Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cooking with coals and cast iron

Camp oven cooking is a favourite family winter pastime for us.  Recently when the team from Slow Food Mildura called on their members to join the team at the Koorlong Camp Oven Cook Off we immediately volunteered.

While we have done plenty of camp oven cooking at home and for friends we have never ventured into the competitive side of cooking with coals, cast iron and fire.

The rules for the day were fairly simple.  Teams had to supply their own coals/fuel and cook all food in camp ovens or Bedourie ovens.  Naturally, Slow Food Mildura went to great efforts to ensure most of their meal was sourced from seasonal, local ingredients. 

We spent the day preparing and cooking, tending to the charcoal to keep the ovens hot, serving the hungry paying customers, testing some food and drinks ourselves, making new friends and soaking up the country music and slight smoky atmosphere.   As we chopped and mixed ingredients, conversation and discussion flowed easily.  Busy hands seem to encourage easy conversation. 

Although we have been Slow Food members for a year or two we haven’t attended many of their events.  This day was a perfect place to start.  With the underlying love of food connecting our group we felt welcomed, like instant friends.   At the end of the day we were generously loaded up with fresh home grown produce that the local team members had supplied to decorate the serving area.

Food really does connect people and days like this just prove it to me all over again. 

Do you dabble in any camp oven cooking or camp cooking?
Do you have a favourite outdoor dish?  

Have a lovely Sunday, friends x

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slower days

Life for us is rarely slow, despite how it might look on my blog.  Thankfully the school holidays break up our usual home school/distance education routine.  During the term our mornings are taken up with maths leaflets, spelling words, satellite lessons and the general juggle of life. 

Instead of school, for the last two weeks our time has been taken up with early morning trips to the horses. 

Reading has been high on my list of things to do.  Alphabet Family Journal is a magazine that actually feels more like a book.   The thick pages are full of real stories and creative photography and the whole package feels simplified and refreshingly un-styled.   Thanks Luisa for my special copy. 

We have packed up chops, soup and bread and headed to the paddock to cut firewood.  Actually, the big people cut firewood while the little people played on tree stumps that become imaginary boats and planes while poking sticks in the fire and daydreaming.

Some mornings we have cooked and then lingered just a little longer over morning tea.

The rather unruly vegetable garden has finally had some proper attention. 

Sheep work has been in full swing which has meant plenty of warm food and thermoses to keep the workers fuelled in this cold weather.

Farewell school holidays, you will be missed!

Happy Sunday friends x

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fire and Flour Day, 2014

Last Sunday morning I crept out of bed at 3.30am and again at 5.30am to refuel our wood oven and to check on my bread that had been proving all night.  In the darkness, at the wood pile I felt the lightest mist on my face and I knew that the day ahead was full of possibilities and goodness.

Our second Fire and Flour day was different to the first.   This year we had one more year of cooking in the wood oven behind us.  Our children were all one year older, making them more independent and freer to roam and explore.  The returning bakers had a year of baking experience behind them which meant we could really trade knowledge on proving, shaping, slashing, equipment and all things sourdough. 

Our friend Paula kindly volunteered to give us a hands-on haloumi and ricotta making demonstration.  Cheese making complimented the bread making perfectly.  Similarly to bread making, cheese making is often a process of hurry-up-and-wait, as Paula so rightly described it.  When we weren't attending to our loaves we were attending to the cheese which gave our day rhythm and purpose. 

The food for the day was assembled from mostly home raised, home baked and home grown produce.  We squashed pieces of freshly sizzled hand made haloumi straight from the fire between chunks of warm sourdough baguettes, real food at its best.  

At the end of the day, as the sun set behind the wood oven the drinks and stories flowed.

This day filled me with a sense of community spirit, generosity and sharing.  It has also proved to me that it is possible to make things happen, even if it is on a small scale.

If you can, gather some like-minded friends and family and make food.  Talk, listen and share.  Let the children join in, or play in the dirt or both!  Perhaps the world would be a better place if more people could do this. 

Thank you to the families who attended our day.  It wouldn't have happened without your enthusiasm and contributions.  Thank you Paula for your professional cheese making and for so generously sharing your delicious haloumi with everyone.  Thank you also to Terry for fuelling the fire, helping with the photos and always believing in my schemes.  

What we ate, for anyone who is interested.

Morning tea: sausage rolls, vegetable and chickpea non-sausage rolls, quince and almond tart, cheese and crackers

Lunch: slow cooked camp oven lamb shanks, fresh pasta, pesto, salad, baguettes, fire sizzled haloumi

Afternoon grazing: scones with jam and cream, cheese and crackers, affogato served with pistachio biscotti, chocolates, warm ricotta drizzled with olive oil

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In My Kitchen, July 2014

Now it really is feeling like winter.  Frosty mornings, shorter days and sparkly rays of afternoon sunshine most days. 

One little spot in our kitchen catches particularly pretty afternoon light.  When there are no flowers to pick there is always plenty of olive tree foliage. 

Outdoor cooking in camp ovens is very common for us at this time of year, but cooking desserts and baking sweets things in camp ovens is something we are still experimenting with.  This fruit and almond tart was a recent camp oven success story.  As per usual when cooking with fire or coals, timing is everything. 

I am so grateful for a successful broccoli crop. 

Locally grown oranges.  There is nothing better at this time of year.  Do you have a favourite way to use oranges, other than fresh or juiced?

From what I read, a lot of my favourite bloggers drink a lot of tea.  So do I, especially in the cold weather when drinking water is less appealing.  Black tea in the morning, green tea at lunchtime, red tea in the afternoon and back to green in the evening.   My friend Sarah reminded me recently that tea and popcorn is a great pick-me-up on a cold afternoon.  Tea and popcorn also has a lovely ring to it don’t you think?  

What are you cooking or making at the moment?

I hope it is warm and smelling delicious in your kitchen.

Linking up with my friend Celia at  Fig Jam and Lime Cordial