Confession: I ate breakfast at Diner Deluxe today (as always the best eggs Benny ever), and lunch at Buffalo Cafe – a fantastic made from scratch bison burger that I meant to save half of for Mike, but didn’t. I did opt for the side salad rather than fries though – theirs are made with real greens, sprouts, chick peas, and some of the best grainy mustard and balsamic vinaigrette I’ve ever had. I was a bit let down by the plastic bowl it arrived in though, considering we were eating in. (Look at me playing restaurant reviewer.)
My point is, I wasn’t much up for dinner. But Mike is driving to Tofino tomorrow morning and I felt obliged to nourish him with something that will carry him through a few days of road food. I had a leftover sausage in the freezer from our pocket dogs, and a bunch of celery, a tin of lentils and some garlic, and really that’s all you need to make Sausage & Lentil Soup – our original Day 1 dinner!
But a big bowl of soup needs bread to go with it. I’m always amazed that people don’t bake Irish soda bread more often – it’s the only way I can think of to produce a loaf of bread with less than 5 minutes of actual effort, and you don’t need to wait for it to rise. It’s like a giant biscuit, really, only less finicky. And like biscuits, soda bread (which ironically contains more baking powder than soda, but whatever) takes on other ingredients well; dried fruit, berries, raisins, nuts, herbs, cheese… whatever you can think of to throw in. I really really wanted to make cheddar cheese and raisin bread, but I didn’t think it would go as well with the lentils and sausage. Next time.
All you do is toss together the dry ingredients and cheese, stir in the egg and buttermilk (this is a low fat version; feel free to add 1/4 cup of canola or flax oil or melted butter, if you like), shape it into a ball, slash the top with a knife and bake it. At Christmastime I like to bake loaves with cinnamon and allspice in the dry ingredients, raisins, cranberries and chopped dried apricots tossed in, and grated orange zest stirred into the egg and buttermilk. Who needs to fuss with fancy stolen and holiday braids with a toddler hanging off your leg? Irish soda bread gets the job done quick. And leftovers make excellent Irish French toast.
Irish Soda Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk or thin yogurt
1 cup grated old cheddar (or any other cheese), raisins, currants or chopped dried fruit, or both
Flour or oatmeal for rolling
Preheat oven to 375 F.
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients – flour through salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk, and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until you have a soft ball of dough. While you’re mixing, feel free to add any additions you think would be nice – a handful of dried fruit, nuts, grated cheese or fresh herbs.
Sprinkle your countertop with a little flour or oats and knead the dough about 10 times, forming it into a ball. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and cut an ‘X’ lightly on the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, until it’s golden and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Makes 1 loaf, or 16 wedges.
Per wedge: 132 calories, 1 g total fat (0.3 g saturated fat, 0.2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 5.1 g protein, 26.1 g carbohydrate, 14.5 mg cholesterol, 2.4 g fiber. 7% calories from fat.