Review: TentMeals — Vegan Dehydrated Food I

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The summer is now well and truly here and over the next few weeks backpackers everywhere will be setting out for night or two — or even longer — camping out in the wild.

I mentioned a few months ago that I had been sent some of these meals to review. I was very keen to check out this vegan menu and I often have mails from vegans interested in home dehydration.  I hoped to have reviewed these before the TGO Challenge but too much stuff got in the way. However, I have been sampling them whenever I get the chance and I’ll split the reviews up into two.  In this first review I will concentrate on main meals.

Background

Dehydrated meals are good news for the hiker and lightweight backpacker. Not only are the meals light but they are compact, meaning they take up little room in your pack. They are reasonably easy to prepare. And now we have a whole range dedicated to vegans. I should point out I am not a vegan but I eat a great deal of vegetarian food (those usually with dairy products).

What are we looking for?

When hiking hard — and especially over multiple days — we are looking at food that keeps you going. Portions need to generous and the carbs sufficient to ensure you don’t get too deep into negative energy consumption. And we’re looking for something tasty. When you are struggling through dreadful weather for days on end the one thing you have to forward to is your evening meal. (yes, I know it is summer but I’m being realistic here).

I’m also very keen to avoid the taste of additives. Dehydrated food has come a long way in the last decade but I can still taste some of the stuff I used 15 eyes ago! That horrible preservative taste is something that drove me to dehydrate my own food.

So to the food …

 

You can see a main meal here. It comes in a vacuum packed plastic packet. Everything is about as compact as can be, as you can see from the size of my cooking gear.

I was sent three main meals; a Moroccan style main meal; and Italian style main meal and an Almond Jalfrezi main meal

Preparation

This is simple enough though those plastic bags are tough — you will need to use your knife carefully. These meals are designed to be cooked in your cooking pan, there’s no pouring boiling water (300 mil) into plastic bags (thank goodness). I simply added water to my pan, poured in the meal and then cooked on top of a lightweight alcohol stove. The packet said to add to boiling water and wait 7 minutes. I simply brought everything up to the boil and then placed the pan in my pot cozy for 7 minutes or so.  Seven minutes was about right so long as you make sure you mix the ingredients well before heating and again before you place in the cozy.

Portion Size?

The good news is that these are decent portion size, well the 800kcal size is (there is a smaller 500 below). Some of the commercial brands I’ve tasted are not enough. If you have been eating properly through the day (and maybe had a second breakfast) and then had some chocolate or other stuff with you for the evening, this size will be OK.

Taste

The first meal I tried was the Moroccan Main Meal. This is basically couscous with herbs, some finely diced vegetables, dried fruits and almonds.  This rehydrated easily enough and was certainly a good portion. I felt it lacked a bit of punch in the taste. The  dried fruits as herbs were there but very mild.  I may have added just a little too much water. 300 mil is about one backpacking cup of water. It is always easy to over estimate the amount of water you need for rehydration. It was not bad and certainly didn’t taste of preservative.

The Italian Main Meal was not dissimilar. The main ingredient was again couscous  this time with tomatoes, winter veg (carrot) and parmesan (style) shavings — whatever those are. And those almonds were there once more. Again this was a pretty mild taste, It was discernibly different  to the Moroccan but only if you concentrated hard.

To, both were fine but I would have been inclined to take some extra stuff along with me. Dried chilli flakes, some powdered cumin and some dried herbs would have made a big difference I think

If this two were a little underwhelming in the taste department the star of the show was the Almond Jalfrezi. This had a rice base and a nicely flavoured base sauce. Almonds were there in force again but this time accompanied by flakes of coconut flesh. A good dollop of coconut milk also dropped into the pan. Once this was all cooked and broken up it was rather delicious. Jalfrezi is traditionally a hot and spicy curry but don’t worry this is really quite mild. I would add a little more in the way of chilli flakes if it was me. A nice meal though.

Size options

I mentioned above that I tried the 800kcal (200 grams) sized meals. Each of them is available in a smaller combination of 500kcal (100 grams) — £5.50 and £4.50 respectively. On long and harder trips — particularly when the calories are being eaten at a high rate — I would be inclined to be repaired to combine and large and a small packet for one meal. However, for the simple overnights I have used for testing the main portion has been enough.

Conclusion

You can easily create meals that are as good, if not better, yourself. Most us though don’t have the time.

TentMeals are a good vegan or vegetarian alternative. They are seriously addictive free and free from any nasty aftertastes. Portion size is good and they taste nice — though a boost to the herbs and spice would probably work well.

These might also appeal to backpackers flying abroad. In these circumstances I tend to avoid trying to carry dehydrated meat in my pack. Sniffer dogs love it. None vegetarians could easily use these as a base to which they could add other vegetables, cheese or dried meats.

All in all these have been a pretty decent offering so far. So, next I’ll be looking at porridge and breakfast meals.

TentMeals: High Energy Health

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