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‘Steaks’ are high for camp oven cook off


The South Australian town of Orroroo is firing up in July to host its first camp oven cook off and is looking for camp cooks to show off their favourite meals.

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If you have ever been camping with a camp oven cooking guru, you’ll know they’re fiercely proud of their technique and stomach-warming signature dishes around the campfire on a cold night.

The people of Orroroo in the southern Flinders Ranges know this well and have put a call out to all camping cooks to head along and test their skill in the inaugural “Roasting In the Roo – Camp Oven Cook Off” on Saturday, July 8.

It promises to be a fun, family weekend of food, music, novelty events, face-painting and carnival rides.

There will be free camping available on-site and organising committee member Lisa Slade said everyone was welcome along to the all-weather event, with proceeds to assist local sporting and community groups.

“The idea came about when we were looking for a way to raise some funds from outside our community, something that would bring people into the town and benefit our local clubs,” she said.

“Many people fondly remembered the former Blinman camp cook off and it was decided that Orroroo could host something similar.”

Haidee Williams – Camp Ovens: The ‘steaks’ will be high at the upcoming Roasting in the Roo – Camp Oven Cook off in Orroroo. Photo by Haidee Williams.

Local home economics teacher and baker extraordinaire, Gaye Kuerschner from Black Rock Kitchen, has long enjoyed a good old-fashioned camp cook-up.

Her signature camp oven dish is yeast-leavened bread, and she said there was a fine art to perfecting a good loaf.

“Getting enough coals ready, hand mixing some dough, letting it rest and shaping and flavouring it into something delicious to share around the fire,” Kuerschner said.

“When you’re on the move, travelling remote Australia, it’s so convenient to have the non-perishable commodities of flour and yeast on hand and enjoy a range of fresh breads wherever you can have an open fire.”

Kuerschner has some top tips to share with eager cooks.

“Think of your camp oven as similar to the inside oven,” she said.

“In both cases, a very high heat will quickly scorch and ruin the exterior of the food, often leaving the interior underdone.

“When you’re starting out, be light-handed with the amount of coals you use, check progress after a little while and add some more coals if cooking is slow.

“Put simply, if you start cautiously you can always increase the heat, but conversely, there’s no coming back from an excessively hot start typically resulting in an inedible charred offering that no-one can enjoy!”

Kuerschner adds that, just like cooking inside, use foil and baking paper to make for easy cleaning. It also speeds up packing when on the move.

“Wear thick leather gloves to lift your hot lids and move the oven safely,” she reminds.

“And finally, ash has no place in your food!”

Kuerschner said there was something special about tending to a fire and producing a meal over the campfire to be shared with family and friends.

“I’ve been fiddling around with food for as long as I can remember and I’ve always had access to farm garden produce and home-killed meats while growing up at Pinery and later when we set up our own farm as a young couple at Black Rock,” she said.

“This inspires ingenuity and experimentation with what’s in season and wanting to create new products.

“Camp cooking and harnessing fire was an extension of always eating the best possible meal with what you have, no matter where you are.

“So with a BBQ plate and a camp oven, you have all you need to create an infinite range of delicious foods without making a big mess or needing a huge kit of gear or food supplies.”

As one of the judges in the “Roasting in the Roo – Camp Oven Cook Off”, Kuerschner said she was excited to see – and taste – what entrants will come up with, and hoped some might “push the boundaries” in trying something new.

The competition will be looking for the best “Meat and Flour” dishes in either the “Shed Hand” category for beginners or the “Shearer’s Cook” category for more seasoned cooks.

Individuals or teams can enter, with prizes for the “best themed team”.

“I’d love to see people of all ages and experience levels to ‘have a crack’ at camp oven cooking,” Kuerschner said.

“It’s such fun to get back to basics and use an open fire to prepare a fabulous tasting meal and sharing that experience with friends.

“I hope to be seeing diverse flavours and learn some new ideas from the competitors.”

The Roasting in the Roo – Camp Oven Cook Off will be held at the Orroroo recreation ground.

It is an all-weather event, with plenty of undercover areas for shelter. Free camping is on offer. Children under 18 get in for free but must be registered. See the Roasting in the Roo Facebook page for more event details.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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