Chef Steve Cumper’s camp­ing-in­spired hol­i­day meal.

SUM­MER HOL­I­DAYS — DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO shout those magic words from the rooftop? I re­mem­ber that eu­phoric feel­ing when the bell rang on the fi­nal day of pri­mary school for the year. As I ran out the gate, it seemed as though the hol­i­days stretched out end­lessly be­fore me and I felt like I was float­ing (per­haps that was be­cause I’d spent all day in a class­room with­out air-con­di­tion­ing). As the years passed, my en­thu­si­asm for that mo­ment be­came even more pro­found. My brief high school years were punc­tu­ated by my fam­ily’s an­nual pil­grim­ages to Wil­sons Promon­tory in Vic­to­ria’s south. Here I would spend care­free days ap­ply­ing sun­screen, get­ting burnt and in con­stant teenage tur­moil, held hostage by my hor­mones. When my work­ing life be­gan, for a cou­ple of years I was for­tu­nate to con­tinue my sum­mer hol­i­day rit­ual, as the restau­rant I was in­den­tured to would close for a few weeks. This was the last glo­ri­ous time when con­ven­tional hol­i­days and my work sched­ule would dove­tail neatly to­gether. Af­ter that my time off be­came more un­pre­dictable and I dis­cov­ered, sadly, that hol­i­days were fi­nite. So at this time of year I like to re­call those ear­lier days. Dur­ing our hol­i­days at the Prom, we and many other fam­i­lies ate din­ner at dusk. Plumes of bar­be­cue smoke would twirl into the air above the Tidal River car­a­van park, sig­nalling us back to our camps. As peo­ple tended to come and go, we would of­ten have a big plat­ter of food in the mid­dle of the ta­ble. Some­times it would be a salad with cold meats, or grilled meat and three-bean salad. You’d sit just long enough to gob­ble a few morsels be­fore head­ing back to guard your sand­cas­tle or re­turn to the book you were read­ing in a ham­mock. In the back­ground, a tinny tran­sis­tor ra­dio broad­cast­ing the cricket was the sound­track of sum­mer. Those mem­o­ries have al­ways in­formed my love of the ca­sual feast. In the Cumper home, our old and gnarled kitchen ta­ble has born wit­ness to count­less meals in­volv­ing shared plat­ters. This is such a great way of en­ter­tain­ing en masse, as peo­ple can help them­selves as their ap­petites dic­tate. I al­ways pre­pare a bit more than re­quired be­cause there’s a great plea­sure to be gained from spon­ta­neously invit­ing some­one ex­tra to the ta­ble. One of my favourite as­sem­blages is the Greek-styled plat­ter. What makes it Greek you ask? Well, I sup­pose the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing for Greek fam­i­lies and their res­tau­rants has rubbed off on me, and I can’t help but as­so­ciate their food with gen­eros­ity and bon­homie. These plat­ters usu­ally in­volve mar­i­nated and grilled meat, salad, a sauce of some kind and either pota­toes, rice or bread. Big flavours are a must. There’s no room here for del­i­cacy — each mouth­ful must discharge on the taste­buds like a round ex­pelled from a how­itzer. In fact, the recipe I’ve of­fered could be my all-time favourite meal (and, be­lieve me, I have a few in my reper­toire!). Should I ever find my­self ma­rooned, it would be the meal of choice to ac­com­pany my Desert Is­land Disc se­lec­tion. May your hol­i­days be happy ones! Steve Cumper is a chef and fun­ny­man who lives in Tas­ma­nia and dreams of one day own­ing a fleet of hol­i­day vans called Wicked Cumpers.

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