With winter coming to an end at the bottom end of the globe, it was time to make the most of the lemon and lime crop, so I wrote some zingy lemon and lime recipes for the October issue of marie claire magazine.
I spent a fair bit of time getting the amount of lime just right for the delicious lime and vanilla panna cotta and then a friend suggested a twist on a Portugese tart – so the Portuguese lemon tart was born! There’s also a fabulous recipe for light as a feather lemon and lime souffles and finally a healthy breakfast dish of quinoa with mango and lime. For all these recipes you’ll need to buy the October issue of marie claire, but if you’ve got a lime hanging around give this Vietnamese pork meatball recipe a try.
I’d known for many years that it was always The Rock Climber’s dream to live in a converted church, so when a just-about-affordable one came up for sale at exactly the same time as we were selling our house, it was a done deal, we were going to do everything in our power to make it our home and luckily for us we did.
I always have a bit of a chuckle when I walk past the front doors (which are no longer used as the front doors) as the door knockers are a skull and crossbones. We don’t know where they came from and I very much doubt they were on the door when it was the local Anglican church!
Coincidentally, we are known as the Jolly Rogers by some of our friends, so these knockers seems very appropriate!
And of course the doors themelsves are a fabulous backdrop for zombies on Halloween!
Stews are one of my favourite dishes to cook when we go camping. Of course, they are brilliant in winter to warm you up before you climb into your sleeping bag for the night, but even on the sunniest of summer days, I love to finish a busy (or not!) day with a big bowl of stew and some damper for mopping up the juices. I start my chopping in the late afternoon, then as the sun starts to set I get the onions browning away. Then I add a few more ingredients, pop the lid on and sit my camp oven (a cast iron cooking pot) among the coals. With a few stirs and some gentle cooking, within an hour I have a delicious dinner. I add potatoes (or sometimes beans) and plenty of vegetables so I don’t have to cook any vegetables separately and voila I have a one-pot meal that can be served in a bowl and there’s very little washing up!
Cooking over a fire is one of the best things about camping. There’s no ‘preheat the oven to 180′ or ‘line a baking tray with paper’, it’s just get some wood, strike a match and off you go. If you’ve never done it before, there may be a bit of trial and error, but so what, you’re not going anywhere in a hurry! Get everyone involved in gathering a lovely big pile of wood and building your fire. One thing, always be aware of whether it’s OK to take wood from the bush. Many national parks don’t allow you to collect fallen branches as these provide important habitat for wild animals. Many campgrounds do, however, provide free fire wood, so check before you start collecting. Otherwise bring your own.
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, sliced
300 g pumpkin (squash), diced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced (optional, but definitely worth adding)
800 g skinless, boneless chicken thigh or breast fillets, cut into large pieces
200 ml (a small wine glass) white wine
About 12 waxy potatoes, quartered
1 Heat the oil in a large camp oven or casserole dish on a grill rack over the fire. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly until they start to turn golden and caramelise – ensure the pot isn’t too hot, or they will burn.
2 Add the carrot, pumpkin and fennel and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add the chicken, stir well to combine and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until the chicken is starting to brown. Add the wine and bring to the boil for about 1 minute to cook off the alcohol.
3 Add about 400 ml water (just over 1 ½ cups), then add the potato and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and bring to the boil, then move to the side of the fire away from direct heat or sit the camp oven in amongst the coals (rearranging them as needed and topping up as needed) and cook for about 30–40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the potato is very tender. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then serve in bowls.
Organise a game of cricket while dinner is cooking or calm everyone down with some reading or drawing.
This recipe is taken from my soon-to-be published cookbook the Hungry Campers Cookbook. For this recipe and loads more like it, see here for more information. My book will be available in the shops in Australia on October 1st and in the UK from May 2014.
Thanks to Natasha Milne for the photography. Photography copyright Explore Australia.
Along with my thing for Japanese spoons, I also love Japanese lanterns. I was fascinated by them from the moment we first arrived in Japan and was desperate to read the beautiful Japanese script written down the length of each and every one.
We moved to Tokyo in 2008 for The Rock Climber’s job. It was never somewhere I had ever had much desire to visit, but having lived there for almost 4 years it is somewhere I still think of daily and think everyone should visit if they get the opportunity. I am always hard pressed to describe what it is about Tokyo and Japan in general, that I love so much as it is a difficult place to describe. For me it’s a visual thing, but much more in the detail rather than as a whole. It’s what’s happening at street level. So for me when I think of Japan or am asked to describe Japan, it is the exotic paper lanterns that are foremost in my mind.
The script on this vibrant lantern says that this is a hand-made soba restaurant “te uchi soba”.
It was the lantern I spotted outside this udon restaurant in Kyoto that made me go inside and have dinner and very delicious it was too.
While in Kyoto I was lucky enough to see a geisha (or geiko as they are called in Kyoto), walking passed this enormous lantern!
A red lantern outside a restaurant generally indicates it is a cheap and cheerful restaurant. But there are millions of lanterns all over Japan in a multitude of sizes, predominantly coloured red, black and white. Traditionally the lanterns are made of washi paper, so to protect them from the rain they are often covered in plastic. It doesn’t make them look quite as beautiful but it’s practical.
Early on in our time living in Tokyo I found a shop that sold old Japanese lanterns and decided that I would buy one when we knew we were leaving – I thought it would be strange to have a restaurant lantern in our house while we lived there. So more than three years later, when I found out our time in Tokyo was drawing to a close I headed back to the shop all set to buy a lantern, accompanied by my Japanese friend Yuko. I had re-visited the shop many times over the years just because I loved the shop so much. Even though I had mastered a fair bit of Japanese I decided that I’d let Yuko do the talking and that’s when I found out that all these beautiful old lanterns weren’t actually for sale – even though they all had price tags on. They were simply examples of what you could buy BRAND NEW! I was devastated, but the shop keeper thought it highly amusing that some crazy foreigner wanted to buy some raggedy old, torn paper lantern. In the end I settled for this new black and white one and much to the amusement of my Japanese friends, I proudly displayed it at home for our final weeks. And what does it say – ‘eigyo cho’ which translates as ‘open for service’!
This lantern is another treasured possession that I found in an antique shop. The script on it is very old and even my Japanese friends couldn’t read it, so I shall never know what it says.
In our Sydney home my lanterns sit on an old red Japanese cupboard but when we eat outside I take all my lanterns and hang them in the trees, I’m not sure what I’ll do if a Japanese person walks by and thinks we’re ‘open for service’! ***
I’ve been writing the food pages for marie claire magazine for several months now and am loving the creative team I’m working with.
The August issue is in the shops now. Inside you’ll find 4 of the best Asian soups. Perfect for chilly southern hemisphere winter evenings.
Yet again I got to indulge my love of all things Japanese and used one of my gorgeous old sake bar aprons as a background.
My arms nearly fell off having to stand still and hold that many bowls, while the photographer got just the right shot!
Photography copyright Louise Lister.
Kids big and small love eating cupcakes. If the little ones are too young to help with the cooking they definitely aren’t too young to get involved with the decorating! At my kids’ birthday parties when they were toddlers, I used to bake a whole heap of cupcakes and make a cream cheese and jam frosting, which is the perfect sticky base for the decorations. Then I’d set out a table with all sorts of decorations – sprinkles, crumbled chocolate, mini M&Ms and marshmallows then let them go crazy decorating the cupcakes. I always found it funny watching which kids ate only the toppings and which kids ate only the cake!
Even though my kids are older now, they still love decorating cupcakes, so sometimes I take a batch of undecorated cupcakes when we go camping. Then when we are in need of some quieter time I bring out the frosting and some sprinkles. I don’t have quite the variety I had at their parties, but a few different things will keep them amused for a while, and the benefit is that they decorate so many the adults get to eat them afterwards.
Makes: 12 cupcakes
100g butter, softened
185g caster sugar
½ teaspoon natural vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125ml (½ cup) milk
200g self-raising flour
250g cream cheese
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
Sprinkles, crumbled chocolate flake, mini M&Ms
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole (80ml (one third cup) capacity) muffin tin with paper cases.
2 Put the butter, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer, until pale and soft.
3 Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Add the milk and flour alternately in small amounts and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Do not overmix.
4 Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases, then bake for 15–20 minutes, or until cooked and golden on top. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
5 To decorate, beat the cream cheese to soften, then add the jam and mix to combine. Put the different sprinkles and chocolate into separate small bowls. Put the cupcakes out and let the kids decorate them. Using a blunt knife, spread them first with the cream cheese frosting, then add the toppings.
More fun kids’ camping recipes can to be found in my cookbook Hungry Campers Cookbook being published I October 2013.
Photography Natasha Milne (copyright Hardie Grant Explore)
I don’t remember why my spoon collection started or which one was my first, but I have a thing about small Japanese spoons.
Some are cute, others are stylish and some I just had to have but I can’t explain why.
I didn’t even realise I had a thing for small spoons until my husband suggested I use them as the design for my new business card. So I entrusted my collection of spoons to a local designer and she created the most beautiful image, one that is commented upon almost every time I hand over my card.
What I do know is that I have a strict morning ritual when it comes to my coffee and my spoons! It’s a short black (or espresso to the rest of the world outside of Australia) with half a sugar and I can only use one of my lovely teaspoons to stir and they mustn’t be put in the dishwasher.
My collection isn’t enormous and I don’t seek them out nor do I buy every one that I see, but I do love my spoons. Sadly my lovely red teaspoon is starting to shed its lacquer – I have a sneaking suspicion someone has been putting it in the dishwasher!
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making Damper (Camp Fire Bread) with kids. This recipe is taken from my new cookbook Hungry Campers cookbook (Hardie Grant Explore), due out October 1 2013. See here for more information.
To make life a bit easier at the campsite, if you know you’re going to make this when you’re camping, weigh out the flour, salt and sugar into a ziploc bag at home, then all you have to do is add the butter and milk.
Makes: 6 small breads
300 g (2 cups) self-raising flour, plus extra as needed
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
250-310 ml (1 – 1 ¼ cups) milk
one Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingertips until it is all incorporated.
two Add the milk gradually and knead to combine, adding enough milk to make a dough that isn’t too sticky and that can be easily kneaded. If it’s too sticky or wet, it will drop off the stick when it is being cooked. Knead in the bowl for about 10 minutes until soft and elastic, giving everyone a turn, sharing the fun.
three Divide the damper into six portions, form into oval shapes and mold around thick sticks.
four With parental supervision, let the kids cook the bread over the fire for about 10-15 minutes, turning the bread regularly, until golden brown on all sides. When the bread is cooked, it will sound hollow when knocked.
five Wait for 5 minutes, then remove from the stick and fill with your favourite filling.
Happiness is filling it with honey!
One of our favourite places to camp is at the Newnes campground in the Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains, NSW. It’s about a 3 ½ hour drive from Sydney (about 200k north west of Sydney) so it’s usually a long weekend destination, rather than just for the weekend. The kids love it because to access the part of the campground that we go to you have to drive across the Wolgan river (4WD access only). We always park the car first and walk across the river to check how high the water is running and to see where any submerged rocks might be. Then The Rock Climber (or sometimes me), gets in and guns the car across the river while the rest of the family stand and cheer.
Although I feel like we are leaving the city behind us almost as soon as we leave home, it is once we are on the long dirt road heading into the national park that my brain switches to relaxed, carefree mode. Then splashing through the river is the sign that we are so nearly there and several days of bush time is about to begin. The river crossing is the gateway to a whole new world.
One long weekend when we were at this campground an unexpected thunder storm hit in the middle of the night and we awoke to swimming pools all around – luckily not in our tents! We suddenly remembered that we were on the OTHER SIDE of the river which was no doubt much deeper than it had been on our arrival. Although we weren’t due to leave that day the skies were threatening more rain, so we had a decision to make “should we stay or should we go”? Several of us headed to the river to check it out and yes it was much deeper and running much faster than before. However, for several reasons we decided to stay. If we left at that point, we would be packing up wet tents which would need drying at some point back home – never an easy thing to do. But also, no doubt it was raining in Sydney too and we decided that more fun would still be had in the bush in the rain than in the city in the rain! Luckily the river did subside over the next day or two and we were fine. I should point out that we are well equipped should we have had to cross the swollen river, as many of us have 4wds and have tow ropes etc. River crossings can be dangerous and shouldn’t be tackled unless you know what you’re doing.
So back to the campground. The campground is surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs that make for great rock climbing for The Rock Climber, Wild Thing and The Wombat and even occasionally me. But it also has lots of great hiking trails, a walk to some old industrial ruins, dating from the early part of the 20th century and a hike to the glow-worm tunnel.
I love this photo. It sums up everything that is great about camping in the Australian bush. This river and the fallen trees that surround it provide endless hours of fun – hide and seek, splashing games, skimming stones, splashing rocks, building dams and on and on, the games are endless.
This river is also where the mums and quite often the dads come to relax on a hot summer’s afternoon, often with a chilled (care of the river) glass of white and finally in the late afternoon it becomes our washing place, as in case I forgot to say the campground has no washing facilities and no running water!
One of the joys in my life is feeding my family and the food we eat while camping isn’t really much different to what we eat while at home. I don’t equate camping with cheap sausages, packets of chips and a can of spam. The kids also seem keener to get involved with the cooking while we’re camping, I guess cooking over an open fire is largely the reason why!
Damper (camp fire bread) can be cooked at any time of day or early evening. My damper recipe is great fun for the kids. Once the dough is made, it is divided into equal portions, then wrapped around the top part of a thick stick, leaving enough stick to hold on to so as not to burn little fingers. Then the kids cook their bread over the fire, it doesn’t take long. Once cooked, the hole where the stick was is filled with a favourite filling, such as honey, jam or nutella. Yum!
For more Practical Stuff click here
Water: The campground at Newnes doesn’t have running water, so you need to bring all your water with you. It is possible to fill up at the Newnes Hotel which is just as you arrive at the campground.
Firewood: Open fires are allowed (subject to fire ban restrictions). Stock up on firewood before you get to the campground. The petrol station at the turn off from the Castelreagh Highway sometimes has wood, but not always, make sure you buy the bags of logs not kindling! Alternatively, wood can be bought from the garden centre on the Castlereagh Highway. Coming from the Blue Mountains’ direction it will be on your left before you get to the turn off. Note the wood is not bagged.
Facilities: There are two (usually well maintained) windy loos, one at each site. There are no showers or washing facilities.
Phone: There is no mobile coverage.
For more information about camping at Newnes, go to: