If you told me I’d one day have the word ‘cook’ in my job title I wouldn’t have believed you in a million years. Yes, I’m a massive foodie all right but that doesn’t mean I cook. I’ve had many debates in the past about how I can judge other peoples food without knowing how it is created. However, despite cooking only a handful of dishes in my life, namely stir-fry veggies and the odd tinned tuna salad, I DO know my stuff when it comes to the world of food and drink and if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s knowing whether a dish meets the mark.
I was left at the homestead on my second day at the cattle station where I am working in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. As I waved goodbye to my colleagues, sheer fear came over me.
“How on earth am I going to cook for six people, including three grown men who eat more than the average cow?”
I took a look around the homestead to see what I had to work with. Unsurprisingly for a house in the middle of the Australian outback, there wasn’t much of a selection apart from a huge freezer full of beef. Bollocks. I hate beef (apart from Wagyu if cooked correctly and beautifully presented in a dainty portion) and I’ve certainly never cooked it before.
Twice a week, I’m responsible for providing four meals a day; breakfast, smoko (originating in the British Merchant Navy, Smoko is a short morning break taken by workers in Australia and New Zealand. A light meal is served with sweet and savoury dishes), lunch and dinner. There’s certainly been a few disasters that’s for sure, like that time when……
My first casserole was going splendidly until it came close to dinner time and I realised it wasn’t quite hot enough to serve. The slow-cooker was taking an awful long time to heat up so I placed it on the hob to give it a quick blast of heat to warm it up. BIG MISTAKE. The whole thing exploded sending deep red casserole all over the kitchen. Fail number one.
Or that time when….
My first corned beef silverside smelt divine (I even learnt what a studded onion was!) so I left it boiling while I popped out. On my drive back to the house I noticed a strange smell and realised it was coming from the kitchen. The whole bottom had burnt to a crisp leaving the meat tasting of fag ash and the house smelling for days.
I forgot to take photos amidst the panic so I won’t go on about my many kitchen cock-ups and anyway, practice makes perfect, or so they say! I’ve now mastered how to cook bacon, rice and potatoes, how to fry an egg, and how to reduce the chance of a soggy bottom. I’ve produced bakes Paul and Mary would be proud of and my dinners have received oodles of compliments – make way for an expanding head!
Without many of the listed ingredients, I rarely follow a recipe and rather make it up myself. The key is to add a little of something at a time and taste it to see if it needs more. I know what good food tastes like so by trying the dish throughout cooking, I’ve been able to produce some fantastic flavours. And no, this isn’t just an excuse to eat my way through the day – though that’s usually what happens! I’m going to share with you my favourite creations to date so you can make them at home too – just click on the links for the full recipe.
I had to substitute many of the ingredients found in the original recipe but this semi-healthy dish impressed the whole table. Quick and easy to make too!
You can roll just about anything in pastry to make a great snack for smoko. I’ve included mince bolagnese, beef curry, Cornish mince, chilli con carne, the list goes on.
I baked this popular Australian treat to commemorate Anzac Day. As I was missing coconut – a key ingredient – I included cinnamon sugar instead which went perfectly. Ginger and almond would have worked well too.
These are best removed from the oven before they are fully baked, giving a deliciously gooey centre. The edges harden up when left to cool on the baking tray so you can pick them up mess free. Irresistible!
Why not try your hands at a few of these recipes, all which went down a treat with the guys on the station. They are not only simple to make but perfect if you don’t have many ingredients to work with. I’m so glad I’ve found a new love for cooking and I am learning something new with every dish.
Over the next couple of months I will be bringing you more of my favourite recipes and outback tales about life on a cattle station. If you have a favourite recipe you’d like me to try my hands at making, please share it in the comments section at the bottom of this post – I’m always on the look out for new ideas!
Living life, loving cooking,