An Irish favourite, which we bake every day at Ballymaloe cookery school, and which is very quick and simple for you to make at home. This is the basic recipe but there are so many sweet and savoury variations that you can try - chocolate, raisins, cinnamon, cubes of crispy bacon, cheese, herbs . . . the possibilities are endless. The deep cross in the loaf is supposed to let out the fairies - so that the bread won't be jinxed by evil spirits! In reality, of course, it's just to allow the heat to penetrate the loaf as it's cooking.
Makes 1 Loaf
450g (1lb) plain flour
1 level tsp caster sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
350-425ml (12-15fl oz) buttermilk or sour milk
1. Preheat the oven to 230°C (425°F), Gas mark 8.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet and sticky.
3. When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1½in) deep and cut a deep cross in it.
4. Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6 and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour. I often turn it upside down for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
White soda scones: Make the dough as above but flattened into a round approximately 2.5cm (1in) deep. Cut into scones and cook for 15-20 minutes at 230°C (450°F), Gas mark 8. White soda bread or scones with herbs: Add 2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs - such as rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, parsley or lemon balm - to the dry ingredients, and make as above.
Spotted dog: Add 100g (3½oz) sultanas, raisins or currants, or a mixture of all three, to the dry ingredients, and make as above.
For this wholemeal soda bread the method differs to the usual white version, so don't just swap half of the plain flour for wholemeal.
Makes 1 Loaf
225g (8oz) wholemeal flour
225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g (2oz) mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin or sunflower, or golden linseeds (optional)
25g (1oz) butter (optional)
375-400ml (13-14fl oz) Buttermilk
You will need a 25cm (10in) diameter tart tin, 3cm (1¼in) deep
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), Gas mark 7.
2. Sift together the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and mix with the seeds (if using). Add the butter (if using), and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre.
3. In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk and pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky.
4. Turn onto a floured work surface, and gently bring it together into a round about 4cm (1½in) deep. Cut a deep cross on top
5. Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6 and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Named after the Lorraine region of north-east France, this classic quiche is delicious served with a green salad and tangy relish. It tastes great cold, too.
For the shortcrust pastry:
200g (7oz) plain flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
100g (3½oz) chilled butter, cubed
½-1 medium egg, beaten
For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
175g 6oz) streaky bacon, cut into 1cm (½in) lardons
100g (4oz) onions, peeled and chopped
2 eggs and 2 egg yokes
250ml (9fl oz) double cream
1 scant tbsp chopped parsley
1 scant tbsp chopped chives
50g (2oz) Cheddar cheese, grated
50g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
19cm (7½in) high-sided tart tin or 23cm (9in) shallow tin
1. First make the pastry. Place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly. Add half the beaten egg and continue to whiz, adding a little more egg if necessary, until the mixture is just moist enough to come together. If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, using your hands, add just enough egg to bring it together. With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is about 2cm (3/4in) thick, then wrap in cling film or place in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Line the tart tin with the pastry and then add a layer of foil, greaseproof or parchment paper on top, leaving plenty to come up the sides. Fill the empty tart with baking beans or dried pulses and bake 'blind' in a 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4 oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry feels dry. Remove the paper and beans, brush with a little leftover beaten egg and return to the oven for 2 minutes. If there are any little holes or cracks in the pastry, just patch it up with any leftover raw pastry before you return it to the oven. Remove from the oven and set aside in the tin while you make the filling. The pastry can be baked a day in advance and kept covered until you need it.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and dry on kitchen paper. Then sweat the onions gently in the same oil for a further 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheeses and cool bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning.
5. Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the centre has set. Serve warm with a green salad and relish.
This is just a simple citrusy twist on a classic Madeira cake. Delicious!
Makes 1 Loaf
175g (6oz) butter, softened
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
225g (8oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
For the topping
75g (3oz) icing sugar
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3. Lightly oil and line a 13 x 23cm (5 x 9in) loaf tin with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs in three stages, beating well between each addition, then add the orange zest.
4. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in with the orange juice. Stop when all the flour is incorporated. Transfer the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top.
5. Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
6. Allow to stand in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely..
7. For the topping, sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in just enough orange juice until it is soft but not runny. If you want the icing to stay just on the top of the cake, place the cooled cake back in the tin and spread the icing over the top. You may find it easier to dip a spoon or table knife in boiling water to spread the icing more easily. Allow the topping to set and cut into slices to serve.
Coffee Madeira cake: Follow as above, omitting the orange zest in the cake and substituting it with 1 generous tablespoon of coffee essence at the egg addition stage. When it is cooked and cooled, make an icing by creaming 50g (2oz) butter, then adding 100g (31/2oz) sifted icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of coffee essence. Mix to combine, then spread evenly over the cake. You can scatter some toasted nuts on top or add 50g (2oz) to the cake mixture with the essence.
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