Food for the Wilderness
By Kieran Creevy - Expedition & performance chef
Eating well in a mountain or wilderness environment can bring up some interesting challenges, particularly if it’s a multi-day or multi week adventure. For starters you will probably not have traditional hygiene and food storage solutions on hand e.g. hot running water, fridge/freezers, 4 ring burners, and cooking space.
Additionally you will also be constrained by other factors:
Sourcing food: Do we have regular access to resupply, and if so, how often and how will it be accessed?
How will the food be transported: Are we travelling by car, boat, on foot, by animal...?
Food storage and temperatures: Are we travelling in cold, hot, or humid environments?
Another key issue with food in the outdoors, is, all too often we leave buying supplies until the last minute.
When this happens, we either buy too much food, not enough variety, or buy food filled with lots of preservatives. Far better to plan as many of your meals and snacks in advance.
This way, you: Eat healthier - use fresh, and hopefully local/seasonal ingredients where possible, spend less money - as you can buy smarter, and use less plastic packaging.
Here are some simple tips about eating for outdoor adventures.
For optimal performance, you should eat between 2 and 4 hours before activity, which leaves enough time for your body to top up glycogen stores.
Whole grain rice with chicken or beans and salad; Oatmeal with milk, berries and seeds; Sweet potato with peppers, spinach and salmon.
Then it’s advisable to top up reserves slightly (if possible), 60-90 minutes before activity:
Isotonic drink, homemade green smoothie, homemade chocolate oat shake, dried fruit...
For most activities lasting less than 1 hour, consuming anything other than water is unnecessary, providing you have adequately topped up your glycogen stores.
However, if you are exercising for more than 1 hour, based on studies from the University of Texas, consuming 20-60g carbohydrate per hour during activity helps delay fatigue, and improve endurance.
Choose moderate to high GI carbohydrate sources which convert to blood sugar rapidly:
E.g. Dates, baked potato cakes, white bread sandwich, energy gel, sport drink, fruit roll-ups.
Note: For high intensity activity e.g trail running, it’s advisable to use high GI food sources with low fiber, as high dietary fiber in the food may, in turn, necessitate the need to poop on the side of the trail!
Refuelling post activity.
The best time to refuel is as soon as a possible after exercise. In the first two hours, glycogen replenishment is at its most rapid, typically 130-150% of the normal rate. For the next 4 hours, the rate is still elevated, but at a lower level. Refueling early is critical for those who will be physically active multiple times in a day.
Recovery food note:
Combining protein with carbohydrate has been shown in multiple studies to be more effective in promoting muscle glycogen recovery and muscle tissue growth compared with carbohydrate alone.
Post activity snacks:
Homemade flapjack, whole wheat roll with lean protein and leafy greens, peanut butter and banana sandwich, yogurt drink
For now, we give you these 4 simple recipes, inspired by the Italian Alps and Dolomites.
Apple, oat and Fontal cheese flapjacks
Ingredients - makes 6 bars
100g porridge oats
1 apple, cored.
40g fontal cheese, grated
Pinch sea salt
Heat the oven to 320f
Puree the apple in a food processor/blender.
Add the egg, milk, salt and edam cheese and pulse.
Add the oats and pulse again until all elements are mixed well.
Spoon the mix into silicone bar molds.
Cook for 20-25 minutes until a skewer or sharp knife inserted into the center of a bar comes out clean.
Allow to cool and remove from molds.
Store in a cool place or refrigerate.
Polenta, pistachio, orange, yogurt and olive oil cakes
Ingredients: Makes 10 small cakes
150g fine polenta
100g gf flour
50ml olive oil
50g coconut sugar
50g pistachios, shelled, and crushed
50g live yogurt
5g baking powder
Juice and zest 1 large orange
2 tbsp honey
Heat an oven to 355f
Heat the olive oil, orange juice, orange zest and honey in a pan until the honey dissolves completely then remove from the heat.
Stir in the polenta, flours, baking powder and mix well.
Add the yogurt and pistachios and mix well.
Spoon into small silicone cake molds and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer/toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, pour the orange juice and honey into a pan and heat until the honey dissolves.
When the cakes come out of the oven, prick them all over with a toothpick and pour the syrup onto the cakes.
Allow to cool, refrigerate overnight, then un mould.
Wrap in beeswax cloth or reusable container.
The cakes can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days at room temperature.
Blueberry, almond, walnut, date, and orange energy balls.
Ingredients: Makes 3 balls
10 Medjool dates, stoned
3 tbsp toasted almonds
2 tbsp walnuts
Zest 1 orange
2 tbsp dried blueberries
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor.
Roll into balls, and store in an airtight reusable food container.
Ricotta, lemon, rocket and hazelnut risotto
Ingredients: Serves 2
100g carnaroli rice
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 glass Italian white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
100g fresh ricotta
50g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Large handful fresh rocket, dandelion, sorrel or lambs lettuce (washed and dried)
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Melt 30g butter in a deep pan, add the onion and sweat until translucent on a medium-medium/high heat.
Add the rice and cook with the onion for 2-3 minutes, then add the wine, cook until absorbed.
Season the rice with salt and pepper.
Stirring all the time, add a ladle of vegetable stock at a time and cook until absorbed.
When the rice is al-dente, add the remaining butter, ricotta, lemon zest, and half the greens.
Mix well, turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes.
Serve in bowls topped with the remaining greens and hazelnuts.