These past couple of months, we have spent a few weekends travelling around NSW for various food festivals and events. And it's been great. We returned to Griffith for the Sausage Festival in late August, just last weekend we were in Wellington for the town's annual Wellocal Ball (more on this later) and a couple of weeks before that it were in Grenfell for the breakfast table and then Trundle for Bush Tucker Day.
Weekends like these are my idea of a top time. I love a country show, party and festival; they're unpretentious, fun, family-friendly and a genuine celebration of the farmers and produce of their area. They're also just the kind of thing that keeps rural communities ticking along. Or rather, the people that volunteer their time and services to make them happen, are just the thing that keeps rural communities ticking along.
Trundle Bush Tucker day began in 1987 out the back of the local pub (pictured below) and has since shifted to the showground. And a good thing too - as it now attracts thousands of visitors every year. It's driven by a super hard-working volunteer committee, puts all funds raised back into local charities/projects and brings 'locals' together from a huge catchment area including Parkes and Forbes to Condobolin, Peak Hill, Tullamore and further afield.
It's a brilliant event, and I'd highly highly recommend heading out to the next one (always the first weekend in September) - particularly for city families. Honestly a couple of nights camping at the Trundle showgrounds on Bush Tucker weekend will be one of the best, friendliest and most authentic bush experiences your kids will ever have. There's a camp oven cook-off (with a considerable cash prize), sheep dog competitions, cooking demonstrations, live music, billy boiling competitions, damper throwing and egg and spoon race. Good clean family fun hey!
Contestants in the camp oven cook off come at least a day in advance to get their oven cranking; and they cook everything from pork, lamb and beef from their own farms, to crocodile, witchetty grubs and camel brought with them from further West (and/or North!).
Local families bring their own camp ovens, to cater for their groups, and whether competing in the cook off or not - standards are seriously high. Take Helen's pulled pork, above. Helen and Graham Quade live and farm just out of Trundle and brought with them this year, an enormous camp oven from which Helen fed a great many people with potatoes in their jackets (cooked on the fire of course), pulled pork and a tangy coleslaw. It was so delicious. Ps Helen uses Sarah Wilson's recipe which can be found on her blog.
The kids' section of Bush Tucker Day's camp oven competition is just as hotly contested as the grown-ups. This lot, above and below, made their interpretation of a Maggie Beer chocolate vincotto pavlova, cooked of course, in a camp oven, then served crushed into cups, with cream and berries and called 'Mud Meringue'. Led by clever Jessica (pictured right at the top of this post with said entry), team Mud Meringue won their class. I was lucky enough to try my own serving and it was absolutely delicious.
One of the highlights of this year's event, or me at least, was watching the Master-bush-chef challenge - I'd brought an esky of our venison knuckles with me and a variety of teams, ranging from local high school kids to groups of friends of all ages, competed by creating a dish each that featured our venison, all had been cooked in a camp oven. The creativity and skill each team showed was fantastic and the judges were faced with everything from venison fajitas to pies.
Rose Leighton, pictured below in stripes and a green apron, is a Trundle local and Bush Tucker Day royalty. She's cooked more camp oven meals than most and is an absolute pro. She's also one of the loveliest women I've met in a long time and spent all afternoon working with the aforementioned high school girls helping them in the challenge. As per her generous nature; Rose has since emailed me with a few words on camp oven cooking according to her family. This is something I've never done before but after my weekend in Trundle am very keen to give it a red hot go...
Here are Rose's words on camp oven cooking...
Getting the temperature right is a big thing and that is done by holding your hand 15cm above the oven to judge. I like red wood coals, iron bark around here, and you mustn't keep lifting the lid to check. When cooking meat, I listen for the sizzle and if blue smoke comes out then its too hot.
Lucy, my daughter-in-law, makes beautiful desserts in the campie and Jessica my grand-daughter (pictured right at the top of this post) is following in her footsteps with her mud meringues that won this year's kids' section! My son Mark, is the camp oven king! He cooks fish and every type of meat either baked or in a stew... beautiful. All our family have camp oven areas in their gardens or we just go up the paddock somewhere. All you need is wood close by and the views everywhere this year are lovely. We are having a good season - isn't the countryside a picture!
Thank you so much Cherie Quade for inviting me to come along to this year's event. We'll be back next year, maybe even with a tent and camp oven too!