Service in the military is very different from that in other units of the British Army. Frequently posted abroad to very remote areas, the Regiment has learnt to eat and enjoy the local food.
During operations alongside local tribes, Army patrols had to become more adventurous and be prepared to savour local delicacies such as grubs, snakes and the occasional monkey. This was often a welcome change to the good old army ‘compo’, and an alternative to the freeze-dried, light-weight rations issued to Special Forces. As you can imagine, the light-weight rations were unbelievably monotonous, forcing the lads to become good cooks and to learn how to disguise the bland taste with spices and flavourings. In time, Army style curries and stews became favourites with the Regiment.
Back in the UK, Army food is second to none. There is always a wide choice of meals and the mess hall has a ‘help yourself policy. Not many of the lads have a weight problem and it is a work-out in itself carrying the heavily laden plates back to your table!
Eating Army Style
On operations we would only eat one meal a day. Breakfast and lunch were just a brew and a hardtack biscuit – if you were lucky! You were always hungry on operations and you just had to make up for it when you got back to base. These eating habits are still part of my life. Get out of bed early and go for a run. This is best done on an empty stomach.
An early morning run not only invigorates the system, it also gets the body used to working from its own reserves of energy. When you are working as hard as we were, you need an energy intake of around 5,000 calories per day. That is a lot of food! Consequently, it becomes even more important to eat sensibly, avoiding cholesterol-rich foods and limiting delicacies such as cakes, sweets and ice cream. We soon learnt at Hereford that it was better to eat little and often rather than trying to pack all of your energy requirements into one meal.
Get into the habit of fasting one day in seven. It gives your system a well-earned rest. On your fast day, drink plenty of water. You can still exercise, but avoid taxing routines such as endurance work. In fasting, we are also learning how to go without one of the things we take for granted. It helps you develop both your body and your willpower. It takes discipline to fast each week and self-discipline is a large part of the overall ethos of the military.
The day after your fast, give yourself a treat and choose the meal that you most fancy. Little pleasures give you something to look forward to and help break the rigours and frustrations of training.
Let us now have a look at some Army meals. These would certainly not be included in a weight-watcher’s diet. On the contrary, they are meals for fit, well-conditioned people, engaged in heavy work or training to the limits of their endurance.
Ranger porridge was a favourite in the jungle.
Boil the oats in a little water until they are cooked and then m Pour a little condensed milk over the top.
After this porridge, you would be able to slay dragons! Follow this with eggs and bacon – not a full-blown London Grill!
Fat Boy’s Breakfast
The Tat Boy’ starts with bacon and egg.
Be sure that you cut the fat off the bacon, which should be grilled not fried. • Scramble the eggs, or you could boil them. m Add tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms and kidneys. Prepare one or two slices of wholemeal toast to soak up the juices. A glass of fruit juice will wash it all down nicely.
At 10 am, we always had a NAAFI break at Hereford. This was so welcome that, for me, it has become a hard habit to break. Tea and toast were the order of the day. In fact, I think the best drink of the day is a nice mug of tea with a large spoon of condensed milk. But remember, tea contains a diuretic, so limit yourself to one cup at each meal. With an eye to those 5,000 calories, you could substitute a filled roll for the toast. Fillings such as tuna, egg, salmon, or ham should ensure plenty of variety. Lunch was at 1 pm and was usually a soup, salad or sandwiches.
TV Squadron Salad
Cut up the lettuce into fine strips and add diced carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, nuts or any other vegetable you might fancy.
Add tuna or ham, and eat as much as you want!
B’ Squadron Soup
Dice potatoes and add them to a small volume of water.
Add diced swede, broccoli, onions, carrots, leeks, courgettes, mushrooms, beans, peas and lentils (as required). Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Boat Troop Chowder
Use any fish that you fancy.
Fillet carefully, removing all the bones.
Bring to the boil in a large saucepan, adding winkles, cockles, mussels, whelks, shrimps, prawns or any other seafood you like.
Finally, add hot chilli sauce to taste.
Pea and Ham Soup: Lofty’s favourite!
This is a real rib-clinger!
Boil a bacon joint until it is well cooked.
Allow to cool.
Skim the fat off the water and add potatoes and lentils.
When eating salads, prepare only enough for one meal. Do not store it. Buy as you need it and eat it fresh. Cook all soups in portions large enough for a couple of meals. You can store these in the fridge but they are not suitable for home freezing. Make sure they are re-heated thoroughly. I prefer to use a microwave. Have a snack around 3 pm. I like a mug of tea and a sandwich.
There are very few dishes more appetising than curry. You could eat a different curry every day of the week and each would have its own distinctive flavour. The great thing with curry is that you never get fed up with it. You can curry almost anything: fish, meats or just vegetables. The Army are masters at creating new curries!
Use whatever meat is at hand, in true Army style, to create this nutritious and warming dish.
Finely chop one or more cloves of garlic according to taste.
Add finely chopped onions and stir-fry both with a small amount of oil in a wok or frying pan. When available, I prefer to use olive oil, or banana or coconut oil.
Add curry powder, or better, curry paste. Use according to taste but never more than a tablespoon. Fry in oil. It is important to fry the curry powder otherwise it will not blend into the meal and it will taste gritty. If you like hot curries, you can add one or more chillies. When the curry powder has been well mixed with the oil, add the meat and stir-fry until golden brown.
Add tomato puree to taste.
Finally, add your stock and simmer for a few hours. m Serve the curry on a bed of rice.
ULU CHICKEN CURRY
If you have never tasted this type of curry, you are in for a treat!
Place a whole chicken, including the neck and giblets, in a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil. e Cook for 20 minutes and then remove the saucepan from the stove. Fillet the chicken, removing all the skin and bones.
Stir-fry onions, garlic and curry powder and then add the chicken meat and cook until it is lightly browned.
Finally, add pineapple and cream of coconut.
SELECTION FISH CURRY
Any large fish will suffice for this dish.
Boil the whole fish in plenty of lightly salted water with a drop of lemon juice and a little hot chilli sauce. Stir-fry onions and garlic before adding curry powder and a spoonful of garam masala. Peel the flesh off the fish and add it to the wok. Retain the water as stock. Stir-fry until the flesh is a light brown. Add prawns and cook for several minutes. Finally, mix with the stock and serve with rice.
Cooking rice is an art form. Here are a few useful tips:
Wash the rice thoroughly in three changes of water.
Fill a large saucepan with water and add a pinch of salt.
Bring the water to the boil.
Add the rice to the boiling water and allow to boil for 15-20 minutes.
Turn the heat down and allow to simmer until the rice softens.
Hold the saucepan under the cold water tap and empty the rice into a colander, washing it as you do so. This separates the grains and makes the rice fluffy.
This is the Malay name for fried rice. It is a great favourite among older members of the Regiment.
Boil the rice, making sure to wash and strain well.
Pour a little oil into a wok or large saucepan.
Stir-fry garlic and onions, tomatoes, peppers and one or two chillies.
Add thin strips of beef and ham, and prawns.
Add rice and mix well.
Add three whisked eggs.
Stir the food, mixing well, until it is cooked.
Finally, add two tablespoons of soy sauce.
A Steak Recipe
There is nothing quite like a juicy steak after a hard training session. Use this recipe to give yourself a treat.
Choose a thick cut of lean steak. Fillet or rump steak will do nicely. •Trim off any fat and rub lightly with garlic. •Cook under a hot grill or barbecue over a bed of hot charcoal. •Turn for one minute or until the meat is nicely brown. This seals in all the juices.
Turn down the heat and cook it slowly to order.
Try to develop a taste for savoury rather than sweet foods. On your rest day, eat what you like, but during the rest of the week avoid cakes, chocolates and sweets. The best pudding is yoghurt, followed by fresh fruit.
Drink plenty of water. If you fit a filter to your tap, you can save a fortune on bottled water. A very refreshing drink can be made by squeezing lime or lemon into water and then adding a spoonful of honey.
Isotonic drinks containing salts are a good way of replacing the blood electrolytes which are lost in sweat. Isotonic drinks contain not only vital salts, such as potassium, but sugar to replace the lost energy. Take these before and after heavy exercise and they will help your body recover quickly. There are no magic potions that will build fitness and toughness. What we are looking for does not come in a bottle. It is tough, it is hard but only the best wear the sand-coloured beret of the military.
REMEMBER: Who cares wins!