Courtesy Paul Iskov, chef/owner, Fervor, Western Australia
Damper is a traditional Australian bread originally made by the country’s early English bushmen, whose nomadic lifestyle required hearty, belly-filling fare that could be made on the fly with few ingredients. The word, which is believed to be a derivative of a Lancashire expression meaning “something that damps the appetite,” conjures the sort of stick-to-the-gut fare that accompanies a thick slab of meat, pint of ale and a fireside yarn.
Chef Paul Iskov, founder of Western Australian pop-up restaurant Fervor, celebrates native Aussie ingredients and traditional recipes in gloriously remote locales, set in harmony with the original custodians of the land. While the dough for this recipe is traditionally buried in the coals of a smoldering fire, Iskov suggests laying it straight on top. This bread can be baked in the oven as well, though Iskov contributes his top six tips below for cooking with fire, to help make sure your damper rises to perfection.
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
In bowl, mix all ingredients. Gradually add 1 ¾ cups water, kneading gently until combined. Dust with flour and shape into oval.
Place dough directly on hot coals. Cook 15 minutes. Flip over and allow to cook additional 15 minutes.
Wearing heat-proof gloves or using tongs, remove bread from coals. Tap bottom of loaf to check doneness. If bread sounds hollow, place aside and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Place back on coals if additional cooking time is required.
Alternatively, bread can be baked in oven for 30 minutes at 350˚F.
• Get organized before you start. Set up a table with all cooking utensils, chopping board and essentials like salt, oils and tongs.
• Make sure you have enough wood. It is always best to bring your own.
• Clear an area and use rocks to build a fire pit. This will help with wind protection.
• Start a small fire with kindling then add the bigger wood. Have a designated spot next to your fire for coals and a stainless-steel mesh grill.
• Start your fire an hour before cooking, so you have hot coals to drag to the side and cook over.
• Use good wood! Dry hard wood is the best. Fruit trees also give off great aroma and add to the flavor.