Archive for August, 2013

Bread For The Australian Desert

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2013 by citydesert

In all deserts (whether literal or figurative) different versions of the Hermit’s staple, bread, have developed. In Australia, that bread has been damper. As has been the case with all traditional breads – for example, in Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria – modern, more luxurious versions have appeared in restaurants and speciality food shops. However, the traditional damper retains the essential qualities of food for the Hermit: simplicity, minimal ingredients, ease of preparation, durability.
Damper 1
“Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. 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. 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.”

“In colonial Australia, stockmen developed the technique of making damper out of necessity. Often away from home for weeks, with just a camp fire to cook on and only sacks of flour as provisions, a basic staple bread evolved. It was originally made with flour and water and a good pinch of salt, kneaded, shaped into a round, and baked in the ashes of the campfire or open fireplace.”
damper 2
A standard recipe for damper:

450g (3 cups) self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
80g butter, chilled, cubed
185ml (3/4 cup) water

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water to the flour mixture and use a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until the mixture just comes together, adding 1-2 tbs extra water if the mixture is a little dry. Use your hands to bring the mixture together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Shape into an 18cm disc and place on tray. Use a sharp knife that has been dipped in flour to mark 8 wedges on top. Dust the damper with a little extra flour and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the damper is cooked through and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Diogene – A Self-Sustaining Hut For The Modern Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 by citydesert

Diogene 1
“If your world is feeling overwhelmingly and counterproductively materialistic, it may be time to downsize your life and move into a hut. That’s normal, right? And for all your sacrifice, your minimalist hut can be built by celebrity architect Renzo Piano. Intrigued?
Adding to the list of bomb diggity buildings on the Vitra Campus in Germany, the tiny Diogene cabin (named for the Greek philosopher who chose to live simply in a ceramic storage bin) is intended to be a bare-bones office or weekend retreat for one person. The hut collects rainwater for the shower and sink, includes a bio-toilet and has solar panels for power. Diogene includes a lot of built-in furniture to maximise space, like a pullout couch and slide-out desktop. Piano says: This little house is the final result of a long, long journey partially driven by desires and dreams, but also by technicality and a scientific approach.
The cabin is still a prototype and it’s not clear if there are plans to build other Diogenes. Vitra says the hut is not for emergency use “but a voluntary place of retreat”. Nothing goes hand in hand with puritan design like desires and dreams.”
Diogene 2
“Diogene is not an emergency accommodation, but a voluntary place of retreat. It is supposed to function in various climate conditions, independent of the existing infrastructure, i.e. as a self-sufficient system. The required water is collected by the house itself, cleaned and reused. The house supplies its own power and the necessary platform is minimised. We live in an age in which the demand for sustainability forces us to minimise our ecological footprint. This postulate is paired with the desire to concentrate and reduce the direct living environment to the truly essential things.”

For more photographs:

The Brotherhood of St. Gregory

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2013 by citydesert

Thanks to Fr Tobias Haller (New York) for this portrait of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory gathered for its community photo two weeks ago at the Mt. Alvernia Retreat House.
For more about the Brotherhood, see : “The Brotherhood of Saint Gregory is a Christian Community of The Episcopal Church, its Communion Partners, and the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose members follow a common rule and serve the church on parochial, diocesan, and national levels. Members — clergy and lay, without regard to marital status — live individually, in small groups, or with their families. They support themselves and the community through their secular or church-related work, making use of their God-given talents in the world while not being of the world. The trust that all labor and life can be sanctified is summed up in the community’s motto: Soli Deo Gloria, To God Alone the Glory.” The Brotherhood is an exciting manifestation of “the new monasticism”, an innovative approach to the Christian religious life in the contemporary world.

Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2013 by citydesert

A (very) old friend is visiting Sydney from Tokyo for ten days. He gave me a copy of “Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa” by Habeeb Salloum (2002). As the blurb notes: “Originally the food of peasants, too poor for meat, vegetarian cooking in the Middle East developed over thousands of years into a culinary art form influenced both by trade and invasion.” It is, therefore, significant as the food of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and Hermits and Monks.
classic vegetarian cooking
“Food and travel writer Salloum (“From the Land of Figs and Olives”) notes in his introduction that Middle Eastern and northern African populations have relied on a vegetarian diet since the beginning of civilization, despite the lamb and chicken dishes that may spring to the mind of anyone with a nodding acquaintance (meat is a rarity often reserved for special occasions). Setting the record straight with over 300 vegetarian dishes, Salloum’s culinary tour gives readers the chance to eat like the locals do. While there are plenty of recipes utilizing common ingredients (30 chickpea recipes, 19 eggplant dishes and a dozen featuring dates), Salloum also offers unusual combinations such as Pomegranate and Mushroom Soup and Tumeric-Flavored Eggs, using garlic, cilantro and tomato in addition to the subtle, noble spice (“much in demand at birth, marriage, and death ceremonies). Pancakes are stuffed with a sweetened and spiced ricotta cheese or a walnut, cinnamon and sugar filling, then cooked and dipped in Qater, a simple syrup infused with orange flower water and lemon juice. Including the Arabic names for every dish and boasting recipes for homemade yogurt, multiple takes on falafel and a multitude of stews and soups, most of which come together in minutes, Salloum’s collection will be welcome, illuminating resource for vegetarians and omnivores alike.”
[Publisher’s Weekly: ]