04/29/14

Felton Food Festival Review – (the tent)

“Build it and they will come” – Felton Food Festival

I love good food, I love good company and I love a good drive; with this in mind Kath (the Caravan), our good friend Gail and I (Rose -the Tent) headed off for the third annual Felton Food Festival.

We rendezvoused at Kath’s place 7:00 am, loaded ourselves  into the freshly fuelled car and headed off.  Gail and I made comment of the dust settled on and in the vehicle. It was explained that the dust is symbolism for the places the family have been and the wonderful memories that have transpired while travelling in their faithful friend.   By return of day old dusty stood proudly  in the driveway coated with more journey dust then whence we began. Felton Food Festival (FFF) is anonymously perched on farm land between green crops of Sorghum, Mung beans and the most beautiful rich black dirt you’ll ever see.   Dirt roads beckoned us to the entrance, not one who entered returned home without Darling Downs Dust veiled over their vehicle.

Making the most of our day and the spectacular weather, we decided the drive from the Sunshine Coast to Felton would  best be personified by hinterland travel.  Sun-swept rolling hills and pastoral  vistas greeted us between the towns of; Beerwah, Kilcoy, Esk, Crows Nest and on to Toowoomba.

A coffee stop and leg stretch at Esk lead us to the quaint and delightful “Lars Restaurant Cafe and Bar”.   Stumbling upon such a wonderful establishment was one thing, but more impressionable was the fact that this place was open and pumping with patrons on a Sunday morning at 8:30am… in Esk… in the middle of nowhere.   Most unfortunate for us, we were to save stomach space for the FFF, so a sit down breakfast at one the outside (dog friendly) tables in the morning sun was not to be. Next time though, next time.   Upon exiting Esk we drove past several other bustling cafes providing nourishment for weary travellers, day trippers and locals alike.   On the return trip at about 5:00pm, Lars restaurant was still open, so, if you’re looking for a remote place to have lunch and are keen for a scenic drive, head out to Esk and take a look around.

Toowoomba and Felton are  part of the beautifully picturesque Darling Downs.  The Darling Downs is a farming region on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range.   There are many ways to arrive at  Toowoomba but none more spectacular then the entrance via the New England Highway through Crows Nest and High Fields.  The view on the drive in was honestly breath taking, I’m so completely disappointed that we didn’t stop for a quick photo.   I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it and one day go and see for yourself.

Through Toowoomba and on to Felton the scenery never failed us.  We knew we were getting close, (cause the Nav-man told us) and because we came to a roaring holt in traffic caused by a “Field of Dreams” moment.  For those of you unfamiliar with Field of Dreams, it is a movie starring Kevin Costner. He builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop and famous dead baseball stars comeback and play games.   I know what you’re thinking and yeah it wasn’t the greatest movie, but… there is a line in the movie “Build it and he will come”.   At the end of the movie cars are lined up for miles and miles zigzagging between the corn fields to go and watch a game.  This was like that moment only our experience took place in daylight, not night time with head lights as in the movie.

Some people were discouraged by the traffic, others would’ve been cross or frustrated with the situation but we thought it was a sight to behold.   It was magical!   After travelling so far to get to there and not fully knowing what to expect, we found reassurance that there was going to be good things on the inside.  Witnessing this site made us feel proud for FFF and proud of ourselves for making  the effort to be there.

We’d unanimously decided that we should park at first opportunity and walk the long distance up to the festival when one of the many wonderful volunteers assured us there was plenty of parking up near the gate.  With pleasant surprise we parked in a freshly ploughed paddock of that richly beautiful black dirt, right in front of the FFF entrance.  To greet us was a rogue rooster. At first we thought he was part of the show, turns out he was just an escapee from a chicken run somewhere and was out to have some festival fun himself.  We saw him several times during the day visiting the store holders and picking at food droppings.  What a day that must have been for him?

Navigating through the sea of people, we headed off to do a lap before getting serious about tackling the festival full strength.  That is, until we found the stall serving the grilled Haloumi skewers with Fig jam and Syrup… yum, yum and more yum!  These guys had service down pat, luckily too, as I think every single festival participant succumbed to these heavenly morsels of Haloumi goodness from Olympus Cheese.  Conveniently situated in the tent next door was the Burleigh Brewing Company. We washed down our cheese with a tasting of their finest brew.  Particularly pleasing was their “28 Pale Ale“,  oddly, it had a slight pear taste to it that was beautifully palatable and aromatic.

Hungry after our long journey from the Coast we were faced with the daunting decision of what to eat next?  There was an Indian curry van (Chef Suda’s Indian Delights), with Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala smells permeating through the clear country air.  French Crepes were tempting. I nearly convinced myself that  a Lamb burger from Felton Beef and Lamb Burgers was the right choice but the line up was as long as the saliva dripping from the corner of my mouth when I sited a plate of Turkish Meze.  Yep, this was me and Kath was on board too.

Queues of people were everywhere.  It was extremely difficult to distinguish where one ended and another one started. I thought I was in the queue for the Turkish van only to find I was in the queue for the toilet!  This was ok though, it had been a long while since our stop at Esk and relief was welcomed.  Finally in the correct line for our Turkish Feast from Sofra Turkish Cuisine, I started wondering if I’d made the right decision?  The smell of the Lamb was trying to beckon me away with great persistence. But still,  the Lamb line zigzagged more than the traffic on the way in and in fear of finding myself in line for another toilet stop, I held fast with my decision for Turkish fare and I was not disappointed.   All the tastings on the plate were extremely delicious but the stand out was definitely the Smoked Eggplant Salad.

Fifty odd stall holders  participated in the event.  Olive producers, regional Wine makers, Chocolate artisans and Gourmet Salt manufacturers were but a few that made the event the outstanding success that it was.  We each purchased an amazing bottle of Caramelised Balsamic from Lira’H. With 6 flavours on offer, Fig, Strawberry, Ginger, Lemon Grass, Apple and Classic, Kath and I decided on the Apple and Gail the Fig.  The trip home was spent hoping that our respective partners had Pork Roasts in the oven to compliment our latest purchase. (This was not to be, for any of us)

Music is an integral part of any good festival and we weren’t let down here either.  Children could pet animals in the small nursery, play in the sand-pit under a tree or just chase the rogue rooster around the event.  But one of the festivals biggest draw cards is the cooking demonstrations under the main marquee.  Celebrity chef Alastair McLeod is a regular participant to the event and talks passionately about the local produce.  Alastair is most entertaining to watch and listen to with his cheeky Irish accent and wit.  But the highlight of the day was when he posed for a quick photo with Kath and Gail, what a great guy.

All in all, the FFF was a pretty darn good day out.  I guess my only criticism would be the balance of food vendors verses the crowd.   However, I think as this festival grows, so too will the number of vendors and perhaps the line ups for some tucker will be slightly less daunting.  Overall, Felton Food Festival should stand proudly at the success of an event in such a remote location.  The community spirit, organisation, marketing and thoughtfulness are all but small players in  the overall ambiance of the day out.  Congratulations to all the volunteers and staff driving the force that was, is and will continue to be the best regional food festival in the Darling Downs.

Stomachs full, gourmet purchases in hand, a visit with our divinely sweet  Auntie Christine who lives in the region and we were ready to head home.  Thanks Felton for a top day out, see you next year!

Rose (the tent)

Felton Food Festival website

 

 

 

04/24/14

Maroochy Palms Holiday Village Review – (the Caravan)

We thought we would get away for a mid-week jaunt in the Expanda.  “I don’t care where, just as long as we get to use our new shower and barbeque plate,” I thought to myself.  So we went somewhere where we required neither. We left home on Wednesday morning at 10:54am and 17 minutes later, having travelled the enormous total of 18 kilometres, we checked in for two nights at the Maroochy Palms Holiday Village.

Maroochy Palms set up

Maroochy Palms set up

There were a few reasons for this, not the least of which being that if you are going to be part of a blog writing about your caravanning adventures, then you had actually need to go somewhere.

One of the boofhead dogs

One of the boofhead dogs

Another major reason for this choice was our boofhead dogs, Apollo and Bucky.  Maroochy Palms is close enough that we can duck home and let the dogs sleep on the couch for an hour so that they don’t become maladjusted.  Oh…and feed them….yes, feed them.

Yet another reason is that thought that you shouldn’t overlook things that are right under your nose.  Staying local makes you appreciate the area in new ways.  I cannot even think how long it would have been since I have walked across the bridge to Chambers Island in the middle of the Maroochy River, probably at least 35 years.  I have driven past the Waterfront Hotel on the David Low Way countless times over the years, but before this week had never had a meal there. I know it’s a little bit different, but I lived in Mount Isa for five years when I began my teaching career and in that time never made it to Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill Gorge) in that time.  Twenty years later I had to travel more than 2000 kilometres to visit something that had once been on my doorstep.

A quick internet search revealed that all of the Sunshine Coast Council operated parks were either booked, or a seven night minimum stay. The dogs would probably have ripped us limb from limb had we denied them their creature comforts for that long, so we needed to find somewhere less restrictive. The Maroochy Palms Holiday Village ticked the boxes and had vacancies.

maroochydore palmsMaroochy Palms is part of the Big 4 chain, and our experience with Big 4 has been pretty good in the past. We were very impressed with the park.  Check in is from 10:30am; this was a lovely surprise allowing you to maximise your first day.  It is beautifully landscaped and pristinely maintained.  I felt that the individual sites were quite spacious, in a caravan park sense.  Let’s face it; it’s a caravan park, and it’s in a prime spot, so it needs to fit lots of people in.  But there were garden beds behind the sites on our street, separating us from the sites at the back of us.  And  the car space for our site was in front of our van not behind it.  When your car is parked behind your van and you end up sitting under your awning looking at the neighbour’s car it can be a bit odd, but we’ve been at places where this is the set-up and I much prefer the Maroochy Palms layout.  Each site has its own rubbish bin too.  That’s a nice touch.

There is an on-site shop where you can grab a coffee, iceblock or a light meal or pick up the things you might need like milk, toothpaste and bait, but not any fruit or vegetables. So if you are after solitary tomato like I was, you will have to go for a short drive. Next door to the shop is an internet and TV room.  We had set our Foxtel box to record MKR, so didn’t need to use it.

The amenities block looks like it has been recently refurbished; modern tiling and fittings, spacious shower cubicles, great water pressure and heaps of hot water. The laundry has a bank of gleaming stainless steel washing machines that automatically dispense detergent and huge driers. There’s a great camp kitchen as well with the usual barbies, fridge and microwave.

On-site mini golf at Maroochy Palms Holiday Village

On-site mini golf at Maroochy Palms Holiday Village

I really like the area for kids.  There is a great pool (not as large as some of the photos on the website make it seem, but big enough), which is right next to the mini tennis court. There is the Big 4 signature jumping pillow (which adults are welcome to enjoy as well), which backs on to the Royal Palms 9-hole mini golf course, a games room, a small gym and an enclosed playground for the littlies.  All of these facilities border an open grassed area where kids can kick or throw a ball, and the management has even provided a soccer goal and a set of cricket wickets to encourage such activity.  Essentially, if you had a tribe of kids, you could find yourself a nice position near the pool settle in with a coffee and a trashy mag and be able to keep an eye on all your kids from the one spot as they run from one activity to the next.   I really was impressed with this layout.  It made so much sense.

During school holidays there is Kids’ Club with scheduled activities  and nightly open air movies, as well as “train” rides  around the complex twice daily; a noisy little black “engine” towing a couple of buggy loads of kids, always with a tribe more chasing behind it.

There is a lake at the back of the property.  I imagine at times this is a beautiful place to have a barbeque, but there wasn’t much water in it when we visited.  Not much the owners can do about that if it doesn’t rain.

Cross Bradman Avenue and you can throw a line into the Maroochy River. That’s how we spent Wednesday afternoon, mostly feeding prawns to canny fish who knew how to avoid the hook, but occasionally enjoying the thrill of bagging an undersized bream and then trying to avoid the spiny back fin in removing the hook to throw him back in.  Fish are so unappreciative of the assistance you are trying to provide.  Of course the highlight of our fishing that afternoon was when Connor caught the mud crab.  Just ask him.  He’ll tell you about it.  And add embellishment (he gets that from his father, I’m sure).  And if no-one asks him about it for about 30 minutes, he’ll manage to work it back into conversation.

Connor's mud crab

Connor’s mud crab

Mark's big catch

Mark’s big catch

Wednesday night we enjoyed a meal at the Waterfront Hotel (just a short drive down the road) , where we were surprised to find Connor’s meal was free and I was only being charged $5 per glass of Bailey and Bailey Savignon Blanc which was on the wine list for $6. Mark was defeated by a 600g rump with Moreton Bay bug and I enjoyed Twice-cooked Pork Belly.  No pork cutlet on the menu, so my quest to find Australia’s best one goes on hold.

Thursday morning started with the Camping Crumpets (recipe and pics elsewhere on this site)  before more fishing, this time walking the bridge to Chamber’s Island (which seemed a lot more terrifying when I was kid), catching and releasing another unappreciative bream and half a dozen much friendlier whiting.  We picked up hot chips for lunch from the take-away then back to Maroochy Palms to enjoy the pool, the pillow and the pleasant surrounds, a camp cooked meal and a lovely relaxing night.

Home/camp made crumpets with fig and honey, yum!

Home/camp made crumpets with fig and honey, yum!

We had a fantastic couple of nights.  It was Connor who made the observation, “Mum, I don’t know whether it’s because we usually go further away, but it feels like we’re a long way from home.”  Too true, Connor and all the more reason for us to continue to visit places on our doorstep.

Here’s their website: http://www.maroochypalms.com.au

Kath (The Caravan)

04/11/14

Camping Crumpets Recipe

Home/camp made crumpets with fig and honey, yum!

Home/camp made crumpets with fig and honey, yum!

There are some foods that you can’t imagine being anything other than store bought. I know nobody who makes their own filo pastry.  And who has ever whipped up a batch of sponge finger biscuits only to dowse them in espresso and stick them in a tiramisu?  And crumpets. Surely they only come straight out of the Tip Top Bakery.

So imagine my surprise to find that you can make your own crumpets, and can do so camping?  Now, really, I have to thank Ben O’Donaghue for this epiphany.  I was doing a bit of channel surfing and came across an episode of his program Drive Thru Australia, my interest being piqued because the episode was set in our local stomping ground, the Sunshine Coast.

Camp cooking

Scrumpets!

In particular, he paid a visit to the Buderim Ginger Factory at Yandina and toured through the factory.  Now that he can have all to himself:  I guess this is why I will never be a very good food blogger, because I am not the biggest fan of ginger.  I like a bit of ground ginger in a spice cake, and if it’s really cold don’t mind a nip of Stone’s Green Ginger wine, but in the main my palate and ginger just don’t agree.  Maybe it comes back to that very first time I had sushi.  It was on a flight to Japan and I eagerly scoffed what I thought was a little piece of smoked salmon – a mistake this little black duck has made only once!

So watching Ben standing next to steaming vats of pre-crystalised ginger almost made my stomach churn.  Luckily, he got out of there pretty quick-smart and having picked up a couple of ginger products, parked his van outside a national park and proceeded to whip up a batch of crumpets right out there in the open.   With my newly acquired knowledge that crumpets don’t have to come out of a packet, I resolved I would have to try these for myself.

That required taking the caravan on a little trip.  Of course I could have made the things in my own kitchen, but when you’re trying to be a smarty pants, there’s no better place to do it than in a caravan park or camping ground with the potential for passing pedestrian traffic to marvel over your culinary expertise, or call for the fire brigade if everything goes awry.

To get the recipe, I went to the Heatbeads website, Heatbeads being the sponsor of Drive Thru Australia.  The recipe was posted there, and I was able to re-watch the segment from the program.  I noticed that there were a couple of discrepancies between the printed recipe and what Ben used in the video, particularly in relation to the amount of sugar.  The recipe cited only a teaspoon, but the video said about a tablespoon.  So I did a bit of googling for other crumpet recipes (yes there were heaps.  Apparently people have been making their own crumpets for years, and haven’t even been too secretive about it) and came up with 2 teaspoons as a happy compromise.

So here’s my recipe for Camping Crumpets – with a nod to Ben O’Donaghue.

Camping Crumpets

Ingredients:

2 cups plain flour

1 sachet (7g) dried yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

200ml milk at room temperature (Ben used full cream; I used low fat and the crumpets still turned out well)

200ml soda water at room temperature (Cascade produces soda water in 200ml cans)

½ teaspoon bi carb of soda

1 teaspoon of salt

Spray oil

A lovely butter, like Lurpak

A jam or conserve of choice

Method:

Place flour, yeast and sugar into a bowl and give it a stir to mix. Make a well in the centre and add the milk. Stir until combined.  Add the soda water and stir vigorously until smooth.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warmish place until the mixture double in size and has lots of air bubbles (60 – 90 minutes).  Take the opportunity to go for a stroll along a river, cast a few lines or take a short bush walk. (See why this is a great recipe for camping?)

Having worked up an appetite,  return to the mix and add the bi carb and salt to the mixture and stir to combine.

Heat a barbeque plate or gas cooker to a medium heat.  You don’t want the crumpets to cook too quickly.  Spray the plate or frying pan as well as four egg rings.  Add a couple of dessert spoons of the crumpet mix to each ring.  Don’t overfill them because the mixture will rise.  Cook for about six minutes until the crumpets have risen and there are lots of holes in them.  Flip them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and jam. Yummy.

camp crumpets

Air bubbles forming in the proving dough

You should get 12-13 crumpets out of this recipe using standard egg rings.  If you are lucky enough to actually own crumpet rings, you will get fewer, but bigger crumpets.

Now these crumpets don’t look exactly the same as the store bought ones, nor do they taste the same – they are so much better! I can’t imagine eating a store bought one again!

I thought the crumpets balanced beautifully with the sweetness of the jam, but if you find the dough a little salty you can adjust the sugar.  Remember, the video version used “about a tablespoon”.

And here’s the added bonus.  There were only three of us for breakfast, so we had a few crumpets left over.  For breakfast the next day, I cut them down the centre, dipped them in an egg and milk mix and made French Toast.  Doused in maple syrup and served with bacon, they made for a delicious heart attack on a plate, but as a sometimes/camping treat, go wild!

One special note to myself:  when you are on a powered site and have a microwave, there is no need to set an alarm for 5:00 am to pour a glass of milk to leave out to get to room temperature.  Definitely one of those “Duh!” moments.

And if you want to watch Ben O’Donaghue do it, here’s the link. http://www.heatbeads.com.au/recipe/ben-odonoghues-homemade-crumpets/

Enjoy.

Kath (The Caravan)

04/10/14

Camp-Oven Blueberry and Apple Cake

They say anything you cook at home you can replicate in a campsite?  We test this theory each time we go camping by trying something slightly challenging. Of course anything you cook on the stove top is easy, we prefer the adventure of pushing our camp-ovens to new boundaries.  On a recent trip we made this delicious Apple and Blueberry cake.

Campoven cooking

Apple and Blueberry goodness.

Apple and Blueberry Cake

 

1 ½ cups self raising flour, sifted

¾ cup caster sugar

125 g softened butter

½ cup milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

l large tin of canned apple slices  (I think they’re about 750gms)

1 punnet of fresh blueberries (canned if more convenient, well drained)

Cinnamon Topping

1 tablespoon caster sugar *

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon *

* I used ready mixed cinnamon sugar, 2-3 teaspoons. (Much easier when camping.)

  1. Place flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a bowl and beat until ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Spoon half the mixture into a greased and lined 20 cm round cake tin. Top with half the apple slices and half the blueberries, then remaining batter. Arrange remaining apple and blueberries over the batter.
  3. To make the topping, combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cake. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand cake in tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.
Camping recipie

Straight out of the camp-oven. Do we really have to wait for it to cool?

 

As you would in a normal kitchen environment you must preheat your camp-oven in your coals so it is lovely and hot. Place a trivet in the bottom of the camp-oven. When your oven has come to heat (a little bit of guess work here) place the cake (in its cake tin) into the oven on top of the trivet.  Load a pile of coals on top of the oven and sit back with an afternoon beverage… and maybe a cheese plate?

Check your cake after fourty minutes by testing with a skewer. The skewer should be starting to get a little dry by now, so if the mix is still really wet you need to check the coals under the oven and refresh them. Take this opportunity to see what’s happening to the top of your cake. If it’s still looking a little wet, or it’s not starting to brown on the outside edges you should add a fresh batch of coals to the top of your oven.  Pile it up nice and high and check it again in fifteen to twenty minutes. When the skewer comes out clean your cake is cooked. I always think that when you get that really intense, waft of cake smell flying through the air you know your cake is done or its really close.

Camp cooking

This is the concept for the alfoil handles. It works well if you have no other suitable tools.

Now the tricky part. “How on earth do I get this tin out of that oven”?  Well, you might be lucky like I was and just manage to slip your HEAVILY gloved hand down the side and pull it out. It is suggested though that being organised is probably a better option. Pull off a strip of alfoil long enough to go under the cake tray and up the sides high enough for it to act as a handle.  Tear/cut the alfoil into two long strips.  Fold each strip over and over (length ways) to give a little bit of strength to the foil.  Place the two bits of foil under the cake tin a cross pattern before placing your cake into the oven.

Let your cake rest in the tin for ten minutes before turning it out.  I like the convenience of custard when camping but if you have a freezer on board I think it would be mighty fine with some ice-cream too

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Triff – The Trailer

04/3/14

Noosa River Holiday Park, Munna Point – Review (the tent)

I often talk to people living on the coast who whip down to one of the local caravan parks for a quick weekend getaway.  A lot of these people will take a quick trip home to feed the dogs or whatever animals need tending and hurriedly make their way back to their weekend haunt.

Growing up on the Coast and returning after a few many years has been great, but I often wish that I could experience this wonderful place with fresh eyes.  Well  last weekend I had a touch of that wish with our best friends Neisha and Damien. They have just relocated (after three years away) back to Noosa.  Rather than jumping straight back into “life” they decided the first few weeks would be best spent holidaying in a camper trailer at Noosa River Holiday Park at beautiful Munna Point.

One of the un-powered sites down on the river

One of the un-powered sites down on the river

Talk about location, location, location!  This place literally could not be any closer to the water, lest you be sleeping on a blow up mattress bouncing over gentle waves with a Pelican pecking at your toes as the sun rises.

Keen to make the most of our weekend, we arrived nice and early on Saturday morning and left just after dark  Sunday evening.  It was slightly odd upon arrival!  We’ve driven through Noosa myriad times before, but not with our camping clobber and so close to Hasting St, about to pitch a tent… odd indeed.   But, aforementioned, I really felt new to the area, like a tourist,  but in my own back yard.  Plentiful times I’ve walked, driven or worked near Noosa River, always envious of the water shenanigans, that seem, in some way, to tease those with less fortunate agendas.  How lucky I felt now! It was my time to enjoy the river, the sunshine, the fishing, the sand in my toes and the convenience of all this just metres from our pitched tent.

Noosa River Holiday Park is located on Russell St at Munna Point.  For those of you not familiar with the area, Munna Point is a mere five or so minute drive from Noosa’s famous Hasting St.  The park plays host to caravans, camper trailers and tents.  The sites are very close to each other and allocated upon booking.  Bring your boat, kayak, paddle board or jet ski as the park has its own boat ramp and Noosa river is a water sports haven.

The park has very large and well kept amenities. Upon check in you are given a security code to allow access to the amenities block. This made me feel pretty cool, kinda like a spy. Our 4 digit code was made up of the numbers one and two, rather appropriate I thought, given the nature of the business conducted inside, if you know what I mean!

We don’t usually cook in the communal kitchen when camping, but if you visit this place I think it’s a must, at least once. The area is spacious, with bbqs and a microwave and we found it to be quite the pleasant social outing.  It’s proximity lends itself beautifully to the reflection of Noosa in the  rippling waters of the river.  The mass of sand on one side is the perfect haven for kids to play while you’re preparing your dinner. In fact, I decided it would be a good idea to hold an impromptu Sand-Castle building Continue reading