Take a pinch of humour, a dash of competitiveness, a sprinkle of culinary creativity and mix it with a group of Aussie larrikins... what do you get? The perfect ingredients for a camp oven cookbook.
What started as a bit of fun for a father and son to beat the pandemic blues, has turned into a whole caper which includes a 'mini series' with a global Facebook following and a book deal.
Newcastle-based photographer and journalist, Peter Lorimer, and his son Jack, based in Gunnedah in northern NSW, decided to have a camp oven cook-off.
Then blew in poet, author and entertainer, Murray Hartin - an old mate of Pete's. The pair met when 'Muz' was a young journo pumping out stories for the Northern Daily Leader newspaper in Tamworth and 'Loz' was writing and snapping pics for The Namoi Valley Independent just up the road in Gunnedah.
With a mutual love of rum, laughs and good times their paths were always destined to cross, and it seems their shared passions have kept their friendship stewing.
"Loz, rang and told me what was going on, explained how a two-man camp oven cooking duel between he and Jack had exploded into 5000 people getting on Facebook to join the fun and asked if I could knock up a poem to commemorate the occasion," Muz said. "No dramas."
They organised a get together at Jack's in Gunnedah; Muz drove from Moree while Loz and his wife Trace motored in from Newcastle.
"We had a great night around the campfire, debuted the new poem and partook of the best pork crackling I'd ever had, courtesy of Loz," Muz said.
"I was speaking to publisher Michael Wilkinson on the way down, he asked if I'd written anything new lately and I gave him the spiel about The Great Corona Virus Camp Oven Cook-Off.
"He said, 'That could be a book'. And so here we are."
The team even created their own YouTube channel and shot a 10-episode series, posting a show weekly. Pete's live posts announcing the theme for each weekend's cook-off was one part instructional, three parts comedy.
The fun lit-up from episode one where Loz and Muz cooked pizzas in a 12 quart camp oven, over butane burners in an fourth floor apartment, overlooking Newcastle city.
Later they cooked-up a curry storm which included an interview with publican and bush rugby legend, Bruce Hockings from the Tambar Springs Hotel, 50km down the road from Gunnedah.
They even visited the Newcastle Westpac Rescue Chopper base where they whipped-up a mouthwatering feed for more than 20 of the crew.
"But the most magical thing of the whole caper is, 12,500-plus people have jumped on The Great Corona Virus Camp Oven Cook-Off bandwagon and they're having a ball," Muz said.
"It's brought families together and given them something fun to do during lockdown.
"What started out as a simple plan to beat the Kung Flu boredom between a father and son has provided a ton of enjoyment for not only people around Australia, people on foreign shores have even got in on the act. That's got to be a good thing.
"You're flat out buying a camp oven anywhere and the imagination in the recipes sent in has been nothing short of remarkable."
The book features a bit of camp oven history, a page on how to restore old camp ovens and how to set up for under $120.
The start of each chapter features one of Muz's poems such as Turbulence, Rain From Nowhere, The Big Whisperer, Fishin' For Cod, The Slouch Hat... and one or two of Pete's great rural pics.
And then there is the 'actual' cooking chapters. These include recipes such as Stew for Stu, Stuff It, Chilli ring-burners, Sweet Treats and plenty more.
There are over 120 recipes from more than 80 different contributors, and there is one special poem featured which was written by Muz particularly for this project: The Great Coronavirus Camp Oven Cook-Off.
"It's been a lot of fun, a lot of work to get it over the line and we're extremely happy with the result," Muz said. "We also have to acknowledge the huge contribution made by Loz's better half, Tracy, and daughter Molly."
Muz said he had always thought camp oven cooking was like some secret squirrel organisation where you needed a five-year apprenticeship before they even let you near a fire.
"But like most cooking, it's really about getting the right ingredients, getting the right amount of heat and not adding too much of anything, particularly chilli. And the big thing to remember is - recipes are only a guide."
One of the great things about the book is, if you don't like fires or have an aversion to gas-burners, you can prepare just about all of the recipes in your kitchen using conventional ovens, stove-tops, slow cookers or pressure cookers - but it's not nearly as much fun.
Camp Oven Cooking, the complete Aussie guide by 'larrikins on the loose' Muz Hartin, Pete and Jack Lorimer is available online at wilkinsonpublishing.com.au.
The Great Coronavirus Camp Oven Cook-Off
There's this bloke, I know him well,
A photo/journo, mad as hell
And, yeah, I've drunk a lot of Bundy with this man.
Pete Lorimer's his name,
Camp oven cooking is his game
And a few weeks back he came up with a plan.
He rang his son in Gunnedah
And said "This might sound bizarre
"But Jack my boy I really think it's time,
"You think you're cooking's pretty cool
"So let's draw swords and have a duel,
"Take some photos and we'll post it all online."
Well it's created quite a buzz
From the cities to the scrub,
Camp oven sales are going through the roof
As more people draw their swords,
Fan their fires, jump on board,
There's nothin' light, we're talking overproof.
It's The Great Corona Virus Cook-Off
And while it's time that Kung Flu took off
We've gotta make the best of what we've got,
So have a crack, get inspired,
Go outside and light a fire,
Grab some meat and throw it in the pot.
They've been used Australia over,
For the likes of jackaroos and drovers,
RM Williams, Jackie Howe, the deal was real.
No KFC or Maccas
For these seasoned Birdsville Trackers,
Just a humble oven made of iron or steel.
Now from Humpty Doo to Yorkey's Knob
There's crazy cookers on the job,
What they're shovin' in their ovens's outa sight,
Trout and ducks and bangers,
One truckie cooked some Vegie sangers
And by "Vegie", well, I'm talking Vegemite!
How's that for Aussie tucker?!
And now all them other truckers
Can feel their cookin' fingers sorta itchin'.
No doubt they'll jump in too
With Magpie Pie or Rabbit Stew,
Nothing's off the menu in this kitchen.
Combine Red Chilli, Jalapenos,
Chicken stock, Tequila, vino,
Curry, spuds and just a hint of meat
But make sure you're near a dunny
Or it won't be very funny,
This Humdinger Ringer Stinger packs some heat.
So join the lawyers, teachers, brickies
And the doctors chuckin' sickies
Just so they can get in on the act.
This new Camp Oven Cordon Bleu
Makes Masterchef look amateur,
12,000-plus have joined the team and that's a fact.
It's open slather, chicks and fellas,
All you Jamies and Nigellas,
This camp-oven cooking gig is Number One,
Still, take care, don't play the fool,
Obey the social distance rules
But that don't mean you still can't have some fun.
Take your photos, crop 'em, file 'em,
Send to The Lunatic Asylum
With your recipes to tell us what it is
And if your tucker's not too crook
You could end up in the book
But geez the competition's pretty stiff.
So I bow down to my mate,
What you've done is bloody great
Lorimer you're a legend don't you know.
You've put smiles on lots of dials
That spread for bloody miles,
The Great Coronavirus Cook-Off, what a show!!
Muz Hartin April 9, 2020
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