From soda bread to damper making over an open fire - it's all about baking at the moment. It's the beauty of winter - cold and wet enough to light fires out in the open without setting the bush on fire.
The fire itself is magical. When we get to cook over it, well that's even better. One week there were roasted chestnuts. This time it's damper we're making. After the fire is burning brightly we head off looking for branches to turn into damper toasting sticks. With our carving tools (a veggie peeler for the kids and a Mora 106 knife for me) we peel off the bark from our sticks.
There's a big batch of damper batter already made and butter, honey and jam waiting to go on our bread. We grab a handful of the dough and shape it into a rough sausage shape on our sticks and then hold them over the fire. It's a great lesson in patience and perseverance as we wait for the damper to cook and put it back on the sticks when it tries to slide off into the waiting fire below.
If you want to have a go at making damper next time you're near an open fire, give this recipe from Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall a try. I've used rye flour instead of wheat and served it with olive oil instead of butter to make it dairy free. Whatever you do, just make sure you've got your damper sticks handy!
250g rye flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
150 ml water
Olive oil and sea salt, to serve
Add flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary to a bowl.
Stir in the water a little at a time until you have a soft dough.
Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly into a ball.
Cut the dough in to six equal pieces.
Shape into sausages and wind around the end of a stick in a spiral motion. Give it a good squish to make sure it stays on.
Hold your stick over the coals of a fire, turning to toast all sides. Takes about ten minutes, sometimes more. Have patience!
To see if it's done, give it a tap. If it sounds hollow, it's ready to eat.
Let it cool a little, then tear off pieces to eat. Drizzle them with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt before devouring.
For a sweet version, leave out the rosemary and serve with jam or honey.