Monday, August 25, 2008

Irish Soda Farl

I am a reader, I read incessantly and recently I have been reading a book about the Irish country side. I found some food inspiration in the detailed descriptions of meals prepared in a small country kitchen by a sturdy woman, much like myself, that sees to a multitude of people and their culinary needs. I often find that good simple food is the very best and all of the additions made by modern chefs actually take away from the simple goodness of traditional fare. There is usually history to go with the mouth filling flavors that will educate you as to why the recipe has stuck around for so long that it could be enjoyed by both you and those who came before.

From the site World on a Plate I learned that if you're traveling around the north of Ireland, you'll find this bread which is a central accompaniment to an Ulster Fry. It's a hearty start to the morning but not too heart-friendly: fried eggs, fried Irish bacon, fried soda farl, fried potato farl (a 1/4-inch thick griddle-cooked potato bread), fried black pudding, fried sausages, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms. The name, farl, originates from the Gaelic word fardel, meaning "fourth part."

The cross in the center is made, so folklore tells us, either to let the fairies out or to ward of evil or more practically perhaps to allow the dough to rise and for even slicing.

While my in-laws were visiting this weekend I made Irish soda farl for the first time. It sounded to wonderful while reading that I had to hop up and Google it. The very next morning I made it and it baked atop the stove while I shared a cup of tea with my father in-law. It smelled wonderful and filled the house with the delectable scent of browning flour quickly since it was not contained by the oven door.

The bread is made with buttermilk and should not be made with regular milk. The use of buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and carbon dioxide bubbles cause the bread to rise. The buttermilk also gives it a depth of flavor that would simply be lacking if made with anything else. The recipe is quite simple and I will certainly be making this again. They would make very delicious triangular breakfast sandwiches for those of you on the go. The bread is not crumbly and will stand up well for an in-car dining experience and also saves well in the fridge for 3-4 days; if you made it over the weekend for a leisurely meal you could easily have a few days worth of breakfast bread for the week.

Irish Soda Farl

3.5 cup flour
1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cup buttermilk

Lightly grease a heavy skillet.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl; make sure the soda is evenly distributed.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add about half the buttermilk. Stir until you have a raggy dough that is very squashy but which looks more or less dry. Add more liquid sparingly until you achieve this texture.

Blend until all the flour has achieved this consistency; then turn out immediately onto a lightly floured board and knead for no more than a minute or a minute and a half. Over kneading makes this bread very tough, and it's very easy to overdo it.

If making soda farl, shape the dough into a circle about 9 inches by one inch thick and cut into four wedges or "farls." Place in the preheated skillet, with cut edges about half an inch apart. Cook slowly on the stovetop over low-to-medium heat; it should take about 20 minutes for the farls to puff up and turn a light brown on the pan side. Turn them and cook for another 20 minutes.

For a softer crust on a soda farl, wrap in a dishtowel after baking.

You will need somewhere between 1 1/4 and 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk, depending on how much liquid your flour tends to absorb.

Serves 8.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a little touch of home in a far away place. they tasted delicious