Bush cooking: How to pump up a pumpkin
Back when we first went mining my brother Nicko and I were camped out at the 3 Mile when a dust cloud down the track signalled a surprise visit.
Naturally we both hoped it'd be the Swedish Girls Netball team bus, not one of Nicko's mates from school, a bloke called Carmelo Rubio.
Carmelo was as Aussie as anyone but as the name suggests, he came from a Spanish family. At that stage most of our meals were "woolly pig" (mutton) and potato because, well, that's what blokes ate.
Carmelo burped his way through a couple of dinners cooked in the camp oven before he figured we'd all starve if he didn't show us a few tricks.
This was one of them. Carmelo cooked his savoury mince filled pumpkin in the oven of our old fuel stove, but ever since then I've been busting to give it a try in an open fire. If the grins on the lad's faces were anything to go by, this is an absolute winner of a way to feed the troops.
Don't hold back though, you could fill a pumpkin with almost anything and it'd work. Except ice cream, Chooka, except ice cream...
Whole pumpkins (one per person)
Pork mince (100g per person)
Beef mince (100g per person)
Oyster sauce (big splash)
Chilli (warm, hot or burnyerfreckle)
Stock cubes (maybe)
With a small sharp knife cut a hole a couple of inches wide around the stalk of the pumpkins. It works best if you slice in at an angle of about 45 degrees because the piece you cut out is going to be the lid later on!
Trim the lid to the hard pumpkin and scoop out the soft seeded core. You'll find a spoon's good for this and it's easy too, as if pumpkins were designed to be turned into bowls. OK, put the lid on and leave the pumpkins to one side until the meat's cooked.
Add some garlic and chilli to taste, which means more if you've tasted a few beers...
I got tricky here and fried up the pumpkin seeds to kick off the meat mix but tasty as they were, I spent the rest of the night picking bits of seed out of my teeth. Skip this step if you want and go straight to frying the onions in some olive oil. Add some garlic and chilli to taste, which means more if you've tasted a few beers...
When the onions start to brown add the mince and keep churning it around so it browns all over. You can chuck in a big dollop of oyster or soy sauce about halfway through the cook up along with a squirt of honey. Give it a taste and add whatever you reckon might work - I went for a couple of beef stock cubes to add some salt to my mix.
Once it's cooked you can start spooning it into the pumpkins, mashing it down as you go. Put the lid back on and wrap the pumpkin in Alfoil. It took me about three thicknesses to make sure there weren't any gaps.
Now it's as easy as raking up a bed of hot coals and burying your pumpkins. With plenty of good hot coals you don't need more than about 10 minutes for the hard pumpkin to soften up and absorb the flavours of the mince.
The best thing about this meal is you can eat it straight out of its own bowl!