Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Trail food: meat loaf sandwiches; chocolate crackles.

I was on the summit of Mt Donna Buang, about eighty kilometres from Melbourne, at six-fifteen on a very dark, very foggy and very cold Sunday morning. I must be mad. I had driven ninety minutes through blackness and nocturnal animals.

I sat there in my car in the dark car park. Then the headlights of two more cars appeared. In the cars were two more of our running group. We left two cars there and drove in the third car to the Millgrove school, where we dropped off a cache of food and continued to Mt Evelyn, where four more were waiting in the early morning fog.

From Mt Evelyn (which is a far outer suburb, not an actual mountain), we departed on foot back towards Mt Donna Buang, a half-walking, half-running trek of some 45 kilometres concluding with a brutal six kilometre and extremely steep uphill climb - straight up the back of the mountain. We were of necessity travelling light, hence the food drop at Millgrove, half way.

Much of the journey was along the Warburton rail trail, a flat twenty-plus kilometre section along what was once - obviously - the rail line to Warburton. The station platforms along the way are still there and sign-posted. We ran past them, right along where the rails used to be, puffing like steam trains.

We made Millgrove by eleven-thirty. Lunch! For me, meat loaf sandwiches. (On a previous trek I had taken nuts and dried vegetables - delicious - but they were too salty and dehydrating.) The others had various items, cold risotto, bread rolls, energy bars and gels, candy, biscuits.

After lunch, the terrain was undulating for a while. Then we hit the hill.

The track up the back of the mountain is entered from Martyr Road (ha!). There is a signpost over the entrance - a dark forbidding hole in a massive hedgerow of tree ferns and other rainforest-like foliage, like something out of Lord of the Rings - reading 'Mt Donna Buang summit track. 12k return journey. Allow 7 hours.'

We entered the black hole in the hedgerow and it was even more like Tolkien - a dripping, slimy track through what could have been Mirkwood. We emerged at the top in a little under two hours. There were patches of snow here and there.

We opened the cars and hauled out the end-of-run goodies. The chocolate crackles disappeared in minutes. When I was a kid, we called them rice bubble cakes. They were a birthday party treat.

Meatloaf, simple and easy:
Place 500g sausage meat in a baking dish (it can be boiled initially to reduce fat if required). Around it, place half a grated carrot, half a grated onion and a cup of rice. Sprinkle a pack of chicken noodle soup over it and pour in two cups of boiling water. Bake for an hour. Watch the fluid level. The rice should come out gluey and yummy. (An old recipe of my mother's from the fifties.)

Chocolate crackles.
Combine 250g icing sugar, 25g cocoa and 100g Rice Bubbles in a mixing bowl. Melt 250g Copha, add to mixing bowl and combine well. Spoon into paper patty pans and refrigerate until set.

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