How to Make Traditional Australian Damper Bread

When I went to the King of the Ranges Competition, while I was in Australia recently, I watched two men making damper bread (see left). In case you are wondering what damper is, it's an unleavened bread that the drovers used to bake, in the early days, while on the move with their cattle in the outback. (I dare say the swag-men made it too, as they camped by their billabongs.)

The dough is mixed in a bowl, and then turned out onto a flat surface to shape into a flat round.

The original ingredients of damper were just flour, water and salt, and sometimes milk. This was kneaded together to make a dough-like consistency, and then cooked in a camp oven (similar to a Dutch oven) over hot coals from a fire. The bread was then eaten with meat, or smothered in golden syrup.

The damper bread dough is in the camp oven, which is standing on the hot coals. 
Here you can see the lid being put on, it is covered in coals to ensure even baking.

Sometimes the men were too hungry to wait for the loaf to be cooked in this way, so they devised a quicker method. They simply wrapped the dough around a stick and held it in the fire to cook, rather like toasting marshmallows. They called these “Teddy Dumbbells”, and filled the hole left by the stick with jam or syrup.

Taking the lid off the camp oven. It is very hot. He is standing on hot coals, 
notice the thick soles to his boots!

Damper is still made today in Australia, and is especially popular at barbecues. Today's damper is likely to be made with self raising flour, and have added extras. like nuts, herbs,spices, fruit, or cheese. Our damper-maker told us of a friend who rolls a piece of mozzarella cheese into the centre of his, which melts into the bread as it bakes. It sounds delicious! The damper we tasted had raisins and sultanas in it.

Cutting me a slice of the finished bread.

Of course, today, damper bread is often baked in an oven. If you would like to try damper bread, here is the recipe given to me at the King of the Ranges:


4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
handful of raisins and sultanas
butter, for greasing the pan
extra flour


Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Mix in the dried fruit and make a well in the middle of the mixture.
Pour in the milk and mix thoroughly.
Turn out onto a flat surface dusted with flour, and shape into a flattened round.
Grease the camp oven, or a round baking pan, and dust with flour.
Place dough in the camp oven or pan.
Cut a cross in the top surface of dough.
Close lid of camp oven and bake in the hot ashes of your camp fire for about forty minutes, or bake in preheated normal kitchen oven for 30 minutes at 220° C (425° F).

Elizabeth Coughlan


Red Bull Flugtag 2010, Caddebostan Park, Istanbul

Hmm, Interesting design. ...but will it fly?

It's the beginning of summer in Istanbul and the silly season has started. On Sunday we went to Caddebostan Park to watch the Red Bull Flugtag. This is an event where the participants have to build a flying craft, powered by a human. They then launch their flying machine from a height of 30ft, over the sea. This is so they don't do too much damage to themselves when the inevitable happens and gravity takes over. 40 teams competed against each other and were judged on distance, creativity and showmanship.

Will this fly? ...perhaps not.

Well, birds do fly ...normally.

Could this be held together by Scotch tape?

Preparing for take off! It looks convincing, 
although it could be designed for a Kamikaze pilot.

There is a strict criteria for entry, although you wouldn't guess from a cursory glance. The rules state that, "Every flying machine must have a maximum wingspan of just over 9 metres (30ft for the unconverted), a maximum weight, including pilot, of 204kg (450lbs) and be powered by muscle, gravity or imagination." Of course, it's a given that they will probably all end up in water, so the craft must be unsinkable, built from environmentally friendly materials, and without any loose parts that could impede another team's flying machine.

Interestingly, some of these contraptions actually manage to fly. The record was set in the Flugtag 2000 event in Austria, when one design managed to fly for 59.4 metres.

Will he do it?

...no he won't! (Fortunately he missed the suicidal photographer on the end of the pier.)

A huge crowd came to watch.

Another hopeful sets off...

... only to land in the drink!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Patricia's Visit to Istanbul

I have been very busy sightseeing since returning from Australia. My friend, Patricia, who was in the same year at school as me, flew in last Thursday for a visit. I have had such fun giving her a glimpse of Istanbul.

Paticia bought lots of postcards to send to friends.

On Friday, we visited the little Chora church, with its amazing mosaics and frescos, followed by a visit to the Aya Sofia. The church of St Savior in Chora is purported to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. The original building dates from the 5th century. The church was rebuilt in the 11th century, although many of the frescos and mosaics weren't added until the 14th century. They were plastered over when the church became a mosque in the 16th century and gradually uncovered again when the church was declared a secularised museum in 1948.

Patricia outside the Choro Church

One of the beautiful frescos in the Choro Church

The Aya Sofia is one of those 'must sees' of Istanbul. This was the cathedral of old Constantinople, from the year 360 until it became a mosque in 1453. In 1934, the Aya Sofia was secularised and it was opened as a museum in 1935. The sheer size of the Aya Sofia is amazing, Its vast interior must have held thousands of worshippers in its day. It is a remarkable feat of architecture, with its magnificent dome almost appearing to defy gravity.

A stunning mosaic from the Aya Sofia.

The next day we took the ferry all the way along the Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavaği, a little village at the entrance to the Black Sea. There we had a delightful fish lunch, seated right on the edge of the water, before making the return journey. Towering over Anadolu Kavaği is the Yorus castle, an ancient Byzantine fortification. We admired it from afar, preferring to linger over lunch, rather than struggle up the steep hill.

David and Patricia at the fish restaurant in Anadolu Kavaği.

On Sunday, we went to Christ Church, built to commemorate the Crimean War, so that Patricia could meet Canon Ian Sherwood, with whom she had communicated, but never met. After church, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the parsonage, before taking Ian to the House Restaurant for lunch.

Patricia with Canon Ian Sherwood

Monday took Patricia and me to Büyükada, the largest island of the Prince's Islands. We toured the island in a horse-drawn carriage, before enjoying a leisurely lunch in a fish restaurant beside the Sea of Marmara.

Patricia, in the 'Surrey with the Fringe on Top'.

Our next trip was to the Basilica Cisterna (Yerebatan Sarayı, or sunken palace). This was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and was designed to provide a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople, among other buildings. It continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 right up to modern times.

The Basilica Cisterna (Yerebatan Sarayı, or sunken palace)

After admiring the cisterna, we visited the Grand Bazaar, where Patricia bought gifts for friends back home, before walking down the long road to the spice market. There, we sampled and bought Turkish Delight - even though it shouldn't be in my diet, it was delicious!

We saw this boat on the Bosphorus. They were making fresh fish sandwiches.

Today is David's birthday, and Patricia took us to a magnificent lunch in our favourite restaurant to celebrate. Tomorrow, Patricia flies out again. We hope she enjoyed her stay and look forward to her next visit as there is so much more to see of this extraordinary city called Istanbul.


Scone: The Horse Capital of Australia

Suzi and Katelyn at the polo match.

The nearest small town to Ellerston is Scone, known as the Horse Capital of Australia. I was fortunate enough to coincide this visit with the annual Scone and Upper Hunter Horse Festival (running from April 30 to May 16), so we have been following some of the events.

Last weekend, we watched Neil play polo in a tournament. This is played over the three weekends of the festival and the teams are picked from a hat, to make them as even as possible. Ellerston uses this as an opportunity to play some of their younger horses to give them polo experience. Unfortunately, Neil's team didn't make the final, but the match we saw was very exciting. They were down 5 to 1 in the final chukka, but, thanks to a supreme effort by Neil, they managed to score 4 more goals to draw even.

Neil takes command.

Neil, playing number three, leaps into action.

Neil charges down the field.

This Sunday, we went to watch the finals of the 'King of the Ranges' at Murrurundi. This competition is named after Archie "Bung" McInnes, who was known as the 'King of the Ranges' for his expertise in tracking and catching wild horses (known in Australia as 'Brumbies'), and mustering cattle. He worked the ranges around Glenrock Station, about 30 km further into the hills from Ellerston, so he was very much a local of these parts. Archie joined the Ist Battalion Light Horse at the outbreak of the First World War, and was seriously wounded during the Battle of Beersheba. After the war, Archie "Bung" McInnes was decorated with the Military Medal and returned to his old life in the Hunter Valley as a champion buckjumper and stockman. His memory is honoured by the 'King of the Ranges' challenge, held every year at Murrurundi.

In the ladies-only contest, the riders had to catch a rope attached 
to the horse's bridle and keep the horse under control.

The main finalists had to get a halter over the wild horse and then control it.

The contest is a real test of horsemanship. Men and women compete in 6 demanding events to prove their worth to the judges. They have to compete in cross-country riding, stock handling, shoeing a horse, leading a packhorse through a course, whip cracking, and taking part in a bare-back riding obstacle course. The judges award marks for all these events and 10 finalists are chosen, who then have to catch and control a wild brumby and ride a stock saddle buckjump (like a bucking bronco, western-style). The person who completes all the challenges successfully is named 'King of the Ranges' for the year.

We saw some spectacular falls in the buckjumping contest.

This rider managed the buckjumping in style.

Along with the 'King of the Range' contest, there are many other attractions. There is a rodeo, the children's wild-goat ride, demonstrations of camp-draft, dog trials, a bush skills show, rides and sideshows, a military display and much, much more. It is an exciting time for residents of the Hunter Valley, and people come from far and wide to take part in, or watch, the events. I had a great time and would most certainly go again, given the chance!

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I couldn't resist this one!