At last, a Chilli Con Carne that works!
I've been dehydrating home-cooked food for some time now and had mixed results. The main problem has been the flavour of dishes containing spices. Both curries and chilli con carne have been flat, with an unpleasant flavour. I decided to concentrate on chilli con carne because I cook a pretty damn good Chilli so know what it should taste like.
After various trials, including heating and dehydrating canned Chilli Con Carne, using a different spice mix, varying the cooking times etc, I've now got something pretty darned close to the fresh dish. Tips are as follows:
I do vaguely recall someone else doing something similar with the spices but I can't find the thread in question so apologies if not original but if, like me, you've struggled with spiced dehydrated dishes, it's worth trying. I'm now going to see if the method transfers to curries
R_Mac wrote (see)
Do you serve with rice? If so do you cook and dehydrate the rice or cook on site?
Yes Rich, rice. I cook and dehydrate the rice at home (doesn't seem to make much difference whether you mix the rice with the Chilli or not before dehydration) and rehydrate the combined dish in the field.
I only carry one pot (MSR Titan Kettle) so I deliberately aim for one-pot meals. I know you know more than I do about stoves and fuel consumption so you'll know that cooking the rice in the field would use a fair bit of fuel. Even quick-cook rice needs several minutes' simmering. I can cook a pretty big one-pot meal in a few minutes with about 7g of gas in temperate weather, using my current set-up of F1 Lite plus close-fitting foil windshield. Then 20 or so minutes in the pot cosy et voila.
Jake wrote (see)
I only carry one pot (MSR Titan Kettle) so I deliberately aim for one-pot meals.
Same here, well I carry a small ti mug but it's one shot cooking pot for me.
I know you know more than I do about stoves and fuel consumption so you'll know that cooking the rice in the field would use a fair bit of fuel.
Only my own stoves to be honest and they perplex me at times
It all comes down to efficiency, I'd like to use LWWF meals as they taste great but they don't suit my stove/pot set up. I'm always interested in hearing about home dehydrated meals that work, mine still have a slightly burnt taste.
Thanks for shareing
The problem is that I just use ready made sauces. About the onions/peppers do you simply add them raw when you're on the hill?
It all comes down to efficiency, I'd like to use LWWF meals as they taste great but they don't suit my stove/pot set up. I'm always interested in hearing about home dehydrated meals that work, mine still have a slightly burnt taste.Thanks for shareing
That's it, exactly - a slightly burnt taste. If you think about it, it's not surprising. The spices have already been dried once, you're then rehydrating them when you add them in the cooking phase, you're then drying them yet again when you dehydrate the cooked dish. Is it any wonder that they taste of nothing other than a vague heat when they are yet again rehydrated on the hill?
You should not have this problem with onions and peppers, Ray, as they are fresh ingredients. Are you sure that they cook through properly when just added raw to a dehydrated meal?
Cook and rehydrate rice !!?
Jim the park warden wrote (see)
Cook and rehydrate rice !!? Why ?
Jim, rice is a dried, raw ingredient.
Look at the pack instructions. It needs between 10 - 12 minutes' cooking to be palatable. If you cook it, then dehydrate it, it can be rehydrated to the same condition by merely pre-soaking, heating to boiling and then sitting in a pot cosy.
It may be possible to cook rice by boiling and then leaving it in a pot cosy but I've never tried it myself.
rice has to be boiled properly to split the case. you can get some chicken curry flavour rice which has been cooked and dehydrated from lidl.
rehydrated mince jalfrezi and rice.tasted perfect!notice the rehydrated peppers.that was on a campsite,if in the wild then i would rehydrate the rice and curry together.
I notice you use mince in the curry, I read that chicken is hard to rehydrate propertly, is that why you use mince?
When you cook the mince and sauce and dehydrate it, how dry should it be, rubbery/leathery/crisp. I tried to dry my mince/sauce mix untill crisp but maybe thats too much.
Would it be better to dehydrate the mince, then add a sauce in powder form together with the dried onions/mushrooms/peppers etc before rehydrating on the hill rather than drying to dehtdrate a liquid sauce?
I'm wanting something that I can put in a ziplock and simply add boiling water
The shots below are of a Spaghetti Bolognese in various stages. It was edible but tasted burnt.
virtually nothing is impossible outdoors. it just requires the attention and some skill on the part of the cook - so if something does work for you then you're probably doing something wrong.
just as there are many types of rice there are many ways of cooking it.
this is the simplest method that always works. try it home. it does require using two pots outdoors though and assumes white rice.
measure rice in a cup. throw in pan. measure twice the volume of water to rice. throw in pan. bring to the boil. stir. cover. turn heat off and leave for 25 mins. (put in pot cosy outdoors) do not lift the cover as you want to keep the maximum amount of heat and steam inside to cook the rice. after this time remove cover and give it a stir/fluff up. quick cook rice may take less time. you'll have to experiment.
to have nice individual grains of rice put small amount of oil in pan then add rice. on the heat stir the rice to coat in the oil. then add water. bring to boil. cover and leave as before.
depending upon what type of rice you use you may need just less or just more than twice the rice volume of water.
trying to cook raw rice in your main meal is something it is probably best to avoid for that way, i'm sure, madness may lie.
another way to cook rice is by the packet instructions. boil it for x mins in lots of water then drain. a general pain. no! don't even go there.
pasta needs attention and heat as it doesn't like sitting in hot water and is likely to go slimy on the outside. more trouble than it's worth if you're fuel conscious. the tiny bits of soup pasta you can get are ok though but will go slimy if overcooked.
unless you really, really like the taste of raw onions never put them into your meal whilst reheating it. onions not properly cooked will impart a metallic taste which i find extremely unpleasant.
to make frying onions easier, despite what you may see on tv onions take around 15-20 mins to cook, blanch them in boiling water first. this blanching will get rid of the "raw" metallic flavour of uncooked onions, soften them and make frying them a lot easier and quicker.
when using mince for the outdoors don't brown it. it makes it tough as it puts a crust on the outside. browning meat is only done to add a bit of flavour - it does not seal the meat to keep the juices in which was believed to be the case until it was proven otherwise.
jake, i like the method and i think some of the success you have found with it is because you effectively boil the onions in the water from the meat when you put the meat in and so cook the onions thoroughly.
adding the chilli etc when you rehydrate is the way to go. cumin has the advantage of still tasting ok when raw but i would suggest using just crushed/flaked chilli instead of powder as i find that the powder can taste rough. the cool chilli company do a superb range of flaked/whole dried chilles from mild rich flavours to just hot. the flakes at around 3 or 4 in the heat scale provide a rich depth of flavour which makes the hotter stuff taste even better. they do a superb mexican oregano which is heady, earthy potent stuff.
i'm not sure the raw spices will work with curries as these are usually a broader mix of spices which require cooking i.e. frying in oil otherwise they taste raw and powdery rather than fragrant.
make up a spice paste of cooked spices. the oil will preserve it for days when out. if you like a bit of sharpness then frying the spices in oil and vinegar will preserve the spices for ages. doing this at home is far easier than on a camp stove as it's easy to burn spices.
there are now so many jars, sachets and packets of spice mixes you can get that when you find one you like take some with you, fry it in a pan for a bit and add your meal to simmer a while.
the burnt flavour is a puzzle.
it would suggest that the heat is too high when dehydrating and the food is continuing to cook, or there isn't sufficient ventilation leading to the same thing. temperature should be about 50C although you can start off about 60C for the first hour just to get the process underway. the food should be cooler than this as it's cooled by evaporation but if ventilation isn't good enough the temp of the food will rise.
finally on this, never underestimate the power of at least a good quality oil, vinegar or other condiment to provide a flavour lift well beyond its cost - and with oil a free added calorie bonus.(rice with finely chopped chilli and garlic dressed with excellent oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar hear and there is fantastic)
Thats a pretty comprehensive write up Parky, thanks for taking the time. I feel kind of guilty now because I think home dehydrating isn't really for me. I use a meths stove and a single pot and it just seems as if it's all too involved.
I think it's fair to say that there's quite a lot of misleading information about dehydrating your own meals. I was sold on the idea that all I needed to do was make a few extra portions when cooking at home, throw them in the dehydrator and enjoy the taste of home cooked food on the hill by simply adding some boiling water and letting it sit for 15mins. I haven't found that to be the case unfortunately.
i would agree that they can't taste the same. they must be prepared with dehydrating in mind to allow for the change in textures and flavours. the difference though i think would veer towards technique rather than ingredients.
i'd still persevere a few more times with it r_mac. i'm sure its one of those things which suddenly click and it will all work splendidly.
i love cooking and i experiment a lot. i can bore for the uk about it too. the short (ha!) reply i started was about the rice to dispel a misconception about cooking outdoors but like all things it's only obvious when you know the answer.
Great stuff, Parky - many thanks.
I am very interested in your point about the temperature of the dehydrator - 50C. I set mine at between 60 - 70C. I'll try dehydrating on a lower temperature setting and see if it makes a difference.
Rich, it's worth persevering with the dehydrating. You're absolutely right, there is more to it than just drying whatever you happen to be cooking. Some dishes need no modification; my Spag Bol recipe (nicked from Jamie Oliver) is almost indistinguishable from the freshly-cooked dish (the basil loses its flavour) and a couple of portions can just be bunged into the dehydrator straight from the pot.
When you've got a recipe that works, it is much better then anything you can buy commercially and the weight savings do add up over a multi-day trip. Your Spag Bol does look very dark in colour - what is the recipe?
> I tried to dry my mince/sauce mix untill crisp but maybe thats too much
I think that's too dry, and may explain why it tastes 'burnt'. I'd aim for rubbery/leathery.
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