My first experience of ‘boil in the bag’ meals was a good old military ration pack. Not that nice, very bland unless you took your own mini bottle of tabasco (or other sauce), gut blocking biscuits brown and a weak juice powder. Fortunately now things have improved for serving personnel and the wealth of dried food for the outdoor consumer means that there is a good choice on offer. The mere fact that food is sealed in a packet however often means that various treatments/additives/preservatives are added to give a reasonable shelf life so, with none of these, how did the Firepot meals taste?
I was sent the regular serving option (135g dry) Dal with Rice and Spinach (vegan and gluten free), Porcini Mushroom Risotto (vegan and gluten free), Orzo Pasta Bolognese and Chilli con Carne and Rice (gluten free). A new addition to the range is Posh Pork and Beans (gluten free) for that early morning hot food fix and each one is also available in an extra-large 200g (dry) serving. All come sealed in premium feeling packaging, with a nice map of Dorset emblazoned on them. Why Dorset? Well that’s where Outdoorfood are based and source the majority of their ingredients. The mince for the bolognese comes from a local butcher in Bridport and vegetables from a local greengrocer in Chideock for instance. I always like it when the source of ingredients is openly advertised and don’t mind paying a bit more for it, if it tastes good.
Opening the pouch was easy thanks to the pre-cut notches, don’t forget to take out the wee oxygen absorbing sachet before you pour on boiling water though! This brings about the normal issue with meals like this in that you need a source of boiling water, be it a camping stove, Jetboil (others are available) or kettle. The instructions are very clear, with a handy ‘fold here’ method to ensure the correct amount of water is added. If you are really hungry you might be disappointed having to wait for up to 15 minutes for the food to rehydrate, although it can be done quicker in a pan if you have those facilities available. What was brilliant was that even after 15 minutes the well-sealed, metal lined pouch kept the food hot enough that it still needed to be blown on before eating. There is nothing worse than just warm food when you’ve been out biking, walking, or kayaking all day.
Did they taste ok? Heck yes. In fact I had the Chilli con Carne just as a normal dinner one evening when the fridge really was bare! Put it on a plate and it would be difficult to tell these had not been cooked from scratch; oh, but they have. That is what sets these meals apart in my opinion from others I have tried – each ingredient is identifiable and it tastes like you would expect. Having cooked the meals by hand, Outdoorfood then dehydrate it by passing warm air over the surface of the food rather than freeze drying. They have found this helps retain the flavour and texture making for a tastier product, and I am not disagreeing. The 135g portion size swells to about 500g which was comfortably enough for me, and I like my food! If more calories are required then the extra-large portion size would be a good option.
My favourite had to be the Dal with Rice and Spinach. You need to like mildly spicy food as this meal actually had some heat to it – so many readymade Indian meals lack spice, so it was refreshing that this delivered what I would expect. It’s not rocket hot but enough to make your tongue tingle. It sounds funny, but if you buy the Porcini Mushroom Risotto you need to like mushrooms as it does have a strong earthy mushroom flavour; thankfully no bland mush of rice here but a hearty and tasty meal. The Chilli Con Carne was delicious and would go amazingly with some fresh crusty bread bought from a local baker mid ride. The Orzo Pasta Bolognese was probably my least favourite, mainly as I was expecting big chunks of pasta and with my limited knowledge of Italian pastas didn’t know that orzo looks like rice. I was a bit underwhelmed. I have to say it was still flavoursome just not what I had in my mind for a big pouch of pasta bolognese. Each one though stood out as identifiable, warming and most importantly tasted like a proper home cooked meal and there were certainly no leftovers!
Overall: What I loved about these meals was that they tasted great, had identifiable (natural) ingredients and were not reheated bags of mush. £6.50 is pricy, but I do think that the quality is evident. You can also buy a taster box, think two choice pick ‘n mix, for a tenner which certainly makes it more cost friendly. These will definitely be going in my pack for any bothy trip.
|Price:||£6.50 per regular serving (135g)|
|Tested:||by Tom Nash for|