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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
with sage and 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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
Consider two or three or all of the
following to put on the table for another social meal:
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.
Take about a kilo of de-seeded
watermelon and cut into chunks. Add to that two diced tomatoes and one
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
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.
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).
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.
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
And a Merry Christmas, and the best
of travelling, to all our On The Roaders!