Monday, October 15, 2012

Focus on Australia: Bush Tucker


In a recent adventure program called Ray Mears' Walkabout from the BBC, which you may be familiar with, the host, Ray Mears, talked extensively about the survival foods, not sure what else you could call them, of the early settlers of Australia and the original Aboriginal inhabitants.

Bush tucker (pronounced "tucka" if trying your best Aussi accent) is any of the staple foods or dishes that would have been consumed routinely in the outback in the early days of Australia, and before. Using only very basic staples such as flour, sugar and salt the food focus of these hearty people was primarily on bread and tea. A bland diet to be sure unless meat was also on the menu. None the less, bush tucker, in it's simplest form, kept many people alive in the brutal conditions of the Australian outback.

                             Making damper in the bush

The bread made is called damper or bush bread if you are Aboriginal, and the tea most often consumed, Billy tea, made from the leaves of indigenous trees, typically was the staple survival diet of those explorers, settlers and Aborigines who truly invented them.

Bush bread, a simple flour and water bread, was cooked in the hot ashes of a campfire. Once cooked, the ashes would be have to be tapped off the bread. None-the-less, you would surely consume some of the ashes. And Billy tea, according to Aussies, has a real cultural component to it beyond the simple tradition of tea. Read more here on the art of Billy Tea.

In any event, these foods are the stuff of legend and survival. Entertain the kids and make it a truly cultural experience. Next time you are camping, make a batch of damper. Or fire up a DVD on Australia and enjoy a little bush bread and billy tea, wherever you are. Here are the basics for making your own  bush bread or damper.

Ingredients: - 5 cups flour (white or whole wheat or a combination of any kind of flour)
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup milk powder
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. fat (butter, margarine, shortening, bacon grease)
-place the dough in a greased and floured dutch oven
-place the dutch oven under the coals and hot ashes of your campfire (or place dough directly under the ashes without using a dutch oven! )
- bake about thirty minutes
- to know if it is done, tap on the sides with a knife. It should sound hollow
- serve with great amounts of butter and jam and a cup of your best Billy Tea!

More to come about other bush tucker in future installments.