Traditional Irish Breads
It’s Autumn. The leaves are gold and red. The days are shortening and there’s a nip in the air. Just the weather to get out the griddle and make some local bread. I make all my own bread of the yeast variety and I love doing it. What is it about throwing together soda farls potato farls wheaten bread and pancakes that is so comforting. They are rarely given time to cool but the vultures are on them. If there are any left they are great in an Ulster fry. Trust me the English don’t know what a fry up is until they have tasted an Ulster. I have guests come from across the water trembling lest they don’t get their fix of an Ulster fry but that is another story and another blog. Farls, the word comes from the Scottish Fardel meaning a quarter or fourth part. It is used by the Irish to describe their griddle bread. The Scots got very posh and and started to call them scones. A griddle traditionally was hung on a huge hook over the hearth fire to make these breads hence the big hooped handle. They are a pain to store and a nuisance when the handle loosens as it will over time and keeps crashing down. We have moved on here and manage on hobs. A big frying pan will do. You can buy griddles with frying pan handles now. They are just very shallow and flat. The one basic ingredient you need to make these breads is buttermilk. If you can’t get it easily just add some lemon juice or vinegar to ordinary milk and wait ten or twenty minutes. It makes a good substitiute.
A great way to use up last night’s left over mashed potatoes. You can of course boil them up fresh for the occasion but if you are anything like me you will always have left over mash.
Knead the mash until it becomes like a soft dough.
Use about a third of it’s volume in plain flour.
Knead again to combine. It will become easier as the flour is incorporated.
Roll out into a circle about 1.5cms thick and place in the hot griddle pan .
Cut a deep cross in it to divide in four.
Bake for three or four minutes
Flip over to do the other side.
Remove to a cooling rack and watch them disappear. Lovely fried later too with eggs and bacon
This can also be used as oven soda. It’s not so popular as the wholemeal variety known as wheaten bread. Soda farls done on the griddle are the thing. They are so good split and toasted too.
Don’t bother with recipes that tell you to use a pound of flour. Far too much. The farls will be too thick and take too long to cook.
12 oz/325gms plain flour
1 teasp salt
1 teasp baking soda
1-2 teasps sugar
Approx 1/2 pint 250 mls Buttermilk.
In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients
Rub in the butter
Add enough buttermilk to make a firm but soft dough (think scone here) err on the side of dryness. You do not want it wet.
Knead quickly and lightly on a well floured surface and roll into a round about 1/2 inch/1.2 cms thick.
Place on the griddle and cut deeply into four. Cook for about 5-7 mins on each side.
Split one of the farls to check if they are done. The dough will be dry inside.
Don’t worry too much if they don’t go quite right the first time. Sometimes the griddle can be too hot or the dough too wet. A good way to see if the griddle is hot enough is to sprinkle flour on and it will brown quickly when the griddle is hot enough.
Remove to a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel. Eat them while still warm. Toast or fry them later with an egg
These can of course be made with sweet milk and baking powder but somehow they are not the same.
40z/100gms plain flour
1 teasp baking soda
1oz/25gms caster sugar
1/4 pint/150mls buttermilk
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Heat the griddle or frying pan over a moderate heat then rub the surface with white fat (not butter as it will burn)
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto the pan spaced well apart.
When they start to go bubbly flip them over with a spatula and cook the other side for a minute or two.
Keep them warm in a tea towel while you cook the rest. They won’t last long mind you.
If there are any left they are also nice with the Ulster fry when they are past their best.
Just make sure you have the butter dish to hand. It doesn’t take long to churn out all three breads. Might as well since the pan is on anyway.
This is the link for the Oven Brown Soda./Wheaten Bread. This can be done as farls too but it is much nicer baked as a loaf. For some reason these farls are not so popular as the plain soda.
Irish scones are also made with buttermilk. They are lovely and light. You can find the recipe here.
You might as well as you’ll have the oven on making the wheaten bread anyway and there will be flour all over the place as it is.