“Wanna go camping?”
“You don’t have to sleep in a tent…”
Big 4 Easts Beach at Kiama
“It’s in Kiama. You like the fish and chips there right? And the blowhole?”
(a silence from mum)
“Go by yourself!”
“It’s in a cabin across the road from the beach…”
“… I haven’t been away in a while I suppose.”
And so it was that a few weeks later, the parents, a box of emergency cooking implements and I were piled into the car for a road trip to Big 4 Easts Beach.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never stayed the night at a caravan park before. Most of my camping experiences involve tents and a lack of amenities… and most of my other holidays tend to the luxurious end of the spectrum. So when I got an invite from the girls at PR Edge to come check out the facilities at Big 4 East Beach, I was a little apprehensive if not rather curious.
Apprehension disappeared as we drove up to our accommodation for the evening, a Sea Breeze Spa Villa situated right across the (narrow, private) road from Easts Beach. Within moments, we’d pulled a stack of chairs out onto the balcony and sat (with our respective electronic devices) relaxing in the soft sunlight to the sound of tiny waves crashing onto the shore.
The cabin has everything you’d need for a stay-cation. The kitchen has a four burner gas stove, full sized fridge, oven, microwave and kettle. As it turns out, the only thing I ended up using from my bag of emergency kitchen supplies was a sharp knife. The remaining cooking implements were handily located in a neatly organised drawer.
There are two bedrooms, joined in a confusingly circular manner via the shared bathroom (more on that below!)
Seeing as I’d invited my parents (and seeing as they were not-no-way-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me about the bunk beds), I managed to snag the room for three on the left. A quick twitter poll later that night had me decide to sleep on the top bunk, where I quickly realised that:
1. I hadn’t slept on the top bunk of anything for at least 5 years.
2. Climbing up a ladder to bed is much easier than climbing down a ladder out of bed come morning.
3. That bunk bed is way higher up than it looks from the ground.
After spending a confusing night dreaming of endlessly climbing ladders and landing on soft cushiony clouds only to tumble down, down, down out of them as soon as I relaxed, I decided that perhaps a bottom bunk might have been the more sensible option.
Similarly sensible would have been the choice to use the jacuzzi bath that we’d been provided with. Which I would have done, had I not been distracted by Eurovision / the howling cold and wind outside that made the thought of climbing out of a warm liquidy cocoon too unbearable to allow.
Soap, shampoo, conditioner and body wash, as well as clean fluffy towels are provided in these cabins and aren’t all that bad (unless you’re a must-use-a-certain-brand kind of person, that is. I’m not.)
the BIG 4 ultimate camp cooking challenge
But the real reason I was down at Big 4 Easts Beach (I mean, aside from the break away from Sydney and the promise of a beachside holiday) was for a camp cooking challenge.
The goal: to make a hearty, delicious and nutritious meal for a starving family of four with only $30 to spend on ingredients.
Also, we only had 1 hour to cook it in.
Also, we were cooking in the camp kitchen. Which we had to share. And it would likely be cold in / out there.
(Also, I may have added the word “starving” into the goal because um… I’m always really hungry?)
Sure! Why not?
The camp kitchen is a facility designed to be shared amongst all of the park’s users. Whilst there are barbecue stands scattered about the site, this kitchen is where it’s at it you want to cook a real hearty meal. Complete with four barbecue tops, two ovens, two four burner stoves, a microwave, kettle and fridge, you can pretty much make whatever it is you’d make at home.
We met so many interesting people during our allocated cooking time.
A guy from South Africa who’d caravanned across the Nullabor and was on his last leg before heading home.
A couple from Tasmania who were driving their brand new caravan back home from Brisbane.
Two girls from Sydney who were taking up all the bench space and making fancy things on the stove whilst being filmed… oh wait. That was us.
And the results!
A cajun spiced chicken with warm grilled vegetable salad and polenta from me (with enough leftover to donate vegetables to just about anyone who came past), and a platter of chicken sausage rolls with sweet potato wedges by Christie, who also sneakily managed to pull out some barbecued chocolate chip stuffed bananas with ice-cream for dessert!
(Scroll down for my recipe or click through to the Big 4 Website for both!)
The next morning, we packed up our meagre belongings and headed a couple of kilometres up the road to check out the lighthouse, the blowhole (which was sadly only spitting that day) and the Kiama Produce Markets.
These markets are held at Black Beach on the 4th Saturday of every month and can I just say that, whilst small, they have the most picturesque setting of any market I’ve ever been to.
We picked up some apples from the Batlow Apple man (who by the way, is great conversation and a little camera shy) as well as some fresh fruit for the long and sleepy car trip home.
So tell me, what would you cook in a camp cooking challenge?
cajun spiced chicken with grilled vegetable salad and creamy polenta
you will need:
6 chicken thighs
2tbsp cajun spice mix
2tbsp brown sugar
100ml olive oil
1/2 red cabbage
4 small sweet potato (or 2 large sweet potato)
2 corn cobs
1 cup polenta
1 litre hot water
1 chicken stock cube
1 bunch coriander
1 small tub natural yoghurt
how to do it:
1. Pull off any noticeable clumps of fat from the chicken thighs.
2. Put the cajun spice mix, brown sugar, 2 tbsp olive oil, the juice of half a lime and the zest of both limes in a bowl and rub to form a paste. Add the chicken and rub the spice mixture into the chicken. Leave it for a while so the flavor soaks in. Cook on the barbecue until charred and cooked through.
3. Wash the vegetables. Slice the sweet potato (leaving the skin on) into thin rounds. Slice the zucchini into strips lengthwise. Toss the vegetables with a bit of oil and toss them onto a hot barbecue. Toss the corn onto the barbecue as well. Cook the vegetables, tossing occasionally, until they are charred and soft.
4. Slice the red cabbage thinly and squeeze the juice of half a lime over the top. This will start to break down the red cabbage so that it isn’t so raw tasting, without losing any of its crisp freshness.
5. Pour the water and milk into a saucepan. Crumble the chicken stock cube into the saucepan. Heat until it is gently bubbling away. Pour the polenta in a thin stream into the saucepan and stir from time to time until the polenta is thick and creamy.
6. Chop the coriander finely. Mix with the juice of a lime and the remaining olive oil.
7. Cut the corn off the cob and toss it with the cabbage, cooked sweet potato and zucchini.
8. To serve, dollop some warm polenta on each plate. Top the polenta with slices of cooked chicken. Add a side of tossed vegetables. Dollop the coriander dressing and yoghurt over the top of it all.
Disclosure: Shez & guests were fed, watered and housed as guests of Big 4 Easts Beach. All travelling and market related expenses were borne personally. Also, that last picture was taken at my house. Because I like the lighting there better. xx