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Barbecued heirloom tomato bruschetta with feta and basil

Barbecued heirloom tomato bruschetta with feta and basil

It’s been a killer start to 2018. On the 29th we headed down to Bright for four nights camping with Will and Lizzy, the life-savers who have agreed to look after our feline son when we go away for our big round-the-world trip this year (yep, THIS YEAR!!), and their mates Phil and Kylie. We left our little man at their place for some more getting-to-know-you time with their cat Hijinks. The two of them are becoming great friends, to our delight and relief.

Things got off to a shaky start when we arrived to pouring rain. Anticipating the worst, we decided to bite the bullet and set up straight away just in case things got worse. No joke, we set up during the heaviest rain we would see for the rest of the night. Would that my raincoat were actually waterproof! Once we got the fly on I went inside to see just how much water we were dealing with, and spent about 20 minutes on hands and knees soaking up puddles with tea towels and wringing them out via the doorway. My water-induced hand dermatitis had a field day.

Things could only improve from there, and improve they did. For the rest of the trip it was nothing but mid- to high-twenties, with balmy nights perfect for sitting around the campfire. The first campfire was a bit dramatic, as the weeds I pulled out to make way for it opened up an ants’ nest and resulted in two bites on my big toe that took almost a week to stop being itchy and swollen. Lizzy fared worse, losing all definition between ankle and calf following a bite to the foot. And Elliot received a bite to the bum at the exact moment Will said, ‘One of us is going to get bitten on the bum.’

A game of golf at Bright Golf Course burned my skin and my self-esteem, but both were soothed by an afternoon session at Bright Brewery playing The Name Game, followed by an extended nap amid a game of campsite cricket. I only got hit once, which I considered to be a success. I got onto preparing a three-course campfire dinner of smoky baked eggplant on bread with Kewpie, salt and pepper; sweetcorn with butter, salt and mint; and roasted cherry tomato bruschetta with feta. It's definitely easier on the barbecue than it is on the fire, but nothing beats eating straight from the fire.

New Year’s Eve was a raging success. Barbecue dinner, ferocious campfire, good music, theatric sparkler dancing (okay, that was just me), celebrating with strangers, and a small dose of Cards Against Humanity to top it all off. As three bottles of champagne and a bottle of sparkling cider disappeared within about half an hour, I was especially pleased to say goodbye to a set of disposable champagne glasses that had been cluttering the cupboard since before I even met Elliot, unbeknown to him. (Throwing things out and using things up has been giving me great joy this year as we prepare to put everything we own in storage! Every shower involves the use of multiple, mostly-expired products, and I’m burning candles like a mad woman. It is deeply satisfying.)

On New Year’s Day our companions went home and we were left to our own devices. We wandered into town and took in the shopping options Bright has to offer. Most of it was actually great quality, but there was a very suspicious-looking 'caterpillar' for sale at the op shop, and as for the jewellery store... well, let's just say they could do with a copyeditor.

After lunch the kids of the new owners of the campground showed us the way to a nearby swimming hole, and told us that Camp Crusty, as it is now known, has gone from 50 guests last New Year’s to over 300 this year thanks to all their hard work. It really is a beautiful place, surrounded by incredible scenery, with surprisingly clean facilities… and that gorgeous swimming hole! We’ll be back for that alone. But I don’t know if I’ll be jumping from the rocks into the water again. No sooner had I hit the water than, with throbbing teeth and ears, I realised not for the first time that I am turning into my mother.

That evening we were treated to a moonrise over the mountains overlooking our campsite, and the next morning we walked to a huge field of dandelions that was absolutely teeming with grasshoppers bouncing all around us. What a treat it is to live in Victoria. Seriously.

I've loved bruschetta since I was a kid. Tomatoes, basil, balsamic, feta... what more could you want. I love how versatile it is, too. You can't beat barbecued tomatoes, but in a pinch you can easily just spread feta on toast, add a few slices of fresh tomato and torn basil leaves, drizzle with vinegar, and there you have it. Big, bold flavour heaven.

By the way, marinated feta doesn't have to be quite as expensive as it seems. When you use up all the feta from the jar, don't throw out the oil! Crumble regular feta into the leftovers and a few days later you'll be flush with marinated feta once again.

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Barbecued heirloom tomato bruschetta with feta and basil

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