How to cook dinner in Antarctica (Supplied)
Blog Words : Food & Drink | 13 December

How to cook dinner in Antarctica

You need to eat well in Antarctica – but how do you cook hearty fare in the world's loneliest continent? One talented expedition chef shares her best recipes...

When researcher and activist Carol Devine led 54 volunteers to the Antarctic for a clean-up operation in 1996, she hired a cook – Wendy Trusler. Wendy had a huge task on her hands: to feed 54 hungry workers with minimal ingredients in the world’s most inhospitable region. These are some of her favourite recipes from Antarctica...

Minestrone soup

I always make more dinner than needed in case someone shows up unexpectedly, but also to ensure that I’m left with the seeds of another meal. This soup has its beginnings in leftover lasagna. Mine is made with a robust meat sauce and plenty of cheese, but any lasagna recipe will do. Leftover spaghetti translates into hearty minestrone as well, but it’s a little more difficult to disguise.

Minestrone soup (Shutterstock)
Minestrone soup (Shutterstock)

Serves 10-12 people

1 cup of dried great northern or some other white bean
1 bay leaf
olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
2 medium red onions
2 celery stalks
4 small carrots
2 potatoes
1 tablespoon each of dried oregano and dried basil
2 large scoops of leftover lasagna
1 can plum tomatoes
2 small zucchini
3/4 small cabbage (about 3 cups shredded)
7 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak and rinse the beans. Put them in a mid-sized pot with the bay leaf and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer covered until the beans are soft, about an hour or so – longer if the beans haven’t been pre-soaked. Check on them from time to time to skim off any accumulation of foam.

2. Drain and set aside, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. While the beans are cooking, prepare all the other ingredients for the soup: mince the garlic and the onions; chop the celery; peel and chop the potatoes and carrots (for variation try an oblique cut on the carrots); quarter and chop the zucchini into good-sized chunks; and shred the cabbage.

3. Separating the layers of the lasagna is messy but necessary: Scrape the filling layers into a small bowl and cut the pasta into strips or squares. Finally, break the plum tomatoes into small pieces.

4. When everything is ready to go, place a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium- high heat and pour in enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom. Add the garlic, onion and celery and cook gently until soft. Stir in the carrots, potatoes and herbs and cook partially covered over low heat until tender, 10–15 minutes.

5. Push the vegetables to one side of the pot to make some room. Stir in the filling salvaged from your lasagna, and bring the heat back up to medium-high, adding a drizzle of olive oil as needed to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. As the filling begins to sizzle draw all the components in the pot together, then pour in the reserved liquid from the beans.

6. Add the cabbage and zucchini, cover the pot and cook gently for 2–3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, beans and pasta, and top up the soup with 7 cups of water. As you are not using stock, you’ll likely want to add a good amount of salt and pepper at this point.

7. Bring just to a boil, reduce the heat and cook gently so that all the flavours come together nicely, about another 15 minutes. Make adjustments to the thickness of the soup by adding water as you see fit. Serve with Parmesan and tear in some fresh parsley, oregano or basil if you have it.

Roasted pepper goulash with smoked paprika

I was a mediocre stew-maker until I went to Antarctica, but with tender Argentinean beef at my disposal I turned myself around. Sure, it helped to be working with a budget that cancelled out my reticence to use wine, but it’s the smoked paprika and sweetness of the peppers that bring the flavours together in this dish. I love that I don’t have to use flour to thicken it, and that when I made it for a garden gathering with dear friends all the eight-year-olds at the table asked for seconds.


Serves 8 to 10 people

3 pounds stewing beef
olive oil
3 medium onions
6 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons caraway seeds
4 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon coarse salt
cracked black pepper to taste
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
4 cups water
1 cup red wine
4 sweet red peppers
2 sweet yellow peppers

1. Cut the beef into 11⁄2 inch chunks and pat dry. Chop the onions and garlic. Warm a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and pour in just enough olive oil to make it slippery—if you use too much the meat won’t caramelize and you’ll miss out on all that rich colour. Brown the meat on all sides, then set aside. You’ll want to do this in small batches so that each piece of meat comes in contact with the cooking surface with enough space between that the juices cook off. Otherwise you’ll just steam the beef.

2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pot, followed by the onion, garlic and spices. Cook over low heat until soft. Return the meat to the pot, then stir in the crushed tomatoes, water and wine. Cover and simmer, stirring from time to time, until tender, about 1.5 hours.

3. While the goulash is cooking put the washed and dried peppers on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven 3-4 inches below the heat source, turning them frequently, until the skins are black and blistered, about 12 minutes.

4. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover it with a plate and let stand until they are cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Slip off the skins and remove the stems and seeds. Trim the ribs, cut the peppers into 1-inch squares and set aside until the final few minutes of cooking. When the meat is stewed to your liking (for me it’s when the meat starts to fall apart) stir in the peppers and simmer uncovered until thoroughly warmed, about another 10 minutes.

5. Serve over egg noodles tossed with butter and toasted caraway seeds, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.

Chocolate cake two ways

Recipes that require few fresh ingredients are handy even if you aren’t cooking in far-off places. I served this cake dusted with confectioner’s sugar or topped with a thick chocolate butter icing countless times in tree-planting camps on the Canadian Shield. In Antarctica an abundance of whipping cream, a large chunk of chocolate and a gift of Christmas spirits were the inspiration for a pairing that became my signature dessert: Chocolate Cake with Grand Marnier Chocolate Ganache.

I tell people this cake doubled as currency for helicopter excursions. In truth, the Uruguayan pilots were so hospitable I imagine they would have invited us along even without an offering of sweets.

Dark chocolate cake (Shutterstock)

Serves 10 to 12 people (or two pilots or one radio operator)

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
Half a cup of butter
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚f and grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. Cut the butter into small squares and place in a medium bowl. Pour in the hot water and stir. When the butter has melted, add the vinegar and vanilla and continue stirring until the mixture has cooled slightly. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix well.

3. Scrape the batter into the cake pans and bake in the centre of the oven. The cakes will be ready when their tops spring back when lightly touched or when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Set the cakes on wire racks and let them cool completely in their pans before you turn them out to ice.

4. While you are waiting for them to cool make your butter icing or ganache.

For the chocolate butter icing:
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups icing sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons milk or water
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with half of the icing sugar until the sugar is evenly distributed, then stir in 2 tablespoons of milk or water.

2. Sift the cocoa into the butter and mix well. Add the vanilla, followed by the remaining icing sugar. Beat until smooth. Add enough of the remaining milk or water to make a thick, creamy icing.

For the chocolate ganache with Grand Marnier:
16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
3 to 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 cups whipping cream

1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine it with the Grand Marnier in a medium bowl. Pour the cream into a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and warm it until it begins to steam and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Remove it from the heat immediately and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently with a wire whisk to make sure that all the chocolate has come in contact with the hot cream; let it rest for a few minutes then stir slowly until smooth.

2. To glaze your cakes, place the layers side by side on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet so that any puddles of ganache can be reclaimed. While the ganache is still quite hot, spoon a small amount onto the centre of each layer and use an offset spatula to spread a thin coating across the tops and around the sides of the cakes, then place them in the freezer for 5–10 minutes.

3. This is called the crumb coat because it prevents little particles of cake from messing the surface of your icing. As the crumb coat sets, stir the ganache often so that it cools evenly – you want it to be barely warm, but still fluid enough to pour.

4. You’re going to make about three coats with the ganache. Remove the layers from the freezer. Pour an equal amount of ganache onto the centre of each; smooth it out towards the edges and around the sides using a spatula. Set the layers aside in a cool place to let the glaze firm up a bit and repeat this process until you have used up most of the ganache.

5. To reclaim the ganache, gently scrape any chocolate that may have dripped onto the baking sheet back into the bowl. Place over a pot of barely simmering water and stir until just melted. Continue using to coat the cakes.

6. When you have created a nice thick, even surface on each cake, settle one on top of the other on a plate and use any remaining ganache to smooth the seam and finish the top and sides of the cake to your liking.

7. For a really decadent cake, spread marmalade on top of the bottom layer before the crumb coat or finish with chocolate curls or shavings.

These recipes are taken from the fabulous Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning by Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine, published by HarperDesign, an imprint of HarperCollins, available now priced £25.

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