Category Archives: Camping

WILD ROCKET, IT WAS THERE FOR THE TAKING

I love travelling in the country and always, I look for wild produce wherever I am.

This time, while in Eyre Peninsula I found wild rocket. So strong tasting and spicy and very different from garden rocket.

I made the most of it. When one is camping, fresh produce, especially foraged produce is a highlight.

I first found it on a walk in Port Lincoln and as we drove inland there were fields of it, little dark green bushes in the landscape. Amazing!

Wild rocket is not always available to buy, but rocket is. I hesitate to call the leaves that you buy as sweet rocket, because that can taste quite peppery to some palates. Those of you who grow rocket know that once you have it, it can be unmanageable, but the leaves can be used in cooking and you too can make the most of it. You probably already do!

Here are some simple ways I enjoyed the wild rocket. I jazzed up some iceberg lettuce that in some places in the country was the only lettuce available. The contrasts between sweet and peppery worked very well. On another occasion I added feta.

I always take feta that I marinade in extra virgin olive oil with me on camping trips. I also add dried oregano,  fresh bay leaves, anise or fennel seeds and pepper corns .

I had some kale and pumpkin. Both keep well on camping trips and I cooked them with some rocket.

Easy stuff. I always braise or sauté vegetables rather than steaming them. Italians tend to steam vegetables when they are feeling poorly so braising is the way to go.

I also found a few mustard greens that I added to the concoction. Whenever I sauté greens I like to use at least a couple of varieties of greens, indivia/ endives or cicoria/ chicory add bitterness, and  kale / cavolo nero add mustard tastes to sweeter tasting greens like spinach/ silverbeet/ beetroot leaves. Contrasting tastes do wonders! I use extra virgin olive oil, garlic and sometimes chillies.

I sautéed the pumpkin with harissa , also a staple I make to take with me on camping trips. The version I take has dried chilli flakes, caraway seeds, salt and extra virgin olive oil.  I soak the chillies and caraway seeds in some hot water till they swell and then add salt and oil to preserve the harissa. It is fine out of the fridge and suitable for camping as long as you add enough salt and keep on topping up the oil. I do not add garlic in this version or fresh chillies because the fresh ingredients encourage the growth of mold.

Back to the recipe. Once the pumpkin and harissa and some garlic is sautéed in extra virgin olive oil add the greens. Sauté, put a lid on and let soften. Done.

I also found field mushrooms around the Southern Flinders Rangers! Amazing at this time of year, but the weather was wet.

The soil was wet and given a little spring sunshine, there they were!  I added garlic and wild rocket to them and sautéed them in some oil, then added a splash of white wine and evaporated some of the moisture. Pretty good!

I poached some eggs in these mushrooms. The farm fresh eggs were free range and they came on the way to Venus Bay/ Ceduna.   They were free range, I checked! Mind you I did have some Kangaroo Island eggs already in the van and they were cheaper in SA than in VIC.

I also added wild rocket to a Minestra/ Wet Pasta dish made with borlotti beans. I usually cook borlotti beans at home, freeze them and take them with me, but tins of course are OK and for some, more convenient. The kookaburra above was never far away.

Once again, easy stuff. Sauté some onion and garlic in oil, add finely cut rocket, wilt it, add the beans with some of their water. Cook the pasta. Drain it. Add it to the semi liquid beans concoction …and there you have it.  I always drizzle some of my best extra virgin oil on top. The rocket does reduce in mass when cooked, but this was also the last of the rocket. I would have used more if I had it.

Talking about the wild, a highlight was seeing a baby owl/ owlet  in country Victoria.

Other recipes:

HARISSA (A hot chilli condiment)

Harissa made with fresh Chillies

SENAPE, a new type of mustard green vegetable

PASTA E FAGIOLI (Thick bean soup with pasta)

BEING ELDERLY, TRAVELLING and COFFEE

We have been travelling for the last four weeks around parts of Victoria and South Australia. Along the way we have stopped in cafes that looked like they served a good coffee. And I admit we’ve been pretty selective. It’s obvious to any of us who’ve driven around country Australia the number of cafes, pubs and bakeries serving coffee are flourishing, but not all of them make good coffee.

And at a once great railway town south of Port Augusta, we took a chance on one when there was no other option. We have recently bought a modest VW campervan with a homemade conversion that comes with some compromises. For example, to boil a kettle or brew a coffee, you slide out the stove top through the cargo door, which means it’s open to weather. This day, it was raining heavily, blowing a gale, we were cold and we liked some of the buildings in the town and so we pulled up.

There were two people serving and three people who were waiting for takeaways. When one of the staff asked who was next another assistant said:  “That elderly couple over there.”

My partner and I burst out laughing but I do not think anyone got the joke. I explained with humour how we were indeed elderly and were not offended in any way by the comment, but that elderly people did not necessarily see themselves as being of a certain older age and being called that, may take them by surprise. I said this and meant it to mean that we knew the joke was on us.

But wait, there was still more to come.

I ordered coffees for both my partner and myself. I asked for two caffé e latte. The woman (who we assume to be the owner of the café) took issue with my order. Raising her voice so she could share her proprietorship with her two staff and the three customers waiting for their takeaways, she exclaimed: “What do you want? Oh, caffe lattes?” She emphasised.  “We make lattes here. We don’t have fancy names like you city people.” More added emphasis. “You want two lattes? Is that what want?”

My partner meekly said that we would like two lattes. I felt the need to explain that as a person born in Italy, I don’t abbreviate the order to just latte because if you did this in Italy you would be ordering a drink of milk. I even apologised. Then she said that I was in Australia and needed to fit in with Australians if this was my home.

But wait for it, the performance went on. She said that all the tables inside were booked and we had to sit outside. We looked at the weather and tables under the kerb-side veranda. We meekly said that was OK. But where were these customers, when were they arriving, wouldn’t we finish a cup of coffee before they arrived? However, we didn’t challenge the wet-weather option, we knew we were in dangerous territory here and just turned the other cheek.

The coffee took ages to arrive, the assistant who carried it out to us spilled it in the saucers. She said that she was sorry about this and that we would have to sip it from our saucers. Once again we chose to be agreeable and said that we did not mind it being spilled.

By the way, the coffee was nothing like a caffè e latte, no froth whatsoever and very little taste of coffee or milk. We drank it quickly in spite of it being almost undrinkable and exchanged looks of unbelief between us.

I was in shock and made my way to the car. Not only were we elderly but were from the city and I was a foreigner. When my partner went to pay she was going to charge him for a mug sized coffee rather than a cup. He did mediate and pointed out that we had the smaller size.

I looked up the information on the web about this township and was greeted with the description of it being a friendly, peaceful town, a great place to live and visit.

This experience was worlds away from the experience we had when we ordered caffè e latte in Horsham at the Farmhouse Providore & Cafe which was packed with locals and travellers. The café had been recommended by another brilliant roadside stop in Keith, Henry & Rose. The attendant at the Farmhouse did not blink an eyelid when I asked for caffè e latte and asked how we wanted our coffees. Did we want more coffee than milk or the other way around because she knew people had preferences and she wanted to satisfy each of their customers.

I nearly hugged her!

I take making  coffee and tea very seriously.

These are the camping coffee pots and teapot:

See post:

Do I take making coffee at home too seriously?

I sure do.

COOKING ‘ON THE ROAD’

I have not had time to do much writing as I have been travelling quite a bit , both in Victoria, New South Wales and  South Australia and not like some of my friends who have been travelling overseas.

I only take my iPad when I travel and writing posts is not something that I find easy on this device.

I am finding that inserting links to recipes that are already on the blog, pretty impossible and if you are interested in  some of the recipes, for example  about cockles or sea urchins use the search button. I am hoping that the photos are sufficient, but maybe not.

Below are some of the things I have cooked or prepared  lately. When one is ‘on the run’ one does not have the luxury of ingredients from home:

Mushrooms braised with saffron, white wine, tomato paste and parsley.

Goolwa cockles cooked with parsley, garlic and a splash of white wine. Parsley yet to be stirred through.

Braised red cabbage cooked in red wine and bay leaves and some smoked pork with whole meal spaghetti .

King George Whiting braised with with lemon slices,  fennel seeds and white wine. Fried capers till crisp added at last minute.

Sea urchin roe bought in brine and cooked with braised fennel, anchovies, garlic and chillies in wine,  parsley, roe grated lemon rind and lemon juice added right at the very end.

Burrata with basil mayonnaise, soft boiled eggs and a salad of avocado, lettuce, asparagus and baby tomatoes.

CAMPING and COOKING

When I go camping I enjoy cooking just as much as when I cook at home. I like to go camping as often as possible.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of undertaking of cooking with limited resources – few ingredients, simple cooking methods and equipment. Each meal is further restricted by what ingredients and produce has to be used first.

Camping meals also have to be easy, quick to cook and as flavoursome as I can make them. The basics are extra virgin olive oil, good quality wine vinegar or balsamic, anchovies, capers, mustard, fresh herbs from my garden, some spices and anything else that is in my home fridge and that I have room for in my camping fridge/ cooler box, for example any of the following: harissa, egg mayonnaise, tapenade,  preserved lemons, left-over cooked food and sauces…these will enrich the flavours of what I am to cook.

Above: kale sautéed with garlic, anchovies and chillies is accompanied with saganaki.  Like when cooking FORMAGGIO ALLA  ARGENTIERA I always add a sprinkling of  dried oregano while it is cooking.

Above: braised mushrooms will be used to dress pasta or  may accompany pork sausages or used to make a frittata.

Above: eggs poached in some tomato salsa and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves.

Above: braised red radicchio with pan-fried salamino (or chorizo).

Above: cauliflower cooked with rosemary and saffron and some creamed feta. This too could be used as a pasta sauce.

Above: pork sausages are pretty much staples for camping. They can be crumbled into dishes or cooked whole with tomatoes, sauerkraut, lentils or beans.

Above: pork sausages with lentils.

After 30 years of  using a blue gas stove I now have a yellow one.  This one lights more easily and generates more heat.

Sautéed  green leafy vegetables with chilli.

This is a common Italian method to cook any green leafy vegetables , such as : kale,  cavolo nero, spinach, chicory,  endives,  cime di rape, brassicas. Italians, like my mother would blanche or cook the leafy greens in boiling, salted water before sautéing , however because I prefer my vegetables not to be overcooked I omit the precooking.

I like to add a substantial amount of anchovies, but I am careful about adding salt to the greens when I sauté them in  extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and chilli.

Sauté the anchovies, The anchovies have to be cut finely and tossed about in some extra virgin olive oil to dissolve/ melt. This happens quickly.

Add some chopped garlic and chillies and toss for a couple of minutes before adding the washed greens and sauté until cooked to your liking.

Other posts about camping:

CAMPING, Pumpkin risotto

EATING WELL, Camping in Tasmania, BBQ chicken-Pollo alla Diavola

EATING AND DRINKING IN THE GOLDFIELDS in Victoria

PRODUCE IN GIPPSLAND ; Campside Eating

Below: The Otway National Park, Victoria, my last camping trip.