Having been brought up camping, I learnt from an early age that could cook pretty much anything on an open fire or single gas burner. The idea of eating well when I’m camping is no bother to me at all, I think to begin with I could cook better on camp than I could at home! But, sometimes, carrying the equipment and fresh food needed to cook up a meal worthy of a Michelin star (!) when you’re under canvas is just not possible. And so outdoorsy people off on adventure turn to the convenience of dehydrated meals such as those found in the bright orange foil bags of FIREPOT by Outdoor Food.
Testing out the new Beef Stew and Pearl Barley on the West Highland Way.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of this type of food. In fact, I’ve avoided them for years. I’ve just never got on with the texture of ration packs. What you get when adding water to dehydrated food is basically a pile of slop, or stodge if you don’t add enough water, that tastes bland and has no texture at all. Yuk. Worse, though, is that these meals are often just powdered nothingness with chemical flavours added, giving them the nutritional value of dust.
But it turns out that this is quite an old-fashioned viewpoint these days. Thankfully. Yes, you can still get chemical-filled food packs that resemble semolina when prepared, but you can get some decent meals made from actual food that have texture and will properly fuel whatever adventure you are having.
Preparing dinner on the West Highland Way.
For the last year or so I have regularly turned to FIREPOT by Outdoor Food for my evening meal when camping. I’ve eaten more of these than the total number of dehydrated meals I’ve ever eaten, and I have to say, they are good.
It’s quite simple really. For a start they taste like they are supposed to, and while they are mostly porridge consistency they do have a texture that is palatable rather than just being a big pile of slop. You can see the ingredients you expect to find in the meal; actual mushrooms, bits of beef, cubes of carrot. I mean, you can actually tip them out into a bowl and not be put off by what it looks like!
Food and Jetboil posing by a tree.
This is because FIREPOT are prepared as meals in a kitchen in Dorset. Chefs – actual real people – cook big batches of slow-cooked curry or bolognaise or whatever it is using fresh and real (100% natural) ingredients, and once it’s tasting good, they dehydrate the food and package it into the easily recognisable orange metal pouches. You know, just as you would do at home if you were preparing meals ahead of time yourself. They don’t even taste salty, because they only add the amount of salt that is actually needed.
Porchini Mushroom Risotto by headlamp on Loch Lomond shore.
Preparation is, of course, very simple. You open the package (tear the top of the foil pouch off) and take out the magic drying paper square. Add boiling water to the required level indicated in the instructions on the outside of the pouch, which is kind of easy; I’m sure there could be a way to make this more accurate, but so far I’ve always managed to get about the right amount of water. Give the food a stir, seal up the pouch, and wait – 15 minutes feels like a long time when you’re hungry but it’s about the right amount of time to get your bed sorted. Then open up the pouch, give it another stir, and eat. It couldn’t be easier.
What you get is a healthy and hearty meal, with an exact number of calories so you can make sure you’re getting enough (or not too many…), that is easy to prepare, and doesn’t take up much room in your pack. They are even useful when you have a long day in the car and arrive at your hotel room really late and would much rather not eat at the random fast food chain at the Services… yes, I admit I have eaten these in more than one Premier Inn, and am very happy to do so!
Posh Pork and Beans in less than posh surroundings. Better than needs must.
It definitely helps that the meals sound good too. I recently tried a couple of packs new to the line-up; the Posh Pork and Beans, and Beef Stew with Pearl Barley (so good!). The one I always hope I can find in the cupboard, though, is the Porchini Mushroom Risotto – it’s just so full of flavour and has almost exactly the same texture as a risotto I might cook from scratch at home.
The only thing that might improve FIREPOT by Outdoor Food, and I genuinely mean the only thing, is that the packaging could be made a bit more environmentally friendly. I realise this is hugely difficult, as you have to use something that is suitable to pour boiling water into to make up your food and still be able to hold it, but it would be great to see some developments in this area. If a company like Outdoor Food could get the food right and the packaging truly recyclable, then that would be an amazing combination.
You can get hold of FIREPOT by Outdoor Food over on their own website, or from Basecamp Food (discount code below…). They come in at £6.50 each, which is good value for a hot lunch or evening meal, and store for ages in the cupboard.
Get 10% off at Basecamp Food by using SPLODZ10 at the checkout.