Meal Idea: Lentils, Veggies, and Couscous

One of my favorite meals of this past backpacking season is also wonderfully simple.  If you’re looking for a meal that’s easy to prepare, quick to dehydrate, faster to rehydrate, and satisfyingly filling, this might be a good choice for you.

What you’ll need:

  • Your favorite lentils — I’m partial to green or brown lentils in this dish because I appreciate their texture.
  • Couscous — The last time I made this recipe, I was being cautious around salt because of an upcoming kidney surgery, so I just used plain couscous.  However, if you, like me, enjoy and need extra salt while you’re on the trail, you might consider either liberally adding salt and spices to plain couscous or using pre-seasoned couscous.
  • Vegetables — Choose your favorites.  I definitely recommend the addition of broccoli, and cauliflower, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and onions are also good choices.
  • Spices: curry powder, cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper

1)  Cook lentils according to package directions.  Again, I’m of the opinion that it’s always a good choice to err on the side of over-flavoring trail food, so use salt, pepper, and spices freely.

2)  Cut vegetables into smallish pieces and steam them or saute them in a bit of oil long enough to soften them slightly.  I know, I know:  “Smallish” isn’t very precise.  What you’re looking for is pieces that will cook quickly.  Before you stick the veggies in the dehydrator, you can slice any veggies that are large enough that they’ll slow down the dehydrating process.  And, obviously, firmer veggies should be thrown in the pan before softer veggies, onions should be allowed to brown slightly, etc.; standard cooking practices apply to backpacking food, too.

3)  Add spices to the veggies.  This is the fun part!  You’ll probably want quite a bit of curry powder on the veggies, a fair bit of cumin and garam masala, and a pinch of cayenne.  Toss the veggies thoroughly to coat them, let them cook in the seasonings, taste them, and then adjust the flavors as necessary.

4)  Dehydrate the lentils and the veggies for 6+ hours or until they are completely hard and dry, both to the eye and to the touch.  Taste test some of the larger pieces to ensure that they’re dehydrated all the way through.

5)  Get out couscous and divide it among as many quart-size Ziploc freezer bags as you’ll be using for the veggies and the lentils.  I generally use two “normal-person” servings of every ingredient in any backpacking dinner I’m making.  Divide the lentils and couscous among the bags, as well.

When you get to camp, just boil water and add enough to the freezer bag to cover the dehydrated food.  Let the bag sit for a few minutes, stirring/squishing occasionally and adding more water if necessary.  Then, get out your spork and enjoy!

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