The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 27 March 2014



A comment on my previous post asked what meals we have in our dehydrating repertoire, and I thought it a question which deserved a post of its own.

First though, I need to start with a confession: I may have been misleading when I said that we have eleven varieties of meal. It’s an entirely true statement, but of those five varieties are for me and six are for Mick, so we do have a lot of repetition. Happily, we can both live with repetition. We do it at home all the time (fish pie for four consecutive days anyone?!).

The menu as it now stands has been developed over a number of years. I got my first dehydrator in 2006, supplemented by a second one* in 2008, so we now have eight trays of capacity across two machines, and having cooked and dehydrated (and rehydrated and eaten) hundreds of meals over the intervening years, we have (through a process of trial and error) pretty much settled on what works for us.

This year has been pretty relaxed, with just 76 meals to prepare. We peaked in 2008 when 130 meals were cooked an dehydrated at a time when we only had three trays of dehydrator capacity (looking back, my hair is standing on end in fright at the very thought!).

Anyway, our current list of tried-and-tested dishes are as follows:

Gayle’s Meat-less** dishes:

Veggie Pasta Sauce (tomato and onion base (usually with carrots and celery grated in to bulk it up) with diced courgette, mushroom and pepper - served with pasta)

Veggie Chilli (onions, garlic, tomato, green pepper, continental lentils, kidney beans, various herbs and spices - usually served with rice)

Butter Bean Curry (onion, tomato, curry paste, mushroom, green beans, butter beans - usually served with cous cous, unless I have a surplus of rice)

Chick Pea Stewy Thing (onions, celery, leek, peppers, aubergine, chick peas, various spices - usually served with quinoa, except this year I’ve not got any, so it’s going with instant mash or cous cous)

Lentil Stew (onion, continental lentils, celery, carrot, parsnip/swede, butternut squash, spinach – always served with mash)


Mick’s dishes:

Beef Chilli (I’m sure I don’t need to describe what we put in one of those – served with rice)

Thai Turkey Green Curry (onions, turkey mince, Thai green curry paste, coconut milk powder, courgette, carrot and mushrooms – served with rice)

Turkey and Butter Bean Madras*** (same as my Butter Bean Curry, but with turkey mince – usually served with cous cous)

Pork Bolognese (same as my veggie pasta sauce, but with minced pork – served with pasta)

Lamb and Root Veg Stew (onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, swede, tomato, chilli, minced lamb – served with mash).

Lentil and Sausage Stew**** (same as my lentil stew, but with the addition of sausage – served with mash)

Shepherd (minced lamb, onion, peas, carrots, lamb stock – served with mash)

The menu is now reasonably stable, although I do try something new every now and then. Other things have been tried and ditched. I used to have risotto and a couple of fish dishes on my menu, but the risotto came back a bit mushy, and never felt like a filling meal, and the fish got dropped because of issues I had with getting the fish to rehydrate fully, although I do intend to supplement my veggie pasta sauce with fish bought as I go along this year.

As for our rehydrating technique: we boil some water, add the meal, leave it for half an hour in a pot-cosy (an hour for Chick Pea Stewy Thing if I want the chick-peas to be crunch-free), add the rice/cous cous/pasta and leave for another ten minutes, then eat. Mash doesn’t need any more standing time.


(*I’m still grateful to Dawn for more than doubling my dehydrating capacity by gifting the second machine to me :-)

**It’s a common misconception that I’m vegetarian. I’m not. I just don’t tend to eat meat, hence Mick and I have separate meals.

***This one came about because a few years back the quantities cooked left us with a half serving of Mick’s turkey curry and a half serving of my butter bean curry. We mixed them together and Mick discovered that he rather liked butter beans in his turkey curry.

****This one didn’t get made this year, purely because the quantities worked out such that we hit 38 meaty-meals before this one was cooked.)


  1. Minced pork is a new one on me, likewise sausage. How do you do the sausage: cook then slice? Is there a problem with the fat content of sausages?

    Did I send you my Lentil Curry recipe? A bit late for this trip if I haven't - I'll be making a dehydrating a big batch next week. It's yummy!


    1. The sausage came about last year when I joined Mick on the Pennine Way and only had one evening after work to cook some food for both of us. I did a lentil stew, separately cooked some sausages, sliced them thinly and dehydrated them separately. I then threw the dried results into Mick's bags of stew. He declared that they worked well.

      The only problem I see with the fat content is the shelf-life - but they should be fine for a good few weeks (after all, lard doesn't go off that quicly, does it?). Mick certainly ate some at 5-weeks old last year and made no complaints.

      You did send your lentil curry recipe, which does reside in my recipe collection. I made some in 2011, then promptly forgot about them as an option - so well reminded!

  2. Shepherd!!!
    Sorry, fit of giggles.
    I do intend, one day, to have a dehydrator. One day. Need to do more backpacking to make it worthwhile. I'll be consulting my Gear Guru when the time comes.

    1. Shepherd. Nowt to do with sheep, y'know...

      Last time I did a calculation (including electricity usage), I worked out that our meals averaged at under a pound each (yep, there may have been a spread sheet involved). Compare that to commercially prepared meals, and a dehydrator does pay for itself pretty quickly. Moreover if you can pick up a cheapie one when they appear every now and then in places like QVC (not that I'm advocating watching QVC, but I've seen mention online every now and then when QVC has been selling them).

  3. Gayle, many thanks for such a complete reply (an entire post! :) This gives me ideas for several new things to try. I take it turkey has worked out better than chicken for you in rehydrating?

    I noticed you haven't used Quorn in your vegetarian recipes. This is probably a good thing. I tried dehydrating a vegetable curry with finely-chopped Quorn once for vegetarian friends and the Quorn set like bits of hard plastic. I broke up the larger dried pieces with pliers, but it still didn't rehydrate well in a reasonable time.

    What dried weight of food do you use for your meals? I find mine tend to be 130g, say 60g of chilli and 70g of rice, or similar.

    1. I'm sure that if we could pick up minced chicken in the supermarket, that would work reasonably well. In the absence of minced chicken, we use minced turkey and provided that it's broken up small in the cooking, then Mick is happy with how it rehydrates.

      I did put some Quorn mince into my Veggie Pasta Sauce a couple of years back, when I was trying out various things to give it more bulk and to add in some protein. It rehydrated without a problem, but it fell off my recipe list because Quorn isn't something I would ever eat at home (give me pulses any day!), so it doesn't much appeal on my backpacking menu.

      In general, our meals work out at between 80 and 100g of 'topping' and 60-75g (depending on what it is) of rice/pasta/cous-cous (or a third of a bag or so of the cheapest instant mash).

  4. Cheers and all the best for your walk up.