Any time I’m eating smoked salmon I need a couple of slices of brown soda bread to go along with it. Its moist earthy flavour complements the smoky tang of the salmon, just add a squeeze of lemon and you have an Irish classic that’s served in pubs and restaurants up and down the country.
Here in Ireland we don’t have a massive food culture. No long history of food with lots of classic dishes like the French or Italians. They’ve got coq au vin, pot au feu, risotto and osso bucco. We’ve got bacon and cabbage, some of the best ingredients in the world….and our brown bread.
Brown soda bread is associated with Ireland because of the extreme poverty here in the late 19th century. While other parts of the British isles moved on to bread made with hard wheat flour and yeast we stuck with soda bread simply because these other ingredients weren’t available in rural Ireland. Plus all you needed to make it was a pot and a fire.
Go out to any restaurant anywhere in the country and you’ll find it in the bread basket they bring to your table. For me it tastes as good as the finest brioche or the best focaccia plus its a lot better for you and far easier to make.
Every chef in every restaurant has their own recipe. Some like to add butter and eggs for an extra bit of richness. Or treacle and honey for sweetness. Any type of oats or wheat bran can add to its earthy flavour. While all sorts of seed – pumpkin, sesame, poppy or sunflower can give it a different texture.