Robert and I recently spent a few days backpacking at an amazing and somewhat secretive location. It was a tough hike over boulders and steep slopes with barely a trail to follow, but we were rewarded with absolute solitude, perfect weather and, of course, delicious homemade meals! Each trip to the woods gives me the opportunity to develop a new backpacking recipe or two. This time, I decided to make a curried dal.

For this recipe, I started off with Taste Adventure’s Sweet Corn Chowder mix which is available in bulk at my local co-op. Despite the name, this soup really doesn’t have much in common with chowder. In fact, the primary ingredient is not cream or corn but dried yellow split peas. This made it an ideal base for my curried dal. To add bulk, I combined the corn chowder mix with some instant rice. Because the soup mix was essentially unflavored (seasoned only with salt, pepper and parsley,) I added in some curry powder and a touch of cayenne pepper for heat. Also, because I love it and thought it would add just the right amount of richness to the dish, I threw in some ground coconut (for this, I simply powdered unsweetened coconut flakes in my food processor.) I wanted to include some vegetables for texture, but I didn’t have time to dehydrate my own. To remedy this, I bought a packet of Just Veggies which is a colorful blend of dried peas, carrots, corn, bell peppers and tomatoes. Finally, for a garnish, I chopped up some roasted cashews.

By preparing my own backpacking meals, I get the satisfaction of making delicious and nutritious food as well as the added bonus of saving some money. Commercial backpacking meals are typically very expensive. Just Veggies, dried coconut and roasted cashews aren’t the cheapest of foods so I’m not sure this meal really saved me any money. Still, I was able to tailor the recipe to my exact tastes, and it’s always fun to figure out how to make gourmet food that is lightweight, packable and easy to prepare in the wilderness (all of my backpacking meals are designed to be made in one pot with minimal effort.) The extra expense was worth it in the end. This meal was incredibly hearty and full of flavor. It proved to be one of the tastiest dinners I’ve ever eaten in the back country – a perfect meal to end a wonderful trip!

Curried Dal

1/3 cup Just Veggies (or other dehydrated mixed vegetables)
2/3 cup instant rice
1 cup Taste Adventure Sweet Corn Chowder mix*
3 tablespoons ground unsweetened coconut
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped cashews

At home, place the dehydrated vegetables into a small ziploc bag. Mix together the rice, corn chowder mix, coconut, curry, cayenne and salt and place into another bag. Add the chopped cashews to another bag. Write the cooking instructions below on a small strip of paper to take with you on your trip (I usually just tuck it into one of the ziploc bags.)

At camp, bring 2-3/4 to 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the dehydrated vegetables and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and chowder mix, turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the dal is thick and the rice and veggies are cooked. Serve in bowls garnished with the chopped cashews.

Makes 2 servings

*If you can’t find the Taste Adventure brand of corn chowder, look for any brand of dried lentil or split pea soup mix. It is best to look for one that has very little seasoning since you will be flavoring it yourself. Obviously, different soup mixes will result in a different dish. It is always a good idea to do a trial run of any backpacking meal at home first, to see if you like the results.

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