Friday, 30 October 2009

Soda bread, redux

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.


  1. brill! thanks for that - i'll dazzle the family into submission with the scent of fresh baked bread tomorrow! (btw - i also co write with a pal, under the name 'annie sanders').
    meg x

  2. Yum. And, er, I may be focussing on the wrong dish in this post but I currently have a fridge full of celery and so couldn't help but wonder if there was any chance of that celery soup recipe as well?!

  3. Rivergirlie - how exciting. I hope it turns out brilliantly.

    Cal - very naughty cheat's celery soup: simply simmer a chopped head of celery, one leek and a few cloves of garlic in chicken stock, or water with a tablespoon of Marigold bouillon powder for about 15 minutes or until the celery is soft. Put into a blender, add a handful of watercress and a gloop of olive oil, and blend until quite smooth. If you prefer a rougher texture, just reduce the processing time. Check for seasoning. If it is too thick, add a little more stock or water.

    This is very naughty because there is no onion and no sweating, but I find it works almost as well as a more classical version. You can also throw in some parsley or basil at the blending stage, or even a little dried chilli for a certain va va voom.

  4. Hi Tania!

    Want to make the soda bread - can you give rough quantities of dry ingredients? Have looked on interweb but they all give quantities for much larger loaves so can't quite work out proportions. You've inspired me to make soup and fresh bread for lunch tomorrow (and the rest of the week!) - my own recipe sweet potato and pepper.

  5. Sam - so sorry, I really am hopeless. I am so used to doing it by sight, and I have no talent for guessing weights from looking. Have measured out for you, and I discover that for a small, neat loaf, I use 300g of strong white flour, and 300g of fine oatmeal. The point with this is to play around with the proportions - you might want a nuttier, oatier loaf, in which case use more oatmeal. If you have a favourite wholemeal flour, you can throw some of that in as well. Unlike risen bread, where you do have to follow strict instructions, soda bread can be experimented with. That was how I stumbled upon the oatmeal trick. Hope you enjoy it. Do let me know if it comes out well.

    Oh, also I once did it as little rolls, and they were rather lovely too. Just an idea.

  6. Thank you so much Tania - I'm off to the kitchen to play right now! There's leek and potato soup in the offing to go with it...

  7. mmmm i can smell it. i love soda bread. i have always used Darina Allen's recipe. really enjoyed reading about yours. i would love to have it w a cup of builder's tea, lots and lots of butter and real raspberry jam in dollops, with seeds that get stuck in your teeth. buon appetito to you and your fam.

  8. Celery soup duly made and supped. Very yum, thank you.

    (No watercress in the house but lots of parsley - seemed to work fine. And was surprisingly creamy in texture.)

  9. Eileen Younghusband29 December 2010 at 22:12

    Tania, I have just found your comment about the BBC broadcast I did some time ago - and about my autobiography. I am humbled by your praise. You may be interested to know that the journalist interviewing me, said "You have another book in you" and he has encouraged me to write sabout the war years only. The title is "One Woman's War" and it is about to be printed. Do contact me if you are interested at and a Happy New Year.

    Eileen Younghusband.

  10. Eileen Younghusband29 December 2010 at 22:16

    Sorry Tania, I have spelt my email address incorrectly should be

    Must be getting old!



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