I am back from my travels!
Warren mentions my interview with Andrew, on making tart
The question posed: can I take a meatball recipe and, rather than cook the meat in balls in a sauce, cook it all together so it’s like what I would call a bolognese-type sauce, and which Americans might call something like chilli?
Let’s find out!
I decided to use a recipe from Saffron Tales only because I had loved it recently and I had prunes to use up; I intend to try this with the meatball/kofte recipes in Jerusalem, too. The meatballs there are stuffed with barberries and walnut and prune, and simmered in a sauce of tomato and onion and prunes and so on. Oh and the meatballs have cooked rice in them.
So I made the sauce pretty much to spec, and then just… put in the mince, and all of the other ingredients (except the walnuts, which I added at the end) (oh and garlic because I ran out; how even does that happen?). I didn’t pre-cook the rice, just threw that in too, and added a bit more water to compensate. And let it simmer for maybe an hour or so? For the meatballs it said to simmer for 50 min; I figure bolognese sauce is always better when it’s all been cooking down together, so the same principle seemed to apply here.
And the verdict was: yes! This is a good option! I won’t stop making meatballs because there is definitely a place for that, but the place for THIS is in the dehydrator and making me ever more interesting food to take camping. I am very pleased with the results.
So we went camping for about ten days recently, and we managed to make dinner on the fire every night. Which was ace. We’d done a lot of prep beforehand, which stood us in good stead.
We did a few pretty normal things: eye fillet and lamb backstrap on the grill. A whole lot of roast potatoes. We’d marinated some lamb with onion, garlic, and ginger and then vac-sealed it; we cooked that with a tin of peas and it was quite good! We took many tins of vegetables – easier to transport, especially when our trip involved running the quarantine regulations of travel between Victoria and South Australia. We had some that were just boiled, and they were just… average. So I decided to change it up by warming them in a pan with some butter and herbs. Herbs were courtesy of a Gewurzhaus gift from a friend and they really lifted the veg.
In terms of dessert, we did two experiments. One, I discovered that you can buy packet mug cake! Which is so wrong but so awesome. And we decided to make them in the sandwich maker and they worked brilliantly. Two, we decided to try and make a proper cake too. My beloved was convinced that we could do it in a cast-iron cauldron. I thought we should put alfoil in the bottom. And… well, the bottom burnt, which was sad, but probably not a surprise. We still ate the cake, and it was ok – I mean, it was cake in the middle of the Flinders Ranges – but it did have a burnt tang. Which was sad. Next time we might try a pot-inside-a-pot… or just take a cake tin with us. Or, easiest, just rely on mug cake packets.
Breakfast was mostly pancakes and bacon and egg wraps. There was also a lot of tea and aeropress coffee. Lunch was wraps, or occasionally using the sandwich maker for its actual purpose.
Aim: to recreate our spit-roast experience from earlier in the year c/ camping friends
Unfortunately we probably were a bit too impatient, and we probably didn’t have enough hot coals under the chicken and the potatoes for long enough. One end of the chicken (closest to the pole, in the picture) really didn’t cook at all. The breast meat was mostly fine but we were a bit leary of the thighs so most of the chicken has gone into the freezer to be made into stock whenever I’ve got time. The potatoes looked good but also weren’t as cooked as we had hoped and wanted. We didn’t realise that the cage thing came as part of the ensemble, and hadn’t intended to get it; when camping we’re more likely just to do them in the dutch oven in the coals proper. However, it was very pleasant to sit outside with the fire and this was, as stated, our first experiment.
More coals are needed. Next time we will probably do it over the fire pit rather than the tray to get a bit more heat happening. If it’s windy the coals needs more attention. The potato cage may not be worth it. We like fire.
That’s right sports fans, no longer are we just dehydrating… we’re now vacuum sealing too. Because apparently we think the apocalypse is coming.
Actually it’s about camping and taking food on long trips away, but same outcome.
This incredibly appetising mess on the left is actually (what I call) bolognese. I have a feeling it’s pretty close to what Americans call chilli. Minced beef, lots of tomato paste and crushed tomato, mushroom, kidney beans, onion and garlic basically. This is what it looks like when it’s been dehydrated and then vacuum sealed and then taken out to some remote location in order to feed us. Below is what it looks like when it’s had boiling water poured on it and then been left to sit for a while… then simmered gently to reduce the liquid a bit:
And it tasted… basically like bolognese. The beans were perhaps a touch on the rubbery side, but really overall it was perfectly tasty. Add a little pasta and cheese and you feel very smug compared to the people either burning sausages nearby or people who are just eating something straight out of a can. Took about 14 hours in the dehydrator.
This here is a vegetarian dhal, dehydrated and vacuum sealed. Haven’t rehydrated this one yet; it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I can’t imagine that lentils are going to be terribly fussed by the process, so I think this should be another winner. It’s so very easy.
We quite like camping, of all varieties. We have more tents than would seem entirely sensible. We also have a Landcruiser troop carrier that we’ve recently kitted out with a frig, and a rather nice cooking set up. Because we also quite like cooking. The solution to either eating just Latina pasta or steak all the time, for my beloved, was this cast iron pot. Throw a mini roast in with some potatoes, a carrot, maybe a couple of shallots and as much of a tin of tomatoes and some water as will fit… put it onto the coals of the firepit you’ve had conveniently and cheerily smoking for an hour, and another hour or so later you’ve got dinner.
Things we didn’t realise: that the lid has one direction in which it sits flush. The other way around, it doesn’t. The theory is that this is for those occasions when you do want steam to escape, which I guess could be useful, but… it was frustrating when we didn’t realise.
We also didn’t realise how to care for cast iron, because it arrived sans any instructions about seasoning or care. So we found that out the hard way. Fortunately it’s not the sort of thing that can be easily destroyed, which I guess is the whole point with cast iron, right?
Anyway. The results have been… acceptable. We’ve only used it twice. Once while actually camping when we were quite pleased with how it turned out, even though frustrated by the lid. The second time was to check out how well we’d seasoned it, and that was somewhat less awesome. Partly it was because we used a larger piece of meat so it was squishier and therefore more bits of carrot ended up burnt on the side. Partly it was because cooking a la camping (we still used the firepit, in the backyard) just isn’t the same when you’re not, like, camping.
I think this is going to be a good addition to our camping experience. I think I have to find my recipe for damper as the next experiment.