Rice pudding with Mini Trangia and improvised water bath

In Nordic countries rice pudding is a very important part of Christmas tradition. Hiking and camping in the middle of nowhere is also quite popular. For some reasons, one rarely sees anyone hiking during the Christmas.

One reason to that probably is a common will to spend Christmas with the family. Another possible reason is that it is so damn difficult to get rice pudding in the wilderness.

Not any more!

When I first decided to try to prepare rice pudding with my Mini Trangia, I took is as a crazy experiment, destined to fail. First of all, even with the regular good quality cooking gear at home, it is quite difficult not to burn and ruin your rice pudding, and additionally, the requirement for slow long simmering in low temperature did not sound like a Trangia job.

Well, what do I have to lose? 10 cents worth of rice, euro worth of fuel, and some wasted time. So, go for it!

Due to the fact that the rice pudding is one of the easiest things to ruin by over heating, I decided to make some kind of a water bath. For that purpose, I happen to have a surplus mess kit from the Czech army. The larger pot of the kit is just big enough to hold the Trangia pot within it (any pot slightly larger than the Trangia pot works as well). To prevent the Trangia pot from over heating or floating on the water, I placed three flat stones on the bottom of the water bath to be.

Then to the cooking itself.

First I heated some liter of water (600 ml for the pudding, and the rest of it for the water bath). Then I mixed 100 ml of rice, 100 ml of water, and about 30 ml of oil (rice pudding is usually made with full milk, therefore the oil). Next part was to boil the ingredients for about 2 minutes to rehydrate the rice. Rehydrating the rice requires constant attention and stirring. When the water is mostly absorbed into the rice, it is time to place the pot into the water bath, add the milk, place the lid on top of the pot, and add water to the water bath.

After stirring the pudding and adding water to the bath every now and then, the stove eventually ran out of fuel. At this point I placed the stove onto the ice on the ground to let it cool down before refilling. (It is not a good idea to fill up a hot stove with flammable alcohol).

After about 45 minutes of cooking, the pudding began to look like pudding, and it was time to add salt (if you don’t want your milk based cookings to curdle, do not cook after adding the salt).

The end result was perfect! Just like the pudding my grandmom used to make!

I must admit that preparing rice pudding with the Mini Trangia is not a hard core survivalist thing. It takes an hour to make, and the fuel consumption is ridiculous (about 250 ml for one large portion of pudding), but, God damn it, it is possible!

So, from now on, if, during the Christmas time, you happen to be in the deepest, darkest arctic, and you get homesick (or if you have to find offerings to the local gnome), by following these instructions, the homesickness can be eased, and the gnome calmed.

Baking bread with Mini Trangia

Dehydrated bread is a good, light weight source of energy for hikers and campers. However, dry bread is dry, and hard, and every now and then it would be nice to smell and taste some freshly baked real thing.
For most of the hikers, especially male hikers, a fresh bread is something magical, that only professional bakers and some rare specimens of rural grandmothers can prepare.
That could not be much further from the truth.
Anyone can prepare bread, and in almost any conditions.
For the simplest, beduin type bread, one needs some flour, preferably some salt, water, and a hot surface to bake the bread. In a lack of pots and pans, a flat rock will do.
For a little more complicated, raised bread, some additional materials, such as milk powder, sugar, oil, and dry yeast is required.
I tried the latter one with my trusty Mini Trangia.
To raise the dough with yeast, especially dry yeast, takes some time and preparation, but with a little bit of planning, it is relatively easy thing to do, even in subzero conditions.
First thing to do is to heat up some water to +42 C, which is optimal temperature for dry yeast. If the water is too cold, it may take unnecessarily long time to wake up the yeast, but on the other hand, if the water is too hot, the yeast will die. Therefore, it is better to be safe than sorry, and use water that is not much warmer than your body temperature.
In addition to the warmth of the water, the yeast also needs some form of carbohydrates to wake up, and for that purpose, it is a good idea to mix the milk powder, sugar, and salt together with the yeast. The yeast does not need the salt, but by melting the salt in to the liquid, one can avoid possible surprise salty spots in the final product.
When the yeast is suspended into the liquid, it is time to carefully mix all of the ingredients into a ziplock bag. (In addition to the basic ingredients, in this recipe I also used some oat meal, which gives some texture to the final product).
To do its magic, the yeast needs some time in a warm environment (anything between 1 and 4 hours), and for that the best place in cold camping or hiking conditions, is a loose pocket close to your skin (remember to seal the ziplock bag!)
After these preparations, you have 1 to 4 hours to hike on, or to do your things around your camp.
If you did not manage to kill the yeast with too hot water, in one to four hours, due to the production of carbon dioxide, the ziplock bag should look like a balloon, and the dough should be ready to meet the pan.
To bake the bread, I usually grease the Mini Trangia lid with some oil. Due to the teflon coating of the lid and the oil in the dough, greasing the pan is probably a bit of an over kill, but I have my old habits. Then I squeeze a child’s fist size piece of dough onto the pan, and pat it to 1 to 2 cm thick cake. The actual baking, or frying, the bread with the Mini Trangia requires some hands on time.
Due to the short distance between the flame and the pot holder, in order to prevent the burning of the bread, instead of placing the pan on its place, one has to hold the pan about 10 to 15 cm above the flame. Holding the pan for 6 to 8 minutes may sound like a long time, but I can guarantee that after tasting the freshly baked self made bread in the middle of nowhere, you cannot wait to begin the next baking session.