Savoury Soda Bread – Easiest Ever

We’ve all become hyper-conscious about bread these days as we socially isolate. In the early days of the stockpiling panic (which seems to be over, thank goodness) there was very little bread on the shelves of one of our local supermarkets. No problem, says I, I’ll just make it. That’s when we discovered there was no flour either!

A quick forage in the garden produced some fennel fronds and rosemary, but you can use whatever you have to hand

But everything resolved itself in time and we got our supplies. Now that we are in true lockdown, the desire to make our own bread has increased so I have been baking this exceptionally easy soda bread which also happens to be one of the tastiest! I honestly can’t remember where I got the recipe but I have adjusted it a bit over time and added my own flavours, depending on what’s in my herb bed or my fridge.

This is a more traditional soda bread, made with butter and buttermilk and with dried fruit.

The thing about this bread is that it can be fruity, like a classic ‘cake of curranty bread’ or savoury – just depends what you add to it. I am giving you the savoury twist, but leave out the cheese and herbs and add in 150g of dried fruit (sultanas, mixed, or whatever you’re having yourself) and you have the traditional tea bread. You can have it with no add-ins and it’s delicious that way too. Most soda bread recipes have you rubbing butter into flour and then adding buttermilk. Indeed that makes delicious bread (like the photograph above) but if you don’t have the time, or the buttermilk, you don’t need either for this bread.

Ingredients
500g white flour
1 tsp  salt
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate)
300ml yoghurt (regular or Greek-style, but not low fat and not flavoured)
200ml whole milk
Herbs – 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped
75g grated cheddar or other sharp cheese (2 or 3 tablespoons)

For this version I used some fennel and rosemary, which I happened to have in my garden, but chives would work or any herb such as thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, dill – as long as it’s chopped fine.

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6/400F. Put the baking tray in to heat it up (this makes sure the bottom is nice and crusty).

Stir milk and yogurt together well. Finely chop the herbs and grate the cheese (or use pre-grated).

Combine the flour with the soda and salt and sift into a bowl. Stir in the cheese and herbs.

Make a well and pour in the combined yogurt and milk and stir until it comes together into a rough ball.

There’s no need to do any kneading. In fact, the less you handle it the better. Just turn the ball onto a sheet of parchment paper, pat it into a round shape and cut a deep X in the centre. The X is to let the fairies out – they’ll mess with your bread otherwise.

Fetch the hot baking tray from the oven and place the bread, on its parchment paper, on the tray. Don’t stress if you forgot to heat the tray first – it will be fine without that step.

Bake for 45 minutes. It should be well risen and a rich golden colour. Let it cool a little on a wire rack.

As with all soda bread, this is best eaten the day it’s made. It is a great accompaniment to soup or stew, or have it with cheese and chutney at coffee break or with jam at tea time. It is almost as good the second day if you wrap it up well overnight. If you still have some left after that, toast it, or cut and freeze it.

Sorry, I don’t have a gluten-free version of this, but would be interested to hear from anyone who can make successful GF soda bread. I’ve seen some recipes on the internet but I have no experience of how well they work. I also have not converted this to North American measures  as I have seen so many different equivalents that I wasn’t sure how many cups of flour to specify. Give it a try and enjoy! And don’t forget to let the fairies out.