Soda bread cures all ills, it’s a fact

I’m a scientist, and am therefore totally and officially qualified to make broad, sweeping statements such as above.

This week two major things happened here in Chez Yumbolicious. Firstly, I was awarded Australian permanent residency; and secondly, I got the worst dose of homesickness since I landed here nearly two years ago.

OK, so I know it’s not Kerrygold, but I’ve got to admit, those Kiwis seem to know their stuff!

Funny how things work out isn’t it? I’m finally allowed to officially call Australia my home FOREVER and all I want to do is go back to the not-so-tropical island of Ireland. I must need a brain transplant. There just must be something about constant doom, gloom and recession that gets to me. Perhaps, unbeknownst to myself, I’m actually some sort of economic masochist? I must Google that, try and find a support group or something.

So what to do when you’re 16,000 km from home and wishing you were on Bettystown beach instead of Bondi? Answer: make soda bread, it solves everything. Fact.

For all non-Irish readers, soda bread is a traditional bread, made with soda and buttermilk instead of yeast. It’s absolutely delicious and is immensely popular. Not only will you find it in supermarkets and corner shops across Ireland; almost every family has a recipe for it too. In fact, I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like it.

I know this sounds utterly stupid, but until I moved to Sydney, I never realised exactly how traditional and parochial soda bread really is. I did half expect to find it here. Not so my friends; in Sydney sourdough is king. After a few months of searching I found a great bloke called Paddy the Baker who makes (and delivers!) soda bread, along with some other delish Irish treats. But for the past few months now I’ve actually been making my own and it couldn’t be easier.

Yesterday I decided I needed an extra special soda-bread treat so I got me some smoked salmon, capers and lemon. And my-oh-my did it hit the spot!

Beginner’s brown soda bread

This recipe is from the wonderful Darina Allen book Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Just reading Darina’s book is as much a cure for homesickness as this bread, as it transports you to her little corner of east Cork, and makes you want to go live on a farm. I love it and highly recommend it for everyone interested in cooking.

Makes one loaf.


400 g stone-ground wholemeal flour
75 g plain white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda, sifted
1 egg
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp honey or dark brown sugar
425 ml buttermilk
A handful of seeds (any type) or oats to decorate

Before I start into the recipe, I just wanted to say something about buttermilk. Buttermilk can be bought in every single shop in Ireland (which is probably a testimony to the popularity of this bread!). But it ain’t so easy to find in Sydney, not that you won’t find it, you’ll just need to look harder. I’ve seen it in a few IGAs and also in Harris Farm Markets, but never in any of the larger supermarkets. So I generally make my own. I take two cups of full fat milk and sour it with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and use as per the recipe above.

This bread couldn’t be simpler. Preheat the oven to 200 °C and grease and flour a loaf tin or flat tray (if you’re making the more traditional cob with a cross in it). Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Lightly whisk the egg and add it to the buttermilk along with the oil and honey. Next, make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all of the liquid, mix well. This will not form the same kind of dough you’d get when making a yeast bread, the mixture will be quite sloppy and a little wet, that’s fine. Transfer to the loaf tin and sprinkle seeds or oats on top. Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack,

But don’t leave it too long, this is best eaten hot from the oven and smothered in butter, ideally Kerrygold. And for giggles, I’m sharing that old Kerrygold ad about the horse, it cracks me up everytime!



8 thoughts on “Soda bread cures all ills, it’s a fact

  1. Hi Aoife,

    I was down with Angela this morning and she showed me your soda bread recipe. and the fact that you cant get buttermilk in Oz. anyway… my grannie’s soda bread recipe is the bog-standard basic version which I grew up on, and it goes like this…..
    in a large bowl mix a couple of handfuls of brown flour and equal amount of white, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of bread soda. if you are posh and own a sieve you can sieve these with the white flour, if not – just mix well. then make a well in the center and pour in some sour milk. thats the stuff thats left over since yesterday ( if its summertime, or about three days if its winter ) and has gone off cos you dont own a fridge. mix with your hand so you get the feel of when the flour has absorbed the milk and you can stop pouring it in. it will be a bit drier than your version so you wont need a loaf tin. get everything mixed, then bring it together and lift out of the bowl onto a floured area of the kitchen table, knead it a bit, shape into a round, cut a cross in the top to let the fairies out and place on a lightly greased and floured flat tray. bake for about 50 mins – 1 hour depending on how wet your mix was, and eat fast cos it goes stale in a day. since there are no measured quantities its never exactly the same twice.
    you can also make this with all white flour, or add raisins if you like.

    ……….and Bettystown Beach was perishing today in spite of the sunshine. 10 degrees and wind from the north. summer how are ye !

    cheers !


    • Hey Jill,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for the recipe! Just proves my point that everyone has their own version. Love the notion that fridges and sieves are “posh” items! Hilarious! I had considered posting the more traditional, cob version, I love the idea that the bread has to be crossed and the fairies let out; but to tell you the truth, I always make a loaf, just for handiness sake (it’s easier to cut, pack into a lunch box, freeze etc.). My Grandad is a bit of a fan of raisins in the bread, although he prefers a white loaf; that must be fierce posh by your Grannie’s standards!

      As for the weather, well that’s about the one thing I DON’T miss. I reckon they should move Ireland, if they could just tow it a few miles south, it’d be grand!

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. I totally get your craving for KerryGold! During my year-long Erasmus in Paris (granted, not as far as Oz) I was dying for it; it was one of the thing I truly missed about home. Your choice of serving it with smoked salmon and capers is another thing I can identify with – great choice 😀 And a final note: THANK YOU!!!! I’ve been wondering what on earth I could substitute buttermilk with (the joys of lactose intolerance) but you’ve shown me the light! Make my own with lactose-free milk. I’m over the moon about this 😀

    • Oh wow! Lactose-free milk?? I’m really interested to hear how you do that. Hopefully the lemon juice trick will work for it because it just wouldn’t be much of a life without the odd bitta soda bread!!

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