It’s time for St. Patrick’s Day and most people think of the traditional (American inspired) corned beef with boiled vegetables…cabbage, potatoes and carrots. After having this traditional dinner for St. Patrick’s Day for many years I decided it was time to change it up. It really wasn’t only my decision the rest of the family didn’t like the traditional dinner either. I don’t make the traditional fare anymore; instead I prefer to have corned buffalo (which I buy at Whole Foods), a dish called bubble and squeak that is made from potatoes and cabbage, or a stew made from stout beer, and a chocolate dessert made with stout…and definitely some stout to drink too! I’ve got 2 posts for St. Patty’s Day with variations on some common food that people eat for the holiday.
Several years ago my family took a vacation to England and Ireland. As is always the case with my family we sought out local eating establishments and even stopped at farmer’s markets along our routes. We don’t eat in chain restaurants while we are home so why would we do it when we’re traveling? I found Ireland to be absolutely beautiful with acres (or is it hectares there?) of green lush land with grazing animals, excellent cheeses, and local fish (in Cork). Not what I expected because Ireland has a reputation for bland food. Not the case at all and I really enjoyed eating local products.
Bread can tell a lot about the culture and in Ireland there was a lot of bread. While I know I shouldn’t eat as much bread as I do, restaurants setting a nice basket of warm bread on the table generally spells trouble for me…especially if it is freshly baked. The bread in Ireland was excellent and had a common theme of being hearty with whole grains. Not only was the bread great but the local butter was fantastic (well actually all of the dairy products were excellent). Getting a nice basket of warm bread along with local butter could have been a meal in itself…but it wasn’t.
My mom had a friend, Dorothy White, who was Irish (I know her name doesn’t sound Irish but trust me she was Irish) and as a gift for St. Patrick’s Day she would make her r family’s recipe for Irish soda bread and deliver it to her friends. When the nicely browned crust was cut it exposed the soft white bread studded with currents. It was a treat to get the bread and my family always looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day and a visit from Mrs. White with a loaf of freshly baked bread.
Over the years I’ve made several loaves of Mrs. White’s bread and enjoyed them but not as much as I enjoyed the soda bread I had on my trip to Ireland. It was much different than the common Irish soda bread we find in this county. Instead of the white bread filled with either currants or raisins the bread was denser and full of whole grains and seeds. Much more like the bread I’m used to eating on a regular basis; hearty full of flavor and brown. So after trying the bread (and butter mind you) though out Ireland I decided I had to find a soda bread recipe that was more typical of the bread I had in Ireland and not the Americanized version I was used to.
Searching my cookbooks and the Internet proved to be somewhat frustrating. I found hundreds of recipes for the white bread with dried fruit and various herbs. I hit the jackpot when I found the recipe below on Epicurious. It had the whole grains in the batter and when I baked it the first time I was transported back to Ireland.
The recipe below has been changed from the original recipe that appeared in A Baker’s Odyssey. The recipe is very flexible so if you don’t have oat bran just increase the amount of wheat bran. If you don’t have flax seeds or sesame seeds use other types of seeds and if you really want the raisins and currents found in the traditional soda bread go ahead and add them to the recipe.