Alana and I were flatmates at The Lovely Flat in Palmerston North in 2000. That was the year that every flatmate but one started off the year single, and by the end all the single flatmates had met the person they would marry. Bet you didn’t know that Palmerston North was potentially the love capital of New Zealand? Alana and Jon now live in Titahi Bay with their super-cute baby Anahera.
We are a real outdoors sort of family and start to feel all cooped up and out of sorts when we’re stuck inside for too long. The run of miserable weather we’ve had of late has made going outside a chore. However, last weekend was somewhat of a reprieve. Saturday dawned clear and still and, whilst cold, the day was as bright and sunny as you could hope for so close to the winter solstice. We spent most of the day pottering about in the garden, like the happy newly mortgaged that we are, but the highlight of the day had to be getting introduced to damper doughnuts.
My husband’s Mother was a keen camper and a girl guide leader. As a consequence, he got a fairly good grounding in the essentials of outdoor survival. Part of this included how to make damper over an open fire. Now, I’ve had damper before, but this was something different. We’re not talking half raw, half burnt chunks of sooty scone dough here. What we created over the glowing embers of our decrepid weber was in a class of it’s own; more like doughtnuts than scones, it was divine, buttery, goodness.
Maybe it was just the magic of being outdoors that made them taste so good. Like the way packet rice risotto tastes so exotic after you’ve done a days tramping, yet tastes like shredded cardboard when made at home. Or maybe they were just really good. Whatever the case, the combination of fresh air, starlight and simple, good food gave us the kind of glow normally felt at the end of a summers day at the beach. As we sat on the porch, wrapped up warm against the creeping cold, I watched my two-year-old daughter licking the last of the sticky syrup off of her fingers. Her face, soft and grubby in the firelight, reflected the sense of utter contentment that I myself felt; I thought what a wonderful first memory this would make.
How to make damper doughnuts:
- Prepare 1 quantity of basic white bread dough with all the usual ingredients (a couple of cups of flour, pinch of salt, dollop of olive oil, dash of yeast) with more sugar than you’d usually use to give them a bit of extra sweetness (a couple of tablespoon say).
- Let the dough prove.
- Light a fire and allow it to burn down until you have nicely glowing embers; now is a good time to cook some sausages.
- Find suitable sticks: about a metre in length and the width of your pinky at the narrowest end.
- Roll the dough into sausage sizzled lengths and wind around the narrow end of the stick.
- Hold damper laden sticks over glowing embers and rotate until damper feels firm to touch.
- Remove damper from the sticks and pour golden syrup down the middle; add butter too if you’re a fiend like me.
- Serve hot and whilst sitting outside under the stars.