Last year I received this copy of the Irish Pantry, by Noel McMeel and the first thing I made was Irish Soda Bread.
Of all the cookbooks I get sent to take a peak at, Irish Pantry by Noel McMeel has hit my soul most deeply. His book is invigorating, which is not a typical cookbook description. His passion for the home kitchen and his childhood memories of cooking in his Irish homeland resonates with how I feel about the relationship of food and family.
I’m not Irish, but I can’t put this book away. It’s beautiful or should I say handsome. The cover is warmly colored and is bound in such a way that it feels hearty. The photography is simply stunning. A lot of talent and effort has gone into the cookbook, Irish Pantry. The book doesn’t have many recipes I’m familiar with which made me love even more. Irish Pantry is mainly focused on traditional breads, preserves, condiments, and some sweets, and lots of recipes that make delightful food gifts.
I know very little about Irish food, except for Irish cream and soda bread, and dreamy Irish butter. I was captivated with the stories of Noel’s growing up in Ireland and talking about having lots of homemade shortbread, which was considered a staple in his home growing up. They often sent guests home with food gifts, jams, chutneys and probably shortbread.
The book is filled with recipes calling for Irish butter like Buttery salted caramel sauce and Savory Whiskey Butter with Shallots and Kosher Salt, as well as lots of recipes for breads, like the family Barm Brack, which I”m sure when slathered with Irish butter makes all dreams come true. I am also drawn to the recipes for spicy lemon confit, homemade Irish cream, blue cheese pecan crackers. I don’t think there’s another cookbook that addresses simple farm food in this elegant, earthy manner. You not only fall in love with the food, and the photography, Noel’s voice comes through and you know you would feel comfortable sitting at the table with him, eating a simple Irish soda bread with a homemade preserve.
I’ve chosen probably the most simple recipe in Irish Pantry, traditional soda bread, because it’s an Irish staple and this recipe is make on top of the stove in a cast iron pan, looking back to the 18th century, a time when only the wealthy had ovens. Dairy was typically plentiful, and the Irish wheat was soft. The introduction of baking soda gave the common home cook the ability to bake on top of the stove. I made sure I used White Lily Soft winter wheat flour. It does make the difference in keeping the soda bread light and more authentic.
Soda bread only takes between 12 and 16 minutes to cook and a few minutes to prep, only there is no fat in dough and they are denser. It’s mainly flour, buttermilk and baking soda. The smell of the dough reminded me of Southern biscuits, only the flour is heavier and there is no fat in the dough. The texture is denser, and the outside crispy. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I felt like eating these was better than green beer. I made them into 4 pieces, the second time going more traditional, cutting into 4 triangles known as farls.
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Soda Bread.
- 2 cups / 280 grams soft winter wheat flour (White Lily), plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 heaping teaspoon /10 grams baking soda
- 1 cup / 236 milliliters buttermilk
- Olive oil or rapeseed oil, for oiling pan
- Mix flour, slat, cream of tartar, baking soda together in large bowl.
- Using a wooden spoon, pour buttermilk in center of flour and mix.
- Bring together to form sticky dough.
- Turn sticky dough onto heavily floured surface.
- Form dough into a ball, and flatten to about ½ inch.
- Either leave in one piece or cut into four quarters and make four round soda breads.
- Place just enough oil in pan to cover surface and cook on each side for 8 minutes on medium heat.