FEW things lift your spirits around a campfire quite like tucking into something you’ve just cooked amid the flames and glowing embers.
But, surely, nothing could be better than seeing the pride on your little ones’ faces when they see one of their own campfire culinary creations.
So, instead of resting on the laurels of a standard marshmallow on a stick, how about getting the kids involved in making bannock – a traditional campfire bread that has been enjoyed in the dancing shadows of campfires for centuries?
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.
Here at Ever Wild Outdoors, we 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 who chose to dispense with stones or cooking pots, using instead a green shoot skewer to hold the dough over the fire.
This is often the method we go with too – not just because it means there’s no washing up of course, but also because it really gets the kids engaged with the food they are cooking in the wild.
Ingredients (this is the dry mix we carry in our packs):
4 cups of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
(You can add many other ingredients to the dough once you start mixing – grated cheese is always a winner, or dried fruit can quickly turn it into a dessert. 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.
Alternatively, brush a pan with oil and cook the dough flat like a pizza (remembering to flip it regularly). It should rise like a bread a usual, but give it a tap on the base to ensure it sounds hollow before serving.
Another method can be to place the dough in a cooking pot and surround it with embers. After a couple of minutes, turn it over in the pot before placing a lid on top and covering with more embers. This should then bake from 20 minutes to half-an-hour and produce a loaf.
*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.
And don’t forget a cup of tea with your bannock – it goes remarkably well with the old recipe. Here’s how to make the perfect cuppa outdoors… How to make the perfect cup of tea outdoors VIDEO – Ever Wild Outdoors