It’s easy to become complacent with meals when every ingredient adds grams to your pack. Plan your meals early and use fresh ingredients and you’ll be the envy of the tramping hut.
BYO spice kit
Ground spices have an incredible taste-to-weight ratio and are well worth packing. Pre-mix a spice kit for each night’s dinner at home and store in a ziplock, or craft your own spice kit if you’re a spontaneous cooker. Nothing beats a pinch of cinnamon in your morning porridge or Italian herbs in pasta. Restaurant salt and pepper sachets are another handy additive to bring along, but sneaking them into your pockets is a recommendation absolutely not heard from us.
A nifty native worth memorising is the heart-shaped kawakawa leaf. Two lightly scrunched fresh leaves in boiling water make a tremendous bush tea. For a fuller flavour, bring a pot of water to the boil with kawakawa and kanuka.
Pick your veggies
Fresh vegetables are a luxury in the backcountry, but very few travel well. Onions, mushrooms, carrots, courgettes and capsicum are exceptions to the rule, but it still pays to cook them up as soon as possible to avoid bruising or spoilage. With mushable vegetables, try packing them inside your cooking pot, and if possible avoid pre-cutting anything as it will spoil faster.
A useful native to know in the backcountry, this spicy plant will give hot chocolate a kick and transform a bland pasta. Pick a leaf or two, and infuse in cooking oil or boil in water to add a punch to your pot. Māori used horopito to treat unsettled stomachs but fair warning, it is very spicy and it’s wise not to nibble on a raw leaf.
While most dehydrated foods feel like a cheap imitation, dehy potato mash is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. To turn the classic filler food into the main event, add chorizo, salami, or fried onion to the mix, and throwin a packet of soup powder or miso to flavour.
Packed full of calories, peanut butter is a high energy, incredibly versatile food. It works well spread on banana or apple slices, on crackers, in porridge, or by the spoonful. Add it to stir fry or lentils for a satay kick, or use it as an oil substitute.
Practically weightless and indestructible in a pack, a humble clove of garlic will add serious flavour to a tramping meal. Thinly sliced, and fried in oil or butter, it can’t be beaten. Raw ginger is another lightweight wonder. Peel a segment with the edge of a spoon, cut into chunks, and enjoy with lentils, curries or in tea.