Coun­try Squire

ROB IN­GRAM TALKS UP THE CAST-IRON CAMP OVEN — THE ONLY WAY TO PRE­PARE AN HON­EST COUN­TRY FEAST.

Country Style - - CONTENTS -

I DOUBT THERE WAS MUCH gos­sip when Law­son, Blax­land and Went­worth strapped the last pan­nikin in place and set off for the in­land. Do you think their ex­pe­di­tion had hardly turned the first cor­ner be­fore gos­sipers were spec­u­lat­ing about how they had gone all ‘al­ter­na­tive’? Yet, when the Squire and The Cho­sen One fol­lowed in their tracks a sen­si­ble cou­ple of cen­turies later, city col­leagues seemed to as­sume that nat­u­ral at­tri­tion had thinned out the herd (this, I proudly add, is a term I have picked up in the in­terim and they will never un­der­stand). That we’d turned a bit al­ter­na­tive. When we fol­lowed Blax­land out of town, we weren’t try­ing to get in touch with Mother Na­ture... or even just to drive slowly past her place. We weren’t into the whole­grain and hand­i­craft dream of self-sus­tain­abil­ity. I’d be per­fectly happy to have some­body else sus­tain me, any day of the week. We were just a bit over the cap­i­tal­ist rat race that we’d never been very good at any­way. So we took vows of poverty and seren­ity and knew we’d suc­ceed with at least one. We were look­ing for the hon­est life, and such a wor­thy quest de­served a sym­bol that would stiffen our re­solve. We looked around... and there it was, the per­fect em­blem — a round black cast-iron camp oven. Food had al­ways been a big part of our lives. We got into it when it was about taste, so that’s go­ing back a bit. When pre­ten­sion and snob­bery washed over food like a tsunami, we headed for the hills. I knew I was trapped in a great big hoax when a fel­low diner said to me one day, “It says here the bar­ra­mundi is pan-fried. What else would they fry it in?” The camp oven has been a great friend to us here. Yes, our eat­ing habits changed. We re­dis­cov­ered the pot roast, the bush pork casse­role and even jugged some veni­son. We gave away the scaloppine di vitello al tartufo nero and gained a taste for veal goulash. But mostly it’s been a totem for hon­esty and a life change worth mak­ing. A lot has been writ­ten about camp cook­ing, but, even within the hon­est lit­tle cast-iron pot, au­then­tic­ity is start­ing to sim­mer away. There is great en­thu­si­asm for the chicken and pro­sciutto parmi­giana and the Mex­i­can lasagne from new-gen­er­a­tion camp oven en­thu­si­asts, but I was hop­ing to find some­thing that showed a lit­tle more bush prove­nance. Surely in the pioneer­ing days, our fore­bears would run down a rab­bit, ten­derise it with a handy clog, and throw it in the camp oven with a sprig of snif­fle­wort and a hand­ful of stink bee­tles and con­tem­plate a sump­tu­ous sup­per. That’s what I wanted to know about. So I’m driv­ing past the land­mark Ho­tel Dune­doo the other week­end and it had a lairy ban­ner draped across it. It’s the Camp Oven Cook-off and there’s enough smoke to sug­gest that things are un­der way. I’m just in time for the judging of the best stew cat­e­gory — the main event for me. Matthew Stop­forth from Mudgee reigns supreme and his win­ning dish is... drums, please... Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour prawn soup). I sus­pect my search is not yet over, but con­grat­u­la­tions, Matt. Mean­while, I bet there are a few old pioneers up there wish­ing they’d thought of the dish that won best sig­na­ture dish: Tiny Lewis from Coon­am­ble’s pork should, in­fused with ap­ple and pineap­ple juice and served as sliced and pulled pork with a rum-and-coke bar­be­cue sauce. Next year, I’ll spon­sor a True Blue Dinky-di Jolly Swag­man Bil­l­abong Jum­buck gen­uine pioneer cat­e­gory... and I’ll lift my lid to all who en­ter.

DI “WE GAVE AWAY THE SCALOPPINE GAINED VITELLO AL TARTUFO NERO AND A TASTE FOR VEAL GOULASH.”

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