Our family headed off for an adventure a couple of weekends ago to enjoy the great outdoors.
Camping is like a love-hate thing for me. I really rather loathe trying to fit in the shopping and packing around work and our many other commitments. I actually find the lead up quite stressful and have been known to curse the pending trip with all sorts of colourful language as I bounce on the esky lid to make it shut or as I twist and toss the air mattress into the car boot knowing all the while that I will likely be hunting for the repair kit hours later as the air slowly escapes and the hard ground interrupts my camping slumber. The good news is that the part of me that feels the love, far out ways the loathing but I do admit it can sometimes take a few hours post set up to appreciate this. Coincidentally, I think that moment strikes after the tents are pitched, the hours of unpacking is complete up and my husband pours me a large glass of wine. The wine offering is like a peace offering as well as a big high five moment of ‘hurrah’ – “we did it, honey”! For the next few days, I completely surrender to relaxation like not many other trips can give me. It is busy enough sure but the days away from distractions make me stop. I watch our three girls totally absorbed in the experience and their adventures. They have such fun together outdoors -enjoying each other and their friends and without the distraction of technology and the busyness of home life. It makes me feel very peaceful and incredibly thankful. It is really my time when I do stop and smell the roses (or cow manure as it was in this instance but let’s not let the truth get in the way of my story).
We put it out there a few months ago to a very large group of friends to see if anyone would care to join us. We ended up camping with 3 other families whom we actually didn’t know overly well before this trip. I remember saying to Michael as we set off “you know – this can only go one of two ways. It is either going to be a trip we might just have to chalk up to experience or one that we will absolutely love and talk about for all the right reasons for a long time to come”. I am so pleased to report it was the latter. I think as we get older and busier we don’t open ourselves up to new friendships like we did when we were younger. It was so great to get to know these other 3 families so much better. They were super company and the kids all had such a cracking time together. Everyone pitched in when it was needed but everyone relaxed into the weekend and the moments too and it was heaven.
We dine very well when we camp and have had some incredible and very memorable meals around the campfire over the years. A big part of it is definitely the fire, the eating outdoors and the simplicity of it all. We stop, share a meal and generally, we drink and talk for hours into the night whilst the kids toast marshmallows and enjoy being kids. This is a recipe I cooked on our first night. It is actually Stephanie Alexanders Roast lamb recipe that I cook often at home but I have adapted it to cooking outdoors and works a treat. Given you will most likely be cooking in an oven, I will give you the indoor version but have put notes down the bottom for you in case you too ever find yourself camped on the Murray River with other lovely people whom you care to slow down with and enjoy each other.
Serves approx. 6
1.8 – 2 kg leg of lamb
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and halved lengthways
3 anchovy fillets, halved
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of red wine
60ml red wine vinegar
½ bunch fresh thyme
Select an oval-shaped ovenproof cast iron casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid.
Pre-heat oven to 140oC or 120 fan-forced.
With the tip of a sharp knife, make six incisions into the lamb.
Insert 1 half of the anchovy and 1 half of garlic into each incision. Season well with sea salt & pepper & rub well into the lamb.
Heat oil in a heavy based frying pan and seal lamb on all sides until a rich golden brown. Put the lamb in a dish along with the stock. Place the frying pan back on the heat and add the wine. Deglaze pan with this for a minute or two and then pour the warm wine and all the pan juices over the lamb. Add vinegar to the lamb dish also and scatter with thyme.
Put into the oven with the lid on and forget about it for 7 hours. Rest the meat after cooking. When serving, the meat will fall away from the bone. It is delicious served with the lemon, yoghurt & tahini dressing and a big green salad. It is sensational also with freekah pilaf.
If you are cooking on the campfire, prepare in the same way and brown in a heavy pan over the flames to brown. Place lamb on a large sheet of baking paper and fold up the sides/ Place lamb in the camp stove/oven and the remaining ingredients. Secure the baking paper around the lamb and double wrap in foil. Place lamb in the outer coals of the fire to cook. Move every now and then and don’t allow it to be in the fierce heat. I usually find our lamb cooked this way is ready in just a few hours but the longer the better really when cooking in the coals.