meat and turn once while drying.
Dry in dehydrator for 8-10 hours. It is ready when it bends like a willow without breaking.
Store in refrigerator
Use crushed fresh garlic (2 cloves) instead of the garlic salt
Add 1 tsp of smoked paprika for a smoky favour
Add 2 star anise 'stars' for a great aniseed flavour
Thursday, 9 April 2009
This dehydrates / rehydrates well but doesn't freeze successfully. Any left over can be kept in the fridge and reheated in a microwave.
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- 3-4 red chillies finely chopped (optional)
- 1 pack grilled streaky bacon - the more grilled the better, it softens up in the sauce and well-grilled gives a deeper 'smoky' flavour.
- Oregano / mixed herbs
- Red wine (optional)
- 3-4 servings of good quality spaghetti
- 3-4 eggs depending on size
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Brown the onions in a little olive oil
Add the garlic and chillies - gently fry
Add the tomatoes, a glass of wine and the herbs.
You want to make this sauce highly flavoured, it provides most of the falvour for the dish and a little is distributed across a substantial quantity of spaghetti.
Simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a thick rich consistency (about the consistency you'd use for pizza tomato sauce).
Finally add the chopped grilled bacon and let the sauce cook for another 5 minutes. If it gets too thick just add some water from the cooking pasta.
While the sauce is cooking bring a large pan of salted water with a dash of olive oil added to the boil.
Add the spaghetti, stir gently to separate the strands and cook until 'al-dente' - about 9-11 minutes depending on the variety, cooking times are given on the packet. Don't cook the spaghetti too much as you're going to cook it for 2-3 minutes once it's drained, with practice you can drain it just undercooked for a perfect end-result)
If you're intending to dehydrate you may find it better to break the spaghetti strands in half before you add it to the water
Personally I detest 'easy-cook' spaghetti, I just don't see how it's any 'easier', a good Italian brand is as easy as it gets and tastes so much better.
Drain the spaghetti saving a little of the water for later use.
While the spaghetti is cooking prepare the egg mixture:
Beat the eggs and add grated Parmesan until the resulting mixture is thick, ensure the mixture is well mixed
Return the cooked spaghetti to the pan you cooked it in and add the tomato / bacon sauce (use a bit of the spaghetti to ensure you get all the sauce out of the pan)
Stir gently to ensure the sauce is well-distributed, if the sauce isn't mixing you can add a splash of the pasta water.
Add the egg/cheese mixture to the pan and stir gently over a low heat
The eggs will cook and the cheese will melt due to the ambient heat in the pasta.
How long you cook it for is down to preference. It's great 'sloppy' with the eggs very lightly cooked but it's also great cooked until the eggs/cheese are 'granulated' - the latter is better for dehydrating.
To dehydrate weigh a portion 'wet' and dry completely, breaking up any lumps to ensure it's all completely dried. Make a note of the lost weight; each gramme of lost weight equates to a ml of boiling water needed to rehydrate. Write the required amount of water on the zip-lock bag.
Rehydrate for 20 minutes in a cosy and scoff! It's great for breakfast, better for an evening meal washed down with some red wine at 'tent temperature'
This recipe makes 'a lot' (about 10 servings) but I find I get through the frozen portions quite quickly - great after the pub with just a pitta.
- 2 onions roughly chopped
- Fennel seeds
- 6 tins of beans (I use a mixture of cannellini, pinto and kidney beans for interest and variety)
- 2 packs of sausages (ie 12) Sainsbury's 'Tolouse' or 'Sicilian' are great.
- 1 pack streaky bacon
- 1 pack of black pudding (you can leave this out if you must / are from south of Brum but I love it)
- 3 tins of tomatoes - ideally chopped
- Paprika (this just adds flavour / colour - 'hot' paprika is a complete misnomer to me. If you can find smoked paprika use this, it's a great flavour)
- Mixed herbs (I use herbs de provence as it's 'french' but any mixture will do)
- 1 bulb garlic, peeled and crushed
- Chopped chillies (optional)
- Coarsely-ground black pepper
- Red wine
- Fry / grill the sausages until lightly brown, set aside and cut into thin slices when cool
- Grill bacon and chop when cool.
- Fry black pudding, break up slices into 'mash' and set aside.
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole dish
- Add the chopped onions and lightly brown, add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (you can grind these is you like or leave them whole)
- Add the crushed garlic (and chillies if desired) and fry gently
- Add 3 teaspoons of paprika and fry gently in the oil
- Add the washed and drained beans and fry gently stirring to ensure all ingredients are well mixed
- Add the cooked / chopped meats and the tomatoes and wine (anything from 1/4 to 1/2 a bottle). If you want to leave the wine out substitute with water.
- Add 2-3 teaspoons of herbs, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2-3 of black pepper.
- Place lid on the casserole dish and cook in the oven on a low heat for 2-2.5 hours until the sauce is rich and thick and the beans are soft
- Taste and adjust salt
At home this can be served with pitta bread to soak up the sauce or rice if you need more carbohydrates. When camping it's a meal in itself or can be eaten with crackers / oat cakes
This recipe is perfect with a freezer, make a pan of the sauce, divide and freeze. When you want to make the curry buy fresh fish and just defrost a portion of sauce. Once the sauce is hot the fish cooks in 10 minutes.
Onion finely chopped
Ginger peeled and finely chopped
Green chillies (ideally 'finger' chillies) finely chopped
Spices (see below)
Fish - a firm white fish filleted skinned and boned. I think haddock is ideal for this but cod, coley etc can be used instead.
To make the sauce:
This will make about 4 portions of sauce
Heat a little sunflower oil in a pan, add 1 tsp fennel seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds (you can lightly crush these but I prefer to leave them whole
Fry 1 finely-chopped medium onion until lightly brown
Add chopped garlic and fry for a further minute
Add chillies and garlic (you can 'blitz' the garlic, chillies and ginger together in food processor or mouli grater to a smooth paste and add it all together)
Remove most of the onion etc mix from the pan and set to one side.
Add a little more oil (1 tablespoon or so) and allow to heat
1 tsp of yellow mustard seeds and fry for 30 seconds
2 tsp turmeric
I tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoon coriander
1 tsp red chilli (cayenne)
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Gently fry the spices in the oil until they are all coated with oil.
Add the juice of half a lemon and allow to absorb
Add a little tap water and continue to fry (I have a pint glass of water to hand and add a little at a time to a total of about 1/4 pint). Continue to fry, adding a little water at a time, until the oil starts to leave the spices.
Return the onions etc to the pan and mix, cook over a low heat adding a little more water* for 20-30 minutes or so until the sauce is thickened.
This sauce is infinitely variable.
Option 1 add more red chilli at the spice/oil stage and chopped tomatoes / tomato puree at the * stage for a redder, hotter sauce.
Option 2 add creamed coconut at the thickening stage for a milder, thicker sauce
Option 3 add methi (an Indian dried herb) at the thickening stage for an earthy, herby flavour
Option 4 for a deeper more robust flavour allow the onions to deeply brown (ie just short of burning) before you add the garlic etc
Once the sauce is thickened and the flavour has developed it's ready for use. You can either use it straight away or freeze it in portion sizes for later use.
(Sauce made with chopped tomatoes, I upped the quantities - 3 small onions etc - and used two tins of tomatoes to make 6 portions - 3 for the freezer and 3 to use straight-away)
Cooking the fish.
Fish cooks quickly and is ruined by over-cooking, curry takes time for the spices to cook-in and the sauce to thicken so it's essential this curry is cooked in two stages
Take your fillets. Cut in half to make 'squares' - this is simply for ease of handling / to fit your pan. Check for obvious bones.
Using a shallow pan (a frying pan is ideal) re-heat the sauce until it's hot. Push the sauce to one side so you have a clear area of pan surface. Place your fish directly on the surface of the pan and spoon the hot sauce over the fish until the top is completely covered. If you have a lid to the pan cover the pan.
Cook for 5-7 minutes over a low heat until the fish is opaque all the way through. Don't turn the fish, it'll break up.
(3 portions of sauce, 3 pieces of fish - Haddock - cooking away. 1 to be eaten now, 2 to go in the dehydrator. Some freshly chopped coriander (home-grown!) has been added at the same time as the fish)
Remove the fish with spatula, spoon and spare sauce over the top and serve with rice and vegetable side dishes.
If you're dehydrating this dish allow it to cool and gently separate the flakes of fish. Dehydrate in the normal way and note the lost weight so you know how much water is needed to rehydrate.
As there are so many ingredients in this recipe I've indicated quantities - these are only a guide.
2 large onions
Fresh chillies (I prefer the green 'finger' chillies)
Chicken pieces - thighs are cheap and curry well - 4 breasts or 6 thighs
Spices - see below
Juice of half a lemon
1 bag of spinach
I block creamed coconut (optional)
- Take a large pot, ideally one with a heavy bottom
- Add 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
- When oil is hot add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- Add one finely chopped onion straight away
- Cook on a medium heat until the onion is starting to brown
- Add the other onion finely chopped
- Cook until the 2nd onion is browned and the first is very browned (this way you end up with 50% of the onion well-browned to give 'tarka' flavour to the dish while the other 50% is just browned for 'body')
- Add garlic (5-6 cloves crushed), ginger (about a 'thumb'-sized piece peeled and finely chopped) and chopped green chillies (I'd add about 20 or even more - green chillies give flavour and are 'hot' in the stomach. not in the mouth. Red chilli powder gives that 'mouth' heat that some dislike - see later)
- Cook until the garlic and ginger are done (about 5 minutes)
- Chop the meat into pieces, smaller if you're going to dehydrate the curry, larger for more bite.
- Add the meat to the onion mixture and lightly brown the meat. take off the heat and set aside.
- Using a different pan (a frying pan is ideal) gently heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil.
- Add the spices
- For example:
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon red chilli (cayenne) powder (see green chillies above)
- 1.5 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Half a teaspoon ground ginger
- Half a teaspoon of salt
- Half a teaspoon of ground black pepper
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of asafoetida - optional. Known as 'hing' in Urdu this pungent powder adds flavour and is supposed to reduce flatulence, I'm not convinced but I like the flavour
- Add the spices to the oil and stir.
- Fry the spices over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the juice of half a lemon, stir.
- Add a small quantity of water and continue to fry gently until the oil comes out of the spices. (I use a pint glass of water and add small quantities, probably to a total of about 1/4 pint)
Add more water to thicken the sauce and cook on a low heat or in the oven for 1 hour (oven is better).
If you wish to add the coconut break up the block into smaller pieces and add to the sauce. After about 20 minutes further cooking the pieces of coconut cream will have 'melted'. The coconut adds body to the sauce but it can 'smooth out' the chilli heat so you may want to add more at the spice mix / sauce stage.
After cooking the curry for about 2 hours taste and adjust the salt if necessary.
Add the leaf spinach, just plonk it on the top of the curry and return to the oven. After 20 minutes or so the spinach will have wilted and can be stirred into the curry.
Serve with pitta, chapattis, or rice.
This recipe freezes well and can be dehydrated
Cooking rice when camping is a hassle though; you need a big pan, lots of water and it needs cooking for 10 minutes +.
There are 'easy-cook' versions of rice but I've never found them any easier, they can take longer to cook and require just as much water and fuel. Similarly there are 'cook in the bag' versions but these still require significant fuel, water and time. Both these types of rice taste artificial to me and if they are flavoured they're often full of additives and artificial flavours.
You could always use 'wok' or microwave rice which comes in an ambient pack and just requires heating. Unless you're backpacking with a microwave these are very difficult to heat, you could always eat them cold but that seems a grim prospect to me. An added disadvantage is that these ambient packs are heavy and about 50% of the weight you're carrying is just water.
Now there is a solution, cook the rice at home, dehydrate and then just rehydrate when you need it!
Everyone knows how to cook rice, right?
Just in case you don't here's a fool-proof method.
- Use good quality long-grain rice. Basmati is best.
- Add one handful of dry rice per portion to the water. Do not add any more rice at a later stage, cooking time is vital.
- Take a large pan filled with boiling water (you can't use too big a pan or too much water. Not using enough however will fail to cook the rice properly.
- With the water at a rolling boil add salt and any flavouring. For rice with curry you can add turmeric, cumin and / or fennel seeds. You can add stock cubes but to me this just replicates the artificial flavour of 'packet' flavoured rice. Plus if you use, for example, chicken stock cubes this will limit which dishes the rice will go well with.
- Stir the water / rice gently just to ensure there are no clumps of dry rice.
- Cook at a low boil for 5 minutes stirring every 2 minutes or so. Stir gently to avoid breaking the grains of rice.
- At this stage you can add finely-sliced mushrooms (or other veg) if that suits your taste
- Keep stirring gently every 2 minutes or so
- After 9 minutes you need to concentrate and stay near the pan. Fill the kettle and switch it on.
- Try one or two grains every minute or so until the rice is cooked.
- Ideally rice should be soft but still with some 'bite'. The difference between perfect rice and mushy gloop is only 2 minutes cooking so constant trying and testing is vital.
- As soon as the rice is cooked strain it in a collander.
- Wash the rice with the boiling water from the kettle.
- 'Fluff' the rice with a fork or a pair of chopsticks to ensure it drains properly.
- The rice can now be served
Rice can be successfully frozen in portion-sized bags (you can resurrect it easily by pouring boiling water on it and draining), or dehydrated. As it's so easy to freeze I tend to make 5/6 portions at once and then freeze 4 portions for later use.
To dehydrate the rice just place it in your dehydrator and leave it until it is completely dry, having weighed it before and after dehydrating - note the difference in weight; each gramme of weight lost equates to 1 ml of water you need to add to rehydrate.
Rehydrating is easy, add the required amount of water, pop it in your cosy for 15 minutes (shake it up a couple of times during this to ensure it's all mixed well).
You'll have perfectly-cooked warm rice with no cooking required in camp, it doesn't need draining and there are no messy pans to wash up
100gm ('wet' weight) is an ideal portion size, it dehyrates to 50gm and rehydrates perfectly following the addition of 50ml of boiling water in just 15 minutes - duiring which time you can be doing something more interesting than cooking on a camping stove!
Making chapattis is easy and good fun, it's quite therapeutic and they taste much, much better than any you can buy in a packet
- Chapatti flour (available from any Indian grocer / supermarket)
- Sunflower oil
When you have a 'handful' size ball knead it on a floured surface for a minute or two. You can be quite brutal with it but you need to ensure it's well-mixed, with no floury bits.
Let it 'rest', covered with a damp cloth, for 15-20 minutes
Divide the ball into smaller balls - about tangerine-golf ball size.
Choose a heavy frying pan and take note of the size of the base.
On a floured surface roll out each little ball thinly and evenly until it's roughly the size of your frying pan base (certainly no bigger, if it is trim and use the offcuts to make another small ball). Flour well and stack them.
Take your frying pan and put it (dry) on a medium heat. Get a dry clean tea towel and fold it into quarters.
If you cook on gas you're in luck, turn on a spare gas ring on a low heat.
Have a dish nearby lined with another clean tea towel and, if you can, an assistant with some soft or melted butter handy.
When the pan is hot place your first chapatti in the pan. After 20 seconds or so flip it over and press down with the cloth. The chapatti will start to 'bubble', the more you press the more it'll bubble, after a further 30 seconds flip back over and pressing down cook the first side for another 10 seconds.
Remove from pan and place it on the spare, lit, gas ring. Being very careful of your fingers flip it over after 5 seconds and after a further 5 seconds chuck it at your assistant. This gives the authentic 'burnt bubble' effect all good chapattis should have. This is how they do it in good Indian kitchens - honestly! This only works with gas, don't try with electric rings, ceramic etc etc
The assistant should brush it once, lightly, with a little butter, place it in the dish and cover with the flaps of the tea towel.
Repeat until all chapattis are done and then serve. They will keep warm in a very low oven, covered with the cloth, for 20 minutes or so. Be careful to not let them dry out.
If you do it this way you will burn your fingers (only a bit) but they taste fantastic and you can have the satisfaction of saying 'Oh I made them myself, it's quite easy when you've got the knack'.
Many Indian restaurants use tinned bhindi and it shows!
I only use fresh, cooked in a spicy tomato-base sauce it freezes well and dehydrates / rehydrates successfully.
You can buy bhindi in most decent supermarkets but it's in small packets and works out quite expensive for what you get. Much better are Asian grocers where you can pick as much as you want and reject any that are black, soft or otherwise a bit manky. It has fine hairs on the surface (removed in cooking) which can irritate sensitive skin - if you're worried use another bag as a glove.
You'll need about 1lb / 500 gm for this recipe which makes 4-5 side dish portions
It's important not too overcook bhindi as it is quite delicate and will disintegrate. Ideally you want to end up with it thoroughly cooked but still retaining its tubular structure and having a little 'bite' to it.
To make the sauce
Fry 1 large / 2 small onions finely chopped in a little sunflower oil until golden brown
Add a tsp of mustard seeds, a tsp of cumin seeds and a 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
Add to this 3-4 crushed cloves of garlic, 2-3 chopped green chillies and a 1" piece of ginger finely chopped. Fry gently and then put the pan to one side.
In a separate pan heat a little oil and add your spice mix. The following is a light and mild mix designed to make a side dish to accompany a hot curry. if you're making this as a veggie main then add more red chilli and cumin powder.
2 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
Mix the spices in the heated oil and fry over a gentle heat for 2 minutes. Add a little water, continue to fry, adding a bit more water until the oil separates from the spices.
Add this mix to the onion mix and return the original pan to the heat, mix all the ingredients well and fry gently for a further 3 minutes. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Add a little more water if it gets too thick, you want a fairly runny sauce for this dish as it finds its way into the tubes of the bhindi
As an option you can add some aromatic whole spices at this stage too (for example 3-4 cloves, the seeds from 6-7 cardamom pods and a 2" stick of cinnamon - remember to retrieve the cinnamon before serving)
Meanwhile prepare your bhindi:
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
Remove the stalk end from your bhindi and cut it into 2cm pieces (this is just to account for the different sizes of the bindi pods and to ensure they all cook at the same speed)
When you have all the bhindi prepared and the water is at a rolling boil add the bhindi pieces to the water, push any floating pieces under the surface, stir gently.
After 3-4 minutes your bhindi will be a deeper, richer green. Remove it from the heat and drain. You'll notice the water you drain off is viscous, that's why this next stage is important. Run the bindi under a gentle cold tap stirring it gently with your hand, this stops it cooking due to ambient heat and ensures all the viscous goo is removed - it's not poisonous or anything just a bit off-putting.
The bhindi can now stand for upto 30 minutes without coming to any harm.
When you're happy your sauce tastes great and the spices have cooked through add the drained bhindi and stir gently. Cook for a further 10 minutes over a low heat stirring occasionally and gently - try to just stir the sauce / around the edge of the pan. Serve.
This freezes quite well in portion bags (defrost / reheat in the microwave) and dehydrates / rehydrates successfully. Just be careful to shake the bag rather than stir.
Again there are many options for this dish - you can add crushed coriander and methi seeds at the onion frying stage, you can add mushrooms etc to the tomatoes to make a veggie main or you can add methi leaves with the tomatoes to make a herby curry sauce.
To make classic bhindi bajia leave out the tomatoes, ensure your spice / onion etc mixture has cooked through add a little water / lemon juice to make thick sauce and then add your drained bhindi and fry gently for 2-3 minutes.
All dahls use lentils or other pulses. These can bought cheaply in large bags from Indian supermarkets and represent much better value than buying from your usual supermarket.
My 3 favourite pulses to use are split orange lentils (perhaps the most familiar), 'channa dahl' which are sometimes called yellow split peas (don't be confused - chick peas are labelled as 'channa' in indian supermarkets), and whole lentils with the skins on (basically 'unsplit' lentils) sometimes known as green lentils.
All the lentils I use are dried, you can buy them soft in a tin but they're expensive, heavy, take up a lot of room, and still need cooking anyway to impart flavour.
The basic priciples are the same whichever type of lentil you use. Start using split lentils and then experiment with other kinds once you've tried a few recipes.
With the infinite variety of recipes you can make your dahl to suit the intended use. Many restaraunt dahls are extremely bland and designed to be as inoffensive as possible - they would find many takers around an Indian kitchen table!
This recipe makes about 5-6 side dish portions, it freezes well and can be easily dehydrated / rehydrated.
This recipe is for an aromatic flavoursome accompaniment to a spicy main dish. I've listed just a few other options at the end of the recipe.
Weigh out about 1/2 lb (250gm) of dry split lentils.
Boil a large pan - about half full / a pint and a half - of salted water, add the lentils and 2 tsp of turmeric, bring back to the boil and stir to ensure all the lentils are separated. Cook at high simmer/ low boil and stir occasionally.
Add whole spices to the water (for example 5-6 cloves, seeds from 5-6 cardomon pods - you can leave them in the pods if you prefer, a 2" stick of cinnamon and 2 bay leaves. A 'star' or two of star anise works fantastically well also - technically it's more of a Chinese ingredient but I love the flavour). You can add a split chilli or two at this stage and retrieve it later, or add fresh chillis at the garlic stage below.
If you're worried about the whole spices you can either grind them and add them with the ground spices below or use a 'reusable teabag' which is sold in Japanese food shops or one of those mesh tea dunker things from Ikea. Personally I leave them in, it adds to the adventure, but warn other diners to look out for them.
After about 20-25 minutes on a medium heat the lentils will still be whole and starting to go soft, cooking for longer will reduce the mixture to a thick soup consistency - either if fine. You can also 'blitz' just a portion of the mixture with a wand blender to give you whole lentils in a thick sauce.
While the lentils are bubbling away chop a medium onion finely.
Fry a tsp of cumin seeds in a little oil and add the onions, cook until brown. Add 3 crushed cloves of garlic, a 1" piece of ginger (very finely chopped or grated) and 2-3 chopped green chillis to the onions. Fry for a further minute.
Add ground spices (to suit this recipe I'd use a tablespoon of coriander, a 1/4 teaspoon of red chilli, a tsp of cumin powder - 2 if you didn't add cumin seeds - a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of asafoetida (hing). You can also add yellow mustard seeds 1-2 tsp for a crunchy 'hotness' or the same quantity of black onion seeds for a 'nutty' flavour. Gently fry the spices, add a little water and fry for a couple of minutes more.
Add the spice mixture to the lentils & water and cook for a further 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle. Cook on a low heat until needed.
Alternatively once cooked you can put it in an oven dish and cook in the oven to get a thicker, almost solid, dahl with lots of crunchy bits around the edges (that's how my Mum likes it). Using a wide shallow dish will mean it loses water more rapidly than a taller narrow one.
If at any stage it seems too thick just add more water
- Sprinkle with fresh copped coriander before serving.
- Add dried methi for a 'herby' flavour
- To make 'tarka dahl' cook the onions longer until almost black or garnish with onions deep-fried to a crispy brown and drained just before serving.
- For a darker dahl with a more intense flavour, sprinkle a tsp of garam masala on the surface of the pan after you've added the onion / spice mixture. Allow it to 'melt' on the surface of the water and then stir in (this works better in my opinion that adding it with the other ground spices and frying it - it tends to burn).
- You can add a small piece of creamed coconut (about 1/4 of a block), chopped up, if you want a milder flavour. Alternatively use coconut milk.
- Lemon can be added when you fry the spices
- You can always spice this up and make it as 'punchy' as you like but remember it's intended as contrast to a main course dish
In terms of dehydration I think it works better if you cook it to the thick soup / almost solid stage - a more even consistency makes rehydration more reliable.
The commercial versions available with little flavour packets that you add taste, to me, artificial and don't make a satisfying meal. The chinese ones are full of MSG and the UK 'super noodles' are only one step up from Pot Noodle.
This recipe makes an authentic tasty spicy meal of perfect noodles with real meat and vegetables in a rich sauce.
- 1 pork fillet sliced thinly across the fillet to make lots of small 'round' slices.
- Soy sauce
- Chinese red vinegar
- Chinese rice wine (dry sherry can be substituted)
- Sichuan pepper 'corns' crushed
- Chilli flakes or sauce to suit your taste
- A pinch of sugar or a little honey
Lay the slices on a baking tray and cook on a low heat for 30-40 minutes.
Dehydrate until completely dry and then place in a bag or cloth and bash with a rolling pin into small pieces.
Store in freezer
- This works well for courgettes, peppers
- Slice the veg into julienne slices (long thing square slices ideally 2mm square)
- Dehydrate until completely dry
- Store in freezer
- You can also dehydrate fresh ginger cut into tiny cubes or fresh garlic and chillies thinly sliced
- You can use any noodles for this. I prefer the flat rice Ho-Fun noodles which are available cheaply from any Chinese supermarket in large packets. Use one 'cake' of noodles per portion.
Make up packets in meal portions adding meat and vegetables to suit. Make sure you add sufficient meat as this flavours the sauce
Rehydrate in cozy for 10-15 minutes and scoff!