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Damper is Soda bread’s Antipodean cousin. I first went to Sydney in my teens and when I saw the Opera House, I fell head over heels in love with the place. This is an Australian bread traditionally (I am led to believe) made by people in the bush on the camp fire. I love green olives, but the black variety, although normally a little more bitter, work well here.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400 F / Gas Mark 6) and put a baking tray in to warm up.
Pick the leaves from the rosemary and roughly chop them up. Roughly chop the olives also and set them aside in separate piles (they go into the mix at different times).
Put the flour in a large bowl, with the rosemary, salt, oil and water. Mix everything well until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Then get your hands in and squidge all the dry bits in, using the bread like a cloth to gather the bits all up.
Dust a clean board or surface with a little flour and place the dough down. Squish it into a flattish round, put the olives in the centre and squash them down a bit, bringing the edges of the dough towards the centre, so that the olives are covered. Then flip the dough over and knead the olives in.
At this point, the dough may be quite wet with olives flying all over the shop, but just keep pushing the rogue olives back into the dough. If everything is too wet, just add a small handful of flour to dough. Shape it into a 20cm (8 in) round and place on the warmed baking tray.
Rub a little flour onto the handle of a wooden spoon. Then, holding the handle horizontal to the bread, press down onto the loaf making an indent almost to the bottom of the tray.
Turn handle so that it is at a 90 degree angle to the first line and push down again to make a cross. Do this two more times so your bread looks like a kind of clock face of eight triangular portions.
Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. This is wonderful served warm with some fruity olive oil and balsamic.
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