Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
The Winter Chef
22, Dec, 2010
Alpkit chef NIck takes a look at outdoor cooking in winter.
If you are active in the cold you need a lot of calories, these calories help you keep warm at night. Sitting around in the cold waiting for something to get hot, means you get cold, you have to think quick. Fuel choice is important, think realibity and performance. To work up your appetite here is a quick and wholesome winter meal idea that works equally as well at the tent as it does for a quick lunch stop.
With a local beer, or a local cheese, no fondue need ever taste the same! Winter cooking is all about pre-planning so lets look at a typical day's menu.
Boil water, make a hot drink and pour the rest of the water into ao pre-bagged breaky mix. Muesli, instant oats, milk powder added dried fruit.
If you measure out 4 cups to boil you are not wasting time and fuel on hot water you might not use. I take some water out just before it boils as you can't drink boiling liquid and it is sometimes annoying to make two hot things at the same time only for one to go cold. When it is -10c a cup of tea can go cold quickly. It is very easy not to drink when it's cold this is the time of the day to start.
The museli/oats mix is good instant hot food which you can tailor to your own tastes. Hot chocolate powder, banana flakes anything you like, as it's prebagged you do a different mix for each day. Nothing worse on a wintercamp than thinking your breakfasts are the start of groundhog day.
You can't go far wrong with a hunk of cheese, a whole salami and some focaccia as it's easy to carry around and the bread doesn't tend to freeze so much as there is a lot of olive oil in it. Dont forget your knife though. If you want to lux it up you can quite happily cook the Mountain Fondue on the trail, it is great for morale in a larger group. If it is just the two of you then a small bottle of decent beer is fine but a bigger group will get away with taking a bottle of Vino Blanc, to save weight you can always decant some into a plastic bottle.
Pasta, rice and soup. Make sure you take some little treats, pesto, chilli flakes, curry paste, no point eating bland food when all you need to do is a little prep. An ideal one for a winter bike bivi is to go for gnocchi, it's heavier than pasta but most of this will be water content so easy to justify. The best thing about this is you can do a communal pot with the gnocchi, and once the water is boiled they take 2/3 mins to cook. Even floating to the surface to say they are cooked and because they are not hanging around too long in the water it doesn't taste too starchy if you add instant soup, everyone can add there own flavour of soup.
The fuel is more important than the stove, no point using the latest and best stove if you compromise on fuel. If you are using a stove which uses canisters then avoid butane and go for an Isobutane canister such as Jetboils Jet power or MSR Iso pro with a higher percentage of Propane. But remember this will still only give you moderate cold weather performance. If you are intending anything more than a couple of night's sub zero camping then beg, borrow or steal a liquid fuel stove.
Liquid fuel stoves can be expensive but they are worth it and will last a lifetime. Liquid fuel stoves are great cold weather performers and use a variety of fuels. They can use petrol, but for cleaner more efficient burn then White Gas or Coleman fuel are a good choice. You could also try the Aspen 4T (a very clean petrol) which has a cool sounding name and should work out a cheaper option.
It is also worth double checking you know it works and how to maintain it, and don't forget the spares.
If you are in the UK the likelihood is that you will take some water with you, make sure you keep it insulated if it's in the car then throw a jumper over it or if you are keeping it outside then bury it under the snow which should stop it freezing completely. If you are out in the wilds then take care, it's easy to underestimate such a simple task. A fall into icy water or a dropped utensil in the snow can be dangerous or at the very least frustrating.