The Tucker Box

The recipes in this blog are for the most part, real recipes that have been used by the authors for years. They are all very simple to make and use basic tucker box ingredients. The meats can be bought from a butcher shop and the rest from any supermarket.

If you are a real novice at cooking, then start with something easy like “Burnt Water Stew” for a step by step guide to making a simple stew using only meat and veggies with no added herbs and spices. You will be surprised at the quality of the meal.

Even though we can cook up a storm in the camp oven, using all sorts of herbs and sauces and such, the simple wholesome flavour and the satisfaction of making such an easy tasty recipe never tires.

Here is a suggestion of “Tucker Box” ingredients that would be useful to have with you for making these recipes.

What You Need

  • Sense Of Humour
  • Plain Flower
  • Self Raising Flour
  • Corn Flour
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Corn Crumbs
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Mixed herbs
  • Garlic
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Chilli Sauce
  • Spuds
  • Onions Pumpkin
  • Tomatoes
  • Tin peas
  • Tin corn
  • Zucchini
  • Lemons
  • Meats


As we have said above, most of the meat in this book can be simply bought from any butchers shop. The exceptions are the “Bardi Grubs” and the Yabbies. Advice is given later on how to catch Bardi Grubs. For the yabbies, most fishing shops sell opera house type traps that are built to the specification laws of the Fisheries Department and they are excellent to use. Simply place a bit of meat or a piece of soap into the bait net in the trap and throw into the water. These traps are great for overnight yabby catching expeditions as you can be practicing some camp oven cooking while you wait for the trap to fill.

The other type to use is the “Dilly”, which is looks like a butterfly net without the handle, you just tie your bait in, tie a rope to your trap, and then toss it into the water. Check it every five minutes by lifting straight up quickly and smoothly. Centrifugal force will hold the yabbies in the bottom of the net. These are good for catching yabbies as they don’t take much time to start working. Check the Fisheries Department for numbers of traps and Dillies allowed per person, these figures change now and again.

Aboriginal peoples in this country have eaten Bardi Grubs and the more widely known Witchety Grubs since time began. Our modern day palettes have been educated to be repulsed at the thought of this, however, we can assure you that once the squeamishness is overcome you will find a food source that is not only delicious but extraordinarily high in protein. A relatively small amount can go along way energy wise.

If you use more energy collecting food than you gain in nutritional value by eating it, then I’m afraid you are going to starve to death. This happened to a few of the earlier explorers.

The best way to find Bardi’s is to find a local who knows what he is talking about. No doubt he will be in the local pub, so you will obviously have to do quite a bit of research in the pub on this matter. Basically catching them, though simple enough, is a bit of a bush art and is best learnt by demonstration.

Once a “Bardi Tree” has been found, chip away at the ground surface below until you find the holes. These could be a meter or more in length and will have a fat grub at the bottom. Thread a bit of wire with a little ball of wool tied to the end down the hole until you feel a bit of resistance at the end. This is the grub, just dangle the wool around his face until he gets cranky and grabs it, then in one smooth motion slip him up his tunnel and over your shoulder in one careful pull. It is really impressive to watch some of the old timers doing this, and you will have respect for the craft yourself after you have ripped the heads of half a dozen perfectly good Bardi’s.


Ronnie Wilson


Camp Oven Cleaning & Maintenance

Never wash an oven unless really necessary and never ever use steel wool or a harsh scour. Always clean as soon as possible after use and if you’re not going to use it for a while rub a thin film of oil over the inner surface before storing.

When cleaning an oven use newspaper if possible and just keep wiping it out with fresh sheets until clean. This will bring it back to its dull black protective layer without taking it off, then just throw the newspaper into the fire as you go and the washing up is done.If absolutely necessary use warm soapy water and a soft cloth.

Another camp oven cook we know called Tiny, told us a story about his pride and joy. An oven he owned for twenty years and in that time it had never been washed. Well anyway his mate was going camping with the missus one night and he wanted to have a go at cooking a roast in a camp oven and so he borrowed Tiny’s oven. He wasn’t real keen to lend it but he knew these people would look after it and bring it back.

A couple of days later they brought it back all right, with many thank you’s in parting the mate said:

“Oh by the way me an the missus give it a good cleaning for you and I tell you Tiny it was bloody hard work, I ended up getting all that black stuff off though with my angle grinder and now it is good as new”.

Then they drove off in a cloud of dust leaving Tiny standing there with mouth gaping in horror at the loss of twenty years of baked dinners. Sure enough when he lifted the lid he found a bright and shiny new metal surface on his oven.

So put your camp oven on the list with your chainsaw and outboard motor of things that never get lent even to your best mate.

Just remember that a camp oven will not wear out from use only from neglect.

Ronnie Wilson


Camp Oven Cooking

Always get your oven hot before putting any food in it. Don’t be scared to get the lid off for a look, but it is a good practice to take a moment and squat down beside the oven and have a listen. Eventually you will learn to judge the speed your oven is working at by listening even better than you can by having a look.

Cooking by ear is the way to learn because you get to leave the lid on for longer periods of time, which as you can imagine keeps all those lovely flavours where they’re supposed to be, not to mention, heat.

Camp ovens cook with pressure as well as heat and most meals do better cooking slow and longer. The saving grace is that you will probably be camping at the time of cooking and so the ‘near enough’ rule will probably apply.

Residual flavours will linger in your camp oven. The metal is porous and will adopt the flavours that have been given to it. This is one reason camp oven roasts and stews always seem to have that indescribable secret flavour. We always try to throw a roast in our ovens after every couple of stews. This keeps the stored flavour in the oven wall loaded and also keeps a natural oily glaze there to protect the oven surface.

The major exception to this rule is with your breads and dampers. A damper will make an interesting dessert when cooked in a curry-flavoured oven. We have one small oven that we use only for dampers and bread. This just makes certain you don’t end up with unwanted flavours in them.

Ronnie Wilson


How to Use a Camp Oven

What you need

  • Camp oven
  • Shovel
  • Fire with heaps of coals
  • A bit of wire or steel doubled over at one end for a handle and bent at 90 degrees at the other to pick the lid up with
  • Something for lifting the oven on and off the coals if it has no handle, a hat for instance
  • A big rock or a couple of bricks or anything at all that you can sit the lid on and keep the bottom of it clean
  • Patience

    Burning In
    When you buy a new oven, “burn it in”. What you do is build a big fire and put your oven on top and get it hot. When you think it is hot enough it probably isn’t, cause we’re talking bloody hot. Rip it off the fire and drop a good lump of fat (not oil) in it. Then put on a leather glove and rub round and round the entire surface of the oven with a couple of sheets of rolled up newspaper. If it catches on fire just throw the lid on for a second or two, and be pleased with your self because you have probably nearly got it hot enough.

    Keep rubbing the fat into your oven and it will burn itself into the porous surface of the metal, until eventually you can see that you have made a new surface, similar to what a BBQ plate looks like. That means you might be getting close so throw it back on the fire, get it hot and do it all over again. Make sure you do under the lid as well.

    Repeat this until the surface of your oven is jet black and then keep rubbing with clean pieces of newspaper until there is not a drop of fat left in the oven. It should have a dull black hard surface and this will protect your oven for life. It will never rust.

    Burning in an oven may take a while but it is important. We recommend you have a mate on stand-by to help keep the fluids up to you during this arduous task. The next thing to do with a new oven is cook “baked dinners” in it for a week. This will seal all those areas you are sure you covered but didn’t and will also ‘load’ your oven wall with flavour. Of course you don’t have to cook a baked dinner every day of the week, just make sure that your first few uses involve roasting meat and veggies and you’ll be right.

    Ronnie Wilson


    Camp Oven Temperatures

    Assuming you already have a healthy campfire blazing, rather than try to balance your camp oven in the middle, shovel coals out of the fire to a cooking area and place the camp oven on them. The further you move from the fire, the more control you have over the heat and the more comfortable you will be while cooking. However, if you start making little piles of coals all through your campsite the one thing you will be sure to cook is the bottom of your feet. Coals will stay hot long after they stop glowing.

    Do not put coals on the lid unless you are trying to brown the top of something or unless you only have access to really sad timber that only burns to ash and not coals and you just cant get any heat out of it. Some timber burns ‘hot and fast’, some burns ‘cool and long’, we recommend the stuff that burns ‘hot and long’, Gidgee wood being the ultimate in “Camp Oven Wood”.

    In camp oven cooking, even the best cooks are at the mercy of raw materials. Peter,another good camp oven man, came out from the coast and was watching us prepare the evening meal, which was a big leg roast. He watched us sprinkle a shovel full of coals onto the ground and then throw the oven full of meat on it.

    All this was well and good until we sat down to have a beer and recite some new poetry. Peter nearly had a fit. He thought we were going to be there all night unless we got coals packed around that oven like an anthill.

    We then proceeded to have a polite discussion about the pros and cons of our different cooking styles and whose bloody place it is anyway. All became clear to Peter an hour later as he marveled over the quality of the “Gidgee” coals. They burn slow at a high, even heat, and take the guesswork out of camp oven cooking.

    The shoe was on the other foot a few months later when we dropped in to sample Peter’s fine home brew. We were astounded at the amount of coals and mainly ash that he had to use on his camp oven to get anywhere. He actually has to completely bury his oven in ash and coals and replace this regularly so as to get any heat at all. The obvious problem with this is not only the amount of drinking time you miss out on while shoveling coals, but all the risk you run of getting ash and coal in your food.

    So there you go, we can assure you that before long you will become an expert in judging the coal value of timber in different areas of Australia. That is why we will only describe the hotness of the oven and not the amount of coals to use in this book. You will just have to experiment.

    Ronnie Wilson