New Zealand Backcountry Cooking By Paul Garland, Potton and Burton, Nelson 2015. Softcover, 260 pages, $40. Reviewed by Tania Seward.
It seems that every tramper has a backcountry dinner disaster that they’d rather not repeat. Mine happened on an 11-day Harper Pass crossing in April 2015. A haphazard approach to planning meant that I ended up with mashed potato, macaroni cheese and butter chicken for ten nights straight.
Keen tramper and conservationist Paul Garland’s dinner disaster came in the form of a gluey macaroni cheese – powdered cheese, that is – on a family trip along the Routeburn in the 1980s.
Luckily the experience didn’t put his daughter Rebecca off tramping, and three decades on from that mac-cheese mush, the duo have published a how-to guide that will ensure every tramping meal is a memorable one.
New Zealand Backcountry Cooking is a weighty tome (260 pages) with full colour photography throughout. Four sections relate to trip types: weekend, multi-day, family and gourmet, with an average of 25 recipes each.
A comprehensive meal planning and preparation section covers a wide range of information including sample menus, how to turn your fan oven into a dehydrator and packaging tips. In this day and age, when gas cookers reign supreme, the section on cooking over an open fire is welcome.
Helpfully, each recipe has the instructions divided into two sections: one for at home and one for at camp. There’s a good range of vegetarian recipes, and options for gluten or dairy-free with some adapting. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are all given equal attention. Snack ideas feature too.
Pictures, often full page, accompany most recipes. The photos are more art than utility, as many have been zoomed in beyond what you might reasonably expect, resulting in chickpeas the size of a thumbprint and gigantic grains of rice. The very short focal range (common in recipe book photographs) is my other complaint about an otherwise very useful book.
Thousands of backcountry recipes exist on the Internet, but there’s still a place for a book with a wide range of recipes to suit most palates. Gone are my days of powdered mashed potato garnished with Surprise peas and a handful of cashew nuts – I’ve seen the light.