FOOD AND DRINK

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A great city break for foodies

We invited former MasterChef contestant, Minoli De Silva, to hit the road and combine two of her great loves: cooking and travel.

As she reveals, a regional foodie-inspired break is hugely rewarding.

And, as it turns out, it’s simple to plate up an in-park feast using delicious local produce…even for us less-talented cooks out there! 

All smiles: The getaway combined Minoli's love of cooking and travelling.

The details

We'll whet your appetite for a food-inspired break.


 

Where did you source your ingredients?

I visited markets just in front of BIG4 Castlemaine on Saturday and the farmers’ market on Sunday. The carrots were the biggest I’ve ever seen, along with stunning produce that was all grown or created locally.

I also grabbed snacks from the local bakery and bought pork belly.

The produce in Castlemaine looked so fresh, and I couldn’t wait to get cooking. 

That's not a carrot, this is a carrot.

How was the food scene in Castlemaine?

It was great! There are so many local growers of vegetables and other gorgeous produce.

I was surprised to see that there were heaps of good restaurants and modern cafés that served amazing coffee (most importantly). 

Cool cafés are dotted all around Castlemaine. This one is walking distance from the park. Pictured: Das Kaffeehaus.

What did you cook?

I cooked up a feast! To start, I roasted an eggplant, chopped it fine, and served it with some crusty sourdough bread that I picked up at the market.

I also made spiced pork belly with coconut sauce, grilled chilli pineapple, spiced pumpkin wedges, charred broccolini, and some purple carrots split down the middle.

I had some snacks to get me through the cooking process, too. Snacks are a must. 

It's a feast!

How long did it take?

The cooking process took about an hour, and that included a lot of chatting.

It was fun testing out the produce on the Weber Baby Q, and because of the design, the food cooks so efficiently. And it turns out so damn tasty!

It imparts such a delicious, smokey flavour – and even a simple pineapple tastes so good after being cooked on the BBQ.

I love cooking, obviously, and it’s always fun making it into a bit of a process, especially when camping.

The BBQ smells brought everyone together, and the food became the talking point of the afternoon. 

The calm before cooking up a storm.

How was the in-park cooking experience?

I loved it! I think food brings people together, and this was a great example of that.

News got around that I was cooking, and the camp guests came over for a chat, which was lucky, as I had way too much food to eat myself!

All strangers in the beginning, everyone was chatting and getting to know each other.

It’s the reason I went into food in the first place – connection. It’s such a great way to meet other people, especially when everyone is excited about travelling. 

Taste-testers were happy to volunteer their services!

The Weber Baby Q is a brilliant size to transport, and light enough for me to carry around and set up anywhere. It can fit a substantial amount of food, too!

I set up the BBQ on the pull-out table at the back of the campervan. Any guests that decided to join were able to sit around and still maintain conversation, as the BBQ doesn’t take up much space. 

So easy to set up.

Do anything interesting in Castlemaine?

I visited a winery, some gorgeous restaurants, and local markets and went on walks around the area, as it was so beautiful.

The BIG4 backs onto the botanical gardens, so you have a great view while camping in the van, and a place to go on walks when you want to explore.

I would love to spend more time in Castlemaine. I feel like I only scratched the surface of everything there is to do there. 

BIG4 Castlemaine backs onto the botanical gardens.

How was the Camplify experience?

To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Camplify before I used it, but now I am hooked. All I can think about is my next road trip.

Now I know how easy it is to book a van and take it out on the road, even on such short notice! The experience was seamless. 

Minoli now sings Camplify's praises from the rooftop.

What van did you choose?

I narrowed the selection to two vans but chose Sandy the Van because she was equipped with absolutely everything I could think of.

This included a fridge, a bed/couch combo, heaps of storage, cooking utensils, hot ware capabilities and the perfect amount of luxury I wasn’t used to while camping.

The van’s owners had fantastic reviews, and most importantly, I could bring my dog, Nala – an attractive travel option. 

Pets welcome.

Where to next?

I would love to go to another regional town in Victoria.

It’s such a great way to switch off from the hustle and bustle of city life or get away and have complete autonomy with your travel plans.

There are so many wonderful places right on our doorstep.

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