Tag Archives: blackberries

Aussie Damper, Pumpkin Soup, Drunken Berries and Goodwill

Writer’s possess a ‘writer’s eye’. We see the world as raw material for our writing. We also involve exercising our ‘writer’s muscle’ to unravel and decipher what we see.

I had no intention of writing a blog about recipes but somehow, when I sat at this computer and started tapping away, that’s what came out. This has been a week of coughs and colds, sneezing and  snuffling. Thoroughly miserable stuff, but my little pocket handkerchief garden and my journal are my life savers. When feeling low, or struggling with health issues or other problems they are my refuge. I don’t care that my vegetables will never amount to much or make it to any show. The sight of them uplifts and sustains me when I need them most. They make me get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. They even give me a good laugh and we all know how therapeutic that can be.

A self-sown pumpkin decided to make my small suburban garden its home and quickly proceeded to take over. I’m sure it grew a meter a day and I felt like Jill and the beanstalk. After it had strangled a prized rose I decided it had to go. I raised the knife ready to slash and destroy but suddenly saw, hidden under the leaves, a multitude of baby pumpkins. It continued to thrive and we’ve had baked pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones but the family favorite is pumpkin soup served with damper hot from the oven. I hope you enjoy.


        flower                                   trail  pumkin 2


Sauté 3 rashers of chopped bacon
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic. Put to one side.
Cut up a whole pot full of pumpkin, just cover with water and boil until soft.
Add 1 tin tomatoes and sautéed bacon, onion and garlic.
Cook 10 mins.
Add a good pinch of nutmeg.
When cool, puree (in a nutri bullet, viamizer or stick beater/bamix)

Always heat gently with a lid on as it tends to ‘pop’ like a Rotorua mud pool and your stove will never be the same again.
Serve with a swirl of cream


Damper is a traditional Australian bush bread, that was once cooked over an open fire. It’s easy and has few ingredients. There are various versions available from the most basic (flour, salt, water) through to the later versions adding butter, etc. for flavour.

damper  damper 2

If you do not have a camp oven heating on an open fire you will need to preheat your oven to very hot.

In a large mixing bowl place
3 cups self-raising flour, and a pinch of salt.
Mix with milk (or water) until it is the consistency of a scone dough. (if you like a lighter consistency, add a beaten egg)
Quickly place on floured board and with just a few twists into the center of dough, knead into a round flat loaf shape. I like to score the top with the back of a knife into even wedges/segments. Place on the top rung in very hot oven for 15 mins. You know it is cooked when you tap the top and it sounds hollow
Break into pieces to serve.

The secret is to make this as quickly as possible, throw onto a floured tray and pop it into a very hot oven for a short time and serve immediately. I usually make it while the soup is slowly heating.

Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travellers. It consists of a wheat flour based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire. Damper is an iconic Australian dish. It is also made in camping situations in New Zealand, and has been for many decades.

Damper was originally developed by stockmen who travelled in remote areas for weeks or months at a time, with only basic rations of flour, sugar and tea, supplemented by whatever meat was available.[1]The basic ingredients of damper were flour, water, and sometimes milk. Baking soda could be used for leavening. The damper was normally cooked in the ashes of the camp fire. The ashes were flattened and the damper was placed in there for ten minutes to cook. Following this, the damper was covered with ashes and cooked for another 20 to 30 minutes until the damper sounded hollow when tapped. Alternatively, the damper was cooked in a greased camp oven. Damper was eaten with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup, also known as “cocky’s joy”.

Damper is also a popular dish with Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal women had traditionally made bush bread from seasonal grains and nuts, which they cooked in the ashes of fires. It also became a popular dish for recreational campers and has become available in bakeries. Many variations and recipes exist, some authentic, others using the name to sell a more palatable bread product to the urban public.

How to get the party going

Our family needed to discuss a serious issue and everyone came to our house. We were all on our best behavior. The roast dinner went down well but everyone was very formal and no one was prepared to broach the difficult subject. Later I was glad I’d decided to serve


strawberries        strawberries5        berries 5

On the morning of the day before my family arrived I marinated
2 boxes of fresh strawberries in
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup strawberry liqueur.

Later in the day I added (fresh or frozen)
Blackberries and raspberries
Covered them with sherry and refrigerated overnight

Serve with vanilla or chocolate ice cream and, if you have it, a wedge of orange cake soaked in the marinade. Make sure to give everyone an ample serve using all the liquid.

Later, after we had all enjoyed several helpings of dessert the conversation became animated and everyone had the courage to speak his or her mind. Our problem soon turned from a mountain into a molehill and everyone went home happy.


Moroka and Memory

Writers often rely on memories for their stories, but how reliable is our memory?

Memory is a central part of how we think of ourselves, and indeed a central strand of what we might know. Memory is not simply a mechanical process. It works in various ways and the majority of writers use it in their writing. The philosopher John Locke considered individual identity is inextricably linked to memory—we are only what we remember being. But how reliable is memory when we tell ourselves stories about our past?

Precious memories. They sustain us during times of stress and fatigue. In the freeze of winter, we warm ourselves with remembered images of hands stretched out towards blazing log fires. During a heatwave, it may be the memory of splashing through waves into the cool sea. But how reliable are these images? Memory can also act like a dream catcher, sifting out unpleasant experiences and retaining only the golden images that gladden our hearts.


The High Country in Victoria Australia, part of the Great Dividing Range is a beautiful, fragile Alpine region. It is part of my life, the stuff of my dreams. In summer, when Melbourne smoulders in oppressive heat, I remember dipping my hand into icy mountain streams, hiking over grassy plains, cool mountain lookouts, a blanket thrown under a shady gumtree, sandwiches and my laughing children. On the lower slopes are plump blackberries and wild plums for the taking. It is easy to visualize the Ganai Kurnai aboriginal groups who travelled up to the high plains in summer to gorge and fatten on the plentiful fruit and nourishing Bogong Moths.


It was a hot, dry January. On a sudden whim, fuelled by joyous youthful memories of sleeping under canvas and sitting around a campfire I managed to talk my husband into reluctantly going camping again. We packed our car to capacity with tent, poles, stove, chairs, a box of food and a picnic basket.

caravan park

It takes five hours to travel from Carrum to the foot of the Wonnangatta/Moroka High Plains. On the last part of the journey the sun disappeared, followed by gusty squalls which settled into a steady drumming on the roof of the car. Memories flooded back of putting up a tent in the rain. Not pleasant. I sighed in relief when my husband suggested we stay in a cabin overnight. The Licola Caravan Park had only one small cabin left to rent. Mary, lessee of the Park and General Store was ecstatic about the downpour and the sun thirsty mountains breathed sighs of heat relief. I recognised the land’s need, but the one room cabin didn’t have a shower or toilet and the mental picture of me squelching across to the park’s amenities block at night was daunting to say the least. Thunder and lightning split the skies and any thoughts of a peaceful night’s sleep soon vanished. We placed an umbrella and torch by the door.

cockatoo 2

We woke to sunshine and the sound of cockatoos squawking and squabbling in querulous voices, like grumpy old men protesting their fate. The coin-operated showers were surprisingly bountiful and outweighed the sight of the night’s collection of black insects buzzing in their final death throes. On the window ledge of the shower was a half empty can of Bundaberg Rum and Cola. Maybe alcohol helped blot out the bugs.

Mary, was soon busy pumping petrol, selling groceries and giving directions to The Bastards Neck camp site to groups of men. Their battered bush hats and Akubras pulled well down over brown faces, shading blue eyes. Motorbikes with Jim Beam stickers, four wheel drive utes with Rhino Packs, pack racks and bull bars offload deer hunters, trout fishermen and bush walkers. Most were on father/son bonding trips. The ariels whipping in the wind were so tall I imagined them receiving messages from the moon.

daisy 2    daisies    daisy whire

On the High plains the flowers bloomed as if they knew summer would soon be gone. Gold everlasting daisies soaked up the sun and scattered clusters of white everlastings looked like patches of leftover snow. We stopped by a stream to pick plump blackberries. I’d forgotten how the spiky blackberry canes snag any exposed skin and the blue/black juice stains. In spite of deep scratches and constantly swatting blood thirsty mosquitoes, I managed to fill several containers. My husband picked wild cherry plums and apples. Later we sat on sun-warmed rocks to cool our hot feet in the creek. I was at peace with the world, until I noticed the biggest, hairiest spider clinging to the underside of my rock. I remembered to grab the blackberries before frantically clambering up the bank.

When we spread our blanket under a shady tree for our picnic lunch, huge black March flies descended and we become their lunch. Hundreds of tiny bush flies joined in the fun. We finished our lunch in the car, but we are made of strong stuff. A few March fly bities are not going to chase us away. We donned our backpacks and hiked to Higgins hut, one of several cattlemen’s huts dotted here and there over the Alpine region. Built with axes and bush saws they are rough but serviceable shelters for local cattlemen, lost skiers and weary bush walkers. Dry wood, several cans of baked beans, flour and sugar; are enough to keep body and soul together until help arrives.

licola - horses

Mountain cattlemen have mustered cattle in the area for over one hundred years and consider themselves caretakers of the High Plains. Some even try their hand at poetry with varying degrees of success. These two verses are scrawled on the log walls of Higgins hut.


What are my loves?
My friends,
My church
My Tavern
And my only wealth?
These plains

Maybe it was a lost skier who replied

Wild dogs glory
Stockman’s hell
Land of deep thinkers
I bid thee farewell

When black clouds once again dropped their liquid load we too headed for home, the Ford Explorer packed with unused camping gear and containers filled with blackberries, cherry plums and wild apples. The memory of vicious March flies, spiders and prickly blackberry canes began to slowly disappear and be replaced with the bountiful vision of dishes filled with fresh fruit and ice-cream, stewed plums and apple pie.

blackberry       pie

Okay, so the blackberries squashed, the cherry plums were sour and the apples ‘woody’, but my memory dream-catcher was already in action. The following January I once again dreamt of grey-green mountains, wild flowers, and picnics. Like the aboriginals drawn by the thought of fat Bogong Moths, I returned to the Wonnangatta/Moroka High Plains. However, before I left I booked a cabin with a bathroom.