BANNOCK (Campfire bread):
You’re cold, tired, hungry and your morale is somewhere in the bottom of your soaking boots. Only one thing is going to lift your spirits more than huddling round a fire – and that’s some campfire bread.
It doesn’t matter how much gear you’ve stuffed into your day pack, there should always be room in a corner for a little bag of dry ingredients ready to turn into hearty food when you need it most.
Campfire bread is a tradition around the world, and there are many regional variations. In the Australian outback they cook a camp bread in a pan at the edge of the fire called ‘damper’. On the shores of some South American countries, they cook it over hot rocks in the embers.
I tend to cook what is known as a traditional ‘bannock’ which was the staple of Scottish workers who flocked to Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. They too cooked the bannock (from the Gaelic bannach, meaning ‘morsel’) on a stone by the fire. Eventually, the bread was also adopted by the indigenous people of Canada – but they chose to dispense with stones or cooking pots, using instead a green shoot skewer to hold the dough over the fire.
This is also the method I choose to use, and not just because it means there’s no washing up!
INGREDIENTS (this is the dry mix I bag and carry in the corner of my day pack):
4 cups of flour
2 cups of milk powder
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
(You can add many other ingredients to the dough once you start mixing. If you’ve got anything left from an earlier catch or foraged herbs, it can only add to the nutritional value).
- Give the dry ingredients a good mix, making sure they are aerated after being stuffed in your bag all day.
- Gradually add water – a little at a time – until you get a stiff dough you can fold and knead with your hands.
- Wrap the dough (about the thickness of a sausage) around the sticks* and prop them over the embers. The best way to judge the heat and distance is to ensure it would be uncomfortable to have your hand there for more than three or four seconds.
- Rotate the bread as often as possible for even cooking. It should be obvious when they’re cooked but, to be sure, prod a small stick into the bannock – if the stick comes out clean the bread is ready.
*Ensure the green sticks are from a tree or shrub you know not to be poisonous. Willow is an abundant and safe option. Strip off the outer bark or skin, and slightly scorch the stick before using.