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Photo credit. Diana Green.

Firepot Dehydrated Expedition Food by Outdoorfood review

30-May-17

Last updated: 04-Jan-18

By Diana Green

Having spent a lifetime carefully reading the listed ingredients on packages to avoid preservatives and additives that might impact on my health, being forced to compromise on my dietary choices with additive packed expedition food has always been a concern. With preservative free Firepot foods my worries appear to be over and I was very excited to try the meals, to see if the taste matched my expectations and energy requirements. Just to make sure that my ‘additive free’ excitement didn’t cloud by taste buds I invited three friends to a Firepot supper. Firepot’s founder John Fisher does claim that the meals are tasty enough to eat at home.

Features

  • Lightweight (135 g per pack) and ready in just ten minutes
  • Handmade
  • Preservative free
  • Locally sourced natural ingredients
  • No ingredients you won’t recognise
  • No palm oil
  • No freeze drying
  • Cooked as a complete meal before dehydration as opposed to a mixture of ingredients freeze-dried separately

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PROS: What’s good about Firepot Dehydrated Expedition Food

Packaging

Love the look of the packaging. The orange heading echoes the design of the OS explorer map series which together with the background image of an OS map area of rural Dorset (where Firepot is created) made us feel that the meals were up to supporting any outdoor adventure.

The Important info on the front of the packet is easy to read - the name of the dish, whether suitable for vegans or gluten free and the number of calories.

On the back of the packaging you can find the full description of the dish, list of ingredients, nutrition information, weight and instructions for rehydration. Along the left side of the pouch are the water fill level indicators from 1 to 15.

Pouch Method

A water fill level for each dish is recommended with instructions to fold the pouch along that level as a guide for adding boiling water to the contents. This worked well, the fold being clearly visible on the inside of the pouch.

After pouring in the boiling water we stirred the contents, resealed the pouch (grip lock seal) then waited with anticipation for the 15 minutes’ rehydration time as instructed.

We found that the pouches retained the heat very well (important for colder climates) and holding them while eating warmed the hands nicely.

Pan Method

As with the pouch method there are clear instructions re water fill levels, though this time for cold water after having tipped the contents of the pouch into a pan. The pan method would be good if combining multi pouch contents for family or group sharing.

Rehydration

Rehydrating dried food to a satisfactory and palatable texture can be difficult. We were happy with the ‘Dal and Rice with Spinach’, ‘Porcini Mushroom Risotto’ and ‘Orzo Bolognese’ though all took longer than the recommended 15min pouch method (approx. 20 min) and a couple of stirs before eating.

Taste, Smell & Appearance

All the meals smelt good and as expected from the description of the dish. A good sniff before and after rehydrating got the digestive enzymes flowing.

The appearance of the dishes both before and after rehydration was acceptable with the individual ingredients such as lentils, beans, mushrooms and rice clearly identifiable. It does look like real food. We liked the meals (with the exception of the Posh Pork and Beans) and we could all imagine ourselves looking forward to eating them out in the ‘field’.

Our favourite (the quickest to disappear!) was the ‘Porcini Mushroom Risotto’ which with its generous quantity of mushrooms had a rich and satisfying flavour.

The salt levels and heat from chilli (Chilli con Carne with Rice, Dal and Rice with Lentils) were perfect for our palates.

Weight versus Calories

Weight is a big consideration for self-supported ultra multi day events. The weight of each meal (before rehydration) is 135 g making it easy to calculate and put together your kit within a target weight. The meals are also available in extra large serving sizes (200 g).

Nutritional Content

As well as a target for daily calorie intake, a target for macro nutrients (protein, carb, fat) is important for runners. For a multi stage event such as the Marathon des Sables the recommendation is 15% of calories from protein, 30% of calories from fat, 55% calories from carb with a minimum daily calorie intake of 2000. The Firepot meals have good levels of protein (with the exception of the Porcini Mushroom Risotto) and sufficient though varying levels of carbs.

Meal Calories Protein% Fat% Carb%
Chilli Con Carne & Rice 625 21 28 51
Orzo Pasta Bolognese 700 23 27.5 49.5
Dal and Rice with Spinach 500 17 11 72
Porcini Mushroom Risotto 540 9 14 77
Posh Pork & Beans 510 28 20 52


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CONS: What’s not so good about Firepot Dehydrated Expedition Food

Packaging

If you chose to eat from the pouch then cutting off the top orange section of the packaging (along the dotted line) is essential to be able to reach the food with your spoon (expedition spoons are usually the short folding type). This means that although scissors/knife are not required to initially open the pouch they will be needed later.

Pouch Method

Having once cut off the top of the pouch to reach the meal, it was impossible to re-seal. This is a shame as being able to quickly re-seal while either waiting for further rehydration and extra stirring or having to attend to another expedition matter would be good.

Pan Method

We followed the instructions and turned off the heat once the water had come to the boil and let it sit for 10min before tucking in. We found that this method was less satisfactory than the pouch method, as not only did the food lose heat while rehydrating, to our taste it was not sufficiently rehydrated after the 10min. Of course the heat loss would depend on the type of pan being used and climate and there would always be the option of boiling for a little longer.

Rehydration

We found that we were unable to rehydrate the red kidney beans (Chilli Con Carne and Rice) sufficiently and found the texture too chewy with a chalky taste. One of the diners was concerned that the hard to digest oligosaccharides found in beans would be a problem for their digestive system if not properly broken down in the cooking process.

Taste, Smell & Appearance

The only meal we didn’t enjoy was the breakfast ‘Posh Pork and Beans’. Firstly, the name was off putting, the ‘Posh’ description left us wondering what to expect and we found the beans too chewy though less so than the red kidney beans in the Chilli Con Carne. To our taste the dish was just far too sweet. We happily ate the other dishes but would have liked a little more ‘power’ from the herb and spice seasonings (with the exception of the mushroom risotto). In my experience when relying on ‘a one dish meal’ without complimentary flavours from accompanying dishes the seasoning needs to be more pronounced and also strength of some seasonings are lost in the dehydration process.

Weight versus Calories

A good energy to weight ratio is vital. Firepot meals do fall short of Lyo’s 620cal per 100g as identified by Rin Cobb in her Jan 2016 article “The Best Freeze Dried Meals Unwrapped’, the best energy to weight ratio being the ‘Orzo Pasta Bolognese‘ at 518cal per 100 g. However very high energy to weight ratios are usually only achieved by a high percentage of fat which might not be in line with macro nutrient targets.

Nutritional Content

Both the number of calories and macro nutrient contents of the individual meals vary considerably. As a designer of menus I do know how difficult it is to balance ingredients and flavours with macro nutrients and calories, but the more consistent these figures can be the easier it is for the ultra runner to plan their meals. Looking again at the Marathon des Sables recommendations of 15% of calories from protein, 30% of calories from fat, 55% calories there would be scope within the meals to get closer to these figures by increasing the fat (an important source of energy) which also has the added benefit of improving the palatability.

Meal Calories Protein% Fat% Carb%
Chilli Con Carne & Rice 625 21 28 51
Orzo Pasta Bolognese 700 23 27.5 49.5
Dal and Rice with Spinach 500 17 11 72
Porcini Mushroom Risotto 540 9 14 77
Posh Pork & Beans 510 28 20 52


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CONCLUSION

A definite choice for a multi day event when ‘recognisable meals’ and ingredients matter. Personally I would avoid the dishes with beans due to incomplete rehydration and as climate and conditions vary (the packaging does state that rehydration may take longer at higher altitudes) I would rely on taste for rehydration times rather than the exact times (10 and 15min) given on the labelling. With so many ‘ready meal’ options on the market it is unlikely that I would recommend them for a ‘home meal’.

Wish List

  • A richer tomato and paprika taste in the ‘Chilli Con Carne and Rice’.
  • More spinach in the ‘Dal and Rice with Spinach’ and maybe some curry leaves and more garam masala.
  • More herbs and garlic in the ‘Orzo Pasta Bolognese’.
  • Smaller pouch making cutting off the top unnecessary and re-sealing possible.
  • A coconut Thai curry with noodles. We do hear that there are more meals in the planning!
  • A race meal plan to include mix and match breakfasts and suppers totalling a consistent as possible number of calories and macro nutrients.
Score  
Design 9/10
Features 10/10
Nutritional content 8/10
Value 8/10
Total 8.75/10


RRP - 135 g pouch £6.50; 200 g pouch £8.50 

About the writer: Diana Green is based in the New Forest, Hampshire and runs weekend courses for runners, exploring fuelling strategies and diets to support long term health. She also designs recipes for a Dorset based company that delivers fresh meals nationwide to support their client’s training and calorie requirements.

All images Diana Green.

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“A water fill level for each dish is recommended with instructions to fold the pouch along that level as a guide for adding boiling water to the contents. This worked well, the fold being clearly visible on the inside of the pouch”

Where to buy

Firepot Porcini Mushroom Risotto by Outdoor Foods View deal
Firepot Dal and Rice with Spinach by Outdoorfoods View deal
Firepot Posh Pork and Beans by Outdoorfood View deal
Firepot Chilli con Carne and Rice by Outdoorfood View deal
Firepot Orzo Pasta Bolognese by Outdoorfood View deal
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