Summer has been over for some weeks now in Melbourne, but it hasn't particularly felt like it - until this week. Endless lashes of wind and rain and a dramatic drop in temperature are a surefire sign that beach days and barbecues are over for the season.
As such, I find myself longing for November, when Dave and I drove a camper van around the Gold Coast and Northern New South Wales. It was my first time in that part of the country, and I couldn't think of a better way to see it. Starting in Coolangatta, we made our way into the Hinterland, down through Byron, Yamba, and landed in Red Cliff near Lake Arragan.
The trip was absolute magic, particularly down in Red Cliff, where we set up camp for a few days. We hardly saw anyone else the entire time, and when we did they were the passing 'grey nomads' that myths are made of - them, or the many kangaroos that lazily hung out at our campsite. Days spent in the sun on an expansive rugged shoreline and hiking through thick woods left us worn out and hungry at the end of each day.
Never ones to let a good appetite go to waste, we stoked a roaring fire each night, accompanied by a bottle of rosé or some cold beers, and made big piles of rustic grub. I put the cast iron pans to good use frying up fresh eggs for dinner one night (which we had picked up at The Farm on our way down the coast). To go with the eggs, I cooked some knobbly potatoes in salty water straight from the ocean (pictured above: me and a very heavy bucket of sea water), smashed them (with the bottom of a beer bottle, if I recall correctly), and fried them alongside the eggs in a heap of butter. I don't think I've ever had better spuds.
Since then, I've been frequently preparing potatoes this way in our kitchen. They lack a bit of campfire smoke (and the ambiance of a blissful summer holiday), but they're still pretty darn good. Plus, with winter weather settling in, there is no shortage of buttery carb cravings over here. In fact, I'm trying them tonight with some chopped thyme, and will plate them up alongside coq of vin. It's no beach holiday, but there's still good company, good wine and good food.
1 pound small, waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, washed
1 tablespoon butter
In a large stockpot, cover potatoes with plenty of cold water; season heavily with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes (depending on size). Drain potatoes and transfer to a large cutting board. Using the bottom of a heavy pan, wine bottle, or the palm of your hand (just be careful as potatoes will be hot!), press potatoes with enough weight that they flatten and split slightly, but don't turn to mush.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat. melt butter. One butter is bubbling, add potatoes in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Fry until potatoes are slightly crisp and golden, about 3-5 minutes per side.
Serve immediately with a sprinkling of coarse salt, fresh cracked pepper, and chopped herbs (if desired).