When I was in Ireland in October last year, I stayed at a hotel in Temple Bar. I blogged about everything I saw and did while I was there, not wanting to forget a moment of my glorious journey. One of the things I noted was their commitment to hearty food. I ate and ate to sustain myself as I trekked Dublin by day and by night in it’s biting cold. There was so much comfort in their soups and stews, cheeses and yogurts. Breakfast was a party for me, indulging in the creamiest fruit yogurts and most succulent cheeses I’ve had in my life. As a person with a ‘sometimes’ sensitive stomach, I noticed that despite my eating-spree, my digestive system took to their food quite well… particularly when it came to breads. Something at the hotel resembled good ol’ Aussie damper, and I slathered the thick dense slices in butter and jam every morning and dug in like a maniac. It was, in fact, Irish soda-bread.
The beauty of this bread is that it doesn’t contain yeast, so you don’t have to leave it to rise anywhere. It comes together quick, and takes less than an hour to bake. I’ve tried this recipe twice since I returned to Cairo – once with yogurt, and once with buttermilk, and adding dried fruit or seeds for an extra kick (aniseeds give it a beautiful smell and some sweetness. I actually ripped open an aniseed herbal teabag for this, and usually do the same whenever I need mint, caraway, or roughly-ground cinnamon). Both were wonderful with fairly the same texture. And while I’m pretty sure my recipe doesn’t do this Irish recipe justice, it’s as close as I could get to what I had while I was there – and until I go again, that’s definitely good enough for me!
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup raisins
1 tablespoons aniseeds
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ½ cup buttermilk or full-fat yogurt
Grease a loaf-pan with butter and flour, and preheat oven to 220.C.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, raisings, and aniseeds and raisins.
Add buttermilk or yogurt, and melted butter. Stir together with a metal spoon until combined, and then knead with your hands until evenly moist. The dough should be fairly tough and not sticky.
Roll into a log-shape with your hands, and place in your prepared loaf-pan. Cut an X shape on the top, and pop it into your oven for about 40 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Serve warm, or store when cooled in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.