Around a decade or so ago, my friend Dan and I were tooling about Ireland in a little Spanish compact. We stayed mostly in bed-and-breakfasts, and it didn’t take long before we were waking with a craving for the Irish breakfast.
What was not to like? A couple of eggs, some Irish sausage, black and white puddings (i.e. more sausage), Canadian bacon, a roasted tomato, a couple cooked mushrooms and plenty of Irish brown bread spread with fresh Irish butter. Of course, you can have too much of a good thing — as we discovered was the case with both Guinness and the Irish breakfast. After eight or 10 days of Irish breakfasts, we felt the gout coming on and searched for a lighter option. We found it — we thought — at a pub in Spiddal (pubs were often your best best for breakfast) that advertised “Vegetarian breakfast”. Imagining a plate full of fresh fruits, grains and vegetables, we ordered two. What came were two plates of baked beans — with eggs, roasted tomatoes and a couple cooked mushrooms. Not exactly the solution we were seeking for our digestive woes.
Still, the Irish breakfast — eaten on occasion and on a day when you’ll include lots of fiber in the rest of the day’s meals — is a delicious way to begin a Sunday morning. It’s worth tracking down traditional Irish sausages if you’re going to do it. I like Winston’s brand Irish bangers and Donnely black & white puddings, both of which can be ordered from www.foodireland.com (click on the “Irish-style breakfast” link). While in Ireland (“When in Rome…”), Dan and I might’ve been found some mornings enjoying our Irish breakfast with a Guinness. But you’d do just as well with a cup of Irish tea.
Because it’s fairly self explanatory, I’m not including instructions for making the entire breakfast (you know how to fry an egg and roast a tomato, right?). What I am giving you is the recipe for Irish brown bread.
Irish brown bread is served at nearly every meal. It’s a hearty, whole wheat-based soda bread that is among the world’s easiest breads to make — and most satisfying, especially if you’ve got a bit o’ the Oyrish in ye, like we at our house do. My kids will eat a whole loaf in a day. The preferred way to eat it at our house is with thick slabs of butter and lots of blackberry jam. My favorite way, however, is with the same butter but smoked salmon instead of jam. One taste takes me to the Western coast of Ireland where some of the world’s finest smoked salmon is made with fish pulled from the River Shannon.
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Irish Brown Soda Bread
makes 2 loaves
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup regular flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 415. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in buttermilk until a soft dough is formed. (Note: If you don’t have buttermilk, use regular milk and put a few dashes of vinegar in it. I like to spike my milk with malt vinegar for that hint of pub.) If dough seems too dry, add an extra splash of milk. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently for 30 or 40 seconds, until well combined. Pat into a large round about 2 inches thick. With a knife, make an “x” on the top surface of the bread. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, until brown and risen slightly. Remove and serve, perhaps warm with fresh butter and blackberry jam or smoked salmon.