Tuesday 24 February 2009

Kitchens, Pertex and Strathyre

Its been a little quiet here lately and there is good reason. For those who have not undergone a kitchen refit themselves yet, my advice is this: Get a man in. A man whose job it is to fit kitchens for money. In fact get more than one. Get one to specialise in each of the annoying areas of the kitchen that will no doubt present itself as a problem and that way, you don’t have to deal with it when it does! Its pretty much done now though so on to more interesting things…..

Just because the kitchen takes over my life for a while doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to some panels of Pertex Equilibrium, cunningly disguised and presented as a mid-layer smock! I’ve been on the hunt for something to replace my Berghaus micro fleece that I’ve been using as a mid-layer. I pondered every type and style of ‘soft-shell’ and finally lost the will to live. I’ll say a bit more about this in a separate post as it may help others but my plan is buy a few and through process of elimination work out which one to keep.  The first round is between the Rab Vapour Rise Smock and the Montane Scarab. Both are Pertex Equilibrium and offer very similar spec. Not as light as I’d prefer but a good place to begin. Depending on the outcome I may return both and move on to other offerings but for now these meet my criteria on paper. The Rab top arrived yesterday amidst kitchen construction mayhem – A circular saw in one hand and the parcel in the other it was a test of my metal to carry on working. Initial impressions are good, it feels soft and comfortable and the fit is pretty much perfect in small. The hood seems well made and the stitching in general (despite many owner reviews) is fine. More on this when the Scarab arrives later today and I’ve had a chance to compare.

What with the kitchen and other social commitments I’ve not spent a night on a hill lately, but all is not lost as Charl and I are off to the Scottish Highlands. We’re headed for Strathyre Forest for a long weekend and I cannot wait. Charl even bought some New Balance trail shoes so (to my surprise) we might even get a walk in!

Aside from all of this there are stirrings in the force and all I’ll say at the moment is that I may have found the basis my first epic backpacking trip. Its not a TGO crossing but its a start……

Thursday 5 February 2009

Playing with Food, Outdoors Style

Andy Howell has been running a series on food dehydration, an area I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. It reminded me of a few draft posts I’d forgotten about, covering lightweight foods for backpacking.

Dried food is clearly one way forward but what else can be done on hill whilst still appealing to lightweight aficionados? I looked at various areas back then and came up with a few that (in theory) would work really nicely – the first of which being the humble scone.

Taking a pretty standard scone recipe I came up with a reasonably easy lightweight version for the hill:

  • 55 Self-raising floor
  • 1 teaspoons of olive oil (instead of butter)
  • 1 teaspoons milk powder
  • 35ml Water (+/- for correct consistency)

This makes around 2-3 normal sized scones and you just decide if you want a savoury or a dessert scone. I (as a non-recovering cake/chocolate/dessert addict) prefer mine sweet, so would add a little caster sugar and a dried fruit of some kind. Now I should explain that to cook these properly using a pan lid or pot, you should make small and flat scones to reduce cooking time. This gives around 6-8 ‘mini-scones and would make an excellent starter or dessert to a main meal.

To reduce mess, you can mix it all in a freezer bag, making sure you’ve packed a little extra flour to dust your hands or Orikaso plate before touching!

Another recipe that works is one I tried earlier in the week for Bannock Bread. I came across this whilst listening to one of Bob Cartwright's podcasts and thought it had potential for both sweet and savoury use. This isn’t a set recipe as such but a simple backpacking Bannock Bread base consists of self raising flour, milk powder and water. I added honey and walnuts to my mix and cooked it in the frying pan lid to one of my pots. It took minutes over my alcohol stove and tasted pretty damn good. Again, you could add dried onions, mushrooms, olives, fruit or just sugar to mix it up a bit.

I’m certainly going to be trying some of these antics on my next outing along with a bit of experimentation with my own dried meals. More on that when my dehydrator arrives!