Game food is a regular feature of the Bunyip Hotel at Cavendish where chef Jimmy Campbell has returned to his childhood roots, complete with regular hunting in the fertile fields at the foot of the Grampians.
Jimmy Campbell was a co-founder of breakout Melbourne restaurant MoVida, the first restaurant to ignite Melbourne’s obsession with tapas and sharing plates, but after 14 years, Jimmy eventually sought a quieter life back on the family farm raising sheep.
“About five years ago I decided I’d had enough of working 80-hour weeks in city restaurants, the daily grind and the hustle and bustle of the city,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure I would ever cook again.”
He also had a long-held dream of taking over the only pub in the town, the Bunyip Hotel, and eventually the opportunity came up.
“A pub is like farming, it’s an endless job; this old building is 1836, it’s ancient for Australia and there is always something going wrong,” Jimmy said. “It does have a lovely patina, though.”
The food is fancy but not in an ostentatious way. The locals have always taken from the land and Jimmy prefers to reproduce familiar traditional meals.
He’ll just use the best produce he can source locally and apply his well-honed culinary flair, so it has all the attributes of fine dining but served humbly, wearing the familiar disguise of staple country dishes.
“On the menu tonight we have fish pie, corned beef, rib eye fillet, and braised chicken; all stuff people recognise but it is just done using skill and technique,” he said.
“Everything in the pub is produce-driven and it is all local.
“I’m massive on my hunting as well. I’m out with mates every week, and duck, deer, quail, rabbit -– it is all here. Hunting is part of the DNA in this area, it is just part of normal life.”
Jimmy is a Field & Game member and regularly shoots at Casterton. He’s settled back into country life and the locals have welcomed home a prodigal son.
“It was nice to come home and reconnect with people I grew up with, and those of my parents and grandparents, you tend to inherit relationships out here,” he explained.
“This is the home of the Country Women’s Association and the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union; the Fleece and Flower Show posters went up today and I’ve told the apprentices they have to enter the sponge competition this year up against all the local ladies.
“I was excited about cooking for Field & Game, because they are my people and a lot of my clientele,” Jimmy said.
“With the goat, I wanted to demonstrate that you don’t need a lot of preparation or gear and the quality of food you can pull out of a camp oven is as good as anything you will get in a restaurant.”
The ingredients are basic and he says the most important thing is to work on the caramelisation by turning the meat in the pot a few times, which bastes the meat, allowing it to cook and colour evenly.
“In my old city restaurant, I would have charged $40 a portion for this but hunters can take a goat early in the day and have lashings to enjoy around the campfire that night,” Jimmy said.
Campfire goat with damper
- Side of goat
- 4 carrots
- 3 onions
- 1 head of garlic
- Available wild herbs such as saltbush
- 300 ml olive oil
- 300 ml sherry, dry white wine or even water
- Break down the goat into large chunks: loin, rack, legs, ribs and shanks.
- Dice carrot, onions, garlic and herbs, and add sherry, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the contents over the meat and leave overnight to marinate (minimum 6 hours).
- Transfer to two large camp ovens and cook on hot coals only – no direct flame – for 2 hours (young goat) to 4 hours (old billy).
- Turn meat from time to time to baste and cook evenly.
- When ready, the meat should have a heavy glaze and the toughest piece (shank) should easily fall away from the bone.
- Serve with a drizzle of lemon juice and hot damper.
- ¼ tsp yeast
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cup water
- 2 cups flour
- Combine ingredients but don’t knead.
- Place in a sealed container and leave overnight.
- Empty dough into a bowl in the morning and cover with a tea towel — leave it to prove for another two hours.
- Gently tip the dough onto a board, being careful not to knock the air out.
- Gently fold from the corners, like folding a napkin.
- Pre-heat the camp oven coals (this is really important).
- Place the dough in the camp oven and dust liberally with flour.
- Allow to cook with the lid on for 30 minutes and then 10 minutes with the lid off to develop the crust.
- Carve and spread with butter.
Matt Fowles wine match
2015 Stone Dwellers Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chef Jimmy cast his eye over a selection of wines and dived straight for the Stone Dwellers Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany his simple camp oven goat and damper smothered in real butter.
“It was the wine I thought would be best suited for this style of dish so Jimmy chose wisely,” Matt said.
“This vintage has aromas of blackberry, cassis and spicy oak with hints of mint and leather. The palate is elegant but intense at the same time, with rich dark fruits, fine firm tannins and a lovely long finish.”
The wine has enough gusto to complement the rich caramelised crust of the goat but still allows the lighter flavour of the meat within to shine.
“I love this dish because of its simplicity, it really is a dish to be cooked and shared around a bush camp,” Matt said.
“Of all the wild foods we have available in Australia goat is right up there as one of my favourites.”