One of the best things about living in Ireland was the amazing food. I learned so much when we lived there, and of course was spoiled with all the fabulous ingredients: Irish cheeses, butter, beef, lamb… all incredible. I absolutely adore Irish soda bread and still make it all the time. It’s quick to make and requires just a quick mix – no kneading, no yeast and no waiting. Perfect for breakfast (you can make a lovely sweet version by adding sugar, dried fruit and orange zest), or if you’re having soup, you can knock it while the soup cooks. Traditionally you need buttermilk, but I tend to just squeeze the juice of half a lemon into normal milk and give it a quick stir. It thickens up instantly and works the same way.
I got sent this very odd looking thing which is a Lekue breadmaker. It’s made of silicone and is a bowl shape which fastens together so you can mix AND bake the bread in the same container. Clever stuff:
450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sugar (if you’re making a sweet bread, add 25g sugar, 100g sultanas and the zest of an orange)
350ml buttermilk (or just sour some normal milk with juice of ½ lemon)
So first, whack your oven on high (gas 8/220 C) and weigh out the dry ingredients into a bowl. Make sure you sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda really well. If you don’t, little bits of soda will show up in your finished scones as green lumps. Not very appetising.
Crack the egg into a jug and give it a whisk, then add your buttermilk (or if you’re not using buttermilk, remember to add the lemon juice to the milk), topping it up to about 350 ml altogether. Every mixture is different, and you might find you need an extra splash of milk, but this mixture is quite wet anyway so you should be fine.
Pour the milk mixture bit by bit into the flour, stirring all the time. It’s a bit messy but be patient as it’ll come together into a nice soft dough.
If you haven’t got one of these odd little breadmaker things (in which case once it’s combined you just fix it together and pop it straight into the oven), turn the dough out on a floured board and pat into a rough, flat oval shape. If you’re doing a sweet one, it’s quite nice to brush with a bit of the leftover milk mixture and sprinkle with crunchy brown sugar.
Stick your soda bread into something ovenproof with a lid, like a casserole dish (flour the bottom to stop it sticking) and bake for about 25 minutes, then take the lid off and bake for a further 5 minutes. Here’s how it looked in the silicone breadmaker:
Serve warm. It’s great to just plonk the whole thing on the table and tear off wedges, especially with soup, or slice and slather with butter and jam. Of course, it won’t keep, but if I have any left over, I always slice it, wrap it and pop it in the freezer. Then it can go straight into the toaster ready for a coating of Nutella or to accompany poached eggs for a scrummy breakfast or I use it whizzed up for breadcrumbs – fab for things like meatballs and coating chicken.
Thank you Ireland. I miss you loads.