Really tasty campfire pork and other campsite stories

campfire roast pork
It should be known that it is not very often that we will set up our tent at an actual caravan park. Very seldom in fact. I would (will) go so far as to say unless it is the only option, we ain’t going to do it.

This was one such occasion when it was our only choice, kinda like being left with that one 56-years-young cougar when the nightclub lights come on…

Jennee did the righteous thing by going out early to set up camp, as I would be catering for a party in the hills, and it would most definitely have me well into the night.

I did finally make it to that campsite though. After battling darkness, tiredness, a bad sense of direction (something I can only now far-from-happily admit I possess) and attempted ambushing’s by several bridge trolls, I got there. Safe arrival in the middle of the night is always an occasion that requires a mild celebration at the very least, so I cranked the fire back up to a small sun and consumed a few beers.

In the spirit of all things holy I was having myself a good time.

Sometimes, when you venture into that mysterious Stepford Wives-esque world that is the inner circle of the caravan park (trailer park. Yeah, you’re getting the gist of what I’m saying now, right?) in the middle of the night, you awake to a totally different world.

The night dwellers, carnies and swamp rats had scurried back into the underground homes prior to being licked by the first rays of morning sun, but there was still “the others”.

“The others” resided almost solely in caravan parks. They were renowned for their hoarding of volumes upon volumes of 1980s Mills & Boon novels and collections of random little side-show-alley-prize fluffy toys (paraphernalia from their time on the big top circuit, no doubt). From the moment they would awake each day they waited eagerly to get their daily dose of “the Hoff” in his glory years as some bloke on that one show about the lifeguards… Our neighbor for our stay was nothing short of poster-woman for these people.

As soon as Jennee pulled up next to the semi-permanent dwelling in her semi-suburban mostly-soccer mum car the neighbor was up off of her rocking chair on her recycled pallet wooden verandah questioning the very notion that someone would be camping next to her van. “They said there would not be any one camping near here,” she said. “They said they would not let anyone camp near here.”

Jennee had no solution except to quickly erect our tent like the boobies “au natural” would erect a certain part of a young man’s anatomy.

I did not know it yet but I was definitely afraid of the lady next door.

In the same breath I spoke about my fear of the strange woman next to us and how she would possibly come into our tent this night and horribly dismember us with her neighbor’s garden spade, I realised that she was probably so desperate for her solitude as she was sheltering her half goat, half man son from a world that couldn’t love him, and he was truly the one I should fear for he has tasted human before and he was damn keen to taste it again…

What was I talking about? It didn’t really matter. It never really matters…

I did start this little anecdote with the purpose of telling you about a lovely piece of pork I was given by a lovely lady named Sally who farms a few old breed pigs and was curious to know if I would like to use those very pigs in the restaurant. Yes Sally. Yes I would like to use your pork. Very tasty shit indeed!

There, I’m done.

If you can be assed, it's pretty nice when you make some bread to go with your dinner
If you can be assed, it’s pretty nice when you make some bread to go with your dinner

Tasty, crunchy crackle up front, fields of green out back
Tasty, crunchy crackle up front, fields of green out back
Really tasty pork
Really tasty pork
Roasty vegetables with a bit of dukkah so they know we love them
Roasty vegetables with a bit of dukkah so they know we love them
Carve it up. Do it quickly
Carve it up. Do it quickly
Just eat it all up now
Just eat it all up now

CAMPFIRE PORK ROAST with VEGETABLES & ZA’ATAR (serves 4)

1.5kg rolled pork shoulder roast from Sally
1 onion, sliced roughly
3 medium potatoes, chopped kinda chunky like you would for a roast
1-2 carrots, chopped kinda chunky
2-3 zucchini, chopped kinda chunky too
5 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat edge of a knife
Salt & pepper
Za’atar
1 camp oven or witches cauldron

• Season the skin of the pork. When you think you have seasoned it enough you should probably season it a little more
• Place pork into camp oven resting in medium (170-180C) coals, rotating every 30 minutes for 2 hours
• Add vegetables, and a splash of cider if you have some in your hand, to the bottom of the camp oven and get it back into some coals. Put a few coals on the lid so the crackle starts to get a little sexy
• After 30-40 minutes it should all be smelling pretty fricking nice so maybe carve that piece of pork up, sprinkle some za’atar over the vegetables and eat it in your face
• A very nice piece of pork indeed

Have some billy tea
Have some billy tea

Roasted Pork Belly with Vegetables From The Garden

roast pork belly
We here at foodisthebestshitever are venturing forward in a new direction, we shall go forth and expand our culinary vision and facilitate this vision through the exploration of contemporary cuisines previously unbeknownst to us. We shall visit regions previously deemed out of reach, in the spirit of searching out something totally new and different.

Yes folks, today we shall be exploring the wonderful work of… well… pork.

Ok, you got me. I’m not doing anything profound or original for this blog. I am merely cooking pork again and am trying to make myself feel better about my addiction. I use the local free-range pork if that’s any conciliation for the armchair activists out there.

Today I’m talking pork belly.

Pork belly is one of my favouritest pieces of meat of all time. If I were a gay man I still think pork belly would be at the top of my favourite meat list. There is not a whole heap I don’t like about pork belly; it is flavoursome, luscious, tasty, delicious, really good and a whole heap of other synonyms for the same word. It is a meal that I always want a little more of, and I always cook extra so I have leftovers for the next day… and mostly that extra pork even makes it to the next day. Actually, a lot of the time we eat it all on the night… well, most of the time. You see, Jennee brings her “we all know the crackling won’t be any good tomorrow” game to the table (what I like to call her A game) and generally manages to convince us that it’s OK to finish the lot now because it is a certainty the crackling will contract a disease rendering it flaccid and inedible, in turn contaminating the remaining pork and making it unfit for human consumption.
Well, this night I was going to take my chances with flaccid crackling and rancid meat, as I was already hella keen on pork belly for my dinner again tomorrow. Hella keen…

We have had a good harvest of heirloom carrots and kale so they featured heavily in the meal. This is truly my favourite eating; food that comes from our own garden or is grown by people close to us. Food that was cared for before it hit the pan. Food that, well, food that just doesn’t come from one of the big supermarkets really…

The belly didn't really fit into the pan but eventually it did after a bit of post coital shrinkage set in
The belly didn’t really fit into the pan but eventually it did after a bit of post coital shrinkage set in

Porky belly all cooked up
Porky belly all cooked up
Those roast vegetables were damn fine
Those roast vegetables were damn fine

Yes, those roast vegetables
Yes, those roast vegetables

ROASTED PORK BELLY with VEGETABLES FROM THE GARDEN (serves 4)

1.5 – 2kg pork belly. That should be enough for leftovers…
½ – 1 teaspoon garlic powder
A good pinch of salt and pepper
A selection of vegetables from the garden/fridge. We had potatoes, heirloom carrots, radish and onion
½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
A bit more seasoning
Olive oil
Sautéed curly kale and jagallo nero (a spindly awesome type of kale) with oyster sauce and carrot top salsa verde to serve

• Pre heat oven to 160C
• Season pork belly with salt, pepper and garlic powder
• Roast pork belly in oven for 2.5-3 hours until the smell causes you mouth to water and your loins to stir, and it is super tender
• While pork is cooking chop your assorted vegetables into fairly similar sized chunks. Put them into a separate oven dish, lube up with a splash of rendered fat from the pork belly, splash with the vinegar and season. After the pork has been cooking for 1.5 hours the vegetables can go into the oven too. Roast for one hour or until vegetables are just cooked, and then remove from oven until pork is ready. Once pork is ready turn the oven up to 180-200C and return the vegetables to the oven for a final five to ten minutes to get a bit of crispness, and that should do the job on the pork crackling for you too (if crackling is being a bit stubborn a few minutes under the grill (broiler) will sort it out)
• Carve the pork and serve with roast vegetables, carrot top salsa verde and sautéed greens… and try not to eat it all tonight…

One more look at that pork belly
One more look at that pork belly

Black Rock Camping Day 2… banana cake and lamb in the camp oven (not at the same time though)

camp oven lamb
Black Rock Camping Day 2

It was a bit of a broken sleep last night as I was awoken numerous times by the pitter patter of a good hit of rain dropping to us from somewhere above. *Fun camping fact #1 – although the sound of rain dropping on a tin roof is nice, and somewhat therapeutic, the sound of rain dropping on the family tent is not.

I got up, mildly freaking out as to whether we had stowed our camera and other water resistant items. All good… we are getting a little wiser with age apparently.

Camp breakfast was one of many pans of bacon, eggs and sausages and pots of coffee and tea, all consumed to a background rendition of “let’s yell and scream heaps even though it’s only 6:30am” as recited by the Unruly Monkey-like Special Needs Children Choir. Beautiful. Welcome to the bush, fellow campers.

The kids were more than happy to clean the bowl… no washing up for us
The kids were more than happy to clean the bowl… no washing up for us

The cake in it's new home amongst the coals
The cake in it’s new home amongst the coals
That is some good looking shit right there
That is some good looking shit right there
And yes, it did taste as good as it looks
And yes, it did taste as good as it looks

Banana cake in the camp oven was next on the agenda, as we had never attempted cooking a cake in the coals before and let’s face it, if you need to subdue a group of unruly monkies what better way to do it than with bananas or a product that is a derivative of said bananas. We were prepared for this uprising of small monkey-like children and feeding time at the zoo went down a treat! This cake was kick-ass.

Chalk one point up to the clearly smarter adults. That’s one-nil suckers!

The unruly crew
The unruly crew

The men folk drank away the afternoon while the ladies made the tents look pretty and started to prepare our next meal… well, maybe it didn’t go down exactly like that… or even remotely like that, but I did get my ass into the kitchen (camp table near the fire) because I give not a fuck about the location, I just know that being in the kitchen is my time to shine. The cooking begun, we did manage to encourage a sneaky beer or two past our bearded lips just for the sake of it. We may have been glanced that “what the fuck are you doing” glare from a wifey or two but there was five of us men folk so that really didn’t mean a thing to us right now – power in numbers, strength of the brotherhood, dib dib dib and all that shit. We would face our respective lectures on our drive home I was sure but for now, another beer please my good man.

And then the wind and rain came suddenly and mercilessly as if I had just deemed their prize winning turnip nothing but a fraudulent, fiberglass butt-plug. They worked in unison swiftly to dampen our spirits and our spare underwear, but we battened down the hatches in a fashion worthy of a “sea farers hatch battening badge”, and then the rain left us and I finished cooking my camp oven roast lamb. But it wasn’t just camp oven roast lamb; it was camp oven roast lamb, adorned with camp mint sauce and root vegetables, worthy of a “damn tasty assed camp lamb roast award”. But I’m sure you don’t really give a shit about my crappy awards now, do you?

A few herbs make all the difference
A few herbs make all the difference

Oh dear good lord
Oh dear good lord
Ready to go
Ready to go
The mint sauce really lifted this meal way out of the realm of sausages, white bread and tomato sauce
The mint sauce really lifted this meal way out of the realm of sausages, white bread and tomato sauce

LAMB SHOULDER IN THE CAMP OVEN (for 4)

1 small lamb shoulder (about 1.5kg), bone in for the flavour and to give the kids something to gnaw on
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaf
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 bulb garlic, sliced through the middle horizontally
A couple of handfuls of root vegetables, all cut similar size
Mint sauce, to serve

• Rub the lamb down with the herbs, spices and seasoning
• Put it in the camp oven with ½ cup of water and cover with lid
• Move a few coals out of the fire and nestle the camp oven into these, shovel a few more coals on top. Leave it for 2 hours, occasionally turning camp oven and replacing coals
• While the lamb is getting sexy, make some mint sauce just so everyone knows how much of a bawsss you are
• After 2 hours add vegetables and garlic to the bottom of the camp oven and return to the coals for another hour or until everything is tender and delicious
• Carve it up and eat it with mint sauce, washed down with the finest booze your esky has to offer

CAMP OVEN BANANA CAKE (with dubious measurements)

4 eggs
250g unsalted butter, softened by the morning sun
4 cups self raising flour
4 super ripe bananas, chopped or mashed
1 cup sugar
Milk to make it into a thick cake batter consistency – probably about 1-2 cups

• Get the kids to mix this one up so as to keep them occupied for a few minutes
• Cream sugar and butter
• Add eggs
• Add bananas
• Add flour
• Add milk
• Bake on low coals in a lined camp oven for 45 or so minutes or until cooked. I’m sure a cake tin and domestic oven will do the job just fine, too

K.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more camp goodness.

*If you like the idea of camp oven cooking and you want to know more, there are some fine folks who have created a facey page that is all about the answers you seek. You can find it here

Rabbit stuffed with chorizo and apple braised in cider… just in case it floods…

At even the remotest thought of being flooded in these days we are smart enough to stock up on a few essential items to make our cabin fever ease itself in all gentlemanly like. That will always include a small nations yearly consumption of alcohol, meat of some description and probably not spam and army biscuits.

For this lock-in we have chosen rabbit… And various types of seafarer’s holy water. For a millisecond I did have my eldest son convinced it was cat, but when he queried why I had gone out and killed a cat for our dinner I couldn’t keep the muse up… I am apparently not a total bastard.

bunnies and cider
bunnies and cider
chorizo and apple stuffing
chorizo and apple stuffing
rib cage is out
rib cage is out
stuff rabbit and then truss the bad boy up
stuff the rabbits and then truss those bad boys up
good to go
rubbed down with duck fat and good to go
mmmmmmm
mmmmmmm
the full spread - rabbit, roast vegetables, salad, cider gravy, broccoli puree, pauls webber chicken. EFFING AWESOME
the full spread – rabbit, roast vegetables, salad, cider gravy, broccoli puree, pauls webber chicken. EFFING AWESOME

For two little bunnies with some kind of Spanish influence (for 8 people)
2 little bunnies
2 brown onions
2 chorizo sausage
4 cloves of garlic
1 apple
1 cup fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
A big assed bottle of cider (most of it is for you)
Whatever vegetables you want to roast with it. If you can read this I would certainly think you can see what I put in
• To make the stuffing sweat off the onions, garlic and chorizo
• Once they are soft remove from heat and add the apple and bread crumbs
• Season to make sure it tastes delicious
• Take the rib cage out of the rabbit with your ribcage remover. Stuff said rabbits with the delicious chorizo and apple mix
• Tie rabbit up and make love to it like a… no. No! Put it in a roasting dish with some vegetables
• Rub it down with duck fat if you have some, and season with salt and pepper
• Cook the rabbit at 180C for 40 minutes then add whatever is left in that big assed bottle of cider, cover and cook at 160C for another hour. Baste it with pan juices every half hour
• Chop it up with a small axe and eat it like you just don’t care

We also made a pan gravy out of the rabbit and cider juices which you know how to do by now, non?

…and then the neighbours rock up with a chicken smoked in their webber. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Foodtrulyisthebestshitever.

One Ingredient – Sweet and Savoury… Quinoa

One ingredient, two dishes, one sweet and one savoury. My ingredient? Quinoa. Yep, quinoa. I can picture Pauly now, sitting there in his spa bath after drinking three too many ciders, a trained monkey offering him a Cuban cigar as he types this damning word on his Hunter S. Thompson-esque typewriter… Q U I N O A.

OK. On with it.

So Pauly has brought this challenge to the culinary thunder dome. (I’ve always thought that would be a good name for a gay nightclub. The thunder dome – two man enter. One man leaves). Anyhow, Two man enter one man leaves. I’ll be master he can be blaster. Beautiful.

Bang a gong; let’s get it on.

Quinoa (you know that it’s pronounced keen-wah eh), most ancient and noble of grains. Consumed by the ancient Incas, and by their new age counterparts… The hippy. Since I am neither ancient Inca nor hippy, I shall rely on nothing but my women’s intuition to get me through this one.

A cake or sweet bread is the obvious and easy option, and I like to avoid the easy option if possible (purely through stubbornness – we had a run in in late ’84 and I haven’t felt the same way since). So it has to be the panna cotta, or the crumble, or the quinoa meringue mess…

It shall be… (Drum roll please. I always like to imagine the drummer from Def Leopard doing my drumrolls. I just think that would be maximum impact) the apple with quinoa crumble. Since I can’t appeal to the ancient Incas I will try to appeal to our living ancients (every grandma loves a crumble), the hippies and the common man alike. And, if you want to get really crazy, you can serve this with quinoa and maple syrup ice cream.

For the icecream                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’m going to assume you know how to make icecream. Now I know I might be giving you a whole heap too much credit here, but look at it like your big break. Do me proud. You can call me dad or pappy if that makes you feel better about it… So make your icecream like you normally would except don’t do it like that. Before you do anything with your milk you need to infuse that bad boy. Warm 2lt milk, add 2 cups quinoa and take it off the heat to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain it and that is the milk you shall use to make your icecream. Sound crazy? Well it is! And just before it has set in the freezer, stir through a good splash of REAL maple syrup.

1. top it
2. cook it
3. demolish it

For the crumble mix
300g raw sugar
300g quinoa, cooked for 5 minutes so it is half way there
200g almond meal
100g P flour
100g rolled oats
350g softened US butter
• Mix everything together with the fingers on the end of your hands
• Pile it onto some sautéed apple with a splash of brandy and bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes until its bubbling around the sides and it’s brown and crusty like your undies
• Eat it, no, devour it, with some kind of icecream

Quinoa, lentil and roast vegetable salad with fresh herbs and quark to pay homage to it’s hippy following, but for everyone try
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked du puy lentils (don’t bother using a different type of lentil here)
2 cups roasted vegetables, try capsicum, zucchini, tomato, asparagus, eggplant, onion, etc
1/2 cup quark or goat curd or feta
1 cup fresh herbs, torn so they’re still chunky. Basil, parsley, chervil, mint, chives, rocket
A good splash of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

  • Mix it together gently like you are a hippy
  • Season and dress with olive oil and lemon juice
  • Eat it in your face. Not so bad there was it…