Sunday, 31 July 2011

food find - asian home gourmet kimchi soup

Another great Longdan food find, Asian Home Gourmet Kimchi Soup paste. I've used this paste a number of times at home with the rice udon noodles that I posted about here. At home I added the paste to a litre of boiling water along with a roughly chopped onion and sliced bamboo shoots in the pot, after five or so minutes I added some cubed chicken breast. At this time the rice udon had been soaking for half an hour, and I'd refreshed the hot water during this time. Once the chicken had been poached I added shredded chard from the garden, and cooked for a further three or so minutes. The noodles were added to a (large!) bowl and the soup poured on top.

On the trail I'd use the broth I'd get from stirring the paste into hot water to rehydrate whatever I want to put in it. The choice is yours when it comes down to it but the paste isn't vegetarian as it contains shrimp paste and fish sauce. Soy sauce isn't used and the label states it's free of gluten contaminates, so it's gluten free but then I wouldn't be featuring it here if it wasn't! And it's MSG free too.

Stripped of the outer package the sachet weighs 53g,which isn't a bad weight compared to some cuppa soup mixes that might be used as a basis for a meal. And although the packet states use 500ml of water it does stretch to a litre as I use at home, so can be be split or used as a base for two in a larger pot.

This past week on a car camping trip I used the thick noodles again (I love them!) and poached chicken breast, pak choi, and bamboo shoots in the broth on a Trangia, the noodles needed breaking in half to soak but but nevertheless it was as good as ever (apart from trying to eat noodles with a spoon!)

I spotted some rice noodle nests that would make a great addition, albeit a bulky one, to this dish however whatever noodles you prefer, or can eat, this is a very flavoursome base and it''s one I'll continue to use.

the shropshire hills - wenlock edge

Wine but no sign of the author

Lower Hill Farm campsite is located a few miles south of Much Wenlock on the western side of Wenlock Edge. Rita, the owner, optimistically claimed that the site was terraced which it was, after a fashion. But that didn't matter to us as we had pretty much the whole campsite to ourselves so we found a relatively level spot in the top field with a superb view out across to Caer Caradoc, The Lawley and beyond. Behind us somewhere in amongst the trees ran the Shropshire and Jack Mytton Ways.

"What are we doing tomorrow?" Penny asked. "That," I said pointing at one of the hills.

In Much Wenlock we'd picked up an OS map of the area (1:25 explorer #217) and a second hand copy of Shropshire Hill Country by Vincent Waite, which happened to turn out to be a real find. First published in 1970 it covered all manner of legend, history, geology, architecture and more on the area. In fact this book became a reference to the walks we did, "So what does Vincent say about..." was often asked when looking at the map and the guide as we planned the following day's activity. Our imprint was the 1989 one and there are copies available online.

We used David Hunter's The Shropshire Hills, A Walker's Guide published by Cicerone that we bought from The Outdoor Depot in Church Stretton. Despite being close to the start of three of the routes in the book covering Wenlock Edge we opted to bag peaks instead. This was no slight to the charms that undoubtedly the Edge offered but I thought that I'd like to walk the length of it. And for that you need to use a two car shuttle.

As the day closed the route was decided, and we drank vino whilst reading Vincent.

the shropshire hills

"What's that over there?"

"That's the Shropshire Hills..."

"Any climbing?"*

"Naw, don't think so..."

"What time will we get to the Vanyol Arms?"

"Before it closes, I hope..."

On many occasions I have been party to similar conversations. The Shropshire Hills suffer the same fate as that of Northumberland, people drive past on the way to some where else.

More fool them. Whilst I try and visit Northumberland every couple of years, I'm ashamed to say that it took until this week for me to rectify the situation, Shropshire-wise. So last Monday armed with the knowledge of a campsite perched on Wenlock Edge, a box of full of food, and a car boot equally full of kit, we whizzed up the M40 in search of England's other forgotten county...

*There is climbing in Shropshire, apparently.

Monday, 18 July 2011

rab vapour rise smock

I've had one of these for two years now. Although intended for high activity use, it has reflective piping on the shoulders and back, it's become a regular piece of backpacking kit for the cooler months.

RAB clothing is a good fit for my body shape and has a nice close fit. The sleeves are over long and have thumb loops which is a useful feature that I've used a number of times. Particularly because it doesn't have any where to stuff your hands. It has a dropped tail to cover my bum, the deep front zip helps to ventilate when the going gets hard, and there's a napoleon pocket that will take an OS map. Now it might seem like a good idea if an item of clothing stuffs into one of it's pockets, after all you won't need a stuff sack... But since the pocket isn't tethered internally when you try to take whatever is in there out it invariably means the pocket will follow more so if your hand is damp, which I find irritating.

As already mention this garment is meant for high activity use, so it doesn't have a hem cord but it's some thing that I find useful for the use that I put it to. However it does have one for the collar. I presume this is for sealing the neck to stop rain running down your back or to keep warm air in, whatever it's intention I've never had call to use it.

The material, Pertex Equilibrium, is wind resistant not windproof and this makes it more breathable, again a feature that is found in this type of top. The idea is that if you're running you generate heat so you need better breathablilty, and allowing some breeze through will have a cooling effect thus creating balance, or as the name suggests, equilibrium. Similarly it's shower resistant not waterproof, the surface material dissipates the rain over a large area to aid evaopouration with your body's heat driving the drying process through the lining material. Wear this when it's raining and you'll be damp, warm damp depending on how hard you're working.

Although it's not windproof enough for my liking, there's no hem draw cord and no pockets, it's something that I can put on over a base layer and be comfortable in a range of conditions. And that's why it works for me.

mountaingoat detachable mesh pocket

I spotted the detachable pocket on twitter last week. MountainGoat is a one person operation and as I'm a big fan of supporting the outdoor cottage industry, I ordered one up. They are made to measure so you have to supply the dimensions and specify what grade of grossgrain (the thin stuff is lighter) you want. The pocket was made, despatched and delivered within a week.

I have gone from an Osprey rucksack that had pockets a-plenty to the three pockets of the Golite Peak/Jam without missing the extra storage and gear organisation that you have with those additional pockets, so why would I want an add-on?

Fishing for gear in the main pocket of a Golite bag is like trying pick out the winning ticket in a tombola, although by adding a couple of mini karabiners stuff like keys can be easily got at as I described here. So having an optional mesh pocket seems to me like a good idea.

Mesh keeps the weight down, my one weighs a paltry 27g, but apart from the extra storage, the mesh pocket is a good place to put damp gear so it has a chance to dry out. I haven't had the chance to get out recently so haven't had the chance to put it to the test but I think it will become a useful option to have.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

food find - rice udon

Longdan, an oriental supermarket chain, opened a store in town a few months ago and I wasted no time doing a supermarket sweep searching for stuff that would be suitable for backpacking (and my dietary needs, of course). Generally I steer clear of oriental food stuff because it invariably includes soy sauce or wheat noodles which contains gluten. However I am still fond of soupy noodle dishes so I was excited to find udon noodles made from rice. And, at the time, I thought that they would make a good addition to my backpack pantry.

For some reason there were no cooking instructions on the packet, this didn't matter I reasoned, I'll just cook them like I would gluten free pasta... However my first attempt resulted in half cooked noodles in very gloopy water! After scouring the Internet, including having to translate various pages, I was still no wiser. A quick visit to the shop and I discovered from another manufacturer of fat noodles that they need to be soaked in 'warm' water for twenty minutes or until soft. Back in the kitchen I soaked the second batch in hot water, and the noodles took nearly forty minutes to soften up.

Sadly although I've enjoyed a number of great dishes with these lovely fat noodles the preparation time discounts them from being useful on backpacking trips for me. If you're prepared for the wait, or like some, who carry nalgene flasks to rehydrate food stuff and can't eat food with gluten in, then give them a go. There's always the opportunity however, depending what's in my store cupboard, I might prepare them at home for an overnighter perhaps and carry them in a ziplock bag.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

gefen gluten free thin noodles

A seasonal food find as I found out when I went back to Sainsbury's. These were only stocked for Pesach (passover). And despite spending some time online I haven't been able to find a supplier, which is a shame as only having a single box to test a recipe is limiting.

My aim was to create a backpackers version of chicken noodle soup or lokshen as I remember it being being called when I was younger. My mother always used to administer this whenever a family member was ill. It's not a cure but, like all soups, it's a comfort food, it's easy to swallow, it helps rehydrate, and delivers calories thus helping the body to recover. So therefore ideal at the end of a long, hard day on the trail.

My memory of the dish was that it was thin like a consomme but I wanted to make it more harty, making sure that it had a good quantity of CHO ( carbohydrate) and therefore calories. One thing I do when building recipes is to work out how much CHO there is in the ingredient so I know how much insulin I will need. Unfortunately the nutrition facts panel is a bit confusing; it seems to imply that a single serving of 56g contains 82g of CHO! Although this may be based on the cooked weight, using 56g of dry ingredients. Looking at the 340 calories per serving, and with CHO having 4 calories per gram this would indicate again that there is 80g or so of CHO. I guess this must support my thinking that this is cooked weight. Why they cant just stick to using dry weight facts I don't know, I've come across this before with other dried foods, and it makes calculating how many insulin units I need difficult. Back to the recipe idea...

The base must be of good chicken stock so I always use Kallo low sodium and free range chicken stock cubes, one of each in this case. Apart from the noodles, I'm going to add some dried onion, dried garlic granules, diced dried carrot and swede, and some dried herbs. And if I have some shredded dehydrated chicken. The noodles take three minutes to cook, so it's important for the other ingredients to be hydrated before the noodles go in the pot. That's the idea, and I'll update once I've had a few attempts.


Spot the underlined correctly...

I found this device for removing ticks in Cotswolds. It's credit card sized and, without the wallet, weighs 5g. The card has a magnifying lens included. I guess if you happen to have a Sliva compass with you, you'll already have one of these. And as it's separate from the TickCard it's more useful because you can use the device whilst magnifying the critter (assuming it's on an area of your body where you can use both hands).

...and correct! (Blogger wont let me put a line under it).

How it differs from other devices is that you don't twist the tick, the manufacturer claims that, Link"biologists have found that that squeezing, twisting or in any way stressing a tick increases the risk of it injecting harmful agents into the bloodstream of its host..." There is no qualification on the packaging to substantiate this claim. In fact whilst reading the packaging (four pages of A6) I started to get the impression that the copywriter was playing the fright card, so I did a count of various words that were used in the copy. This is what I found.

Exclamation marks - 12
Safety/safe - 7
Disease - 5
Dangerous - 4
Serious - 3

Now whilst I'm fully aware that the number of people contracting Lyme Disease has been on the increase, and the swift removal of tick is important in lowering the odds of catching the disease, I dislike the use of fright factor to sell a product.

I'm also at odds with the fact that the USP of the device is contra to current practice, especially where there's no reference back to medical basis of the package's claims. And if I'm wrong on this point then I would expect them to include a reference to the research.