If you don’t like eating soda bread, you are peculiar and possibly unwell. It is such a firm and generous thing to eat. It is also merely a platform.
Onto soda bread, there should be copious lashings of butter, and smoked salmon perhaps, or thick strips of bacon. I like to carve long doorstops of Milleens cheese and place them on top of crumbly chunks and then open a jar of chutney. While admiring the snack you have made, you are well within your rights to pour yourself a Guinness.
The best soda bread you’re likely to come across on this side of the Irish Sea is Richard Corrigan’s. In the past, I’ve been in trouble for writing about the very funny things the chef has said to me. He is hilarious and not averse to courting controversy.
Here I won’t indulge for fear of reprimand but I will say the last time I had his soda bread was at Daffodil Mulligan, his Old Street restaurant where there are (now) native oysters, excellent snacks like potato cakes with haddock and horseradish, and Peter Hannan’s incomparable sugar pit pork, among other dishes. Visit expecting a short lunch and leave hours later without knowing where you are.
Anyway, the soda bread is made each day at Corrigan’s Mayfair restaurant Bentley’s. Despite its upmarket beginnings it is well at home in Shoreditch and necessary before drinking at Gibney’s in the basement, or upstairs while nibbling prawn and morteau sausage kebabs. It is also a valuable filler to have at home.
None of us need reminding that autumn has arrived and soup season is heartily upon us. You’ll need bread for dipping, so here’s Corrigan’s recipe.
Makes one large loaf
250g plain flour
15g sodium bicarbonate
150g wholemeal flour
150g jumbo oat flakes
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp black treacle
Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper
Combine all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
Make a well in the centre, then mix in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands until you have a loose, wet dough.
Flour your hands and shape the dough into a round and lift it onto the lined baking sheet. Cut a cross in the top (as the loaf cooks this will help to separate it into quarters).
Transfer to the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the base with your knuckles.
Transfer a wire rack, cover with a damp cloth and leave to cool.
Don’t even think of putting dairy spread on it. This bread needs and deserves butter