I really do not like cooking.
When you think about it, it is the most pointless exercise. You cook, usually making a huge mess at the time, you clean up, you eat, and bugger me, if a short time later, you have to start cooking all over again.
Where is the fun in that?
My idea of fun is going for a nice long stroll in the bush. The flaw in my plan is that you need food to fuel that nice long stroll. When there are no cafes or restaurants within cooee it means I need to plan ahead.
So here is my very first attempt at dehydrating meals in preparation for our 6-day Great Ocean Walk adventure.
Voila! A very gruesome looking Spaghetti Bolognaise.
In our household, Spaghetti Bolognaise (also known as spag bol) is a hearty, easy meal when you need something quick and a bucket load of carbohydrates. Perfect food to tuck into after a long day out on the trail. So here goes…
- Ingredients: 500g penne pasta. I chose this pasta rather than a traditional spaghetti pasta as I thought it would be an easier shape to transport and eat out of a small mug/bowl at the campsite. I also chose gluten free for something a little lighter on the tummy.
- Cook pasta as per packet instructions and drain well.
- Work quickly to lay pasta out on the dehydrator racks – ensuring a single layer and penne are not stuck together. This will help with even drying across all racks.
- Cool on a cake rack or similar sitting on a baking tray – to catch the bits that fall through.
- Portion into desired serving sizes.
- Time & Temperature: 5 hours at 65°C.
- Comments: I was not careful enough laying out the damp pasta on the dehydrating racks and it ended up with clumps. What was I saying about being a reluctant cook?
- 1 brown onion, peeled and diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves (or to taste), peeled and diced fine
- 500g beef mince, 5-star or lowest fat
- 6 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.
- 2 heaped tabsp tomato paste
- 1 440g can of chopped/crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 heaped tabsp dried oregano (or to taste)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large non-stick frypan, cook off onion and carrot until soft.
- Add garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add mince, cook until evenly browned. Use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps.
- Cook until all juices have evaporated or use a piece of clean paper towel to mop up any excess fat.
- Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes until they wilt.
- Transfer beef mix to a larger cooking pot to add liquids.
- Over a medium heat, add all other ingredients. Bring to the boil.
- Reduce to a simmer (with the lid slightly ajar) for 45minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces. Stir occasionally.
- Check seasoning. Add more oregano if desired. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes to help the evaporation process.
- While the sauce is simmering, cut baking paper to fit the dehydrator racks. Make sure the paper is smaller than the actual rack size to allow the air to circulate through the dehydrator and over all the racks.
- Gently spoon the bolognaise mixture onto the paper-lined racks. Ensure an even thickness of the sauce on each rack, so it dries consistently.
- Once the dehydration process is finished, gently lift the baking paper from the racks, turn the paper over onto a large chopping board or similar and gently press on the back of the paper, pressing the sauce mix off.
- Add to the bags of portioned pasta.
- Time & Temperature: This may vary depending on your dehydrating device. Try 10-12hrs at 75°C.
- Comments: OMG! I made such a mess doing all this – 50million pots and pans, and spag bol sauce from one end of the kitchen to the other. A Domestic Goddess, I am not! My key tips are:
- Try to remove ALL oil from the cooking process. Oil inhibits dehydration. Buy the lowest fat mince available and do not add any oil to the recipe.
- Flavours dissipate when you dehydrate food, so don’t skimp on the seasonings, herbs and spices.
- I added extra vegetables to a standard bolognaise mix, to give us a few extra vitamins.
- Make sure the sauce mix is spread evenly and thinly on the dehydrator racks. I didn’t do this and ended up with clumps of sauce that needed additional drying time.
- Portions: I portioned both pasta and sauce into four zip lock plastic bags. For the Bibbulmun Track later in the year I will vacuum seal them for a longer life span. Each of the portions will feed two people.
- Taste: I added 375mls of boiling water to a portion and let it sit for five minutes. The pasta didn’t absorb the water like I expected. It was quite chewy – perhaps that was due to being gluten free? Or, did I not leave it long enough? The meat reconstituted well and was its normal tasty dish. Obviously, there will be no fresh parsley or parmesan cheese out on the track, but perhaps I could sneak in a bit of that long life parmesan?
- What I would do differently: The next batch I make, I will use ‘normal’ pasta and see if it is less chewy. It will also try macaroni as it may have fewer sharp edges, reducing the risk of piercing the bags when I vacuum seal.
Being my first ever attempt at dehydrating a meal, I was pretty pleased with myself and the result – even if the meal itself wasn’t too appealing to look at.
Hit me with your dehydrating tips and tricks. I am keen to learn more.
What is your favourite hiking meal?
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