Product review: Firepot expedition meals
When you’re out camping, hiking or kayaking, compromises often have to be made when it comes to meals. Nutritious, tasty food is normally sacrificed for lightweight ‘packet’ meals that are convenient … but bland and merely functional. It’s as if the pleasure that comes with cooking and eating cannot co-exist with enjoying the outdoors.
The new range of Firepot healthy expedition meals by Outdoorfood.com makes a clear statement: lightweight, nutritious and tasty food is possible.
I’ve been testing out the range of new Firepot meals and have been impressed. First off, they’re preservative-free. This means that there are no nasty ingredients you don’t recognise; just the kinds of ingredients you’d have in your kitchen cupboard at home. And many of them are locally-sourced from the butcher and greengrocer near Outdoorfood.com in rural Dorset.
The second way they stand out from the competition is that they’re dehydrated rather than freeze-dried. Whereas freeze-dried meals typically have their ingredients mixed together separately, Firepot dehydrate their meals once the ingredients have been combined and cooked, locking in the flavour. Dehydration gives them a shelf-life of two years so there’s little danger of the food going off.
There are currently four meals on offer: orzo pasta bolognese, dal and rice with spinach, chilli con carne and porcini mushroom risotto. They’ve also just launched a breakfast (posh pork ‘n’ beans) and have more dishes coming over the next few months.
The meals come in two sizes and I found the smaller pack size (weighing 135g) provided an ample and filling portion. Rehydrated, the meals weigh in at 500g. And when you’re active, the energy value of the food you consume really matters a lot. I was impressed to see that their meals provide between 500kcal and a whopping 700kcal of energy in each serving. For the really active or hungry, the 200g portion size give up to 1000kcal in energy.
I’ve tested out the meals on a hike with my Duke of Edinburgh group and a cycle ride, as well as enjoying the breakfast pork ‘n’ beans at home. So how easy were they to cook and how did they taste?
Cooking was a doddle. Each meal has either a pan or pouch method, using different quantities of boiling water to rehydrate the food. Fill levels are handily marked on the side of the eye-catching packaging. Just bring water to the boil, turn off the heat, cover or seal, then go off and do something else for 10 or 15 minutes until the food’s ready to eat. I liked the simplicity and the fact that the packaging is really easy to re-seal.
The meals were tasty too. The porcini mushroom risotto tasted, well … as a homemade risotto should. The chilli was also flavoursome and the pork ‘n’ beans packed a punch with a nice kick of tabasco in the tomato sauce. (I’ve yet to taste the dal and the orzo pasta bolognese).
For my own taste I would probably suggest leaving the chilli and pork ‘n’ beans to hydrate for an extra 5 minutes to soften the beans a little more. And while it’s impossible for the manufacturers to cater for everyone’s individual tastes, I would have preferred to have had a creamier, cheesier risotto and a spicier chilli. Everyone’s different of course – these are just my own personal preferences.
I must admit that I am perhaps a pickier customer than most. For one, I’m biased against packet foods, much preferring to cook my own when I pitch up in my tent at night – and I’m a keen cook at home, too. (You can find some of my ‘real food’ backpacking recipes here and here). There’s definitely something very soothing and therapeutic about cooking when you’ve been on the go all day and while it might take a little longer, I enjoy this aspect of camping a lot.
So am I tempted to leave my own ingredients at home and simply pack a range of dehydrated Firepot meals? For the simple reason that I like my food with strong flavours that I can adjust to my particular liking, on most occasions I think I’ll continue to cook my own food. That doesn’t mean that these new meals from Firepot aren’t really good – they’re certainly better than similar meals I’ve tried in the past – but it simply reflects my particular liking for camp cooking! However, where time dictates that a quick, simple and tasty meal is needed – a hearty, tasty breakfast, for example – then I would definitely want to try a Firepot meal again. All in all, these new meals are a great addition to the meal choices available to outdoors folk.
Note: The Firepot meals were given to me for free by Outdoorfood.com in order to write an independent product review. I have no connection with the company whatsoever.