Lá Fhéile Pádraig – St Patricks Day
What’s a Scottish Lass doing celebrating St Patrick’s Day you may ask. Well, my father’s side of the family is from the Western Isles – from Skye and Mull to be precise. And those islands have always had a strong cultural link with Ireland, in Celtic times the Western Isles were part of the same kingdom, Dal Riata, as what is now known as County Antrim. So I feel perfectly entitled to remember my Celtic origins and celebrate St Patricks Day. It’s also a good excuse to eat some of my favourite food – and since the lovely people at Bord Bia sent me a hamper of Irish food, I thought I should put some of it to good use.
Of course, faced with so much choice, it’s hard to know quite what to do! Especially as I really do love black pudding and white pudding just served in slices as part of a mixed grill or breakfast.
I got a bit carried away with the idea of cooking something Irish and top of mind was to make some Soda Bread. Why? Because everyone had told me it was easy – and I like things that are easy to make. I searched around a bit on the internet because I didn’t have buttermilk and discovered two or three recipes using soured milk or yoghurt as the ‘acid’ to work against the bicarbonate of soda and make the bread rise. And, in a fit of healthiness, I made my Soda Bread using Spelt Flour from Sharpham Mill.
- 250 ml Milk
- 1/2 Lemon
- 250 g Spelt Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
- First make your soured milk by adding the juice of half a lemon to the milk, stirring and leaving it to stand for 10 minutes.
- Pre heat the oven to 200c
- Sift together all the dry ingredients, then make a well in the middle and pour in the soured milk, which should be nicely curdled
- The mixture will bubble up a little bit, quickly pull in the flour to make a soft dough, kneading lightly.
- Dust a baking sheet with a little flour and turn out the dough ball onto that. Dust the top of the dough before pressing down to make a flattish round of bread
- Cut a cross into the top of the dough. I'm sure you will do a better job of it than me...just don't cut too far down.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack
The result was fabulous. For a start, it was easy to make a relatively SMALL quantity. Very important for a single person who eats out a lot. My adapted Soda Bread recipe makes a half pound loaf without any problem Which gives about 4 portions. Because it doesn’t have to be left to rise, it takes about 35 minutes from start to finish. So, you could easily make this fresh for breakfast! And, made with spelt flour it’s delicious. I suspect it might work better with a ‘healthy’ flour. Something that looks as if it is ‘Artisan’.
Now, I thought Soda Bread was a very old, traditional Irish recipe. But it turns out that’s not the case at all. Although it is now a national dish, baking soda originates from America – and so the use of soda bicarbonate as a raising agent only reached Europe in the 19th Century. So, it’s a bit like potatoes – something brought over to Ireland from the USA and adopted!
Having made my bread, my creativity seemed to vanish. I had some wonderful bacon and black pudding in the hamper – and you know, I just got a yearning for a simple cooked brunch. So, in the end, I put everything in the oven – the bacon over the black pudding to keep it moist – and just cooked it all for 15 minutes.
Perfect with a lovely cup of hot tea and some of my homemade soda bread.
Yes I know this is a simple way to use the food I’ve been sent. But, there are times when the quality of the ingredients is good enough and you simply don’t need to do much. I’ve still got things to use up, but in the meanwhile I can go out and enjoy St Patricks Day with a full stomach and a warm heart.
With many thanks to Bord Bia for sending me such fabulous ingredients! Even if I did find them just too good to mess around with!