Campfire Cooking Ideas

Using A Camp Oven

To be a genuine, dinki-di Aussie bushie, you need to be able to cook in a camp oven. Drovers have used camp ovens ever since the first cattle were pushed overland to the sale-yards and ports on the coast of Australia. Legends abound about the camp cooks and their prowess (or lack thereof) using camp ovens. A great variety of dishes are possible and there is a great sense of bonhomie sitting round a campfire sharing a stew, roast or jam rolypoly which has just emerged from a blackened camp oven.

Nomads Stew
This delicious stew takes around 2 hours to cook but will be worth the wait.

For 4 to 6 people, you'll need 750 grams of stewing steak. Cube the meat and toss in ¼ cup of flour. Heat some oil in the camp oven and brown the meat. Remove the meat and place 2 large peeled and sliced potatoes in the bottom of the oven. Cut two carrots into thick slices and place on top of the potato together with 2 sliced onions and the meat. Season with black pepper. Add a can of beer, a cup of beef stock and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Place the camp oven on a grill over the coals. Bake uncovered over medium coals until the meat is tender.

Camp Oven(54326)Credit: Wikimedia

Beef and bean casserole
For 4 people, you'll need 500 grams of chuck or stewing steak, a chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of paprika, 2 beef stock cubes, ¾ cup warm water and a 420 gram can of baked beans.

Cut the beef into cubes and brown in oil. Add the onion and sauté until soft then sprinkle with the paprika. Add the stock cubes to the water, pour into the camp oven and mix well. Cover and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check from time to time and add more water if necessary. When the meat is tender, add the baked beans and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Dumpling stew
Who doesn't love dumplings in a stew? The trick with dumplings is not to peak at them for at least 10 minutes. The casserole needs a reasonable amount of liquid if it isn't to stick to the bottom while the dumplings are cooking.

For 4 to 6 people, you'll need 1 kg cubed stewing steak (chuck is good). Toss the cubes in seasoned flour then brown the meat in hot oil in the camp oven. Add 2 diced onions and sauté till brown. Mix 1 ½ cups of beef stock, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Pour this over the meat mix and cook on medium coals for an hour or a bit longer. Add a diced capsicum and 2 diced carrots and cook for another half hour.

For the dumplings, rub 2 tablespoons of butter into a cup of self-raising flour. Add enough milk (about 2 to 3 tablespoons) to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured board until smooth. Form into balls and place the dumplings on top of the casserole. Replace the lid, pile coals on top and bake for 15 minutes until a skewer inserted into the dumplings comes out clean.

For variety, add 1/3 cup grated cheese to the dumplings and/or a good pinch of dried mixed herbs. Chopped parsley can also be added.


Meat Loaf
A great meat loaf can be cooked in a camp oven and the leftovers will provide fillings for bread rolls the following day. If you don't have a loaf tin, wrap the loaf in several layers of foil. You can vary the loaf by layering bacon rashes on the outside of the loaf, or placing hard-boiled eggs down the centre of the loaf before cooking. You'll need 500 grams of mince, a chopped onion, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 140 grams tomato paste, 1 grated carrot, ½ cup peas, 1 teaspoon mixed herbs, a beaten egg and 1 ½ cups of breadcrumbs.

Combine all ingredients well and place in a loaf tin. Cook in the camp oven for about an hour or until cooked through. Pour off excess juices.

Jam Roly-Poly
Drovers would sometimes keep back some of their dumpling and have it spread with jam as 'dessert'. This recipe is a bit fancier and probably even more delicious.

You'll need: 2 cups self-raising flour and 120grams of butter or margarine (about 3 tablespoons – it doesn't need to be exact). Rub the butter into the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough water to make a dough. Roll the dough out into a rectangle on a lightly floured board. It needs to be quite thin. Spread 2/3 cup of jam over the dough. Roll the dough up lengthwise, place in a greased pie dish and make a few slits in the top with a sharp knife. Brush with melted butter and bake in a camp oven. Sit the oven over medium coals but pile hot coals on the top. It should take 30 to 40 minutes to cook. Great with cream or custard.

Beer Damper
You will need to persuade someone to part with a stubby or can of beer for this recipe. Coopers is a good choice as it has a yeasty sediment in the bottom which will help in the rising process.

Place 4 cups of self-raising flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add a tablespoon of butter or margarine to the well and the beer and mix. It should be a soft dough but if too soft and sticky, add a little more flour. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly. Place on a greased plate in the camp oven and cover. Place the oven on medium coals and put more coals on the lid. Cook until well risen and brown – about 30 minutes.

Camp Oven(54325)Credit: Wikimedia

Scones can be made on a trivet or stand in the camp oven. Rub a dessertspoon of butter into 2 cups of self-raising flour and add enough milk (about a cup) to make a soft dough. Knead sparingly on a floured board, press out to 2cm thick, cut in squares, brush with milk and place on a greased tray. Place the tray on a trivet in the camp oven. Cook for around 10 minutes.