Season's 

Eatings

Story and Photography by Elizabeth Mueller

Copyright © On The Road Magazine 2001. Any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

Plan ahead to have a jolly time festively feasting at the campsite this season

It is the three “Fs” that make my Christmases the best-ever Christmases each year – family, friends and feasting. And I’d better add to that one “L”, the leisure time that lets us relax to really enjoy this special time of the year.

I think that it is the food-thing that helps to let us settle down and relax to enjoy the season so, if you are lucky enough to be camped out looking over a beautiful part of Australia this Christmas, it can be worth that little extra effort to set the scene for a Christmas camp to remember.

Planning ahead can make “the day” go much easier and, by utilising a mixture of fresh ingredients as well as canned and preserved, the variety of our culinary efforts can be amazing.

For our special Christmas camp food segment I had a whip around the office to steal our staff’s favorite festive-theme outdoor meals, and consulted with the Canned Food Information Service for some transportable ideas and alternatives.

I also had a word with Jenny Pratt from Hillbilly Camping Gear and Jenny has put together for us a special feast that adds a festive touch to a wonderful meal using a gas-powered camp oven.

So, wherever you are this Christmas, be it in Australia’s biggest backyard – or your own – we hope you enjoy eating well with family and friends.

Beginnings

With all the activity that usually happens on Christmas morning, I find it hard to refer to the first meal of the day as “breakfast”. I like to refer to it as the “beginning of a busy socialising and eating day”. Here are some of my favourite “beginning” meals from over the years:

Chocolate: Okay, so I’ve lost my taste for it over the years but, boy, it sure was nice to sample each and every goody that Santa had left…

Traditions: Buy or bake your own Christmas cake and fruit mince pies before you leave home and transport them to the camp site in a sealed container. Serve with tea or coffee and a fruit juice, and don’t forget to include some almonds and muscatels scattered around the plate.

Panettone: Buy this Italian fruit bread from a delicatessen or from most larger supermarkets near Christmas-time. It is a very dry bread that will literally keep for months (if you keep the moisture out), and it has the most heavenly “mmmmm” smell of anything that I can think of. I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas morning a few years back feasting on slices of Panettone with a chilled glass of Margaret River Classic White. It’s mighty nice toasted (with or without eggs) as well. Mmmmm…

Orange eggs: This is nice and light to fill up any gnawing gap as the camp oven is heating up. For each person, lightly beat two eggs (just break the yolks up) then add a good squeeze from half a fresh orange and whisk about two times more. Melt a little butter in a fry pan over a gas stove, then add the eggs and a quick scissors-snip from a bunch of shallots (or garlic chives). Ease/fold the egg/juice mixture over until it is just set. Serve by itself, or on an English muffin with the other half of each orange sliced up.

Fresh: This is my current favourite, particularly because Mum’s place (where I Christmas the most) is surrounded by some of the best stone fruit country in Australia. Wash, halve and pit peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums. If we’re lucky there might also be a few fresh figs and a passionfruit or two (that we’ll probably pick on the day). Simply half these. Serve on a platter outside in the early sunshine with a good cup of tea and a brother or two.

The feast!

For our Christmas campers’ feast, Jenny has chosen to serve us a choice of two festive meats (though both would be nice) and a lovely selection of vegetables with a huge and colorful salad to pick at.

The King Cooker gas addition to the camp oven is perfect for an Australian Christmas when open fires are not usually allowed (see the sidebar for details).

Fruity Chicken Rolls

  • 6 large chicken fillets

  • 1 quantity of apricot and prune stuffing

  • 3 tablespoons oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • string or skewers to secure

Stuffing

  • 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs

  • half-cup diced bacon

  • two-thirds cup chopped dried apricots and prunes

  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs

  • 2 ounces softened butter

  • 1 egg

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

For the stuffing, plump the apricots and prunes in some sherry overnight.

On the cooking day, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

For the chicken rolls, gently flatten each fillet with your hands or an implement with a soft mallet action. Spread the fillets evenly with the stuffing mixture, and then roll up and gently tie securely with string (or skewer) so the edges are caught down. (The meal can be prepared to this point and then wrapped and refrigerated until next morning.)

Put the camp oven on to heat, then add the oil and the butter. Put the chicken rolls into the oven, turning slowly so they are a lovely golden brown all over. Remove the camp oven from the heat.

Place the King Cooker gas unit on to the top of the oven so you’re now cooking down into the camp oven to blend the delicious flavours through the chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the meat juices run clear.

When the chicken is cooked, remove from the camp oven and wrap the rolls in foil. Set aside to rest while the vegetables are being prepared. To serve: untie and slice through the rolls on the diagonal. Serve the “pinwheels” on a bed of creamy potato and parsnip, then ladle over a light gravy.

Roast pork with sage and mustard

  • 2kg boned and trimmed pork loin roast

  • fresh sage leaves

  • dried thyme

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons grain mustard

Prepare the meat the day before it’s required by making small incisions with a sharp knife into the meat, then stuffing the incisions with the sage leaves and chopped garlic. Wrap the roast in foil or plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Before cooking, spread the pork with the grain mustard. Pre-heat the camp oven with the King Cooker gas unit, then place the pork inside. Cook for about an hour and turn the roast over. Cook for a further one to one-and-a-half hours then test with a skewer. If the meat juices run clear the pork is cooked.

Carve the meat, and then garnish with pineapple rings and glace fruit, and serve with apple sauce and gravy.

Creamy potato and parsnip

Prepare and peel potatoes, place in a pot and cover with cold water. Add salt to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain thoroughly and mash until smooth. Add a dollop of butter, then hot milk. Beat until light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, prepare some young parsnips and cook in boiling salted water until they are just tender. Mash the parsnips and fold into the potato mixture. Season to taste.

Tip: Use old potatoes for best mashing results. Add hot milk as it makes the potato fluffy.

Some more vegies

Here are some suggestions to add colour and flavour to your Chrissy table: Baby carrots, green beans, peas, broccoli, asparagus spears.

If you’re using the King Cooker gas camp oven, cook your choice of vegetables in a billy or pot on top of the oven. Serve dotted with butter and with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Combination salad

A lovely crisp salad is another colourful addition to the Christmas meal, and is also refreshing to the palette.

For this collect some or all of the following: salad greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red and green capsicum, salad onion or shallots, cheese, sliced hard boiled eggs, avocado, anchovies, croutons.

With your choice of ingredients create a colourful platter by arranging your salad vegetables and then finishing off with your favourite salad dressing.

Dessert

I know we all groan in sympathy with extended stomachs when “The Pud” is mentioned but, hey, it’s an (uncomfortable) tradition to manage at least a little bit of dessert for Christmas lunch.

If you make your own Christmas pudding it will transport well to the campsite, as will a store-bought one (as long as nobody sits on it!). To dress either up, take enough UHT prepared custard and heat it up with a good glug of brandy (or stir it through cold).

Pour another glug of brandy over the pud on its serving plate, then present and ignite. Let the “oohhs” subside, then serve on up.

For a Christmas Pud without the pud, try this:

In a casserole-type tray place halved and pipped plums, peaches, cherries and nectarines. Sprinkle with a little vanilla sugar (available in supermarkets) and a little liqueur like Cointreau. Have this ready to plonk in the camp oven when the festive meat is ready to come out.

Let the fruits cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with cream (canned or fresh) that has some more vanilla sugar whipped through, or with a good dollop of King Island cream if your fridge space extends that far.

(This is a good dish to substitute with some canned fruit – include pitted black cherries, lychees and peaches with some passionfruit pulp poured on top. Adjust the cooking time to suit your choice of fruit.)

Our advertising manager Peter Betts has a recommendation for this dessert: make up twice as much as you’ll need for dessert and use the left-overs as a fantastic breakfast the next day when the fruit juices have blended beautifully.

Still hungry?

If you’re like me and my family, Christmas lunch would have lasted long into the afternoon, so thoughts of another meal are… well, not really that far away. Usually there are lots of left-overs and at least a few new things that we’d forgotten to put out (wasn’t room on the table, anyway).

Rather than another big meal, we love to have a “pick-at”. And this banquet usually takes as long to eat as the main she-bang.

Naturally, campsite left-overs are not likely to be as extensive as at home, so it might be good to have a few new additions for the evening pig-out. Here’s a few suggestions to add to a light “pick-at” meal, though “antipastodining” sounds much more sophisticated – and healthy.

Antipasto pig-out

Before you leave home gather a stock of good-keeping bases like water crackers, pumpernickel, rice crackers or crispbreads. There are some lovely – and different – samples of these in most delicatessens that suit a special occasion.

At the camp site take a stock of your leftovers and consolidate them, so as to incorporate them into the evening’s offering.

Consider two or three or all of the following to put on the table for another social meal:

Banana and strawberry salad

To one punnet of hulled and halved strawberries add two sliced bananas. Sprinkle over one scant teaspoon of sugar and a generous teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar.

Let sit for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally as the juices develop.

Watermelon salad

Take about a kilo of de-seeded watermelon and cut into chunks. Add to that two diced tomatoes and one diced cucumber.

Mix together the juice of two limes (and the rind, if you’ve a grater), a tablespoon of olive oil, about half-a-teaspoon of sugar (or honey!) and about one tablespoon of ginger (the Australian brand Buderim has some good ginger choices – try the salad slices, chopped fine).

Pour this mixture over the salad. Let the flavors develop for about an hour in the fridge, stirring occasionally.

Easy mango salsa

Peel and dice a mango, then dice one small red onion and one big plump, ripe tomato and mix. Add to that two tablespoons of diced pickled ginger, a splash of vinegar (your choice), a bigger splash of olive oil, a bit of fresh chopped mint and coriander (or a sprinkle of dried) and salt andpepper to taste.

Let the mixture rest for at least an half-hour before serving.

Pick ‘n’ dip

Slice some of the old camp-stayers into sticks – carrots, celery and capsicum. Prepare a few dishes of flavored mayonnaises for dipping. Try mixing your favoritemayonnaise with sweet chilli sauce, or German mustard or wasabi (Japanese horseradish).

Fresh!

If there’s one fruit that means summer and Christmas (for southerners, anyway), it’s got to bemangoes. Indulge in a box of these fruits, especially if there’s a river nearby, or do the hard work beforehand and peel and slice to present with a platter of other fresh fruit, and perhaps some canned if the choice is not near our campsite.

Sweet!

Let’s presume that you’ve got half a Panettone left and, out of the extravagant box, you’ve found some lovely, festive dessert glasses. Slice the Panettone, grab the UHT custard, some fresh or canned fruit and start layering. Pause occasionally to flavour the mixture with a sprinkle of liqueur, then top the lot off with a dollop of your choice of cream.

I think I’m really, really full now.

And a Merry Christmas, and the best of travelling, to all our On The Roaders!

 

Some Extras!

When planning your special camp-side feast, plan to take along a few pieces of extra equipment that can make life at the camp a little easier for the festive cook. Here’s some suggestions:
  • From a two-dollar or reject shop look out for one or two large plastic platters (in designer colors…) that will slip into a narrow spot for transport. These will be helpful not only for serving, but at the prep-up time as well.
  • Sealable plastic containers (such as Tupperware) that will do a “Russian Doll” and fit into each other for transport. Once again, perfect for prep-up and serving, as well as taking care of left-overs.
  • Fresh herbs. Use these to spruce up “usual” dishes and to garnish “special” dishes. Carry them with a dampened paper towel around the bases, then wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. Mint goes well with lamb and fruits. Shallots go well with most savory dishes. Parsley goes well with just about anything.
  • Plenty of plastic bags and foil.
  • Lots of paper towel to help in clean-up.
  • If room permits, a second cooler for cool food that is ready and waiting.
  • Some decorations – tinsel for the guy ropes; crepe paper for the poles; just something to set the mood.
  • Bon-bons. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without those silly hats and bad jokes…

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Copyright © On The Road Magazine 2001. Any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.