“Proper Job” Damper: Cornish Style

Cream Always Goes on Top

Last weekend’s camping trip gave me the opportunity to test out a recipe for an Australian classic that has been on my to do list for a long time; damper in the camp oven. What better way to enjoy it than Cornish style with some home made strawberry jam and double cream? Well actually if I could have got hold of some real clotted cream that would have been even better, but for some reason its rather hard to come by in Australia. The next best things is King Island Dairy’s thickest double cream, or as in this case just some of the usual thick double cream you can get from the supermarket. If anyone knows of a “proper” clotted cream producer in NSW or Australia, do let me know.

For the benefit of non-Aussie readers, here follows a brief background on the origins of damper.  The basic ingredients for damper being plain flour and water meant that it was the perfect camp food for Australia’s first European settlers and explorers, who often had to survive on little more than this, some salted meat and bush tea from the billy (not being experienced in the art of gathering bush tucker).  In the absence of a camp oven the dough was simply prepared, shaped into a small flat circle and placed in a hollow in the camp fire embers, with some more ash piled on top to stop it burning. The damper was cooked if a tap on the base made a hollow sound. Lots of other ingredients have been added over the years, depending on what was available or to spice it up a bit. In our case we added a little sugar to provide the sweet effect for the Cornish Cream Tea.

Ready to go into the fire

A Little Crispy on the Outside

The Perfect Filler Until Supper

I referred to my newly purchased book “Australian Bush Cooking” published by Boiling Billy  for the basic quantities and instructions:

  • 3 Cups of self raising flour
  • 1 cup of milk or water (I used milk)
  • pinch of salt

I also added about 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Mix ingredients together until all the flour has been incorporated. Shape dough and lightly dust with flour. Place in a greased camp oven and cover. Cook in medium coals and check after 30 minutes. Damper is cooked when it has a golden crust and a skewer inserted comes out clean. We probably should have waited a little longer for a deeper bed of embers as flames licking the sides did result in a little charring, but it can’t have been too bad as people came back for seconds. Do also remember to turn the camp oven half way through if the oven is not placed centrally in the heat.

For the Cornish cream tea effect serve with jam and then cream on top, accompanied with a steaming hot cup of tea.

Full credit must go to Carmen for her food styling advice and assistance.

Teapot from QueenB candles

Enamel mugs; authors own

Tablecloth; authors own

Camping at Colo: The Last “Pristine” River in NSW

The Pristine Colo River

The planning and preparation that preceded our weekend camping expedition to the Colo River led me to the conclusion that camping with kids is all about the destination and not the journey. Of course we must try our best to escape the trappings of modern life and leave the kitchen sink at home, but my advice on camping with toddlers is be prepared and take what you need to have a comfortable and relaxing time. We can wait until they are least six or seven before we make them carry their own pack and eat rehydrated food.  If this means the adults must succumb to lamb curry (Saag Gosht), blueberry and honey porridge, damper (Cornish style), pot roasted chicken and lemon sponge pudding in the camp oven then so be it.

Having spent so much time focusing on equipment and provisioning, I ran out of time to properly read the directions which resulted in a slight detour in the direction of Lithgow. This didn’t matter as it was a pleasant drive and a stop to consult a local near the end of our journey to see if we were on the right track, meant we could meet Bony the retired Stockton Beach camel (who, please be warned, can’t distinguish between carrots and the fingers of small children) and pat some cows.

Bony The Camel, Retired to the Hawkesbury from Stockton Beach

We chose to camp at the Upper Colo Reserve because its less than two hours drive from Sydney (about 30 minutes from Windsor) so quite feasible to do on the average weekend during daylight saving. More significantly the Colo Wilderness has been recognised as one of the twenty remaining real wilderness areas left in New South Wales and one of the last “pristine” rivers, granting it special protection from the effects of development.  It is adjacent to the Wollemi National Park, where the now famous prehistoric Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was discovered by a bushwalker called David Noble in 1994, testament to the area’s isolation, despite its proximity to Sydney.

Constructing the "Taj"

Motivated by Marshmallows...

Another bonus was that dogs are allowed on a leash and we were pleased to find that fellow campers were all responsible dog owners resulting in zero canine “incidents”. Sharing a tent with a toddler and a Labrador is an interesting experience, which Rhubarb will elaborate on in a future dog blog.

We took the tinny with the idea of exploring the lower, less shallow reaches of the Colo, but found that we had more than enough river to explore with the kids, and when we returned to the camp later on Saturday, the tinny and its emergency oars became an imaginary pirate ship, keeping three lively little boys under the age of four entertained for over an hour.

Pondering...

Undoubtedly the big draw card of the Upper Colo Reserve campsite is the Colo River itself; a beautiful, clean, slow flowing river with a sandy river bed, ideal for kids to splash around in and for adults to wash off the camp fire smoke and soak up the sound of running water; cleansing in every sense.

The trip home included a stop in Windsor for lunch and purchase of strawberries, strawberry jam and fig preserve from the Windsor Markets, as no trip to the country is complete without collecting some local produce.

Campfire Companion

Getting There:

From Windsor  go over Windsor Bridge, heading to Wilberforce Road, which turns into Putty Road at Wilberforce (do not turn right into King Road). Stay on Putty Road for approximately 15km and then turn left into Upper Colo Road, just before Colo River Bridge. Travel another 13.8km along Upper Colo Road and then follow the signs into the camping ground. Note that Putty Road is also known as Singleton Road.

Highlights

  • The Colo River
  • Low density camping (bookings are only taken for 50% capacity)
  • Beautiful drive into the valley
  • Well behaved dogs (and owners) permitted.

Drawbacks

  • There was some music noise from fellow campers but this was minimal and did not go late into the night.

Booking:

The campsite is managed by Hawkesbury Council and bookings must be made by calling 02 4560 4528 or 02 4560 4647 between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday

Cost:

  • $6 per night for adults
  • $4 for children 5-12
  • Children under 5 are free.

Important Information:

  • Dogs allowed on leads
  • Firewood cannot be collected inside the reserve so you will need to bring this with you
  • A range of activities including cycling and canoeing can be enjoyed in the area
  • No trail bikes

Links

Hawkesbury Council Camping Information (Upper Colo)

Wollemi Pine

Upper Colo River

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