shannon Bennett “Food makes you happy and as soon as you taste something new, you take a different view of life.” soda Bread I was an eight-year-old the first time my Grandma fed me a slice of freshly baked soda bread from Jerry the local baker on the Hoath Road, North Dublin. I had just been on my first ever periwinkle hunt with my grandfather, Tom Fitzpatrick. He used to call me the ‘Feckon Poet’ be- cause of my long hair and obscure outlook on life. The bread tasted tart, nearly acidic. I hated it! Five years later Grandma Fitzpatrick finally converted me. The soft texture with the dusty taste has so much character it reminds me of my grandparents. If there had been more times spent enjoying eating warm bread spread with garlic mayonnaise and boiled periwinkles, I suppose I could have ended up being a ‘Feckon Poet’! In the past it was common in parts of rural Ireland to make bread using baking soda rather than yeast — hence Irish soda bread. Yeast won’t make dough rise unless the baker uses ‘strong’ flour, which was scarce in parts of Ireland. Baking soda, however, could be counted on to leaven bread. The baking soda has to be combined with something acidic in order to do its magic. In this case, I have used buttermilk. So, not only is this a historic and tasty recipe; it’s pretty foolproof, too. I put a cross on the top of the bread, which traditionally was to warn off the devil. IngredIents InstruCtIons 800 grams (1lb 10 oz) organic Preheat the oven to 180°c (350°F). spelt flour, sifted Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 1/2 cup sugar Add the butter and mix using a dough hook until the mixture resembles coarse 2 tsp baking soda breadcrumbs. 1 tsp salt Add the buttermilk or yoghurt and mix for 2–3 minutes or until the dough is 100 grams (31/2 oz) butter, chilled smooth and elastic. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, knead for 1 and chopped into fine dice minute, then shape into two round balls. Press the balls slightly flat. 300 ml (10 fl oz) buttermilk Dust the top of each ball with some flour. or plain yoghurt Cut an ‘X’ in the top and bake on a greased baking sheet for 45–50 minutes. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.