Irish Soda Bread

The idea of making my own bread fascinates me. There’s nothing like the smell of bread fresh from the oven, and there’s nothing like the taste of that same bread sliced while still warm and then smothered in butter. I haven’t tried many bread recipes, and none that involve a packet of yeast (there’s an art to yeast bread, it seems). I’ve learned from the ones that I have tried and will continue to make them.

Irish Soda Bread

When people talk about Irish country bread, they mean bread made without yeast, leavened by bread (baking) soda or baking powder. The Irish love this traditional bread and its solid nourishment gives them more pleasure than almost any Irish food. It also gives them a feeling of continuity with the past; the Irish have never stopped making soda bread at home.
It is doubtful if anything was weighed much in the old days, people just didn’t have time. They threw handfuls of flour and oatmeal of different sorts into a bowl and mixed them with buttermilk. When the texture felt right, the dough was crossed deeply and bundled into a hot oven or cooking pot. Forty minutes later, it had become a loaf which was robust and individual.

Making Soda Bread

No bread pan is needed for country bread. It bakes far better when placed straight onto a floured baking sheet in the oven. You will need a wire rack and a clean tea towel (dish cloth) to wrap the loaf in after it is baked.


  • 1 cup white (all-purpose) flour
  • 3 cups brown (whole-wheat) flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp bread (baking) soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (approx.)

This is the classic Irish recipe for brown soda bread. You can make white soda bread by using 4 cups of white flour. Some people put herbs into their bread, with good results. After you’ve tried it a time or two, feel free to experiment and see what you can come up with.

Sieve/sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in most of the buttermilk to make a loose dough, adding more if necessary. Turn the dough on to a floured board and knead it lightly. Form a round loaf. Turn the smooth side up. Flatten it carefully and cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf.
Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 F for about 40 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow if you tap the base (you may need to turn it over for 5 minutes or so to achieve this.) Wrap the loaf in a clean dish towel and put it on a rack to cool.

Some Advice

I’ve made this hearty loaf a couple of times now and plan on doing so well into the future. While I greatly enjoyed my first loaf, be careful not to add too much buttermilk, as you can end up with a sticky mess of dough to contend with. Likewise, it does make a difference if you flip the loaf over for the last 5 or so minutes to let the bottom fully bake, you might have some doughy spots in the bottom if you don’t. If you don’t sift the flour you can end up with a brick-like loaf; if you don’t have a sifter, use a spoon to scoop out the flour so that it doesn’t get compressed in the measuring cup.


A few slices of this bread make for a quite filling sandwich, or a single buttered slice for a snack. A thick slice goes wonderfully with a soup or stew. I’m comfortable enough with the recipe to start experimenting now. I will be trying various herbs, some sugar, perhaps even some molasses. Who knows what I’ll end up with!
Now it’s your turn! Spend a few minutes mixing, set the timer for the oven and enjoy your freshly-baked homemade bread!

Traditional Irish Recipe – Bacon and Cabbage


You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t this be Corned Beef?” Indeed, it should not. Bacon (pork) was the most readily available meat in Ireland for centuries. Cattle were prized for their dairy products rather than their beef and sheep were used for their wool. Pork could be cured by local farmers, who also grew their own vegetables. Pork and cabbage were simmered together for a long time in a large pot and the two tastes merged. Potatoes in their skins were always cooked separately.

Nowadays we like cooking our vegetables more quickly, so the cabbage for the dish is usually boiled just before the meal. However, if some of the bacon water is used for this, we have the authentic bacon and cabbage taste.


  • 2 lb lean bacon (pork belly including the rind or a boiling ham)
  • 1 head chopped cabbage, chopped roughly
  • browned breadcrumbs


Place bacon in pot (you can add 10 cloves and a chopped onion if you wish) and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim the white scum off the top. Simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours. When tender, keep the bacon in a warm place in its water.

Take 1/2 cup of the bacon water and the same amount of water and bring to a boil. Throw in the cabbage and cook it quickly (about 10 minutes) until the cabbage is tender. Drain well.

(If you wish to have potatoes as a side, boil 4 lbs of them in the bacon liquid for approximately 30 minutes. You can then add the cabbage to the water, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes until the cabbage is tender.)

Sprinkle the bacon with browned breadcrumbs and serve everything very hot with parsley sauce.


Parsley Sauce

This simple but popular sauce is relished with boiled bacon or boiled salt beef. The good taste of the sauce depends on using parsley lavishly. For family meals, there’s no need to cop finely. Just snip the parsley with scissors; it’s much quicker.


  • 3 3/4 tsp parsley, chopped roughly
  • 1/4 stick butter or margering
  • 2 tbs plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Keeping the chopped parsley beside you, melt the butter gently in a saucepan. Add the flour and mix to a smooth paste.
Add the milk very gradually, stirring carefully all the time. Add the salt.
As soon as the sauce starts to simmer, add 3/4 of the parsley and cook for several minutes. The mixture should become thick but pourable.
Add the rest of the parsley, stir, and pour into a very hot sauceboat. Serve at once.


My wife and I will be giving this a try today, in honor of tomorrow’s celebration. I hope you’ll try it too!

Keep Your Eyes Open for New Opportunities: Winter Veggie Soup Recipe

You never know where you will stumble on the next great thing. It could be a new hobby, a new widget for your collection, or a great vacation deal. My most recent find was a new recipe, discovered in the folds of the grocery store coupon book. I was waiting in line at the store and flipping through it to see if there were any deals that I couldn’t pass up. Turns out there was: Winter Veggie Soup.

With the weather cold and over-cast, some hot home-made soup seemed like a perfect fit. My wife and I gathered the ingredients and set about putting everything together. Once the preparation is done, this recipe is about as simple as they come, you just have to sit back and wait for everything to cook once it is all combined in the saucepan.


  • Large pot
  • Knife
  • Chopping board
  • Hand Blender
  • Vegetable Peeler

  • 3 tsp of Butter
  • 3 medium Carrots (peeled and finely sliced) [Ours were a bit small, so we used 5]
  • 3 leeks white part only (washed and finely sliced)
  • 1 1/2 medium sized Onions (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 4 cloves Garlic (finely sliced)
  • 4 medium Potatoes (peeled and finely sliced) [Again on the small side, so we used 6]
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube
  • 4 cups Water
  • 2 tbs chopped Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Put 2 tsp butter, carrots, leeks, onions and garlic in pot over low to medium heat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once after 5 minutes.

Add potatoes, stock cube and water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 25 minutes.

Blend until smooth or leave a little chunk if desired (since we don’t have a hand blender, we used a potato masher. It worked just fine for us!), then add the remaining butter. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped parsley.

For a side, we sliced a demi-baguette, buttered the slices and toasted them in the oven. The slices were delicious with the soup, either dipped into or simply eaten along with it.

This soup was much better than we anticipated (we weren’t quite sure about the amount of onion called for in the recipe) and we will definitely be having it again. We both had second helpings and scraped the bowls clean with our last pieces of bread. The next day we finished it off. Our only complaint about this delicious meal is that we just didn’t make enough. There’s nothing better than an easy recipe that results in a delicious meal!