MONDAY 20 JUNE PUNGALINA
We were up early and into the work.
John only needed to rake leaves and do a last tidy up, before he went off to do his morning watering at the house.
I thought we had the place looking as good as it possibly could. It had the “wow” factor that we hoped for – that all-important first impression. It was a pity that A’s wife S would not be with the group – a last minute omission that cut the group down to ten. Originally we had been told it would be twelve. I would be cooking for twelve or more though, as O would eat with the group every night, plus we had to eat too, and O’s daughter may join the group tea at times.
M gave the amenities a final clean, after our morning use of same. We put the jugs of cold drinking water into the tents.
When John came back from watering, he brought the supplies I’d requested from the house: defrosted pieces of roasting beef, greens, frozen kabana, pita breads, pawpaw picked from trees there.
I marinated the chunks of meat in a mix of red wine, grain mustard and garlic. I defrosted the packets of pita breads and made some roti dough. Got loaves of bread started in the two bread machines – O’s from the house, and mine. Set out the morning tea of the biscuits I’d made, onto plates.
The group was only coming from Adels Grove, so they arrived mid-morning. There were two planes: the main group in A’s company’s twin engined one, and a couple in their own plane. We heard the planes coming and saw them fly low over the camp – showing the guests how it looked from above.
They were transported from the airstrip to the camp in the Billycart – a proud achievement.
We got the group seated around one of the big tables, that we’d carted out and set up in a patch of shade, for morning tea and the welcome briefing about the camp. This covered things like location of facilities, charging cameras at the switch box, not leaving tents undone, and the like. I told them the tent allocation and they were escorted to these after they finished the morning tea.
One of the guests – a relative of A’s – had brought a home cured side of gravlax, in an esky, to donate to the camp food supplies. I found a space for this in a fridge. Got the impression that he had not been sure the camp catering would run to any upmarket items!
A had brought up my laptop computer, fixed and delivered to his home address by our obliging friend.
Then the men took over, taking the guests out for a brief drive around, before lunch. M and I cleaned up after morning tea and kept going with prep for the rest of the day.
I made the pannacottas for tonight’s dessert and put them into some of the limited fridge space. Made jam drop biscuits and a carrot cake. Made the tuna salad for lunch – did one bowl with mixed greens, tomato, chick peas, flavoured tuna, cucumber, capsicums. The other bowl had tuna, cannellini beans, red onion, garlic, oregano. Both of these turned out ok, but I made a mental note to try using large tins of chunk tuna – less mushy.
We set the table up outside for lunch – just plates and cutlery. We made up a fruit platter – paw paw, rock melon and pineapple.
Refreshed the supplies on the tea tray – teabags and coffee bags.
I cooked the roti bread for lunch, which worked really well. Next time, I would not bother with the frozen bought flat breads at all. Put out the roti and flatbreads on plates, with bowls of hummus, baba ghanoush, with bought tubs of avocado and smoked salmon.
Lunch went well. I think there was enough variety, and it was (mostly) fresh and light. I thought that I should be able to find a better recipe for the baba ghanoush, though.
There was no rest, or let up, for us. While the guests were eating lunch, we pressed on with the prep for tea, and with putting together the afternoon tea box, to go out with the group as they toured some of the sights. I packed biscuits, sulatana cake, fruit cake, muesli bars. Tea and coffee making gear had to go in, and some fruit. O would be boiling the billy for hot water – and for “bush” atmosphere.
The group went off, and M went with them, to get in some sight seeing.
After a while, a call came in on the portable CB radio set that O had set up for communication over the duration of the camp. There had been a near disaster! A front wheel – one that had a guest sitting directly over it – had come off as the billycart was trundling around a turn in the track. Oops! No injuries and the incident seemed to be taken well by the guests. John had to take the Troopy out to ferry visitors around. W was summonsed to rescue the billycart and do what he could to restore it for use for the remainder of the visit. Eventually, a much stronger undercarriage was fitted to the beast, but that was later.
I’d put the beef chunks on to roast at 3pm – it had to be slow roasting, to try to tenderise it.
Got the dining tent all set up for tea. First time the new set up of the one long table, created by putting two together, had been used. With the new table cloths on, it looked like one long table. The dining tent looked good, with a couple of low small vases of bush flowers, and candles.
I refreshed the water jugs in the tents with fresh chilled water, ready for the returning group.
We always had to make sure that the fire was going in the donkey water heater, to provide ample hot water for showers (and later for washing up after tea). John did that when he was in camp, otherwise I kept an eye on it.
Made Yorkshire Pudding batter and put that in a fridge to sit. Made up some horseradish cream to go with tonight’s beef. Pan fried some eggplant with dried oregano. Prepared the potatoes, pumpkin and onions and put them on to roast at 5pm. Thank heavens for a fairly large oven!
There was a vegetarian in the group, so I had to be careful not to use meat fat for cooking the little pudding muffins, and to make some extra vegetables for her. I put in some kumara to roast, and would add eggplant to her plate.
Got the pre-dinner nibbles ready: salted peanuts, kalamata and stuffed olives, eggplant strips, kabana slices, semi-dried tomatoes (from a jar), and thin slices of the Gravlax. I put these out where guests could help themselves – or have them taken around – wherever they chose to sit around and have drinks before dinner.
After bringing the group back from the afternoon activities, O headed back to his house, for a break and to freshen up for tea. I cleaned up the tucker box, washed up the afternoon tea mugs.
I took the meat out of the oven to rest under foil, cranked up the oven temperature, and put the pudding muffins on to cook, in my muffin tins, about 6pm. The peas went on the stove top to boil – unfortunately they had to be the dried ones – not enough freezer room on the place to keep stocks of frozen vegetables, even though the latter taste better.
Meat was sliced, Gravox gravy made, to go in the new jugs. I served it all out onto the individual plates, which M and John took to the dining tent. I didn’t think the beef was as tender as I would have liked, but had done the best I could with it. At any rate, there was not much left on the plates when they came back!
John and I had a major disagreement, over clearing the plates. He wanted to go into the dining tent while people were still eating, to start clearing, and hurry them along. I did not want him to make a move until everyone had finished their course – too intrusive. It was important, in my view, to allow a leisurely meal, if guests were so inclined. In the end I had to pull rank – “my kitchen, my job, my way” variety. There were times I did not like working with my husband!
I opened the cans of raspberries to go with the panncotta desserts. Arranged a platter of cheeses – a good cheddar, a brie, blue, with water crackers, dates and walnuts, and put some after dinner mints in a bowl.
The main course plates were duly cleared, the pannacottas arranged – they looked yummy – and delivered to the diners. Later, after they were cleared, the cheeses, mints and hot drink makings were taken to the dining tent, with a kettle of boiling water.
Guests who had wanted wine with their meal had earlier had to select their own from the drinks fridge, writing the item in the drinks book by that fridge, for later tallying up and payment before they departed. This honesty system worked well.
We tackled a big wash up! Oh for a dish washer…..But it did not take too long. The group had adjourned to the fire pit, where O had lit a camp fire, and they sat round talking.
The group did not stay up too late. We had to wait around to close up until all had gone to their tents. Turned off the camp generator on our way to bed. We were in bed by 11.30pm – pretty damn tired!
I think A was really happy with the appearance of the camp, and with the catering, to date. He might not be so happy about the wheel coming off the billycart, though.