Tuesday, 9 August 2016

blue dragon red thai curry paste - food find

I heard about this via a vegan food page I subscribe to on Facebook. I’m not a vegan but contributors there regularly post stuff up that also happens to be gluten free. And it happens my partner, Sarah, is vegan so this made a handy addition to our camp cooking repertoire.

There are three pastes in the range, all vegan and all GF, the others are a green Thai and Massaman one. It was the latter I was keen on trying but was unable to find it, so opted for this.
I tend only to cook from scratch when car camping or on ‘Cheeky Overnighters’ where weight isn’t an issue. And it was on one of these that the paste made its way on to the menu.

The plan was to pre-pack rice noodles, a vegetable stock cube, cashew nuts, tamari, sesame oil, and grated coconut cream.  And then pick up some veggies along the way. As it happened we managed to find a ‘Chef’s Selection’ of baby corn, carrot, broccoli and mange tout which made the meal more authentic.

In a Snow Peak 1400 pot I heated the paste on a very low flame, this released the flavours but I was mindful to make sure it didn’t burn. A glug of sesame oil helped here. In went the stock cube, water, coconut, tamari and veggies. The latter I’d cut down into smaller bite size pieces. If I was cooking for one I’d have dropped the noodles in the pot too but I wasn’t, so I boiled some water in a Snow Peak 900 for the noodles whilst the curry sat in a cozy. The cashews nuts were added to it just before serving.

Juggling noodles indoors is a feat in itself and it takes on a whole new dimension when camping. But I managed the divvying up with the help of an Orikaso folding plate that can clipped together to form a bowl with a spout for draining stuff. The plate also doubled as a chopping board and somewhere to hold the veggies whilst I got the curry on the go.

The outcome? A very enjoyable meal. I’d certainly recommend this paste and will try the others when I’m able to track them down. Meat eaters could add fish sauce, of course, for that authentic umami taste that was obviously missing.

A couple of things to note. The Orikaso plates are no longer available in the version that I used. I carried the sesame oil and tamari in GSI condiment bottles. The Snow Peak pots nest even with the cozies on making for a compact modular cook system. I also own a 600 mug allowing me to scale the system down to a one person one.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

peddars way preparation

The National Trails website

The annual Easter backpacking trip planning is finally underway. The National Trails website is my first place to go, followed by picking up a guidebook and a Harvey’s strip map. I then spend time reading up on the route and scanning the map for potential camping sites. Although unfortunately Harvey’s don’t do a strip map of this trail. The decision to take OS maps or rely on the guidebook alone for navigation isn’t an easy one to make. It’s a National Trail so the way marking should be decent enough, the Peddars Way is relatively straight as it follows the course of a Roman Road, and when it hits the coast… Well, how hard is it to get lost when I’ve got the sea on my left hand side? Then I have my gram weenie head saying that the OS maps will probably weigh less than the guidebook but I’m resisting the urge to whip out the scales and put them on trial.

The start of the way is in a bit of an out of the way location, and I know that others who’ve done the trail caught a cab out from Thetford and split the fare. This is a solo venture at the moment but I have since discovered that there is a bookable bus that runs to the start and costs a miserly £2.20. A no-brainer then.

As it’s Easter I’ve also emailed a couple of campsites along the trail to make sure that they were open and had space. What surprised me was the responses from two of the sites; one from a pub that had camping wanted to charge me £15.00, and made no concessions for someone in a tiny tent and who was on foot. The other from a national organisation that had a backpacker concession for non-members at £6.55 per night. Another no-brainer.

Kit list compiling is the usual straightforward deal, with the usual musings over what cook system to take based on what food I fancy, so no change there. I’m debating whether to pack all the food I need or not. I’ll have a meal out but due to my dietary restrictions I can’t rely on finding stuff on route. At least on the coast there may be options but I could find myself subsiding on chips night after night. This might not be all hardship as I’ve discovered a fish and chip shop in Hunstanton that does gluten free battered fish so one less meal to pack.

With four weeks left to go I’m also getting in some training miles when the weather allows but my right knee is beginning to complain which I’m putting down to the cold damp weather but have it strapped to be on the safe side.

Friday, 2 October 2015

marks and sparks gluten free mini pork pies

A thin wash of glaze. 

A few months ago I discovered that M&S had started selling gluten free scotch eggs and they swiftly became the go-to day trip lunch item. At the time there was also some jokey dialogue going on a forum about what happened to those good old climbing/hiking food items like scotch eggs, pork pies and garibaldi biscuits. They had, for some, fallen out of fashion to ‘healthier’ options but for me the exclusion was a dietary one – I could no longer eat them.

Imagine my surprise and joy when I discovered that M&S are now doing pork pies and it goes without saying that I was scouting scotch eggs at the time, so grabbed a packet of these too.

A lack of jelly.

There are four mini pies in the pack weighing in at 50g each, and have the following food values 777KJ of energy, 12.3g fat, 14.3g of carbohydrate (CHO) and 4.5g of protein. And a pack of four cost circa £2.40. Being made from gluten free pastry I have to be forgiving, a bit, but I found the pastry a bit too dry. There didn’t seem to be sufficient fat content in the pastry to make the kind of crusty shell that pork pies are known for. There was an insufficient amount of glaze or lack of it on the pastry too. And the same can be said for the jelly which again is a key part of the pork pie experience. The first didn’t have any jelly and the remaining three had a small amount in the bottom of the pie with air space above. But not enough of it before it was lost. This is down to the fact that their size and the manufacturing process, no doubt. The filling again didn’t amount to much in volume but tasted well enough.

After the success of the scotch eggs I was disappointed by how these turned out. Personally I would rather have larger pies either 250g or even 500g sized ones that would have the space between the crust and filling for decent amount of jelly and would obviously contain an equally decent amount of meat too.

Friday, 11 September 2015

merino buff – thermal

The thermal weight buff

My merino wool buff is one of those bits of kit that finds its way into my rucksack on most occasions even in the warmer months. 

It’s a versatile piece of kit that that has many uses; in winter I wear it as a neckerchief to seal the gap around my neck and mid layer, and in summer it becomes a beanie or nightcap to keep my head warm around camp or whilst sleeping. The bonus of using it as a nightcap is that I can pull it over my eyes as it’s getting lighter ensuring a few extra hours sleep after sun up.

I’m always pleased to get a kit upgrade and the guys at http://www.kitshack.com/ have sent me a thermal version of the merino buff to try out. Effectively it’s a heavier weight version of the original – 27% heavier – with a brushed finish and a much thicker and denser weave, and it tips the scales at 70g.

In the middle of August trying out a thermal buff might be a tall order, well at least I hope so, but I’ll be out bikepacking another section of the NCN 4 in early September so will tuck it in my spare clothing dry bag. I might not need it during the day but as a nightcap it will get some use.