Having just returned from what seemed like the most expensive country in the world, no, not Switzerland or Norway, but the Republic of Ireland, one of the few things I could afford to eat was the soda bread. Which is a good job, seeing it is served with everything.
And very nice it was too, with a soft 'cakey' texture, slight tang and thin crust.
It was better than any soda bread I had bought and tried here in dear old Blighty, very much like the Guinness which is always better in its home country and which I had to sample for research purposes you understand.
So once back from Ireland and having checked my bank account to see if I had any money left in it, I ventured out to buy the simple ingredients needed for a good traditional soda bread.
After checking a few recipes I decided a more wholesome wheaten bread was the order of the day using wholemeal flour instead of white, this being the distinction in Ireland where white flour = soda bread and wholemeal flour = wheaten bread. This information came from my wife, who being Northern Irish knows a thing or two about soda bread, oh, and potatoes.
Bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk react together to give the rise and airiness to the bread while pinhead oatmeal, a little butter and sugar help with the taste and texture.
The recipe came from one of my favourite cookbooks "Short and Sweet" by Dan Lepard, apart from the buttermilk which I have used instead of Dan's yoghurt.
Place the water and oatmeal in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, put on a lid and leave for an hour.
Add the butter and stir to melt. If the butter doesn't melt straight away just add a little heat to the pan and stir through.
Whisk in the buttermilk, cold milk and sugar until it is smooth with no lumps.
Prepare a 20cm square cake tin by brushing with a little butter and lining the base with some baking parchment.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
Mix the flour, bicarb and salt with the oatmeal ‘porridge’ and pour into the tin. Smooth over the top, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
Then remove the foil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until a nice golden brown.
Leave in tin for 10 minutes then remove and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
Great with cheeses, cooked meats, smoked salmon, pate, soups or basically anything!