Posted by Tania Kindersley.
There is a great deal of excitement here as my mother and stepfather have just moved onto the compound. They arrived yesterday, and so I, in a shameless attempt to get to the top of the Children's List, took them a newly baked loaf of soda bread, because nothing says home quicker than soda bread.
I put out a desultory tweet about this, and several people asked about the recipe. I have written about it before, but because it is my own recipe and it is always changing, I shall give it again here. Then we can all have a special Twitter bake-off, and all those old columnists who loathe the new media can choke on their port and stilton.
Here is my latest incarnation, and it is so easy I am almost ashamed to write it down:
Measure out half best strong white bread flour (I know, white, it seems quite counterintuitive, but go with it) and half Golspie Mill oatmeal. I am partial, because Golspie Mill is a small Scottish business of the exact kind that I get a warm feeling out of supporting, and it is almost local to me, but any fine oatmeal will do. You do not want the flour, nor the big pin head kind, but the finest kind of actual oatmeal.
I do the measuring by sight. I like to make a small loaf, because it is quicker to cook. Add a good pinch of sea salt, a flat teaspoon of bicarb, and mix the dry ingredients. Then add two tablespoons of natural yoghurt, vital to make the rising happen, and enough water to make a loose dough. Again, I do this by sight. The texture of the dough is important, I think, because soda bread has a fatal tendency to be crumbly and dry and demoralising, so keep it as loose as possible, just this side of sticky.
The lovely thing about soda bread is there is no kneading. You just shape the thing into whatever configuration you want - some people like it round, I make a little rectangle, because it is easier to slice. Dust a baking tray with some flour, lay the loaf on top, and cut a cross through it with a knife, about a third of the way through. This is tradition, and I have no idea what purpose it serves, but I always do it. Cook at 180 degrees for about twenty five minutes. Knock on the bottom to check if it is done; there should be a hollow sound.
And there you are. It is heaven hot from the oven, and will make delicious toast the next day; 'I am having it with marmalade for my breakfast,' my stepfather announced. It is especially fine with Irish stew. Today, I am taking my latest offering to my old mum with a big pot of celery soup I have just made. You may also use it to ravish guests: since it takes five minutes to make and twenty five to cook, you can make it before they get up, so they come down to real bread. They will be your slaves for life.
My mother and stepfather have moved five hundred miles from their old life, so a little loaf of bread is the least I can do. In the meantime, should they ever get their internet connection set up and be able to read this, I would like to say: Welcome to Scotland.