Saturday, 14 April 2018

Camping + One Pan Chicken Laksa

I spoke too soon about feeling the shift, instead Mr-Weather-Man has only confirmed my theory that Sydney gets two seasons. And Summer seems to be lasting forever. I am ready for the cooler nights, ugg boots, track pants, socks and doonas. I've had my last sunburn for the season and I’ve had enough of every time I wash up, sweating like I’ve run a marathon.

Although it was beautiful weather for the Easter long weekend just past, but in saying that, waking up in a hot tent with sunburnt, sandy legs... mmm I think I prefer winter camping where snuggling is mandatory to keep toes warm.

Over the long weekend we camped for two nights, the first on Redhead Beach near Newcastle and the second in Olney State Forest. When we first got to Redhead beach on the Friday it was windy but the water was perfect for a swim, small waves and not too cold and the sun was out in full force, my rash vest (to Tris’ horror) even made an appearance. Setting up our tent was a slight nightmare but after we moved the car as a windbreaker it got easier, however our toilet tent on the spent the entire time folded in on itself making it very difficult to use but better then every other camper seeing my bare bum.

I set up snacks and we had cold beers out of the Tris’ new pride and joy, the car fridge. Even our friends dog enjoyed the snacks, sneaking half a block of vintage cheddar and demolishing it within two chews when my back was turned. I think it was an eye opener for him, he was then obsessed with cheese for the rest of the weekend but how could you blame him, I feel that way about cheese.

Dinner was Food52’s One-Pan Lasagne cooked over the fire. I forgot a couple of ingredients which I realised too late but it was still impressive and very tasty, even with the slight sand crunch after dropping the lid of the camp oven into the sand. The missing ingredients (mascarpone & basil) would have made it even better than it already was and I also think some parmesan would be a good touch too. Next camping trip I'll try this again and let you in on my tweaks as it wasn’t quite there yet but Tris did say it was one of the best lasagnes he's ever had. It could be because of how chuffed we were that we made lasgane from scratch, over a fire, at the beach. Campfire cooking is so much fun.

The night continued with hazelnut chocolate, a few too many beers and monopoly… did you know the new monopoly doesn’t have paper money but credit cards you tap!!!? Blew my mind.

When we woke the next morning the wind had picked up over night and our friends in their roof top tent got no sleep and even with earplugs in our ground tent it was noisy and flappy. Desperate for a betters night sleep they suggested we move spots so we deflated our mattress, folded the sandy sheets, backed down the kite...sorry tent and stuffed everything else we’d unpacked and made ourselves at home with up. We were back in the car on the road again with no idea where we were going. After some searching for places that were available and also animal friendly we finally came across a real gem, Olney State Forest.

We drove for about an hour inland, with a pit stop at Hungry Jacks for burgers (my lunch plan was shot), a water top up and an actual (flushing) toilet stop. When we arrived it was packed but it's a no book, first in, first served kind of place with multiple site around the forest and luckily for us, there are a few sites off the tracks with small clearings, perfect to pitch a tent or two. It felt so secluded and peaceful, not at all like we were in a packed camping park. This is defiantly a spot we will be returning too, it was beautiful and also cooler under the trees out of the sun, my legs were in heaven.

For dinner I made a one-pan chicken laska with vermicelli noodles dish. I based it loosely off a Donna Hay recipe I found online and the recipe on the back of the laksa paste jar but then went off on my own and improvised. Instead of cooking over the fire like the previous night I used the camping gas stove, Tris was in charge of the fire again but I was impatient to wait for the right heat and wanted dinner while it was still light. The recipe is quick was so great to do on the gas cooker, it meant we didn’t use all the cans, leaving just enough for the morning coffees.

The recipe is a keeper and one I'll be making again and again even at home home and most likely next camping trip too. It was delicious. Belly warming and satisfying, a good one for that fresh air hungry feels you get camping and being outdoors all day. Or even on a chilly night (although I’m starting to forget what they feel like) at home for a mid week meal.

Maybe it's just me, but the satisfaction of cooking outside makes everything taste better. The clean up camping is always a bit of a hassle but this was a one pan jobby and nothing was baked on, the clean up was minimal. The lasagne the previous night was not to much. I ended up getting my pants wet trying to rinse the pot in the waves, in the dark, before giving it a scrub, however I don't think the beers helped me with my coordination in this.

We finished the night off with dark chocolate digestive smores over the fire with a night cap of port. Pretty darn delicious combination if you ask me.

The next morning we had teas and coffees with a version of these Gypsy Roll things for breakfast that we had in Tasmania at the Salamanca Markets on our honeymoon. A kind of everything omelette with avocado and sriracha in a fire toasted bread roll. Sooo good! A few tweaks to this and I'll share a recipe for this one  too (I made enough to feed an army so need to work out how to scale it down).

A dip in the in-laws pool when we got home, a hot shower removing every last piece of sand and cuddles with the fluff monster (Arty)… I love long weekends.

One Pan Chicken Laksa

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced in thin wedges
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 juicy lime, see note
1 jar laksa paste (I used Ayam Laksa Paste)*
500g chicken breast, sliced**
1 bunch broccolini, roughly chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 litres chicken stock
1 x 400ml can coconut cream
200g rice vermicelli noodles (I used Wai Wai rice vermicelli)
1 bunch of pak choy (3 pieces), roughly chopped into 1 inch chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
***Optional toppings: thinly sliced spring onions, fresh coriander or bean sprouts to serve.

Note: for the lime, you’ll need both the zest and juice. To get the zest, use a regular peeler and peel it from the top to the bottom 4 times so you are left with 4 fairly big green pieces of lime zest (you don’t want the white part). It’s ok, these will be removed before serving so you won’t eat them, it’s just for flavour. Cut the lime in quarters for juicing later.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the onion, garlic and lime zest to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes then add the laska paste. Stir every now and then so it doesn’t catch for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.

Next add the sliced chicken to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes until mostly browned on all sides. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes then add the broccolini stalks and cook for another 2 minutes. Fish the lime zest out and discard.

Empty the can of coconut milk into the pan, keeping the pan on a low heat and add the broccolini tops and vermicelli noodles (dried, yes put them in dried!) into the pan and bring back to a simmer slowly, do not boil. Once the pan is back at a simmer and the noodles are cooked through (taste!), add the pak choy placing the stalk pieces in the pan first and the leave on top to wilt. Cook for a further minute or so.

At this point you may need to add an additional cup of water depending on how much water your noodles have soaked up so judge this by eye and how soupy you want it to be.

Taste, season with salt and pepper.

Divide into 4 bowls with a lime wedge each to serve (and any of the other garnishes you have on hand).

* Read the back of the jar you’ve bought, each on is slightly different with how much to use for the amount of liquid you’ll be adding. The one I used said to add the entire jar which was perfect for the amount of liquid in the soup.

** I like to buy pre-chopped chicken breasts when I go camping, it saves the slimy raw chicken clean up after when you have limited water supply and a bucket instead of a sink. Or, I chop it inside the plastic container it comes in then chuck it when I get home.

*** I understand are hard ingredients to take camping as they spoil easy or come in large quantities which is why we didn’t have them camping and it was still really delicious. But, they would make a great addition if you have the space or if you’re making this at home.


  1. Interesante. Muy lindas fotos. A mi si me voy de vacaciones me gusta que haga calor para meterme en el agua. Sea el mar o algunrio. No me gusta irme de vacaciones y morirme de frio, llevar no se cuanta ropa, dormir todo acurrucado, etc. Pero bueno. Sobre gustos no hay nada escrito. Tampoc me gusta irme los feriados de semana santa porque las carreteras se llenan de vehiculos y un viaje que por ahi te demora 5 horas pasa a demorar 10. Saludos

    1. Thanks for stopping by Gustavo! I love all holidays, hot or cold :)

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