Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread can be white – called ‘Scofa’, the kind you get in Greggs, or brown – called ‘Wheaten Bread’ in Northern Ireland. I always make the brown version but the method and amounts are the same for both. Traditionally, it’s made with buttermilk, but any vegan milk works fine – it’s the reaction of the bicarb of soda with the cream of tartar (tartaric acid) that does all the work and makes it rise. Really quick and easy to make – no kneading.

For every 500g strong bread flour
1 handful of wheatbran – optional, but nice – usually to be found near the breakfast cereals in the supermarket.
1 level teaspoon of salt
2 level teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
2 level teaspoons cream of tartar
About 300ml (1/2 pint) milk/buttermilk/plant based milk

Pre heat your oven to 200 celsius/gas mark 6. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly – it’s worth adding the soda and the cream of tartar through a sieve or a tea strainer, so you don’t get yellow blobs through your bread – also be careful not to be over generous with these two, ‘cos there’s a fine line before it tastes too soda-ry.
You can bake this on a baking tray or in a loaf tin – whichever you use, dust with flour or wheatbran (for a loaf tin, dampen the sides, then dust) – you need to do this first, because it needs to go straight in the oven, once you’ve mixed in the liquid.
Add most of the liquid and mix – you want a mixture that looks wet and sticky, but not splurging all over the place – the consistency of a rich fruit cake mix/chunky wet concrete/cold porridge. Add the rest of the liquid until you get there – if it looks too sloppy, add a bit more flour. Transfer to tin or tray – if you’re making it on a tray, score the top with a large cross.
Pop in the oven, on the middle shelf and bake for 40 minutes, until it’s well risen and golden brown. As with all bread, you can test whether it’s done by tapping the bottom of it for a hollow sound. Leave to cool on a rack. When it’s fresh, the brown version is almost impossible to cut finely, but gets easier after a day or so.


the Great British Fry Up gets seriously twisted

The Great British Fry Up is probably not as famous around the world as our roast beef or mint sauce, but it’s something most people in the UK have very strong opinions about – what should go on the plate, beans/no beans, tomato sauce/brown sauce. It has been immortalised in literature, from stories of the landed gentry (think P.G. Woodhouse) to those from the most working class of homes (more Road to Wigan Pier). While some folk slink down to their fav caf for a restorative plateful after a heavy night’s drinking, it’s almost always better if made at home. In the house I grew up in, it was our breakfast every Saturday morning, and probably the only meal I remember being unfailingly good.
It is such an institution that there are vegan sausage and vegan bacon (coloured yellow and lurid pink) products available…I don’t quite ‘get’ the latter of these, but some ppl love it.
So, (and I’m trusting you, dear reader, to correct me or point out any omissions) it consists of fried or grilled bacon (or substitute), sausage (ditto), fried eggs (ditto) and any or all of the following: bubble and squeak, baked beans, mushrooms, tomato, onions, fried bread and possibly black pudding, with bread and butter on the side. A mountain of food washed down with oceans of tea.
Clearly designed for people involved in manual labour, at its best and worst, it’s a veritable heart attack on a plate – or could be. The only vaguely sensible thing about is at least it’s breakfast, not dinner.
Anyway, I’ve been working really hard in the garden yesterday and today, and it was cold this morning and I haven’t had one for ages, and I was a tad hungover, so…….
Unfortunately, as you can see from the list above, quite a lot of these things cost an arm and a leg, so my twisted versions are pepped up with herbs and spices – traditionalists and possibly the nostalgically homesick will probably see this as heresy. (I should at this point also confess to liking Earl Gray tea with mine, instead of a strong cup of builders.)
You may of course choose to add meat or meat substitute products, but I was pleasantly stuffed, and it cost about £1.10. It is hopefully slightly more healthy than your average fryup.

Bubble and Squeak
Mr Benz’s Blindingly Good Baked Beans
Fennel Roast Tomatoes
Red Onion Jam
Garlic Button Mushrooms – no, I’m not going to tell you how to fry a mushroom.
Sage and Onion patties – made from a 15p packet of stuffing mix – follow the instructions, using slightly less water, and fry in properly hot oil.

Plus 2 bonus recipes 😉
Irish Soda Bread
Crispy Bacon Craving Cure