Hiking Food : Dehydrating Hummus

Of all the meals that I plan for the bush, the one that I always struggle to feel inspired by is lunch.

For the times when I’ve been busy in the week and can’t be bothered to plan too hard, I’ll go for my ‘standard’ of a small foil packet of salmon or tuna, some rice crackers and cheese. After 10 years, this gets pretty boring, especially if you’re on an extended walk of 4 days or more.

Recently, (after being inspired by reader Bernie Boo in a comment) I decided to experiment with making my own hummus at home and dehydrating it. All I can say is, “yum”! Sure, you can buy commercially made dehydrated hummus, but why bother when it’s so cheap, tasty, quick and easy to make your own.

Staples in my pantry

Staples in my pantry

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  • 400g can chickpeas (drain & rinse)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of smoky paprika
  • 60ml water (or enough for good consistency)
  • 100ml olive oil
Wizz until consistency right

Wizz until consistency right

Basically, I just chucked everything except the oil and water into the blender and wizzed it until the consistency was good, then just drizzled in the oil/water until it was smooth and lump free.

Then it was simply a matter of spreading out the dip on the dehydrator flat tray (or use aluminium foil to make your own inlays for the ‘holey’ trays) and dry until crumbly like kitty litter.

The time it takes will depend on a variety of factors like the power of your dehydrator and the humidity in the air. Mine took about 8 hours during a Sydney Winter’s day.

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Don’t forget to use the other trays for drying other savoury items at the same time. I dried some red capsicum (peppers) to go with the dip!

Yummy happy campers

Add water to bag at camp and enjoy! (Oops – a bit too much water in this first test!)

When it’s finished, pop into portion sized ziploc bags, label and store in the freezer for your next outdoor adventure.

Then at camp, simply add water to the bag and squish/squeeze it around to rehydrate and enjoy with crackers or whatever takes your fancy!

I’m so excited by the outcome that I’m now going to experiment with dehydrating some babaganoush (eggplant dip) and a few other combo’s to keep the variety up.

TIP: Before putting into the ziploc bags, put the dehydrated hummus through the blender again to reduce it to a fine powder. This will help it to rehydrate quicker with a smoother consistency.

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Dinner in a Bag!

I’ve always been pretty fond of the cook-in-the-bag concept out in the bush. Besides doing away with the washing up, it’s another reason not to take a plate/bowl with you, reducing the bulk and weight in your backpack.

Our fabulous Kiwi cousins at Backcountry pretty much have this concept sewn up with their tasty freeze dried meals (I totally rate the Roast Lamb and Beef Curry!). In fact, I pretty much reckon that their meals are the bench mark when it comes to tasty meals in the wilderness.

The other day, I made the decision to head out bush at the last minute and not only had my own stash of dehydrated meals run out, but I didn’t have time to get to a camping store to grab a Backcountry. Sniffing around the supermarket I thought I’d experiment with something that wasn’t promoted as cook-in-bag, but as it was in a foil lined sachet, I thought I’d give it a red hot go!

Not designed for cook-in-bag

Not designed for cook-in-bag (and the wine bladder has water in it… honest!)

Voila! Ainsley Harriott’s Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous, cooked in it’s own sachet!

I knew that the ‘roasted vegetable’ component of the product would be pretty light on, probably needing a magnifying glass to find the vegies, so I took a ziploc bag with some dried vegies (dried peas and dried shallots) from the supermarket and two types of dried mushrooms from the Asian supermarket, added herbs & chilli powder and some good ol’ Biltong, which I threw in before adding the water.

Then, just like a Backcountry, I simply added boiling water, folded over the top and sat upright for about 10 mins, waiting for it all to get hot, gooey and tasty – then ate it right out of the bag. Easy!

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8 Tips to Using a Dehydrator to make tasty hiking food!

One of the questions I get asked most is what do I eat in the bush? It might also explain why my Basic Food for Hiking Video is the 2nd most popular on the channel. Us hikers love our food!

With all that fresh air and exercise, we sure build up healthy appetites and I’m not convinced that all of it is about ensuring correct nutrition (see A Little Tipple in the Bush). So how do we guarantee tasty, healthy food, whilst keeping pack weights to a minimum? How do we enjoy such treats as Mussaman Lamb or Spag Bol in the middle of the wilderness?… The answer is dehydrating!

If alchemy is the art of turning lead into gold, then dehydrating is like some strange kind of bushwalking alchemy. Here’s some tips to get you started!

  1. The Dehydrator

    Dehydrators - like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators – like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators are made up of a number of trays.  In this example there are 5 trays sitting on the base tray. The bottom of each tray is grids which allow for air to flow freely throughout the various trays and around the food. There are also inlay sheets which sit inside the trays and allow you to dry liquids, sauces or fruit leathers. The dry air is generated in the lid section, which is very similar to a low voltage hair dryer. There are quite a few options out there on the market, this one (Sunbeam Healthy Food Dryer) is one of the cheapest at around AUD$100 new. You can pay up to $400+ depending on the model and the functions available. For instance, this model doesn’t have a timer, which would be a helpful thing.  However, you can get around this by using a basic electrical timer that you use between the powerpoint and the plug of the dryer.

  2. Preparation

    Broccoli keeps it's colour if it's blanched first!

    Broccoli keeps it’s colour if it’s blanched first!

    Before placing your food in the dehydrator, you will need to do some preparation.  At the easy end of the spectrum is simply slicing fruit or veggies into small pieces, whereas at the other end of things, is cooking and preparing a full meal. Check your instruction manual which contains loads of helpful advice and tables about the necessary preparation.  Some veggies or fruit need prep such as dipping in lemon juice or blanching in hot water first.  From experience, these simple steps certainly enhance the end product – so if possible, don’t skip this step.

  3. Choosing what to dehydrate

    When choosing meat to dehydrate, the best way to get the most effective drying (and let’s face it, we don’t want to get sick out in the bush) is to use mince meat.  Thankfully, there are lots of options available at your local supermarket – beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork and for us Aussies, kangaroo.  (If you ask your butcher nicely, he will mince almost anything for you. Tripe anyone?) Almost everything that goes into the dryer will need to be sliced small to ensure that you get the most surface area, allowing the warm dry air to circulate around as much of the food as possible.

    Butter Chicken after drying

    Butter Chicken after drying

  4. Cook it up!

    For this example, I cooked up a big pot of lamb mince and used a packet sauce mix of Mussaman Lamb.  I followed the recipe on the packet (except for using mince instead of pieces of meat), but also added a stack of my own (small cut) vegetables and fresh herbs.

    Just make a normal meal - but use mince!

    Just make a normal meal – but use mince!

  5. Drying

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Once the preparation or cooking is done, place the food onto the trays in a single layer.  Again, this is to ensure maximum space around the food to aid drying.
    Dishes with sauce or liquid need to sit on the inlay tray and obviously not onto the normal hole covered trays.  With my dehydrator, I can use the base tray for saucy dishes also.  Note that this base tray dries food quicker than any other area in the dryer. Check the manual that came with the appliance for estimated drying times.  There are no definitive drying times for each type of food as times depend on not only the size of each piece of food, but also the humidity and outside temperature.

    For example:  I once dried Mussaman Lamb in December (Aussie Summer) and it took 14 hrs to dry.  Then, in April (Aussie Autumn) I also dried Mussaman Lamb and it took 8hrs 15mins.

    To make the most of your drying time, don’t just fill one or two trays.  Put a meat dish into two trays, then fill the others with veggies and fruit.  As each type of food will dry at different times, it is important to keep checking on them throughout the process. Each person will find a way that works for them in this, however I tend to check after 6 hrs which will give me an idea of what the overall time is going to be. If you’re doing this overnight, your alarm clock will become your noisy partner in the dehydrating process. The finished product will differ for each type of food. Your instruction manual will give you a description of what to expect and how to know that it is done. The best description I’ve heard for correctly dried mince meat, is kitty litter. Meow!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

  6. Storing the dehydrated food

    Once the food has finished drying, store them in portion sized Ziploc bags. You’ll find that when it is dried, it’s hard to figure out how much a portion is. So make this calculation before you dry. Look at your cooking pot and decide that how many dinners it will cover. Then divide the dried food into this many Ziploc bags.
    Write the date and contents on the bag with indelible pen and place in the freezer.

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Check your instruction manual for details on storage life. Keep a record of your dehydrating history, rating the humidity on the day and the start/finish times, along with any pre-treatment needed.  This is how you can learn and tweak for your next time.

  7. Out on the track 

    To make it easier for yourself, you may wish to add your other dry ingredients to the Ziploc bag before you head off on your trip.   For example:  Add in other dehydrated veggies such as Surprise Peas or Beans or rice noodles.  This way you have a full meal in a bag. When you arrive at camp, simply pop all the contents of the bag into a billy and cover with cold water.  Put the lid on (to keep the craw

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    Meal in a bag!

    lies out) and set aside for an hour.  Perfect time to light the fire and have happy hour! After an hour, simply place the billy over the heat.  Check by tasting the meat.  If it’s still chewy, continue to heat through – leave the lid on and simmer.  Stir frequently. Bon Appetit!

  8. What not to dry

    Being a regular eater of tofu at home, I thought I’d give this a go for the track as well.  Yes, it dried quite successfully, however (thankfully) I gave it a test rehydrate at home before risking taking it out into the bush.

    Whatever you do... don't dehydrate tofu!

    Whatever you do… don’t dehydrate tofu!

    This photo shows the slice of tofu after sitting in water for 24hrs. The best way to describe the texture of it at this stage would be like the bicycle inner tube that I take as an emergency fire lighting tool. Sorry vegetarians… I tried.

  • HOT TIP! Mince represents the major tip in choosing what to dry – Good things come in small packages!
  • HOT TIP!  If you’re a busy person (who isn’t these days?) and you are trying to get a stack of dehydrating done for an upcoming extended trip, I suggest cooking up enough for dinner that night, and then putting all the leftovers into the dehydrator and letting it run through the night.

Goodluck with your dehydrating efforts. I’d love to hear your experiences, recipes and other tips!

Thanks to Swantje and her lovely family (from http://textileshed.wordpress.com) I met at Kanangra Walls over Easter for the inspiration for this post!