There are few things in this world as simple or as satisfying as the humble damper. There are many master damper makers out here in the desert, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to sample some fresh off the fire. Oh, the guilty pleasure of indulging in a bit of damper with butter and homemade jam for breakfast, lunch and dinner – all on the same day! I submitted willingly even though I could feel my soft bits getting softer with every bite.
This particular bush trip was part of a week of celebrations, workshops and cultural activities that is the “Blackstone Festival”, put on by Papulankutja Artists. Check out their blog at http://papulankutja.blogspot.com/. They make beautiful paintings at Blackstone, well worth a look if you are in the market for something sublime that is also ethically produced.
The first of our dampers from this particular bush trip was made by a great chick from Margaret River named Jodie. She put a lot of love into that damper but it was unmistakably the product of a white girl still learning, shaped rather like a very large Hershey’s chocolate drop. Nevertheless it was delicious, and we ate it with gusto and lashings of butter and slightly fermented fig jam (the pot I bought in Waikerie some weeks ago).
The second of our dampers was produced by an older lady who learned how to make it almost fifty years ago, at a time when there was a bounty on the heads of dingos and flour was the major commodity sought after by people from this area in exchange for “dog skins”. Here’s her recipe, and some photos of the process.
Mrs Mitchell’s Campfire Damper
½ portion plain flour
½ portion self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl, adding water a little at a time and kneading until a smooth, soft dough is achieved. Clear away the coals from a hot fire, best one that has been burning all night. Place dough onto hot sand and pat down into a flat cake. Cover with coals and leave to bake for approximately 20 minutes. Beat off ash using a green sprig of tree leaves. Serve warm with butter and jam and a huge cup of sweet tea.
Scoffing damper in the morning sun. Note the little red coffee plunger camping mug by my knee – a handy way to make a decent morning brew if you prefer coffee and everybody else is drinking tea.