I recently read a post written by the great Darina Allen on the Ballymaloe Blog, discussing the huge dependance on processed foods such as sliced pans and wafer thin ham that modern society has developed. I strongly agree that supermarket chains have been a catalyst towards this cultural shift. I have noticed in the UK particularly that supermarket convenience encourages people to forgo special trips to butchers, bakers, greengrocers and other traditional producers which would have been commonplace in everyday life 20 years ago. On every street corner in London, there is a miniature version or a supermarket chain store, designed to provide all the processed food one could wish for under one roof!
It is one huge thing I miss about Cork! We have an abundance of locations to avail of a large selection of the best quality artisan produce under one roof as such. From the English market to the many wonderful gourmet food shops, even the Irish supermarkets have gotten in on the act! Supervalu in particular pride themselves on championing local producers. It seems in Ireland, the dreaded “R” word has encouraged a renaissance of traditional food practices. People are not only cooking from scratch more and more, they are more aware of where their food comes from and who they buy it from. I find a huge pleasure in actually being able to talk to the producer, as is the case with the many wonderful farmers markets!
This ethos for me is hugely symbolic. During all the boom years, convenience at any cost seemed to be the focus of peoples food shopping habits,at least in some cases. Value for money was not always a priority whilst exotic foreign products were very fashionable. Now, folks across Ireland are much more conscious as to where their money is going. Quality of the produce has once again become a focal point, as well as seasonality and local sourcing as these keep costs down. Its a lovely thing that people are rediscovering how important these aspects of life are.
In Ireland, soda bread has remained popular for hundreds of years. Even through the boom years, restaurants maintained its status on menus in dishes as simple as open sandwiches. It became a product that was sold in every deli, convenience store and supermarket. Yet now with a renewed focus on simple, hearty healthy food, it is ever more present. It is so simple to make it can take less than an hour, is cheap and cost effective. It has very few ingredients and for me represents the antithisis to the artificial and processed sliced pans. My favorite thing about it is the nostalgia it brings every time I have a loaf in the oven. I have made a resolution recently that there will be no more processed bread in our house, homemade all the way! I have always striven to shop with local fruit and veg suppliers, artisan butchers and other specialist shops in my local area, but when it comes to bread….Ill be making my own!
Irish Brown Soda Bread
- 225g Plain White Flour
- 225g Wholemeal flour
- Pinch Salt
- Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
- Approx. 400ml Buttermilk
- In a large bowl, mix the two flours using your fingers until they are well combined
- Add the bicarb and the salt and again mix with the fingers
- Make a well in the centre and gradually mix in the buttermilk, holding your hand like a claw as you stir with it!
- Add just enough milk to bring the dough together so that its not too sticky
- Two options here: place in a 2lb loaf tin or form into a circular shape on a flat oven tray and make a deep cut in the top.
- Place in an oven preheated to 240 degrees C and immediatly turn the heat down to 200
- Bake for approx 45 mins. I like to take mine out of the loaf tin for the last 5 minutes to ensure it is thoroughly baked inside.
- Serve with proper butter, jam or like my lunch, slices of ham with some relish or mustard!