We’re planning a big trip for later this year…it will take a few weeks and cover a fair few kilometres in some remote areas of Australia (we don’t want to give away too much yet, but there’s a bit of south to north involved). Inspired by Epic Rides comment that they cooked up damper in their Trangia every afternoon when they stopped for the day, we thought we should get in some practise in the comfort of our kitchen, ready for a trip that is going to have multiple bakery-free cycle touring days all in a row (how are we going to cope?!). With a bit of flour, water (and powdered milk, sultanas, sugar, or spices, salt…), we discovered it’s easy to cook up some bread/cake-like damper that is comforting, filling, and adaptable to whatever you have on hand.
Of course, it’s no fun if everything goes too smoothly…
The amount of food we can cook at any one time is limited to the size of the pots we use with our Trangia. For the damper we mixed about 1 cup of self-raising flour with powdered milk, sultanas, sugar and a pinch of salt in the Trangia pot. We only added enough water to make the ingredients stick together without being sticky and kind of kneaded it with the spoon to make a ball of dough. We then took it out of the pot so we could sprinkle some flour on the bottom, and laid the dough back in ready to cook.
Temperature regulation is important on a Trangia, otherwise food can burn and stick easily to the pot. We read that you can put the biggest Trangia pot on the bottom, lay four pebbles in it, then place the smaller pot on top. This keeps the base of the cooking pot a bit further away from the direct heat, allowing more even distribution and more of an oven-like cooking method. Apparently you can also add water to the bottom pot, but we were practising being water minimalists and left this part for another day.
We put the simmer ring on the burner with the lid three-quarters closed to ensure minimal heat. Once the pot was on the flame, we placed the frypan on top as a lid and set the timer for 15 minutes. We had no idea how long it would take, but figured 15 minutes on low heat was a good start.
Roughly 10 minutes later, Mick pointed out that there were flames leaping up around the Trangia pot. So much for slow cooking! We managed to grab the simmer ring out with some long-handled pliers (it was way too hot to use the Trangia grips!), close the lid fully and place it back on the burner, which is meant to shut off the flame. Unfortunately this didn’t work and, while the flames diminished somewhat, they continued to lick around the edges of the burner and simmer ring. This was going great…
Unfortunately the damper hadn’t cooked fully yet, but it had risen quite nicely and was looking promising. The flour and bits of dough stuck on the sides of the pot were black…cleaning up was going to be fun…
Once we managed to extinguish the flame by turning the simmer ring around, flicking it on and off and various other innocuous manoeuvres , we thought we would try again. The damper had to be cooked after all!
Inevitably, the leaping flames situation repeated itself after a few minutes and we had to rush to the rescue of our (now cooked) damper.
And it was good! I had no idea damper could be this beautiful looking and tasting! Soft, not too crumbly, the damper was slightly crunchier on the bottom, but still fantastic, particularly considering the bursts of intense heat it had experienced! We can see this becoming a standard ‘go-to’ recipe for future trips. Whether or not it works this well every time is another matter altogether!
As for the Trangia, closer investigation revealed that we had been doing a pretty bad job of cleaning when we got home from touring trips. The pots and utensils always got a good wash before packing away, but we never bothered to look at the burner once it was packed up after the final cook-up. The burner and simmer ring were coated in black gunk from a few years of cooking spills, the use of many bottles of methylated spirits of perhaps questionable quality and general use. The gunk was obviously flammable once it got hot enough, hence the leaping flames!
We gave the burner and simmer ring a good scrubbing, using bicarb soda and a sponge, ready to try again next weekend. We expect this will have fixed the problem, but will find out and let you know!
If you’re interested, the rough amounts we used to create our excellent (if we do say ourselves) damper are below. We will add new combinations as we try them out.
1 cup self-raising flour
1 heaped dessertspoon powdered milk
1 heaped dessertspoon sugar
Small handful sultanas
Roughly 1/2 cup of water (this really depends on how much or little you need to make your dough come together without being sticky. If you add a bit too much water, just add more flour to even it out)
Cook on low heat in a pot with a lid for roughly 15 minutes to half an hour depending on how many leaping flame episodes you do or don’t have!