Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irish Food, Family Memories, and Soda Bread

Coming from 100% Irish origins through and through, it's surprising that I didn't grow up eating a lot of what is considered to be Irish food.  We did have lamb chops now and then (my father would buy 27 so our family of nine could each have three).  He broiled them with lemon pepper seasoning and they were delicious.  One time, just as dinner was coming together, he dropped the broiler pan with its just-cooked chops on the kitchen floor and couldn't bear to throw the expensive meat away, so he rinsed them under the faucet and put them back under the broiler! Every now and then there was a pot of stew, and sometimes my mother would leave the kitchen and my father would pour  a bottle of beer into the pot, something she did not approve of!  When my parents discovered the pressure cooker, stew became dangerous.  The little toggle on the top of the pot would start to hiss with steam and wobble, and my father would tell all of us to get out of the kitchen, in case the whole thing blew!  Eating at my house was an adventure.

I was never fond of the traditional corned beef and cabbage.  I didn't like the strong flavor of the meat, and cabbage was just too stinky a vegetable for me.  I've grown to like it in my later years (probably because my senses of smell and taste are less acute!).  Nope, not a lot of Irish food in my house, despite the bloodlines.  Still, I embrace tradition. 

In the spirit of Saint Patrick's Day which will be upon us in just eight days, I'm bringing you soda bread.  My Aunt Jeanne, mother of eight and now age 90, still makes it.  This timely recipe comes from Eating Well, and is featured on the Food Network's Website which states, "Soda breads are hearty Irish staples - wholemeal flour with large flakes of bran and wheat germ, or white flour or a mixture leavened with baking soda and moistened with buttermilk. The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, which is an alkali, creating bubbles of carbon dioxide which rise the bread. Soda breads have the heft of a yeast bread but are made in minutes and the dough can be shaped into scones or a round loaf, depending on the occasion. Originally it would have been baked in a bastible (pot oven) over the open fire."

IRISH SODA BREAD from Eating Well and The Food Network

Prep Time:
    10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
    1 hr 20 min


    2-pound loaf (12 slices)


    * 2 cups whole-wheat flour
    * 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 2 1/4 cups buttermilk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle with a little flour.

Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in full circles (starting in the center of the bowl working toward the outside of the bowl) until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, in a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Clean dough off your hand.

Pat and roll the dough gently with floury hands, just enough to tidy it up and give it a round shape. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 2 inches. Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Mark with a deep cross using a serrated knife and prick each of the four quadrants.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400° and continue to bake until the loaf is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped, 30 to 35 minutes more. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Recipe and Photo Credit:  The Food Network and EatingWell.com

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