Mr Toasty at Hot Toast and Jam and friends are having a Christmas Tea party and much as I'd like to be pointing the pinkie and sipping Earl Grey out of Shelley China on the slopes in Aspen, hanging with the hoi palloy and delicately savouring my cucumber and smoked salmon ribbon sarnies and cup cakes doused with hundreds and thousands - I'm going traditional and outdoorsy. I know it's cold! But I have a campfire a cozy swag, a Dryzabone and a billy on the boil!
I thought a recipe for good old fashioned Billy Tea might be a goer.OK a Billy as we all know is what the Swagman (traveller) in "Waltzing Matilda" (song about a bedroll, sheep and a thief who drowned in a waterhole) watched boil while he was contemplating nicking jumbucks (Baa Lambs). But believe it or not, no bush campfire is complete without tea made in a billy over an open fire. Fire bans notwithstanding.
The billy itself is simply a metal cooking pot, the luxury version comes with a lid and a bucket handle. The water is boiled on an open fire and tea made all in the same pot. After a bit of use, the outside is black and sooty but the inside is kept clean. This does nothing for the tea but adds to the authenticity.
True bushies don't carry fresh milk. It goes sour in the heat. And only wusses and motel goers use long life milk. It is traditional to flavour billy tea with tinned sweetened condensed milk. (I know, a travesty for real tea drinkers - the stuff yer ma used to make toffee out of!)
You will need:
- Strong black tea any kind is best but Billy Tea is authentic
- Billycan of suitable size
- Water (clean and fresh if possible)
- Campfire - but not between October and March without a permit!
- Tin mugs (250 ml or larger) Just because
- Gum leaf (optional)
- Milk, sugar or condensed milk, as available.
- Fill the billy can with water: at least 250 ml per person.
- Cover with lid and put on the fire to boil.
- When the water boils, take off the fire by lifting the handle with a forked stick and remove lid. Be careful – everything is very hot.
- Sprinkle a handful of tea on the top . . use your hands people! No spoons in the bush! For 'herbal' tea, add a gum leaf or lemon myrtle, traditional bush tucker to give it a lemony zing.
- Now for the tricky, bushy stirry bit -
Swing the billy over your shoulder in a full circle bringing it back up past your knee then back over your shoulder and so completing a full circle. Do this three or four times. The reason for doing this is that it drives practically all of the tea-leaves to the bottom of the billy so you can pour a drink without filling the cup with tea leaves. No tea strainers other than your teeth in the bush.
- Pour into tin mugs leaving tea leaves in the bottom of the billy.
- Flavour with milk, sugar or condensed milk if liked.
Keep it clean folks, a 'cocky' besides being someone who's cheeky or a sulphur crested cockatoo is also a farmer and 'Cocky's Joy' is simply golden syrup!
Use the dregs of the tea from cups and billy to pour onto the fire to help put it out before leaving the camp.
Ok I know you're all snug little snow bunnies tucked away inside in your gladrags and sipping Ceylon but for real tea-time enjoyment, there's nothing like a cool night, starry skies, a camp fire and a cup of billy tea!
Ok I'm getting cold, can I come in for a cup of Chai?