Irish Soda Bread – with a Greek Twist

Not sure if this will work when I get back to the land of the free but it works well in the UK. My family was getting their fix of sausage, bacon, and black pudding (They’re different over here). The trouble was how to accompany them. Irish soda bread would be great, but
a) we didn’t have any baking soda, and
2) we didn’t have any buttermilk.

What we had was self-raising flour (coarser ground and a different wheat from the US), Greek yogurt and the ability to improvise.

Preheat the oven to 200C (figure this out yourself if you want to use irrational units – but 350F would be a good guess).
While the oven is heating mix and then kneed gently:

2 cups (more or less) or about 250 grams of self-rising flour. In the USA, use plain flour and add a tablespoon of baking powder. Self rising flour in the USA is very salty and a touch bitter, nasty stuff.
1 tsp salt
100g +- of Greek Yogurt. (about a cup, you can mix in a little milk if it’s too solid)
This should form a dampish dough. You may need to add some water, or flour, but the dough should hold together and not be sticky.

Put it on a floured baking sheet, and cut a cross in the top. It should look something like this:

After about 1/2 hour in the hot oven, it will look like this:

It will also sound hollow when you tap it. (Much like yeast bread). It goes very well with bitter, sausage and carrots.  It can be a bit tricky, and will sound hollow when slightly underdone, so if you’re not sure wait a few minutes.

I “re-purposed” an old post for this. Here’s what it looks like in the USA

2015-10-22 18.14.38 2015-10-22 17.22.13

This recipe would work as a “damper” bread and bake well in a Dutch oven.

Rock Cakes, Translating an old recipe

A recipe from the “Sure to Rise Cookbook.” About 1900. This is a typical Victorian cookie or biscuit, and something that would have dated back to the regency. Modern baking powders only date from 1843, but there were other approaches that would have been used before that.

From P.G. Wodehouse

This is one cook who thinks rock cakes aren’t rock cakes unless you break a tooth over them. (Clara Lippet in Sam the Sudden)

I’ve always been curious to see how they taste.

ROCK CAKES

1 breakfastcup flour

2 heaped dessertspoons sugar

2 ozs currants

2 ozs butter (or lard)

1 oz or 1 round candied peel

1 dessertspoonful Edmond’s Baking Powder

Milk to mix.

Rub the butter into the flour, then add the other dry ingredients, the egg beaten and sufficient milk to make stiff dough. Place in rocky shapes on cold greased oven shelf, and bake in hot oven 10 or 12 minutes.

The first thing to note is there is no egg in the list of ingredients. It’s basically a shortbread with fruit. So time for a little research. I found similar recipes on an Australian web site, and they use eggs. It looks like the idea is to make shortbread-like bits and then suspend them in a looser mix.

Using conventional ratios for flour and baking powder (1 teaspoon/cup) I get:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoons sugar.

Mix, then work in 2 oz butter.  It’s probably a good idea to chill this for a bit so it hardens.

Add 50 g raisins (can’t easily find currants in the US) and 50 g candied peel (I’ll weigh these, but it’s about a quarter cup of each). The Australian recipe uses 115 g of each and a 1 1/2 cups flour but 28 g is an ounce.

beat one egg and mix. Do not over work this. It took 5 teaspoons of milk to make it into a dough.

bake at 350 F (200 C) on a greased cookie sheet. (I use a silicon sheet, but grease will do.) Use lumps about the size of walnuts.

2015-10-19 18.00.55 Before mixing
2015-10-19 18.11.17 After the egg and 5 teaspoons of milk.
2015-10-19 18.13.52 Before baking
2015-10-19 18.32.50 After they’re done.

How’d it do?

  1. They’re not rocks. Very delicate texture.
  2. Not as sweet as modern cookies. Modern recipes have more sugar and vanilla which make them decidedly sweet.
  3. D*mned good.  I’d repeat this recipe.

Persimmon Bread.

DSC_0323 The persimmons are just starting to ripen (they really need a hard freeze) and it’s a race between us and the deer for them.

American Persimmons are surprisingly flavorful, especially once they’re ripe. While they’re still green, they’re hard, bitter and unpalatable. Ripe means almost rotten looking, decidedly gooey and gross.

They’re also more than a bit of a pain to clean. So here are a few tricks to make persimmon bread or muffins. (By the way if you have a friend with a tree, don’t tell them about it. Just ask for the fruit.)

The easiest way to prepare pulp is to mash cleaned persimmons with about a cup of sugar. Then add about a cup of milk and stir. Filter the mix through a strainer and voila you have persimmon pulp already dissolved for baking.

I use it much the way I’d use banana’s to make banana bread.

Persimmon pulp as prepared above.

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  3. dash of salt
  4. cinammon, ginger and possibly a tiny hint of allspice or nutmeg.
  5. 2 eggs.

Mix together. Add some flour if it’s too soupy and bake in a greased pan and a moderate (350 F 200C) oven until done. I usually make muffins.

A Meat Pie in the English Style

A Meat Pie in the English style.

This is something that would have been eaten during the Regency (although without the pyrex baking dish). Dashed good, if I say so myself.

Cut 2 lbs (1 kilo +-) of beef into 1 inch/ 2cm cubes.
Marinate overnight in:
1/2 bottle guiness stout
1 cup red wine
teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed.
2 bay leaves.

3-4 hours before eating:
cut up and saute:
2 onions
handful of mushrooms
2-3 carrots

when soft add the marinade, a teaspoon of bouillon paste (or about cup of stock) and reduce.

Meanwhile, flour the beef and brown it in a frying pan.

Once the marinade is reduced:
put the vegetables in the bottom of a baking dish, cover with the meat. Use the reduced marinade to deglaze the  pan the beef was browned in. (There will be flour that has stuck to the pan, this will dissolve it to thicken the gravy.) Add the deglazings to the baking dish. If the volume is correct, it will just cover the meat.

Bake in a cool oven (300F, 150C) for 3 hours. Use a covered baking dish. (important, you don’t want it to dry out.) The meat should be very tender by this time.

Remove from the oven, place a pie crust over the top (I used Type L biscuit mix here; my sister in law in the UK uses suet dumplings.)

Return to the oven and bake at 375F 180C for 45 minutes until the crust is done.