This humble bread has been part of our Irish heritage for at least 180 years, it requires nothing more than four simple ingredients, a hot oven and a little time. It reminds me of my mother, shaping it on our counter top at home before baking it in the solid fuel cooker, then afterwards enjoying it at tea time warm from the oven, slathered with butter and maybe a little jam.
My father remembers his mother making it over the open fire in the griddle -traditional three legged pot with a lid - which sat over the open flames suspended by an iron arm, the lid of the griddle in place, covered with hot coals, an ingenious way of cooking the top and bottom of the soda bread simultaneously. He also remembers this as the method for making "Griddle Bread" or "Soda Farls" essentially the same recipe executed slightly differently.
This is a quick bread, requiring very little input from us, no yeast, kneading, rising or proving just a little stirring and then a hot oven to finish off our labours. The addition of raisins changes the purpose of the bread, it goes from something that can be enjoyed with cheese to what we would call a "Tea Bread" which is more than suitable for guests and the table bedecked with silver butter dishes, cups, saucers and good silverware, but it is just as acceptable for the rough and tumble of a family tea time!
Enjoy this St. Patricks Day and why not have it with a piece of Irish Tradition on your table.
400g Plain white flour
½ tsp Bread Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
½ tsp Table salt
250-280ml Buttermilk (or equal parts of whole milk and plain yogurt, well mixed)
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/ 425ºF/Gas Mark 7.
Lightly shape the dough so that no cracks appear on the surface, once in a circle cut a cross into dough and sprinkle lightly with some flour.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden and crisp. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Wrap in a clean tea towel for a soft crust, cool on a wire rack.
Adding a handful of juicy raisins and baking the bread in a small greased and floured bread tin is another way to make the bread. This loaf baked in the same time as the round loaf, but I tested it with a skewer just to be sure, once the skewer comes out clean, it's baked.