FOOD scenes don’t get much more alluring when it comes to cooking up a storm on a houseboat holiday along the Murray River.
Picture this: a sunset floating above a forest of manna gums just as the mighty Murray river water settles like a mirror, snaking its way around a river bend. As the barbecue sparks up on the top deck, kookaburras fire up their nightly ritual laugh-a-thon and all is set to whip up a culinary storm for family and friends as they settle in with some sundowners on the sun lounges.
Say hello to a typical nightly scene on a Dinky-Di houseboat on the Murray in Echuca-Moama country. While it’s the perfect setting to cook up a storm, the big question is what’s on the menu! The good news is this blog is designed to make it easy and cheap. So before anything, any houseboat holidayer knows before you head for the Dinky-Di Houseboats launch pad you need to hit the local butcher, baker and grocer to load up on supplies… that’s if you’re old school, of course, otherwise you head to Coles. Or all of the above! But for the sake of looking after the little man we’re proposing three stops to stock up. Firstly, for your meat, head to The Main Course Butchery in Annesley Street. For your fruit and veg there’s none better than The Pear Tree in Sturt Street. And for a reputable baker head to Suttons Bakery, an absolute ripper institution in the twin-river township. There you have it – meats, fruit and vegies, and bread and pastries, all sorted. Now here are 5 suggestions for meal ideas when you’re cooking for a hungry houseboat tribe.
No.1 Gourmet sausages and barbecued potato wedges
It’s all in the toppings and you can keep your toolkit to a set of tongs, an apron, and the onboard barbecue. Firstly, oil up your barbecue and caramelise those onions. The Main Course Butcher’s flavoured snags are as good as they get, according to those in the know, but don’t underestimate their stock standard thin BBQ sausages. Cook, split, crisp up the middle. Simple! Pop out BBQ sauce and tomato sauce, and bowls comprising cheese, pineapple, onions and barbecued corn carved off the cob. Suttons Bakery’s fresh white bread is the ultimate base. You’re done. Now go eat!
No.2 Murray Cod and crunchy Asian salad
First mission, of course, is to land a mighty Murray Cod from the Murray River. If you have to cheat, buy one in town at Top of the Town Fish ‘n’ Chips. Slice the fish crossways over its back, dust in a bit of flour and drop onto a barbecue with some knobs of butter simmering away. Cook until golden brown on both sides and serve with slices of lemon and cracked pepper and salt. Whip up an easy Asian salad mix of crunchy dried noodles, parsley, grated carrots, mint, peanuts, cos lettuce, onion, celery and a dressing made of lemon juice, garlic and sesame oil. Bob’s your uncle!
No.3 Spaghetti with garlic butter, onions and bacon
Seriously low degree of difficulty, seriously high level of tastiness. Pot, tick. Water, tick. Pinch of salt and dash of olive oil and boil it up. Barbecue or pan fry some garlic, butter and onions and season with salt, cracked pepper and a good few dollops of olive oil and you have an easy peasy meal to satisfy the tribe.
No.4 Camp oven roast lamb, potatoes, honey carrots and gravy
The first thing you need to do is find a nice spot to moor the houseboat for the night, start a campfire on the riverbank and you’re halfway there. Dig a hole, scatter a shovel load or two of hot coals next to the campfire and get your camp oven ready – preheat, oil the oven and place your leg of lamb purchased from The Main Course Butcher in the middle with a couple of peeled oninions cut into quarters. Important stage of the process – place cold beer or wine in hand and relax with co-houseboaters. Between the 30 mins and 40 mins mark check your roast is starting to grey up. Pop in your potatoes and carrots in, close up and throw some more coals over the top. Another chance to relax with a beverage while the sun sets and 40 minutes later you should be done so check veggies and cut into the middle of the roast to ensure it’s ready to roll. Serve up and let your culinary masterpiece sit, pop two tablespoons of plain flour in half a cup of water, mix with the juices in the camp oven and a ripsnorter of a gravy should be ready to pour over the sliced meat and potatoes. Honey the carrots and enjoy.
No.5 Koalas in a billabong
We can’t have some houseboat menu recommendations without including a dessert and this one’s perfect for a team of kids to oversee. Ever heard of the old-fashioned frog in a pond? Here’s an Aussie spin – Make up green jelly following the instructions on the packet and pop the hot liquid in the fridge for 45 minutes to cool (but make sure it doesn’t set!). Open a packet of Caramelo Koalas, pop each one in the middle of a bowl full of jelly and once it’s been back in the fridge long enough for the jelly to set, pull out and bog in! It’s a crowd favourite.