We went on our first real camping trip recently and I wanted to make sure Daniel enjoyed it as much as I did. I love camping. Getting dirty, sitting around, reading, exploring, walking. In short, turning off. Daniel is more of a camper van, stay in one place for one night then move on type of camper. I have been nagging for months to go camping and we were finally ready (after the tarp experience last time, we spent the money and bought a gazebo) and a sure fire way to ensure Daniel had a great time was with delicious food.
We went to borrow my grandpa’s camp oven only to discover he gave it to the local men’s shed. I was complaining to a friend that I didn’t have one and he had one in his shed that had never been used. Winner! I wrote up a menu for the weekend that included camp oven dinners both nights as we didn’t want to have to have a fire going all day (in hindsight, it was so cold it would have been nice to sit by a heat source on the 0 degree mornings). We also borrowed a dog tent from another friend’s parents. Although it was far too big, Toby knew straight away it was for him and as soon as it got too cold he was straight in it.
Now for the food. Having never made golden syrup dumplings in a camp oven before I passed the idea by my friends that go camping often and we all agreed it would be the same as in an oven. I don’t know if it was the freezing weather or sitting next to the fire, but these dumplings were amazing. If you’re that way inclined, I’ve listed the recipe at the bottom of this post. We also learnt that with camp oven cooking, once you can smell the food it is pretty much ready. An overcooked meatloaf and charcoal carrots was evidence of our initial ignorance of this. We ate as much as we could and the rest went into the compost container. I wanted to buy a bokashi bin to take camping to manage our food waste better but as we were only going for two nights it was fine to just hang onto.
I haven’t been camping in an area with a lot of other people in a long time. Being a long weekend and a large camp ground that allowed dogs it was almost full. There would have been 40 different groups of campers there. I was shocked by the general disregard for the environment. These are people who enjoy being outdoors and there was rubbish everywhere! I picked up the litter around our camp site and down by the river but watched from afar as multiple groups chucked all their waste into their roaring fires. Plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard, food. The toxic smoke and thumping music disrupted the experience a lot. We collected all our food scraps in a container to take home and compost and made sure that any rubbish was securely stored. I did my best to reduce waste whilst there by pre-measuring ingredients from home and cooking just enough. Even so, we had a whole container of compost and a small bag of rubbish (which mostly consisted of gazebo and camp oven packaging and others’ litter).
We brought with us just enough wood to last two nights for cooking and for keeping warm enough. Almost everyone else just went around and cut up fallen roadside vegetation (which is illegal) and had enormous piles of wood to feed their bonfires. The roar of chainsaws cut through the gully daily. There fires really were excessive, we could see sparks flying above their caravans!
It was a good trip, but next time we might look for somewhere a bit more remote so we can enjoy the environment without music, disco lights (seriously) and toxic smoke.
Golden Syrup Dumplings (serves 4)
- 1 ¼ cups self raising flour
- 30g butter
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup golden syrup
- 2 cups hot water
- 3/4 cup golden syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 40g butter
- Dumplings –
- Rub the butter into the four.
- Add milk and golden syrup. Stir until combined.
- Make into rough balls
- Make sauce in the camp oven.
- Combine all sauce ingredients and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce is simmering.
- Add dumplings to sauce and cook on top of hot coals (not flame) for 20 minutes.
You can add chopped apple to the sauce for a more decadent camping desert. Can be cooked in a moderate oven for the same time. Serve with custard.
Custard (serves 1)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- In a little milk, whisk cornflour till all combined (no lumps)
- In a saucepan, whisk egg and milk till combined then add cornflour mix
- Whisk constantly over medium heat till custard reaches desired consistency
- Take off heat and add sugar and vanilla