Camping is a fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve. There are some spectacular camping spots around Canberra, and the Namadgi National Park has plenty. This was extremely fortuitous because the previous plans of Hari meeting Annie in the Brindabella camping spot called Flea Creek were hastily abandoned after it became apparent that Hari’s AWD Subaru Liberty would have absolutely no chance making it either up or down the track leading in. We ended up picking Honeysuckle Campground. This is the location of the old tracking station that transmitted the first pictures and audio of Neil Armstrong’s historic steps on the moon. It’s a gorgeous site, abundant with rolling green hills, fire pits and cheeky wildlife.
We stopped into the incredibly lush Namadgi Visitor Centre to buy our passes and relish the air-conditioning before heading back out into the heat and continuing in convoy to the site. After poking around a couple of unsatisfactory spots (someone had already claimed the fire pit, too many children, too much of a slope) Hari spotted a little fire pit perched just next to the forest’s edge. We set up our fancy new tents (and our not-so-fancy camping chairs) and the four of us proceeded to laze around drinking beers until the sun started to go down. Once it did, it was all teams a-go.
Hari had spent a bit of time researching camping recipes before heading out and we had finally narrowed them down: one main, two desserts and then breakfast the next day, all with a decidedly Mexican theme. She had come across an intriguing recipe for Chilli with Cornbread Dumplings in a Dutch oven that she was desperate to try. It required very little preparation, except for the dry ingredients for the dumplings which she mixed together at home, and the results were pretty incredible. There are a few ingredients, but it is actually quite easy to do and so worth it.
After some initial hiccoughs with the fire (which we attributed to the wood being too freshly cut) Lou finally got it roaring and it was time to start the main course.
Chilli Con Carne and Cornbread Dumplings
Chilli Con Carne
- 500g beef mince (I used extra lean)
- Olive oil (I used garlic-infused olive oil)
- 1 Onion
- 1 tin of diced tomatoes
- 1 tin of red kidney beans (drained)
- Cayenne Pepper
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 50g butter
- 1 tin corn (drained)
- Milk (I used water and a couple of teaspoons of milk powder)
- Place the open Dutch oven over the campfire and heat the oil.
- Add chopped onion and once translucent, add the beef mince.
- Once the mince is browned, add the diced tomatoes, kidney beans and half the tin of corn.
- Add some shakes of the cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Mix the dry ingredients for the cornbread dumplings together in a bowl.
- Rub in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
- Add the milk bit by bit and mix together until it has the consistency of dough.
- Add the remaining corn and chopped coriander and mix thoroughly.
- Once the Chili Con Carne is simmering, drop spoonfuls of the cornbread mixture into the Dutch oven.
- Cover with the lid and check occasionally.
- Once the dumplings start to look golden brown, they should be ready. Break one in half to check to see if they have cooked through to the middle.
After a long day of doing very little, this went down an absolute treat. The four of us managed to finish off the entire pot. With the fire settling down into some really nice coals, it was time for dessert number one. Annie had read a book a long time ago about people roasting sweet potatoes, slathering them with condensed milk and watching it caramelise, and was keen to finally try it out. The sweet potatoes were delicious, but the condensed milk didn’t quite caramelise. Also, and I can’t lie here, they did look a little pornographic after we’d poured the condensed milk on them. Next time we might try a hotter fire or adding the condensed milk before or halfway-through cooking. For extra sweetness, some brown sugar might go well as well.
Roasted Sweet Potato
- 1 small-sized sweet potato
- Condensed milk
- Wrap the sweet potato in aluminium foil and place in the coals of the fire.
- Cook until a knife cuts easily through the sweet potato.
- Slit sweet potato long-ways and pour condensed milk over liberally.
- Get your mind out of the gutter.
- Dust with cinnamon.
While we were waiting for the sweet potato to cook, Hari decided to rustle up some Banana Boats – a recipe that she had also come across as a little kid. These take a deceptively short amount of time and were prepared, cooked and eaten well before the sweet potatoes were finished. The marshmallows I used were small colourful ones from the baking section in the supermarket that you’d typically associate with Rocky Road. Don’t use these – they disintegrated into absolutely nothing and you couldn’t taste them at all. Use the proper big fluffy marshmallows instead.
- Chocolate chips
- Peel back only one side of the banana and cut a wedge out longways.
- Fill the space with chocolate chips and marshmallows
- Close the peel over the chocolate chips and marshmallows
- Wrap in tin foil and place in coals for about five or ten minutes until soft.
Once we were done with our lavish feasting, the four of us sat around the campfire for the next hour or so chatting and watching wildlife like the possum who was carrying a baby that looked far too big to still be carried. We spent a while sussing out whether it would be bad form to go to bed on New Year’s Eve before midnight. Finally we reached consensus that it wasn’t, we decided to skip the champagne toast and we were all in bed by 11pm.
We woke up early the next morning with the sun practically burning a hole in the tent. Stumbling out of the tents in our pyjamas, Annie organised us all coffees while Sam got ready for his Breakfast Burrito extravaganza and Hari rustled up some Bloody Marys.
- 8 rashers of short cut bacon
- 4 eggs
- I jar salsa
- 1 avocado
- Grated cheese (optional, and in our case, forgotten)
- 4 tortillas
- Olive oil or butter
- Cook up bacon and eggs in olive oil on a frying pan or barbeque plate
- Add ¼ of the avocado and a liberal amount of salsa to each tortilla
- Lay out the bacon and egg across the middle
- Sprinkle with cheese and then roll bottom and two sides up
For a Virgin Mary, follow the same recipe without the vodka. Please make sure you drink responsibly and do not drive while intoxicated.
- Tomato juice
- Tabasco sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Lemon (to garnish)
- Celery (to garnish)
- Add a capful of vodka to a glass
- Add a handful of ice
- Pour in tomato juice to about a finger-width from the top of the glass
- Add about four shakes each of the tobacco sauce and Worcestershire sauce
- Add about three shakes each of the salt and pepper
- Garnish with Lemon and use a celery stick as a stirrer
The campsite was really starting to heat up by the time we’d finished our breakfast and Bloody Marys. We quickly packed up our gear, making sure to take all our rubbish with us. It had been an extremely relaxing start to the year, and with lots of new recipes under our belt, we can’t wait until our next camping trip.