Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sunday's Soda Bread

"I had my Irish girlfriend staying this weekend, and apart from a bit of recreational rioting, one of the things she misses most from her childhood is the Ulster Fry"

It’s been quite a while since I last posted something on Gastrolad and for that I apologise. But fear not dear reader, I have not yet forsaken thee. In actual fact my tardiness is due to a recent lengthy trip to London for yet more job interviews; blogger’s recent technical issues; and also a relative lack of interesting culinary escapades to share.

Since my last blog I do have some other news to share though; I have accepted the offer of a new job, and so with more than a tinge of regret I will be moving back down to the Smoke in a couple of weeks. With most of my friends and a girlfriend down there, my social life will improve immeasurably, but gone will be the opportunities to forage in the Yorkshire countryside for wild garlic and elderflower. And I’ll no longer be able to skip out into the garden to pick rhubarb, salad leaves or whatever else I can lay my clammy mitts on. Instead, I will be braving the Jubilee line for my morning commute, and foraging opportunities will be limited to the bins round the back of Pret and Eat.

Of course it is not all bad, and in addition to regaining my social skills, I’ll have the funds to start eating out again in some of the capital’s gastro hot spots, and therefore be able to fulfil my promise of restaurant reviews on GastroLad (as well as measure my ego against AA Gill’s - see earlier blog post on restaurant reviewing here). So I suppose the character of GastroLad might change somewhat, from a chronicle of life in a bucolic idyll, to one of urban grime, pop-up restaurants and overpriced meals out.

But turning towards the real subject of today’s post, which is soda bread...

I had my Irish girlfriend staying this weekend, and apart from a bit of recreational rioting, one of the things she misses most from her childhood is the Ulster Fry, which consists of the usual cooked breakfast with the addition of soda bread and potato bread. Since a trip to Richard Corrigan’s restaurant in Mayfair, where the soda bread was probably the best thing we ate, she’s been pestering me to make some of my own, and Sunday morning seemed the ideal opportunity to try it out. The great thing about making soda bread is that it doesn’t require a lengthy kneading process and it doesn’t need to be left to rise, so you can knock some out in around 45 minutes, which is ideal if you have an impromptu yearning for some fresh bread with your bacon.

The following is adapted from a Reader’s Digest book called Farmhouse Cookery – Recipes from a Country Kitchen, which contains 400 pages of traditional recipes from all parts of the Britain and Ireland, and the sort of dishes that are now being lionised by the likes of Heston Blumenthal and Marcus Wareing in their new London restaurants – Parsnip Flan, Coventry Godcakes or Tewkesbury Saucer Batter anyone?

Soda Bread:

350g strong white flour
350g wholemeal flour
1tsp salt
50g butter (not all recipes use butter, so leave out if you prefer)
4tsp bicarbonate of soda
4tsp baking powder
250ml milk & 250ml plain yoghurt mixed together (buttermilk is traditional and use if you have it)

  1. Start off by mixing the flour and salt and then rub in the butter (if using).
  2. Add the soda bicarbonate and baking powder and mix.
  3. Stir in the yoghurt and milk and mix until it starts to come together into a dough. NB. you might not need all the liquid, so add it gradually and don't let it get too sticky.
  4. Tip this onto a floured work surface, knead very lightly for a minute or so and then shape into a round.
  5. Put the dough onto a floured baking tray and using a sharp knife score a deep cross into the surface of the dough (approx 2/3 down), and then pull apart the quarters by a couple of centimetres.
  6. Dust the top with a little more wholemeal flour
  7. Bake at 200c for 35-45 mins. You want to make sure it is thoroughly cooked in the middle and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then eat with butter, jam, bacon, eggs, black pudding, white pudding or whatever you fancy.

Soda bread is definitely at its best when it is straight from the oven, but tastes pretty good toasted as well - I had some this morning for my breakfast. And whether you’re catering for an Irish person or not, it is well worth the minimal effort required, so have a craic (and excuse the terrible pun).

p.s. I was watching an episode of Great British Menu last night, and whilst my ears were being assaulted by the narrator's usual hyperbole, I began to wonder what the collective noun for a group of michelin starred (or wannabe michelin starred) chefs was. My best effort was a 'gilded lily of chefs', but if you have any better suggestions please post them below.


  1. Gastrolad,

    I may never have been a particular fan of soda bread, but perchance my misgivings were brought about by the weaknesses of the mass market.

    On the basis that "Soda bread is definitely at its best when it is straight from the oven", you might just have talked me into giving it another shot; and moreover the rentals are over this weekend - bosh. I'll let you know how it goes (and whether it's a good accompaniment for the asparagus soup I'm planning.)


    Special Sauce

  2. Wack away Special Sauce. Soda Bread and Asparagus Soup sounds like a match made in heaven so I'm certain the rentals will be suitably impressed.

  3. Delicious with plenty of butter and strawberry jam. Remember to add the liquid gradually. I ended up with a sticky mess at one point.

  4. Good point Head Gardener, that can be something to watch out for. I will add a note to that effect to the recipe.

  5. ....otherwise dead easy to make and very satisfying to take out of the oven and fill the house with the smell of freshly baked bread. Impressed everyone!!