Anthony Warry

How not to cook lamb on a campfire (tasted good though)

So here we are doing the back tracks through to the Flinders Ranges and I'm trying hard to give the lads the best possible taste of this country that I can.

For me the Flinders is all about sheep, because once upon a time this was all sheep country. Plenty of it still is, but in those years after the 1950s when Australia rode on the sheep's back, this country was loaded with the buggers.

Wool was worth so much that the early pioneers figured they'd be set for life if they could keep the breeding stocks up and get them shorn once a year. What they didn't count on was the country itself, the fact that it mightn't rain for a decade or so, or that the hard hooves of the sheep would destroy the fragile native grasses and watering holes.

The old sandstone ruins scattered through this part of the world tell the story better than words alone - sometimes it didn't work.

Anthony Warry

When I was a young bloke almost every meal came straight from the weekly killer. Every station had a meshed-off butcher's shop and most blokes who called themselves handy on the land could kill, skin and cut to varying degrees. Some blokes took a real measure of pride in their butchering, trimming the chops and steaks with almost professional precision.

Sharp tools were everything and I remember the big fat grinding stone that sat outside the shearing shed wasn't always used just in season for the cones. You could get a wicked edge on a knife with a few turns and a cup of water.

But the tough bit about all this was always the meat itself. It was simple really, if sheep are your business you're not going to knock off the best of them for dinner! So we ate old mutton for the most part and learnt to chew.

Not for the lads on this trip though. I'd bought this lamb the way people do these days, from a butcher's shop already trimmed and hung and from a lamb that had been fattened somewhere on some lovely pasture a long way from the salt bush of the northern Flinders. Hey, all that was left was to get it wrong.

So I did.

Roothy gets tender with charcoal lamb: John Rooth gets started on his campfire-cooked charcoal lamb
Roothy gets tender with charcoal lamb: John Rooth gets started on his campfire-cooked charcoal lamb


  • Leg or two of good lamb
  • Olive oil (Virgin)
  • Rock salt (pink Himalayan is trendy)
  • Rosemary (either fresh or out of a shaker)
  • Garlic (fresh crushed or out of the tube)
  • Red wine (from a cardboard box found in the beer shop)


Anthony Warry

Roast lamb is one of the simplest meals you can cook at camp as long as you've got a fire, a few hours and a cast iron pot.

All I did was coat the lamb with olive oil, run plenty of rock salt all over it, with a big squeeze of garlic from the tube and a few shakes of rosemary sprinkled on for good measure. It gooped up my hands doing it but getting it spread all over is part of the game.

Finally I poured in a couple of glasses of red wine - a bit of liquid to steam up the meat as it cooked.

Meanwhile the lads had the fire going and it'd built up a decent stack of coals (although in this country the wood's mostly tinder dry so you get the quick glow of light timber rather than that solid heat of a fat Victorian log).

There were a few things going on in my head that night. I'd caught an outrageous flu that Gavin, our cameraman, had brewed somewhere in Victoria and decided to let loose on any of us silly enough to get close. So my head was stuffed with more than memories of days past I can tell you, topped off with a few beers just for good measure.

These are all excuses. I made a pad of hot coals way to close to the fire, the wind changed direction and pretty soon - because I wasn't paying attention - I'd turned around and seen smoke billowing out from under the lid. Smoke coming from a cast iron pot means only one thing - there's a fire in there.

Anthony Warry

And there was. I whipped off the lid, rearranged the meat, blew out the flames and shifted the fire pad and logs around to bring the heat under control. An hour later I popped the lid again and slipped in as many carrots, spuds and onions as I could.

By now the fire was burning down so I loaded the lid with coals and set it aside for another hour or so.

The result was some of the tastiest but crispiest bits of lamb I've ever eaten. The look wasn't good, black with tinges of black where it wasn't pure black, but the lamb itself fell to pieces and the veggies were superb.
It was a great meal and I guess, if nothing else, it proves that you don't have to get this cooking thing just right to have a great feed.

Yep, sometimes the mistakes can work out pretty good. Maybe Gleno and Kenno didn't get their meat 'medium rare' but by the time it hit the plates, I don't think they really cared!

Anthony Warry