Bannock from Fred Henne Territorial Park
Written by Gail & Martin Aller-Stead on April 17, 2018
Last summer we drove from Toronto to the Spectacular Northwest Territories .
As we were leaving Fred Henne Territorial Park (in Yellowknife), the staff gave us a parting gift containing the ingredients of a traditional bannock recipe.
Bannock is a familiar dish north of the 60th parallel, one that is chewy, dense, and moist. Although bannock can be prepared savoury or sweet, the basic ingredients are the same: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, and lard. It can be deep fried, pan-fried, baked, or cooked over a campfire. Even though bannock is not original to Indigenous peoples (the ingredients came from the Scottish colonizers who called it bannach), it has been called the North's comfort food.
Our first chance to try the bannock recipe came when we camped in the Hay River Territorial Park. We started by stirring the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Next we added the Crisco and a little warm water, and mushed it all together (‘mushed’ is a formal chef term) with a plain kitchen fork, to make a consistent dough.
Because we do not carry a large baking sheet on board we used our cast-iron skillet which we pre-heated over the fire (good coals and some flame) on the available grate. When good and hot, we placed the dough in the skillet, patted it down, and covered the whole works with tin foil held down with a chunk of wood. The bannock was fried/baked for about 25 – 30 minutes and then turned out onto the picnic table.
While the bannock was on the grate, the campground supervisor came by to warn us that we had a bear sighting in our immediate vicinity and we should take appropriate cautions. We did so by urging the bannock to bake a little quicker as we closed up the coach basement doors and covers.
No bear appeared.
It was tough to regulate the heat when cooking over an open fire with a skillet, but the occasional on-and-off the grate seemed to work. Removing the tinfoil for a quick check with a tester skewer didn’t seem to make any difference to the cooking time and was worth the effort. Although the top looked like it was baked, the inside was still a bit raw so we removed the tinfoil for a while to promote inner cooking. We then flipped the bannock once and allowed it to cook for a while more. When it was time to turn out the bannock, we retrieved the skillet from the fire-grate, allowed it to rest for a few moments on the picnic table, and then inverted it to release the bannock.
It worked – mostly!
After allowing for the release time we turned out the bannock on the table and tasted the results.
Nice texture and a pretty consistent bake. A bit of scorch on one bit, thanks to the vagaries of open-fire cooking.
Here is the actual recipe for you to try for yourself. It's simple and very satisfying.