Thursday, May 20, 2021

Saltbush damper

May 2, 2021


Saltbush is another of the spices I bought at Mabu Mabu, and the first thing it went into is damper. The cafe's owner-chef Nornie Bero has shared her version of this bread online, in text for the ABC, and in a lovely video for Yarra Libraries last NAIDOC week. After watching the video through, I'd observed Bero make three flavours of damper and felt pretty confident about the process.


So confident, in fact, that I didn't read the text recipe properly and used plain flour instead of self-raising flour! I remembered just as the loaf hit the oven, shrieked, and decided to attempt a rescue. I pulled the damper out, unwrapped it from its foil and paper layers, kneaded a few generous teaspoons of baking powder into the dough, rewrapped the dough, popped it back into the oven, and said a prayer. It worked, well enough for me anyway!

My more noticeable mistake was that I didn't quite rub all the butter into the flour, and there were a few darker, denser stripes through the dough - I'll pay more attention to that next time. It'll be even easier to achieve with margarine than with butter. That's all this recipe needs to make it vegan, and Bero actually takes that option herself in the video.


The other little shortcoming of my damper process is that I used baking paper in place of Bero's banana leaves. I'm so intrigued by the extra aroma and flavour this could be adding to the process! As it is, saltbush still makes for a lovely seasoning. We teamed our damper with pumpkin soup, and I reckon we'll do so a few more times before this winter is through.

Saltbush damper
(a recipe by Nornie Bero, available on the ABC website
and on video via Yarra Libraries)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons saltbush
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and stir together. Thoroughly rub the butter/margarine into the  flour. Stir in the saltbush.

Add the water a 1/2 cup at a time and mix it in with your fingers until it all forms a sticky dough (it's good to watch Bero's hand motion and the dough consistency in the video!) I only ended up using a-cup-and-a-bit of water.

Flour up a clean bench, drop the dough onto it, and give it a good knead. Roll the dough into a thick log shape and place it onto a large sheet of baking paper. Roll up the dough firmly like a burrito. Wrap it up a second time with foil. Place the wrapped damper directly onto the oven rack and bake for 35-40 minutes. The dough should make a deep, hollow sound when firmly tapped. Unwrap and slice the damper as soon as you're ready, or wrap it in a teatowel for a little while to keep it warm.


  1. Good save with the baking powder! I can just imagine the shriek!

    1. Susan, I can barely believe it worked! This is a very forgiving bread.

  2. This looks really delicious - I love damper and have saltbush somewhere in the pantry that needs using so am adding this to my bookmarks - glad you remembered the baking powder in time!

    1. Johanna, I think you have a stronger record with bread-baking and damper-making than me - you'll make a fine job of it, and hopefully S might enjoy it too.