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February 2015 Trail Bytes: Cottage Pie, Container Cooking, Bark to Bits
February 28, 2015

The inspiration for my backpacking recipes come from meals that I make at home. It’s just a matter of making adjustments so that the meals dehydrate and store well and rehydrate back to deliciousness on the trail. For example, homemade Cottage Pie is very similar to Mashed Potatoes with Beef & Vegetables on the trail. The main difference is the way I turn the mashed potatoes into potato bark without the milk and butter that I use at home. Making potato bark without dairy ensures that the meals store well.

The photo below shows a cottage pie on the left that I made for dinner this week. On the right, the photo shows mashed potatoes with beef and vegetables that I made backpacking style with dried ingredients. I prepared the backpacking meal in a freezer bag.

In this edition of Trail Bytes, I’ve included the instructions for how I make a cottage pie at home. The backpacking version of mashed potatoes with beef & vegetables is on the potato bark page.

A question I receive frequently concerns cooking freezer bag style. I’ve covered it here and there in past newsletters, but I have now written a dedicated webpage on the subject.

From the Mailbag:

Q: Are your recipes easily adaptable to cooking in a freezer bag – using the pot only to boil water and adding it to the food in a quart-size freezer bag?

A: Yes, the recipes in Recipes for Adventure are easy to cook in freezer bags or any other container by adding boiled water and waiting 20 minutes.

The webpage shows how to cook my recipes in freezer bags, rigid containers and Thermos food jars. It explains techniques that will ensure success such as steaming certain vegetables before drying, the breadcrumb method of dehydrating ground beef, pre-cooking macaroni, and converting bark to bits.

I found that it was not necessary to run potato bark through a food processor. The potatoes rehydrated fine both ways. However, you may be interested in two benefits of processing potato and corn bark into bits that I cover in the article.

The article concludes with a discussion of container cooking for groups and Thermos cooking.

Visit the webpage: Container Cooking: Cooking Outside the Pot.

Cottage Pie

6 Hardy Servings


  • 1¼ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 cups fresh carrots, julienne cut or diced
  • 3 lbs. potatoes
  • ½ stick butter (55 grams)
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper, seasonings of choice


Fry the onion and garlic a couple minutes in a little oil and add the ground beef. Season as desired. I use salt and pepper, a dash each of cumin and chili powder mix, and Italian herb mix. Set aside when ground beef is browned and cooked through.

Steam the peas and carrots for six minutes.

Peel and chunk up potatoes and boil until soft. Drain and mash with butter and milk. Add salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Layer cooked ingredients into a large Pyrex baking dish with ground beef on the bottom, vegetables in the middle, and mashed potatoes on top. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Top with grated cheese of choice for the last five minutes. Ideally, you want the surface of the potatoes to have a light golden brown color.

Cottage Pie is a family favorite because we each get a hardy serving and there are left-overs for Dominique and Cédric to take to work for lunch the next day.

That’s it for this newsletter. We have had snow on the ground here in Switzerland since the day after Christmas. One of our favorite activities is to go running on the Vita Parcours in the woods near our flat. The trail runs through a patch of sustainably logged forest with exercise stations along the way. That’s where we’re heading now. See you next month.

Happy Trails,

Chef Glenn & Dominique

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