Mum's Brown Soda Bread

 

Method:

  • Have your oven pre-heated to approx 200 C. (Mum uses an Aga which could be anything from 160 C to 240 C)
  • Put all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix with hand being sure to aerate the flour by lifting it and allowing it to fall back into the bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour the butter milk in.
  • This works best when you know the exact quantity and put it all in at once.
  • So the first few times take careful note of the amount of milk being used.
  • Mum then mixes it (don't over mix as the flour starts to release gluten which will make your bread heavy) using a wooden spoon.
  • The consistency should be quite wet but still holds its shape.
  • Then empty the mixture directly onto a floured baking tray.
  • Flatten out to about 4 cm thick.
  • Cut a cross in it the full length and width of the loaf and spike each quarter with your knife to let the fairy's out (very important!)
  • Pop it in the oven and cook for approximately 40 mins.
  • If it is burning on the outside you can either turn down the heat a little or if it is nearly cooked, turn it upside down this helps to cook the bottom.
  • Tips: don't open the oven while it is rising for first half an hour and if it doesn't come off the tray, either it wasn't well enough floured or it isn't cooked yet, probably both!

Making Bread

 

I don't very often make yeast bread for one reason, the beautiful and therapeutic experience of kneading dough seems to me far too much like hard work and I don't own a food mixer. However I often make soda bread and I have had the good fortune that my mother has made brown soda bread for the family all my life. I usually make white soda bread or Spot of Dog (with raisins) for the simple reason that I only ever seem to have white flour in the house. Soda bread is the sort of thing that the first few times, no matter how carefully you follow the recipe, it doesn't work out as well as you want then with practice, you wonder what you ever did wrong as you won't even have to open the book, you'll just bung the ingredients in the bowl and it will come out pretty near perfect every time. Neither I nor my mother follows any recipe particularly carefully - mainly because we don't have a weighing scale!

Steak

 

Method: 

  • Salt and pepper steaks well before cooking.
  • Also rub some garlic into them.
  • Heat a frying pan until smoking.
  • Use some beef fat or olive oil to grease the pan.
  • Cook for 1 to 3 minutes on either side and brown the edges if necessary.
  • If they need any more cooking, pop them in the oven for a few minutes.
  • Be careful not to over cook.
  • Allow to rest for a minute or so in a warm place before serving.

Chicken Liver Pate

 

Most good chickens come with the liver inside. Some day when you have time, try making a little chicken liver pate. If you have a blender, it will save you having to force the cooked liver through a sieve. This is the Ballymaloe House recipe, I like it best slightly chilled on warm crispy bread.

Method:

  • A little melted butter.
  • Fry the chicken liver in some of the butter.
  • Rub through a sieve.
  • Boil and scrape out the pan with brandy.
  • Mix with the livers, beat in the remaining butter, garlic and thyme.
  • Season carefully.
  • Put into small pots and run melted butter over the top.

Tomato Salad

 

Method:

  • I have given the recipe for a really easy green salad dressing on some of the packs/somewhere on the website!
  • Pour this over some ripe tomatoes and tear in a little fresh basil.
  • Season with a little extra Maldron sea-salt!
  • Yummy!

Potato Salad

 

Fabulous, make it an hour or so in advance. The potatoes should be warm when serving but as they don't need to be hot, relieve you le chef of enormous stress. This recipe works best for me with new potatoes as are main crop variety, Golden Wonders, are far too floury, but experiment yourself; it seems that in every nook and cranny in Ireland people eat their potatoes differently.

Method:

  • I basically chop up some fresh parsley and chives.
  • Chop up the potatoes while they are still piping hot and put them in a warm serving dish, pour in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, throw in my herbs and season to taste with salt, pepper and little mustard if I'm in the mood.
  • It is essential that the potatoes are hot as then the oil really soaks into them.
  • This will only get better as it sits on a sideboard covered with a tea towel waiting for your guests to arrive.

Green Salad and Tomatoes

 

If there is one thing everybody in Ireland should grow, it's green salad and tomatoes. You have no excuses not to grow a salad leaves, there must be a bit of earth and sunshine somewhere about the house. Tomatoes do require a glass house, but the flavour is worth the effort. Grow a variety and remember cherry tomatoes generally last longer into the year. There are a thousand and one other things to learn about growing tomatoes so my advice is buy them as seedlings and pester the person you bought them off for advice - you're local farmers market is good for this.

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