Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

I love soda bread, it’s super adaptable and works well with sweet or savoury ingredients.

Just out of the oven, and delicious with butter

Like everyone else, I was glued to the Great British Bake Off when the contestants were making various types of soda bread. I hadn’t made soda bread since I made my version with dulse (dried seaweed), and I thought I’d try a sweet version.

Usually I would use dried fruit in a soda bread, but I didn’t have any. I had a look at what I did have, and this was how I came up with blueberry and walnut soda bread.

As before, if you don’t have buttermilk you can add lemon juice to ordinary milk and let it sit for a few minutes to achieve the same result. I also tossed the blueberries in the flour before mixing them in. Apparently this stops them sinking to the bottom.

This loaf will live quite happily in an airtight box for 2-3 days. If you still have any left, can I suggest toasting it, it’s amazing. I also toasted some and topped it with cheese and this was so delicious the I forgot to take photos.

Freshly toasted and slathered in butter, mmmmm

Ingredients

200 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

25 Grams Butter

100 Grams Porridge oats

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda

100 Grams Fresh blueberries

50 Grams Walnuts

1 Tsp Salt

75 Grams Sugar

450ml Buttermilk

Method

  1. Rub butter into the porridge oats (you can use a food processor to do this, but really only takes a minute)
  2. Add your dry ingredients to the porridge oats (remember to dust the blueberries in the flour before adding them)
  3. Add the buttermilk to the bowl and mix lightly with a palette knife
  4. Turn your mix onto a floured surface and gently form it into a ball. Try not to handle it too much, it should be a fairly soft dough
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Cut a cross onto your loaf. You should cut down about one third of the depth of the dough
  6. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 45-50 minutes (or until it sounds hollow when you tap it).

Soda Bread with Dulse

Most people from Northern Ireland will remember grandparents trying to force dulse on them as a child. If you were lucky enough to escape this and don’t know what dulse is, it’s deep purple seaweed gathered around the coast of Northern Ireland (and other places too). As a child I found it too salty, and the long strands too chewy (I wasn’t a fan).

The reason most grandparents tried to make kids eat it is because it’s amazingly good for you. It’s jam packed full of iodine, calcium, potassium, and all sorts of vitamins and anti oxidants.

I know apart from the health benefits, I’m not really selling dulse as something you can cook with. However, like the big food nerd that I am, I went on a coastal foraging day last year which was amazing, and ended with a fantastic meal cooked by Celia Sponcer (brilliant local chef). She used different seaweeds as seasoning for breads like focaccia and they were delicious, so she inspired me to try this. Dulse provides a saltiness to dishes, but also a deeper flavour that reminds you of the ozone smell you get when you’re at the coast.

Dulse before it has been finely chopped

In Northern Ireland dulse is sold in most greengrocers, but if you aren’t able to get hold of it you can buy it online from a lot of health food retailers or online (because it’s so good for you).

This recipe calls for buttermilk, which i never have, so if you don’t have it use ordinary milk and the juice of half a lemon (the acidity from the buttermilk/lemon juice is needed to cause the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise).

If you can’t find dulse, or aren’t brave enough to try it, this still makes really delicious and healthy bread. If you’re not using dulse replace it with 1 teaspoon of salt. It’s great served with soups, but my favourite way to enjoy this is sliced with cheese.

Enjoy with butter, or cheese and chutney

Ingredients

375 Grams Wholemeal flour

75 Grams Plain flour

1 Level Tsp Bicarbonate Soda

2 Tbsp Dulse (finely chopped)

325-350 ml Buttermilk (or use ordinary milk with the juice of half a lemon added to it)

Method

  1. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, dulse and baking powder to bowl
  2. Stir in the butter milk/milk and lemon juice mixture until it’s s soft dough
  3. Handle as little as possible, but make the dough into a ball
  4. Turn onto a sheet of baking parchment
  5. With a sharp knife, cut a cross (about one third of the depth of the dough) across the centre of the bread
  6. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 45 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when you tap it

Corn Bread

Like everyone else I’m trying to limit how much I go out at the minute. Also because some people are being eejits and stripping supermarket shelves, I’m trying to work with ingredients I already have at home.

While having a look around the cupboard I found some polenta. I bought it to try a recipe for the Italian supper club and was not really a fan of how the Italian’s use it. However, it works well in the Soul Food staple of corn bread. The American version is too sweet for my taste, so I reduced the amount of sugar.

The recipe also calls for butter milk, which I didn’t have. No problem, just add a good squeeze of lemon juice to ordinary milk for the same effect (the acid in the butter milk/lemon juice helps the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise)

I serve this with chilli, but it’s also good served alongside soups. An American friend of mine also uses left over corn bread, crumbled up over casseroles to make a crunchy topping when baked in the oven. This also freezes really well.

115 Grams Cornmeal/fine polenta

150 Grams Plain flour

1 Tsp Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

1.5 Tsp Baking powder

0.5 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2 Eggs

350 ml Butter milk (or semi skimmed milk, with a good squeeze of lemon)

50 Grams Butter

1 Onion (finely sliced)

Extra butter to grease the baking tin

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees, grease a round 23cm cake tin
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and fry the onion until translucent, and allow to cool
  3. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl
  4. In a separate bowl combine the the eggs, butter milk, and fried onions (including the butter the cooked in)
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well until any large lumps are gone. It’s quite a wet mixture so don’t panic
  6. Pour the mix into your greased baking tin, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check with a skewer or toothpick and when it comes out clean, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes

Barm Brack

Plump juicy fruit loaf with a hint of orange and spice. Yummy with butter, and is also amazing toasted.

Halloween is a big thing in Ireland. Before all the commercialised plastic jack o laterns, fake cobwebs and Americanised trick or treating, Holloween was an ancient Celtic festival. According to legend Halloween was the night your ancestors souls returned to earth. Mischief and mishaps could occur, and there is also sorts of folklore that changes depending on where you go in the country.

Barm back (bairin breac in Irish, and apologies to all Irish speakers if I’ve misspelled this) was traditionally eaten at this time. This roughly translates as speckled loaf. The loaf is speckled with raisins and sultanas plump from being soaked in tea. There are stories that people would include different items and if you got it in your slice of the bread that would be your fortune for the year. These included things like if you got a ring you would get married, a dried pea meant you would stay single, and piece of cloth foretold poverty. There are various recipes, some use yeast, this one doesn’t and is much more straightforward. I used ordinary tea in this recipe, but you can also use teas like Earl Grey, or fruit teas. Some people include treacle, but I don’t like it so I left it out. The grated orange zest isn’t traditional but it’s what I like.

Ingredients

275 Grams Raisins

100 Grams Sultana

50 Grams Mixed peel (some supermarkets sell mixed fruit, so you can just total up to 425 Grams and use this instead)

300ml Black tea

200 Grams Brown sugar

225 Grams Self raising flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 egg

Grated zest of 1 orange

Line your baking tin with parchment paper, or else grease the tin well

Method

  1. The night before you make the barm brack, make 300ml of black tea. I just added a tea bag to hot water for a couple of minutes, don’t let it stew for too long or it will get bitter. You don’t need to leave this overnight, but try to leave it at least 3-4 hours
  2. In a bowl, add the sugar, flour, spices and orange zest and combine. Add an egg and then add the tea and soaked fruit and mix well.
  3. Transfer to a round 8 inch baking tin and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 90 mins. Because there is quite a lot sugar in this loaf, it goes quite dark. This is how it’s meant to be, but about half way through I cover the top with some tin foil to stop it taking on too much colour before it’s fully cooked.

Date and Walnut Wheaten Bread

Tell me whats not to like about bread still warm from the oven, and smeared with butter.

One of my favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland is Newcastle Co. Down. There are lots of things to love, breathtaking scenery, amusement arcades, seaweed baths, a lovely promenade, and the world class Tollymore forest Park. I visited recently and tried to find a little bakery that used to sell the most amazing date and walnut wheaten bread. Sadly the shop is gone but the visit inspired me to come up with a version of it which isn’t half bad.

The perfect mix of sweet and savoury.

This bread is great just sliced and slavered in butter/jam. It’s also savoury enough to taste great when topped with cheese, or along side soup. You can also devide the bread mix into eight to make little wheaten rolls.

Ingredients

275 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

175 Grams Dates (chopped)

75 Grams Walnuts (chopped)

50 Grams Butter (melted)

1 Egg

1 Tsp Baking soda

1/4 Tsp Salt

250ml Buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so you can improvise as I did. I used normal milk and added 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and left it to sit for 10 minutes)

Simple round loaf with a cross cut across the centre

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Add the flours, walnuts, dates, salt and baking soda to a bowl and combine
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the egg, and melted butter. Add the milk a little at a time until you have quiet a moist dough.I like to use my hands to mix the ingredients, but you can also use a wooden spoon.
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape into a circle, around 14-16cm in diameter
  5. Put the loaf onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a cross across the loaf, about a third of the depth of the loaf
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, check the loaf is ready by tapping the bottom to makes it sounds hollow

Lila, and the Piece of Cake Bakery, my food hero!

Lila and her family run my favourite Belfast bakery, Piece of Cake, now with a shop in the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast. They are also much loved regulars at St George’s Market in Belfast.

Due to unrest in their native Croatia in the 1980’s, Lila and the family relocated to Belfast. Once here they worked their socks off, getting up at the crack of dawn everyday to build a business and a home.

While she might be 80 years young, Lila’s work ethic and energy would put most people half her age to shame. On top of this, she is also a sweetheart.

This bakery creates amazing artisan breads, pastries and cakes. I have a secret fantasy about being locked in their shop overnight. Just two among my many favourites are their potato rostis, and the coconut meringue cheese cake, OMG they’re fabulous.

Some moronic pr*cks like to spout off about how immigrants don’t contribute to society. I would say they obviously haven’t met women like Lila or her family or see how hard they still work, and the local people they employ.