Sunday 4 April 2021

Taste from my childhood


Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Brown soda bread

I grew up in Dublin and brown soda bread was a staple part of our diet. Every few days my mother would bake a loaf and the house would be filled with the smell of delicious bread. No need for yeast, or time consuming pounding of the dough, the ingredients could be put together in an instant. Warm from the oven, spread with butter and home made marmalade, there was nothing better for breakfast.

Lunchtime it would be brought out again to eat with soup or a slice of strong cheese. Later, with a cup of tea, it went down well with some tangy raspberry jam.

Now if you would like to make it, there are two vital ingredients which are required, both of which may be difficult to source, depending on where you live. The first is buttermilk. Available in most grocery stores in Ireland, but hardly ever seen in the shops of mainland Britain. The second item required is coarse ground whole meal flour. Most of the commercially available flours are too finely milled, and though it is possible to make a white soda bread, it is the nutty flavour of the brown flour that gives it its signature taste.

Provided you can get all the ingredients, here is how to make this wonderful bread. This is the original recipe and the measurements are in Imperial measure.


12oz whole meal flour
6oz plain flour

1 pint of buttermilk

2 heaped tsp of baking soda

1 level tsp salt

1 level tsp sugar

Method: Heat oven to Gas Mark 6, or 220degrees. Sieve the flour and soda into a bowl with the whole meal flour. Add salt and sugar. Pour in the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be quite wet. Add a little ordinary milk if it is too thick. Pour mixture into a greased deep tin. Mark the top and sprinkle a little flour over. Place in the oven and turn it down to 190 degrees. Leave for 35 minutes. Turn off the oven, place the bread back in the oven upside down to firm up the bottom of the loaf. It is done when the loaf sounds hollow as you tap it.

As there is no yeast in this bake, it doesn’t cause the excess gas and bloating that commercial bread may do.  It provides a good source of fibre, and even if it gets a bit dry, makes very nice toast.

What did you eat as a child? Have you got some recipes which have been handed down through the generations? Let’s share them together.

Previously published on Medium.

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