I won this year’s Aluminum Chef Competition at Canoecopia. Not sure how I pulled it off. It’s been running for five years now and I’ve always come in dead last. The two other chefs are amazing – Marty Koch the camp cook and Chef Joey Dunscombe who owns his own restaurant (The Weary Traveler). When I was asked to join the group I ended up spending more time throwing tortillas into the audience and mocking the other cooks than actually cooking a good meal. This year was no different – except I did resort to using one of my wife’s field tested recipes – Moroccan Couscous. What I love about this recipe is that it can be made on day two or day twenty of a camp trip. That may be why I came in first place this year – I made a recipe that “normal” wilderness trippers make out there (and it also tastes great).
The trick behind creating solid meals for extended trips is that the recipes are made up of a base ingredient, some type of nutrient added (dried meat and/or vegetables) and some type of dried sauce.
Here’s a number of base ingredients I’ll use for countless recipes. My preference is couscous and Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) but all are excellent starters for some incredible award winning meals.
Lentils – The common Egyptian lentil is more widely used than the decorated lentil, which is split and has its outer husk removed. However, use the decorated type since its cooking time is far shorter and saves precious stove fuel.
Rice – There is an endless assortment of rice that can be used in many different recipes. Precooked white rice (minute rice) is the less nutritious variety but it saves a lot on boiling time and fuel consumption. Mixing rice with lentils is a good idea. Together they provide a richer balance of protein.
Pasta – Pastas can be bought at any supermarket and bulk food store. But so can whole-grain and vegetable pasta, which is far better for you.
Beans – Dried beans really add to a meal. There’s countless variety but to reduce cooking time it is crucial that they are pre-soaked well before meal time. Place them in a sealed container and let them soak in water a full day before using them in a meal. If you plan on using beans for an evening meal, make sure to place them in a sealed Zip-lock bag stuffed in your cook set or a small Nalgene bottle in the morning. By the time you cook up dinner the boiling time has reduced to 20 minutes rather than two hours.
TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a product commercially dried and used regularly by vegetarians and a meat substitute. It comes in granular or cubed form and is easily re-hydrated.
Soy Grits – For a quick, high protein dinner, try soy grits. They’re similar to soy flour except the soybeans have been toasted and cracked into tiny flakes and not grounded into a powder.
Bulgur – Bulgur is made up of wheat kernels that have been cooked and dried. It has a nut-like flavor, which makes it a good breakfast meal, but also makes an excellent substitute for any recipe calling for ground beef.
Toasted Buckwheat – Buckwheat is not in the wheat family. It’s a seed produced by a grass-like herb and is high in potassium and phosphorus.
Soft Wheat Kernels – Wheat produces a one-seeded fruit called a kernel, often called wheat berries, and is extremely high in protein. It’s the simplest form of wheat and was the lead crop in Egypt and Palestine.
Millet – Millet does not contain gluten and is ranked as the least allergenic of grains. It’s also extremely high in B-complex vitamins and the most balanced in essential amino acids.
Couscous – This is a favorite for camp meals. It’s a grain-like pasta, made by mixing flour and water to form a paste which is formed into small grains and then dried. Couscous you find at the bulk food store is most likely made from 100% durum wheat but rice or corn can be used as well
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) – This “mother grain” is found in Andean Mountain regions of South America. It contains more protein than any other grain and is even a complex protein by itself. It is also high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins – making it an ancient food staple for the Inca civilization, as well as the present-day, hungry camper. It takes no time to cook (even shorter than couscous) and will turn from white to transparent when done.
1 cup couscous
1 ½ tsp. curry powder
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1/4 cup dehydrated red and green peppers
4-5 diced sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup pistachios
1 glove of garlic
1 ½ cups water
Bring water to a boil and mix in all ingredients. Over a moderate heat, cook 1-2 minutes. Let sit off heat for 3 more minutes.
1 cup couscous
1 cube vegetable bouillon
2 Tbs. dried vegetables
2 Tbs. dried red and green peppers
2 Tbs. dried corn
1/4 cup mixture of black beans and red organic beans
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. parsley
big dash of garlic
1 can of dehydrated tomato paste
2 ½ cups water
Pre-soak the beans in a container (a spare Nalgene bottle works well) for an entire day. Then, to prepare the dish, first reconstitute tomato paste in ½ cup of boiling water with the dried vegetables, dried peppers and dried corn. Set the sauce aside and boil beans in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes. Then, place the cooked beans in with the couscous – mixed with the vegetable bouillon, onion powder, parsley and garlic – and let boil in 1 cup of water for 1-2 minutes. Finally, add the tomato sauce and serve.
1 cup quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa)
1 fresh red onion
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
handful of dried pears, dates, apricots, chopped almonds
Bring three cups of water to a boil and add quinoa mixture. Grain is ready when it looks transparent. Let stand covered for 10 minutes.