Thursday 27 March 2008

Chicken and Mushroom Pasties

It was once said that the Devil would never dare to cross the River Tamar into Cornwall for fear of ending up as a filling in a Cornish Pasty. For centuries the Cornish have been filling their famous pasties with almost any ingredients that you would care to think of. The traditional filling is,of course, beef and potato, usually with slices of onion and swede mixed in as well, but the humble pasty can
also be found in a number of other guises.

The pasty originally evolved to meet the needs of tin mining, that other great, but now sadly declined, Cornish industry. A hearty meal wrapped in a pastry casing made for a very practical lunch (or "croust" , as they used to call it ) down in the dark and damp tunnels of the mine. Some mines even built huge ovens on the surface to keep the miner's pasties hot until it was time to eat. Tradition has it that the original pasties contained meat and vegetables in one end and jam or fruit in the other end, in order to give the hard-working men 'two courses'.
By no means is this trying to be a recipe for traditional Cornish Pasties. I just find this a much more convenient way to make individual pies. Easier to serve and the pastry is crisp and golden all the way round. No soggy bits and no pie dishes to wash. I do so prefer the simple route.
The original recipe is for Chicken Pot Pies and comes from Nigella Lawson's Feast. I have, as is my want, tweaked it a bit.

Serves 4

450gms/1lb plain flour
225gms/8oz butter
One large egg and enough iced water to bind the pastry
One egg beaten to glaze

50gms/2oz butter plus a little extra for frying the mushrooms
50gms/2oz plain flour
A chicken stock cube or similar
575mls/1pint milk
200gms /7ozmushrooms chopped
250gms/9oz cooked chicken

Fry the mushrooms in butter until just cooked.
Leave to one side

Tip the flour into a bowl and add the butter, cut into chunks, into it. Shake and put the bowl in the freezer for about ten minutes. Put a small jug of water in the fridge and the beaten egg.
Tip the flour and butter into the food processor and pulse until like breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg and enough cold water to bind. It will form a ball in the food processor.
This can also be done of course in a mixer or by hand which ever your preference
Cut into four pieces and wrap in cling film and put in the fridge.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.
Whisk in the flour and the crumbled stock cube.
Allow to cook gently for a moment or two
Off the heat add the milk a little at a time whisking until smooth each time.
Return to the heat and keep stirring until thickened and smooth.
Pour the thick white sauce into a jug or a bowl and cover with dampened greaseproof paper until assembling the pasties

When you are ready to put everything together preheat the oven to 200.C/Gas 6/400.F

Roll out each of the pastry quarters into a round and use a dinner plate to cut a circle.
Mix the diced chicken and the mushrooms through the sauce.
Divide the filling between the pastry circles.
Brush the edge of the pastry with some beaten egg and pinch together on top then fold over again pinching the ends and turning them upwards onto the pasty
Brush with beaten egg and bake on a baking sheet until golden brown. About 20 minutes.

I like to serve this with root mash. Potato, turnip, carrot and parsnip all boiled together, drained and mashed with butter salt and pepper.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Home Made Bread

I started making my own bread just over a year ago. It was with great trepidation that I undertook what I thought was going to be a mammoth task doomed to failure. There was of course a few hiccups along the way (when is there not?) Now I rarely buy bread. For those of you who are a bit afraid to try don't be. A 'feel 'for the dough comes with practice. I don't have a bread maker and love to knead by hand but for speed I use a food processor which literally takes one minute. It's a good thing to make if you are at home for the day as you can leave it to rise and get on with other things. I have tried all sorts of yeasts and I have found as good results come from the fast yeast, sold in little envelopes, as any other yeast. Just throw the contents into your flour and away you go. I don't believe in complicating life unnecessarily.
My advice, to anyone starting for the first time, is to make a basic white loaf. When you get the feel for that, most other bread is a variation of the same theme. I have trouble with wholemeal flour as it does not rise as well as white and no matter what combinations and methods I have tried it still produces a loaf with a denseness I dislike. I like brown bread and have found a way round this problem by using white flour and adding bran. Basically bran is what is taken away from the wheat to give white flour. In a way you are just putting it back and going a roundabout way to make a wholemeal loaf. I don't know why it works better this way all I know is it does and produces a very nice wee loaf.

Don't use flour to knead. Oil your work top and hands . The dough won't stick to you and everything else.

Unless you want to do overnight rises in the fridge the dough likes warmth to rise. For those living in colder climates, turn the oven on at it's lowest point when starting to weigh out the ingredients and make the bread. Turn the oven off and put your dough in there covered with cling film to rise. After the first rise turn the oven on to reach baking temperature and set the proving loaves on the hob where it will get warmth from the oven. I have found this gives excellent results.

Before baking sprinkle quite a lot of flour over the top of the loaf. It gives a nicer crust

When the bread is baked and turned out on the cooling rack, cover with a slightly damp tea towel. This produces a soft crust.

Maple Syrup Brown Bread.

This evolved in my kitchen and I make it all the time now. Really easy. Gives a brown loaf without the density of wholemeal flour and is delicious. I have taken to using maple syrup as it gives a lovely flavour but feel free to use honey or just sugar or neither as you prefer.

You can also add a good handful of seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin whatever your preference.

600g/1lb.6oz white bread flour
200g/7oz bran
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 teasp salt
1 pkt 7g rapid/easy blend yeast
400mls/14fl ozs approx. of warm water (Add any extra in very small amounts)
Oil for kneading

2 x2lb loaf tins greased and floured

Mix flour bran salt yeast together in a bowl
Add the maple syrup and and the water
Mix together until a nice soft dough (you may have to add a little more water but do so a very little at a time)
Oil the work top and your hands
Knead the dough for ten mins by hand or knead for one minute in the food processor with plastic blade
Form into a ball and return to the bowl.
Cover bowl in clingfilm and leave somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size-about an hour.
Knock back by punching the dough in the bowl.
Pull out onto the oiled work top and divide in two
Form each piece into a long loaf shape. While moulding stretch a little across the top surface to create a little tension
Place each loaf in the prepared tins . Dust with flour and cover with a tea towel
Leave to rise again for about half an hour.
Pre heat oven to200.C ,Fan 180.C, Gas 6, 400.F
When the loaves have risen again bake for 30-40 mins. they should tap hollow on the underside when baked.
Remove from tins and leave on a cooling rack. If a softer crust is desired cover with a teatowel

Cheesy Cob Loaf

This is a lovely light savoury bread. Nice for dunking in stews or with spag. bol .Makes lovely toast. Very easy and idiot proof.
I used mature cheddar cheese but any hard cheese of your choice would do.
I also use English mustard for it's strength but any mustard would do if English is not an option.
Make sure the dough is not too dry as the gluten absorbs water during the kneading stage.

450gms strong white flour
1 1/2 teasps salt
25gms diced butter
2 teasps easy blend yeast
85gms Mature cheddar finely grated (or other hard cheese)
2 teasps mustard powder or 1 teasp of made mustard
a good few grinds of black pepper
About 300mls of warm milk plus a little for glazing
Sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (optional)

Put flour and salt in large bowl and mix together
Rub in butter
Stir in yeast cheese mustard and black pepper.
Add milk to form a soft dough more wet than dry.
Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic
Shape into a round and place in bowl to rise to about double it's size covered with cling fim (about an hour n a warm place)
Punch your fist into the dough to knock back and pull it out of the bowl
Shape into a longish oval shape tucking down so the joins are on the underside and there is a little tension on the surface.
Place on prepared baking sheet give a good sprinkling of flour, cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 mins until risen again
Glaze with a little milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds or just sprinkle more flour over.
Make 3 diagonal slashes across the surface

Place in pre-heated oven 200.C ,Fan 180.C, Gas 6, 400.F for 35-45 mins until risen and golden and taps hollow underneath.
Transfer to wire rack to cool
If a soft crust is required cover with a tea towel

I divide this into two loaves as it is quite large.

The Biggest Hot Cross Bun

Easter is over and alas I did not get round to making any hot cross buns. Nikki posted this recipe on Vi's pantry for a Big Hot Cross Bun so I decided to give it a try. It is lovely and I will definitely make this again. No need to wait for Easter. Lovely toasted too. I was too lazy to make a cross for it but I did add a sugar glaze when it came out of the oven.

425g /1lb Strong plain white bread flour, plus 1 tbsp and extra for dusting
half tsp salt
50g /2ozbutter, cubed
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1tsp mixed spice
50g/2oz light muscavado sugar
200g/7oz dried fruit
125ml /5 fl ozmilk, plus 1 tbsp for brushing
125ml/5fl oz boiling water

Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles crumbs.
Stir in the yeast, then add the remaining ingredients*, except the milk.
Pour the 125ml milk into a jug and add 125ml boiling water.
Stir into the dough and mix until it comes together as a soft ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Form into a ball and put on a non-stick baking tray.
Leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size and feels very light and airy.
Preheat oven to 200.C ,Fan 180.C, Gas 6, 400.F

Brush the top of the bun with the remaining milk.
To make the cross, mix 1 tbsp plain flour and 1tbsp water to make a soft paste. Drizzle over to make the cross.
Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and the base of the bun sounds hollow.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Best eaten within 24 hours or, after that, toasted and spread with butter

Sugar glaze is made by dissolving 2 parts sugar in one part hot water.

Nikki's Tip
*I gently mixed the dried fruit in after the dough had risen, I personally prefer to do it that way, (I'm not sure if this makes a difference or not) but you don't have to if you'd prefer to mix it in at the start*

Monday 24 March 2008

Lemon Meringue Cake

I think this cake from Nigella Lawson's Feast is the perfect dessert for Easter Sunday lunch. The fresh lemon flavour counteracts the sweetness of the meringue. The colour too has everything to do with the season. Very easy to make which is an added bonus if you are having company and lots of other things to prepare. Although it does not state in the book, you can make the sponge meringue cakes the day before, wrap in foil and assemble when required. Another bonus. I used the microwave Lemon Curd for this and it was lovely. Just the right consistency for spreading and beautifully tangy. I also altered the sponge recipe slightly in that Instead of four teaspoons lemon juice I added the juice of a whole lemon. I also used soft margarine instead of butter. This made a batter that could be poured into the tins and a much more moist result.

Lemon Meringue Cake

125gms/4oz very soft butter
4 eggs separated
300gms/11oz +1teasp caster sugar
100gms/4oz plain flour
25gms/1oz cornflour
1 teasp baking powder
1/2 teasp bicarbonate of soda
Zest of a lemon
4 teasps lemon juice
2 teasps milk
1/2 teasp cream of tartar
150mls/5fl.oz double or whipping cream
150gms/5oz lemon curd

Two greased and lined 21cm/8" sandwich tins
Pre-heat oven to 200.C/400.F/Gas 6

In a food processor mix the egg yolks, 100gms/4oz of the sugar, butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb and lemon zest. Add lemon juice and milk and process again.
Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins and spread until smooth. You may think there is not enough but don't panic there is.
Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whisk in 200gms sugar.
Divide the meringue mixture between the two sponge filled tins spreading on top of the cake batter.
Smooth one flat and the other peak with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle 1 teasp sugar over the peaks.
Bake for 20-25 mins until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove cakes to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely in their tins.
Unmould the flat topped cake to a plate meringue side down.
Spread with the lemon curd and then the whipped cream.
Place the other cake half on top with the peaked meringue uppermost.

Microwave Lemon Curd

For Easter I had it in my mind to make the Lemon Meringue cake from Feast. Last year I made this with shop bought lemon curd and I felt it spoiled this particular cake. I use lemon curd a lot in baking as well as slathering it on scones. I decided this year to make my own and I remembered Rita had given me a recipe for Lemon Curd made in the microwave. Until I tasted this I didn't realise how pathetic store bought lemon curd was although I was always aware it rather lacked the essential taste of lemon. Trust me once you have tasted this you will never want anything else but home made. Not a cheaper option but oh so very worth it. Simple and quick to make the result is the tangiest curd you have ever tasted. Not too solid making spreading a lot easier. Lovely on a piece of wheaten bread or a scone.

Microwave Lemon Curd

7-8 Lemons to yield 330mls/12fl oz juice
225gms/8ozs Butter
450gms/1lb Sugar
8 eggs well beaten

In a large glass bowl stir the sugar into the lemon juice.
Cut the butter into chunks and add to the bowl
Pass the beaten eggs through a sieve into the bowl discarding what is left in the sieve.
Microwave at one minute intervals stirring each time until the curd is fairly thick and glossy.
This sets more on cooling so don't be alarmed.

Yield Approx. 3 lbs/1.3Kgs


Microwave your lemons whole for 30 seconds to get maximum juice extraction.

Measure the lemon juice as you squeeze. A lot depends on the size of the lemons.

Lemon Curd keeps for weeks in the fridge

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Columba Pasquale

This wonderful cake arrived from Italy today. A gift from Carlotta who has a heart as big as the cake itself. I have never tasted any thing like it. Bready in texture but oh so light and rich and with the taste of Amaretto. I sliced it and had it with butter. Absolute heaven.
It is a lengthy procedure making this cake. It takes several steps over eighteen hours.
There is an old legend about this particular dessert. They say that when the King of the Longobards, Alboino, conquered the city of Pavia, he requested that all the gold and treasures of the city should be given to him together with 12 virgins. The poor girls were sent to the castle to await their fate and they were all crying in despair. All, except for one, who asked to be given some honey, flour and dried fruits as she wanted to bake a cake. With these ingredients, she prepared a dough and gave it the shape of a dove and asked her guardians to have it baked. When she was called to see Alboino, she carried the cake on a tray. The king was surprised and thought that the girl wanted to poison him, so he asked her to taste the cake first. The girl ate a piece and Alboino, seeing that she looked so confident, did the same. He found the cake delicious.... possibly he had not been eating cakes during his campaign... so, as a reward, he ordered his guards to free the clever girl. Nobody knows what happened to the other eleven.
The siege of the City of Pavia ended on the eve of Easter Sunday, hence the link between the cake and Easter celebrations.

The cake is traditionally enjoyed with a good dessert wine after dinner. Out with the Marsala on Sunday then.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Scones the Irish Way

I had a little buttermilk left today after making the Wheaten Bread so rather than waste it I decided to throw a few scones together. Always a treat straight from the oven with a cup of tea. There are countless recipes and variations for scones. One thing stands clear. Buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda will give a better rise and a much lighter scone than if plain/sweet milk and Baking Powder are used.

Irish Scones

8oz/225gms Plain flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking soda
1-2oz/25-50gms Butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4pint/150mls Buttermilk

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.
Cut up the butter and rub in
Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough which is just firm enough to handle
Turn out onto a floured worktop and shape quickly and lightly into a round approximately 1 inch/2.5cms thick. (preferably thicker than thinner)
Cut into rounds and lay on a floured baking sheet
Bake at 200.c /400F/ Gas 4 for about ten mins until well risen and brown.
This should give you about eight scones

Tip: If you have no buttermilk, lemon juice added to ordinary milk and left for a little while will work quite well.

A Little Spring Colour

Today's lovely sunshine took me out to do a little pruning in the garden. The buds are swelling and bursting open and the birds are singing their wee hearts out. Spring is definitely here. The winter heathers and the daffodils give a great splash of colour while we wait for the grander floral displays of late spring and early summer.
Now if the ground would just dry out a little I could get the grass cut!

Monday 17 March 2008

Irish Stew

As it is Saint Patrick's day today what else would we have for dinner but Irish Stew?
Irish stew,
"ballymaloe" or "stobhach gaelach" is a filling, flavourful peasant dish traditionally made with mutton potatoes onions and parsley. The Irish raised primarily sheep and root crops for subsistence. The sheep provided wool for warm clothing, milk for drinking and making cheese, and eventually food. Potatoes were the main food crop, prior to the potato famine. Irish stew traditionally a one pot dish like all stews, would have consisted mostly of potatoes. Today more meat and vegetables are added but the basis is still potatoes.
Everyone in Ireland has their own method of making 'Stew'. This is my version. It's not really a recipe but to enable me to share it I have tried to make it so.

Like all stews the flavour improves if left overnight.
When re-heating you may have to add water to stop it from sticking

Approx 1lb/500gms lamb cut into cubes (or beef)
6-8 potatoes cut up into pieces or less whatever your taste.
2 carrots roughly chopped
2 parsnips roughly chopped
1 large leek roughly sliced
2 onions chopped
oil for browning
Worcester sauce
chicken stock (2or 3 stock cubes)
Dried herbs as desired.
Salt and pepper

Brown Lamb and add onions in a large pot Stir around and add leeks leave a few mins and add about 1/2 pint water and 1 stock cube herbs and Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer until lamb is tender. Add more water as desired.

In another pot boil up potatoes carrot and parsnip in stock. Leave in stock until lamb is cooked.
When lamb is tender add cooked potatoes etc, with stock
Stir all around and keep heat low. The potatoes should be a bit mushy now
Taste and add more stock as desired.
Season to taste
Turn heat off and leave to absorb flavour

Serve with Brown Soda Bread......What else?

My Favourite Corner

This is what greets me when I come into the kitchen every morning. The artist is my four year old grandaughter. It warms a place in my heart and sets me up for the day.

Lemon Chicken and Sticky Garlic Potatoes

To me Nigella is at her best in this book. It has become my kitchen bible. The pictures are wonderful. They set the juices flowing and make diving in and trying something an absolute must. Most of the recipes are simple and easy to follow. This particular one for Lemon Chicken is rolled out most Sundays in our house.. There is little to the recipe. It requires half a lemon in the cavity of the bird and the skin covered in butter then roasted at 180.C at the usual 20minutes to the pound. When cooked the bird is left to rest for a little while with the other half of the lemon squeezed over it. Remove the chicken to the carving board and make the gravy from the pan juices. This to me is what makes it very special. Add a little water and de glaze. Reduce it down. Nigella says to make a small but very intensely flavoured gravy but there is no flavour lost if you leave a biggish volume and sprinkle a little flour in, whisk and let it cook for a few minutes to thicken. Simple but mouthwateringly delicious.

Although not the recommended accompaniment to the lemon Chicken, Sticky Garlic Potatoes are also from Feast. I find theses a perfect compromise between roast and mashed potatoes. Nigella recommends new potatoes with skins on but it works equally well with old potatoes peeled. It can be prepared in advance by boiling the potatoes and leaving them without the lid on the pot until you need them. Heat some oil or your favourite fat in a roasting tin in the oven. If the potatoes are new smash them a bit with the end of a rolling pin. If old potatoes and peeled a fork will probably suffice. Add a few squashed garlic cloves. Put the whole lot into the roasting tin and cook at 180.C-200.C for about half an hour. Half way through turn them over in the pan and return to the oven until golden brown

Simple but delicious.

Friday 14 March 2008


This would be my normal breakfast. Banana on toast and the juice of 5 or 6 oranges. I always start the day this way so I know I am getting a good fruit intake. Occasionally I have blueberries and yoghurt too. The health benefits of oranges are huge. I started on this regime as I was very aware I did not eat enough fruit. I eat vegetables but the cooking does away with a lot of the vitamin content. After a few days I noticed the eternal tiredness that had been dogging me for a long time seemed to have gone. A little research was required.
It seems the humble orange helps reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and helps prevent certain cancers. It reduces inflammation in arthritis, helps prevent cardiovascular disease and may help with memory problems. Amazing. I provide you with the link given to me by Karen as there is a great deal of interesting reading. My problem is as soon as I have drunk my 500mls of orange juice the first thing I want is a mug of strong sweet freshly ground coffee. Oh well I can't get it right all the time

Cheers here's health.

Thursday 13 March 2008

A Little About Eggs

While posting about Corned Beef Hash I was thinking about the lovely eggs I was using.
This to me is what Free Range Eggs are all about. I buy my eggs from this farm which is just beside me. They are fresh every day and the wee hens are as happy as can be. I hate the thought of them being crowded into cages to feed the masses. I am very fortunate to be in the position where I can buy them like this. Hottie and Violets from Violet's pantry have their own hens. How lucky they are.
We like to think Free Range Eggs that are purchased in the supermarkets are as pictured here but the reality is somwhat different
The Lion Quality Code - a high benchmark in food safety - stipulates outdoor shading and one pop-hole (exit hole) per 600 birds, open eight hours per day to allow access to the outside. But are these daytime "runs" all they're cracked up to be? Especially when for up to 16 hours a day the hens can be housed in conditions practically identical to that outlined in the "barn" system - preferable to a "caged/battery" system, but still often resulting in up to nine birds perching in every square metre. Not much room to stretch your legs. Nearly worth a run to the country keeping your eyes open for signs saying Eggs For Sale.

Lovely aren't they?

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Corned Beef Hash

Tonight is so bitterly cold. I needed something warming comforting and quick for dinner. The answer was Corned Beef Hash. This original recipe was given to me by Cupcake Chaos who, like me, is a member of a wonderful foodie forum called Violets Pantry. This dish has become a real keeper in our house. I have altered it slightly to include three mustards, some herbs and Worcestershire sauce

While the process of preserving meat with salt is ancient, food historians tell us corned beef (preserving beef with "corns" or large grains of salt) originated in Medieval Europe. The term "corned beef" dates to 1621.
"The word 'hash' (fried odds-and-ends dish) came into English in the mid-17th century from the old French word 'hacher', meaning to chop. Corned beef hash...probably has its origins in being a palatable combination of leftovers. In the 19th century, restaurants serving inexpensive meals--precursors to today's diners--became known as "hash houses." By the early 1900s, corned beef hash was a common menu item in these places."

Bev's Corned Beef Hash (
Recipe Here)

200gms/8oz Corned Beef
1teasp Dijon mustard
1teasp Wholegrain mustard
1teasp English mustard
1tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1teasp herbes de Provence or any herb of your choice
275gms/10oz potatoes peeled and cut into small dice
1 Large onion peeled and finely sliced
2 Large eggs
3 teasps oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the corned beef into small dice and mix with the mustards in a bowl.
Boil the diced potato for 5 minutes before draining and returning to the uncovered pan. Leave to one side to let the steam evaporate off.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions until soft and lightly browned.
Push the onion to the side of the pan and add the potatoes. Fry the potatoes , stirring all the time, until brown. This should take 10-15 mins.
Turn the heat down low and add the corned beef mixture.
Combine everything over a low heat for a few minutes until warmed through.
While this is happening fry two eggs to your liking in another frying pan
Divide the hash between two warm plates and top with the fried egg.


Note: Left over vegetables can be used up in this and adds very much to the flavour and texture. Tonight I added spinach leaves.


The cold weather doesn't seem to worry some people!

Wheaten Bread

Wheaten Bread (or Brown Soda Bread as it is called by non Irish folks)  is a part of the everyday diet in this part of the world. Very quick and easy to make it is a wonderful accompaniment to most dishes and delicious with just butter and jam or cheese. I learned to make this at my Mother’s knee. Very few meal times at home did not have this bread on the table. The very smell of it baking takes me back to my childhood. It is a haunting feeling to think that a Grandmother of mine, perhaps two hundred years ago, was making this bread too.
Two major factors have long affected the course of Irish baking. The first is our climate. In this land where the influence of the Gulf Stream prevents either great extremes of heat in the summer or cold in the winter, the hard wheats, which need such extremes to grow, don't prosper... And it's such wheats that make flour with a high gluten content, producing bread which rises high and responds well to being leavened with yeast. Soft wheats, though, have always grown well here.
The other factor, in the last millenium at least, has been the relative abundance of fuel. The various medieval overlords of Ireland were never able to exercise the tight control over forest land which landowners could manage in more populous, less wild areas, like England and mainland Europe: so firewood could be pretty freely poached, and where there was no wood, there was almost always heather, and usually turf too. As a result, anyone with a hearthstone could afford to bake on a small scale, and on demand. The incentive to band together to conserve fuel (and invent the communal bake-oven, a conservation tool common in more fuel-poor areas of Europe) was missing in the Irish countryside. Short elapsed baking times, and baking "at will", were easy.
These two factors caused the Irish householder to bypass yeast for everyday baking whenever possible. The primary leavening agent became what is now known here as bread soda: just plain bicarbonate of soda, hence the name "soda bread". For a long time, most of the bread in Ireland was soda bread -- at least, most of what was baked at the hearthside ("bakery bread" only being available in the larger cities). Soda bread was made either "in the pot," in yet another version of the cloche baking which is now coming back into vogue, but which was long popular all over medieval Europe: or else on a baking stone, an iron plate usually rested directly on the embers of the fire

The cooking/baking hearth of an Irish cottage, circa 1780: courtesy Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

From these two methods are descended the two main kinds of soda bread eaten in Ireland, both north and south, to the present day.
In Ireland, "plain" soda bread is as likely to be eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal (to soak up the gravy) as it's likely to appear at breakfast. It comes in  brown or white, and two main types: cake and farl. The latter are primarily regional differences. People in the south of Ireland tend to make cake: people in Northern Ireland  like the farl better (though both kinds appear in both North and South, sometimes under wildly differing names). Cake is soda bread kneaded and shaped into a flattish round, then cut with a cross on the top (this is supposed to let the bread stretch and expand as it rises in the oven but it’s really to let the fairies out) and baked on a baking sheet.   A farl is rolled out into a rough circle and cut through, crosswise, into four pieces and usually baked in a heavy frying pan or on a griddle, on top of the range rather than in the oven.

With all this said, the basic business of baking soda bread is extremely simple. The urge to be resisted is to do more stuff to it than necessary...this is usually what keeps it from coming out right the first few times. Once you've mastered the basic mixture, though, you can start adding things, coming up with wonderful variations like treacle bread and so on.

Now you have had the history.............go make some!

Wheaten Bread

8ozs/225gms Wholemeal Flour
4 ozs/100gms Plain Flour

Approx. 15 fl. ozs/400mls Butter Milk
1oz/25gms Butter
1 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
1 teasp sugar or honey
1 teasp. salt

Greased and floured round sandwich tin

Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4

In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through.
Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny.
Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin.
(It is essential you use light hands)
Cut a deep cross in the bread. (To let the fairies out)
Sprinkle with oats if desired

Bake for approx 40 Minutes or until a skewer comes out clean

When it comes out of the oven cut yourself a big slice, slather it in butter not minding that it dribbles down your chin in the enjoyment of it all.

About Me

I am a sixty something Granny who loves life, my family and the never ending wonder of my Grandchildren.
I love cooking baking or whatever I can put together in my kitchen. I am really an old fashioned plain cook. It is my hope by putting all the old recipes I like to use, and some wonderful new ones, together here on my Blog, I will have a record for my granddaughters and grandsons when they grow up. It is nice to share these recipes along the way too.
I truly am a silver surfer. Isn't the internet a magical place where you can reach out and communicate with like minded people you would never have met otherwise.