The Queen’s Toast

The Queens’ Toast

“ Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble”

– quote from the Weird Sisters, Macbeth.

In time with the rising sun, we three disheveled creatures awoke from our natural slumber to the smell of birnh’m wood. Leerily emerging from our secluded, nylon cave, we were presently confronted with a spectral sight: heavy autumnal mist blanketing the grassy heath with it’s chilling tendrils. In the distance we spied the source of the smoky scent. Something wicked this way comes.

And then they were gone. In one fell swoop K1 and K2 had fallen to the clutches of pyromaniacal sorcery. Coming deep from within the enveloping forest, I could hear the high-pitched, infantile sounds of excited hocus-pocus ricocheting about the clearing.

Finally they emerged. Arms laden with twigs, bark and an array of small, leaf laden branches, my children – unkempt and rather a sorry sight – were ready to get the fire burning and cauldron-billy bubbling. While my enchanted duo tended to the roaring flames and toasted away to their victorious venture, I set about conjuring my own comestible potion so as to exorcise the rumbling beast emanating from the pits of our hungry tums.

Unless one has been living in the Medieval ages of the 11th century, it is clear from the get go that Lady Macbeth (and her irresolute husband) is toast. Yet for generations the treachery of this ambitious woman’s quest for power, coupled with the beguiling charisma of the Weird Sisters, has lured many – adult and child alike – toward the rapturous repository of Shakespearean literature.

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Our camping trip, last holidays, saw the conclusion of our lengthy Macbeth trancefiction. From an abridged children’s retelling and audio books to wacky re-castings and feminist takes on the text, K1 and K2 were saturated with good stories, great intrigue and fabulous Macbeth themed seasonal cooking.

I hereby present to you my bewitching recipes for The Queen’s Paste…and for a covetous rival to that regally crowned, Saturday Morning staple (the scone), Trangia Bannocks.

 

The Queen’s Paste (Quince Paste)

The milk of human kindness…or a villainous witch? Agnes (one of the Weird Sisters; Third Witch – Jackie French) is a sagacious woman skilled in the art of herbaceous panaceas and in bestowing upon the regal heirs the fruits of nightmarish wisdom. For those willing to heed Agnes advice – avoid digestion at dusk: nightmares ensure – the Queen’s Paste (quince paste) goes down a treat with all the yummy things in morning autumn life.

8 – 10 quinces, picked from the source (my sister-in-laws winery)

sugar

water

1 lemon (optional)

Brush the furry coating off the quinces using a nail brush or damp cloth. Chop the quinces into chunks and place in a large cauldron (pot) with ½ c water. If using, add the juice and rind of the lemon. With the lid on and, over a medium heat, bring the fruit to simmering point. Reduce heat to low and simmer till soft (30 – 45 minutes). Puree’ the fruit (you can freeze at this stage if you wish to save some for later in the year). Weigh the fruit. Return to the cauldron. For every 500g of fruit, add an equal amount of sugar. Stir to combine. Simmer on a low heat until the fruit is a deep red hue (1 ½ – 2 hours). Stir occasionally to ensure the fruit is not burning on the bottom (don’t worry if it does…you can always tell people you are keeping with the fire-burning theme). Bottle into sterilised jars and serve atop your Queens Toast…or as part of a cheese platter at your next regal-esque dinner party.

The Queen’s Toast: Trangia Bannocks (makes 6 – 8 bannocks)

If I wasn’t encamped about a regional pool deck, my teenage weekend hours were tumultuously passed tearing down the white water river passages of the Murray and Mitta-Mitta rivers. It was during these years of secluded bivouacking with my other intrepid, Duke of Edinburgh kayaking cronies, that the Trangia became my most esteemed camping tool. Comprising several pots and a dual purpose lid, this light weight, aluminum stove is a must for any keen campers cooking collection.

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1 c rolled oats (or quick cooking oats)

1 c self raising flour

60 g butter…guesstimated

2 tbs fresh herbs (chives, thyme, rosemary etc.), finely chopped

2 tbs milk powder

½ water

salt and pepper to taste

Butter or oil to cook

Mix together the oats, flour, salt and pepper. Rub in the butter. Add the herbs and milk powder. Add enough water to form a dough (add a little more water if too dry). Divide the dough into 6 – 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball.

Assemble the Trangia to use as a fry pan. Set the stopper for the fuel cup to ½ – ¾ open. Place the stopper firmly on top of the fuel cup. When ready to cook, light the fuel and place the fry pan attachment on top. Heat the butter or oil. Take one portion of the dough and flatten in the palm of your hand to make a round shape about ¼ inch thick. Place one or two bannocks on the fry pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes on each side and then flip. Repeat with the remaining portions of the dough.

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Abracadabra! Serve your enchanting elixir to your hungry camping hoard topped with some Queen’s Paste and a generous serve of local brie (or other soft cheese) with a side of seasonal apples and pears.

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‘Gette Fueled Camping

“I promise that I will do my best, be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the guide law”

– The girl guide promise.

The Lady Stradbroke Cup was the defining event on my childhood, Girl Guide calendar. So revered was this competition – by us and all those units in neighbouring boroughs – that it defined our weekly activities for most of the year.

From knot tying and gadget making to campfire cook-offs and canvas tent assembly, week by week our unit would gather at the local hall to do our best and cultivate our skills in the fine art of self control: many a charcoaled meal dish and collapsed bivouac. Whilst our redoubtable and jolly leader, Lyndy, had an outwardly unflappable mien, her competitive spirit was fierce. To return home with anything less that a podium position flag – a prized adornment for the sparsely decorated hall walls – would be seen as a crime against queen and community.

The competition itself was always one fueled with anticipation and great excitement: a chance to put our polished skills to the test. However for me, it was always Lyndy’s farm-house, pre-practice camp-out that took top billing. When all the pitching, pegging and bed-rolling was complete, ponchoed up and huddled about a robustly built bonfire, our selected patrol would belt out some traditional Australian folk songs and toast our way to sugar laden victory via the humble marshmallow on a stick.

Taking advantage of some unseasonably warm…above 10oC…weather, last month saw the kids and I throwing modern conveniences to the cooling southerly winds and heading for the hills in a last ditch effort to enact a girl guide esque camping venture before winter. Putting those well trained little hands to the test, K1 and K2 adeptly assembled our cosy, four man tent before setting their pyro spirits upon the campfire. While my little workers fashioned a scorching set of cooking coals, I did what gardening mothers do best: prepared a ‘Gette Fuelled Salad to pad the insides of my camping crew’s ravenous tums.

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‘Gette Fuelled Salad (Serves 4 rapacious campers)

If you want to do it the old Girl-Guide-school way, then you’re gonna have to start your cooking ventures early: atleast an hour before you wish to use the hot plate. From my earliest camping memories, I have always started a fire by creating a kindling tee-pee about some easy to light fuel (bark or paper).

Once the fire is searingly hot – due to the energetic commitment of your kids in keeping the flame burning on smaller sticks and thick bark gathered from home – you can throw some logs upon the flames to create a slower burn and, ultimately, the hot coals more suited to cooking.

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Of course, there is always that public gas BBQ if you’d rather take advantage of some modern conveniences!

3 – 4 courgettes, halved lengthwise (or width wise if you are using large courgettes like my heirloom variety)

250g haloumi

mixed salad leaves, sliced or torn into large chunks

garden herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives), enough to make a couple of tablespoons when finely chopped)

Dressing:

½ c pot set or greek yoghurt

2 tbs fresh taragon, dill or feathery fennel tops

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

1 tbs olive oil

Oil the hot plate

Heat the hot plate over the hot coals to sterilise the surface…you never know who was there before you arrived (such as some very generous campers who thought our fire pit could benefit from the addition of some errant cans: disposed of responsibly upon our return home!). Place some oil over the surface and lay, cut side down, the courgettes. Cook for 10 minutes or so (depending on how hot the plate) and then flip. Place the slab of haloumi onto the coolest part of the hot plate.

Flip after a couple of minutes…or when you smell the alluring aromas of a nicely toasted curd. Leave to cool until you can handle with ease. Meanwhile, finely dice the herbs and throw in with the salad leaves. Slice the courgettes on an angle. Dice the haloumi into ½ – 1 cm cubes. Toss together. Serve, drizzled with dressing, alongside a slice of your best  homemade, Waltsana Matilda Sourdough Bread and some bangers. Dig in!

Of course, no camping trip would ever be complete without the Lady Stradbroke Cup standard marshmallow…bread…sausage…and anything else you can put on a stick…toasting session upon my D.I.Y toasting attachment.

Dining out on the Free’way Beet’

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere…

Well…after three solid weeks gallivanting about the the Victorian countryside…that’s what it feels like anyhow!

Gracing the freeway beat with our holiday centered presence was a rare treat for my dairy-farming, childhood family of six. With water systems to manage; cows to milk; and pastures to prepare, graze and monitor; coordinating an extended trip away was a monumental feat of assiduous planning and execution. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, our Tetris style packing regime would only be complete when the deified, 28 L red-lidded Esky was firmly locked and food-loaded into the luggage hold. Replete with sangas, homemade biscuits and on-road snacks, we kids would guzzle our way across deserts bare and through mountain air until we’d reached our ultimate destination: the home cooked comfort of a family relative’s abode.

Today, when it comes to making my own family’s gastronomic travel plans, I’m a chip off the old wooden-chopping-board block. Eschewing the busy freeway feedlots in favour of the more bucolic, quiet park scenes, has proven – over our frequent family road trip years – to be a winning move for both the wallet and the driving wits. It has also been a great way to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned banter with the locals and to inject some much needed funds and energy into some of those small, almost forgotten bypassed towns: Scott and I take it in turns to peruse the local shops and buy the odd cafe treat or handmade craft.

This Easter holidays, our e-free travelling escapades saw us circumnavigating the wondrous Garden State. From the seaside views of East Gippsland to the rugged plains of the North-East, no stretch of bitumen was ever bereft of lively sites, conversation…or that iconic Esky brimming with sustenance. Whilst many variations on the salad theme have tried bullying their way into the insulated lining of our travelling food bag, it’s the Freekeh and Beet salad that has won the hearts and rumbling stomachs of the family.

Comprising the last of the my summer garden produce (plus a few regular herbaceous additions), I present to you a filling and nutritious salad to serve alongside your best tart or zucchini slice: for your on-road delectation.

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Freekeh and Beet Salad…with some of Grandma’s super yummy Chicken Tart

Oh…of course no family Esky bag would ever be complete without an injection of grandmotherly love: my mum’s mini gingerbread men and hundreds and thousands cookies.

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Freekeh and Beetroot Salad (serves…hmmm…not as many hungry bellies as one would like…there’s always room for that cafe treat!)

3 medium beets

1 carrot

2 sticks celery, cut into thin lengths and sliced, on the diagonal, into chunks

¼ c freekeh (quinoa, millet, barley or a mix of all four)

1 apple, diced

2 tbs mint, finely diced

1 c salad leaves, finely sliced

¼ c currants (saltanas)

¼ c almonds, chopped

Dressing:

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbs maple syrup

¼ c lemon juice

¼ c olive oil

Before you start: gumboot up the troops and get their garden mits prepped for an end of season harvest clearance: a bounty of produce.

Recover the beets from the burgeoning basket. Slice them in half and place in a saucepan filled with enough water to cover the roots. Bring the water to boiling. Simmer on a medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Drain. Cool. Refrigerate till cold. Meanwhile, rinse the freekeh grains with cold water. Place the grains in a small saucepan with ½ cup water. Cook on low heat, with the lid on until all the water is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Leave to cool slightly with the lid on. Refrigerate till cold. I usually cook the beets and freekeh the day before travelling.

To make the salad, grate the beets and carrot into a large, hard-plastic container or into a ceramic casserole dish. Stir in the remaining ingredients. In a separate jar, mix together the dressing ingredients and cap firmly with a lid.

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When you arrive at your tranquil park, shake the dressing and pour over the salad. Serve – to your cabin fevered hoard – alongside your best “grow food” (tart or zucchini slice) companion. You just car..n’t beet it!