Cooking up a Colonial Storm…. Fun School Camp Recipes your students will love making!
Today’s reality TV cooking programs – where chefs rush to a well-stocked pantry and select from exotic meats, aromatic herbs and fresh fruit and vegetables – are a far cry from the original colonial Australian kitchen. This camp, get back to basics with your students and enjoy a Masterchef moment – colonial Australia-style!
Tonight, the kids in your school camp will clatter and clang their way into the camp kitchen, grab a plate, and then be served a hot and nutritious two or three-course meal.
They will have no idea that just a few generations ago, their peers would not only have hunted down their dinner, but helped cook it.
Boys of yesteryear would likely have spent the afternoon trapping wild birds, rabbits or fish from the hills and creeks surrounding their home. The girls would have been working away in the kitchen all day, kneading dough for the bread, gathering eggs and peeling vegetables dug by hand from the garden.
When they finally sat down to dinner, it would have been a fairly plain affair; most likely a plate of boiled or roasted meat with bread, dripping and perhaps some mashed potato, turnip or swede.
The history books show that the first settlers to Australia did it tough. Greeted with a harsh climate and parched soil, many of the fruit and vegetable seeds and saplings that were so carefully packed and brought over from Great Britain withered and died before producing a single crop. For many families, rabbit, wild birds and potatoes were dietary staples.
In the early 1790s the first female free settlers arrived in Australia. Slowly and steadily they worked alongside their husbands, brothers and fathers, building homes, planting permanent gardens, raising livestock, bringing up families, and creating and shaping communities and towns.
The kitchen – and more particularly the stove - was the heart and soul of the colonial Australian home. It was in the kitchen that food was prepared, stories swapped, deals negotiated, tea made and friendships forged.
If the house was lucky enough to have a bread oven as well as a conventional stove, its inhabitants could enjoy freshly-baked bread, pies and cakes – something they may have taken for granted in their country of birth, but a real treat in their new homeland.
Masterchefs of yesteryear…..a school camp exercise for students.
There was no popping down to the shop for some fresh milk or a pound of sugar in times gone by…..everything had to be planned.
How would today’s students cope with the life of our colonial forebears? As you sit around the campfire making billy tea and damper with the recipes provided below, chat with students about meal and food preparation in colonial times.
Damper is basic bread that can be cooked over a campfire. The bread originated in colonial Australia more out of necessity than gourmet appeal. Stockmen were often away from home for weeks on end and had just a camp fire to cook on and basic provisions such as dried beef, sacks of flour and salt to work with. The original damper bread dough was made from flour, water and a good pinch of salt. This is a slightly more appealing version, with milk and butter added.
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Billy tea was the name given to tea that was boiled in a large can over a fire by our drovers and early settlers. Often, green gum leaves were added to the infusion for extra flavour. The name most likely originated from the cans that were used to transport ‘bully beef’ on Australian-bound ships.
In Australia, the billy has come to symbolise the spirit of exploration of the outback. This is beautifully expressed in the first verse and chorus of Banjo Patterson’s Walzing Mathilda: ‘And he sang as he watched and waited ‘til his billy boiled…’ Billies also feature in many of Henry Lawson’s stories and poems.
Warning If you plan to use hot water, make sure you practice with cold water first. Adults should always supervise.
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