By Franz Scheurer
Most country towns are pretty resilient when it comes to survival and fund raising. Blinman is no exception, however Maureen and Tony of Blinman Hotel fame, have devised a weekend that exceeds expectations on all fronts:
The Cook Out Back - Blinman Hotel Camp Oven Cook Off
This is a cooking competition that captures everyone from the lonesome cocky to the station cook, the Toorak Tractor brigade, the tourist, the eternally hopefuls and chefs and cooks from the hospitality industry.
Contestants cook with meat (a leg of lamb with carrots, potatoes and onions) and flour on alternate days, and the rules are simple: use the given ingredients, add anything you want, but only use a camp oven or Bedourie (pressed metal camp oven) to cook. Present one plate to the judges at a given time and hope for the best! It’s a ‘rain, hail or shine’ affair and the hot coals are supplied.
The weekend is a way to raise funds for the Flying Doctor Service and it could never be done without all the sponsors, the hardworking locals, family and friends who all give their time freely. It’s an amazing bonding exercise and only a pair or ears seem to contain the smiles on all the local’s faces.
The weekend is structured around fun. There is music, damper throwing competitions, swag rolling competitions, beer, wine, chicken, pork, lamb, lamingtons and more beer. All contestants are sharing a fun atmosphere without any animosity as to ‘who will win’. This automatically produces food to put a smile on the judges' faces. You’ll see Moroccan Stews, Shepherd’s Pies, Rolled Roasts, Mignonettes on Rösti Potatoes, Boiled Legs of Lamb and many other meaty surprises. You’ll smell and adore Straight Dampers, Apricot Rolly Pollies, filled Dampers, Pretzels, Focaccia, Stuffed Breads, Pies and even Danishes. The inventiveness is amazing and the standards are high. Just because you’re a professional cook don’t expect to win; some of these guys have used camp ovens for decades and know a thing or two about heat.
This year I was lucky enough to be one of the judges and I must say I was impressed. The event was MCed by John Schumann, musician and writer extraordinaire and he did a fantastic job.
The second meat prize went to site # 40 for ‘Sheep & Creek’ a roast lamb dish with grilled yabbies and a yabby sauce.
The second flour prize went to site # 10 for their Profiteroles.
First meat prize went to site #1 for a brilliant Shepherd’s Pie and the first flour prize to site # 17 for a delicious Rolly Polly using mum’s recipe.
Overall winner, again, was site # 17 and we would like to congratulate everyone for their supreme efforts.
When I strolled around the sites I was impressed with site # 26’s simple, but perfectly cooked Lamb Roast, and their Gibson Dessert Cakes the next day showed off their camp oven skills. I loved the presentation of the Lamb Biryani of site #3 and site #5’s Seasoned Lamb with Potato Wedges had to be tried to be believed. The French team on site #18 convinced more with their choice of old, venerable French wines than their food but they certainly left a strong impression. Site #28 proved to the judges that they knew how to cook a Rogan Josh, an original Kashmiri lamb curry. My question to site #1 would have to be: ‘Where’s the cream?”
So if you want to have fun next year, either enter or be a spectator, but be there, it’s always on the October long weekend. The Blinman Hotel offers hotel and motel rooms and campsites. There are many ‘wild’ campsites from Parachilna to Blinman, the Glass Gorge is particularly beautiful. Nearby stations also offer campsites (most with showers and toilets) and Angorichilna is one of the best maintained and cleanest campgrounds around. Tell Dave I sent you…