Currant Soda Farls

currant soda farlWhile my son really enjoys Irish soda farls, he absolutely loves and adores currant soda farls, sometimes also called scones. The other evening, he had a late activity, and I had him for a couple of days. When we arrived at my home, he told me he was starving, so I suggested to him that we could start dough for the loaf of bread he likes and also make up some currant farls.

He nodded his head up and down vigorously and we went at it together.  My son helped measure everything out although we made a mistake with the amount of water we added to the bread dough. More on that later.

After we finished preparing the bread dough, we started in on the currant scones with my son full of anticipation.  I have to say that my son is wonderful, and that he enjoys very much helping me and is interested in learning how to cook and bake. He’ll likely make a very good partner to someone someday!

As he sat at the table while the farls were cooking on the griddle, my son decided to have a bowl of our homemade yogurt.  And of course, that had no effect on his appetite for the farls, for when they were ready, he hungrily ate a couple of them, hot off the griddle with butter melting and the sounds of “mmmm” and “yum” that came out of his mouth between each bite were enough to make any cook happy!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour (although all purpose white also works)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Heaped teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 oz dried currants
  • 2 cups of buttermilk

Method:

farls on the griddle

Cooking On The Griddle

Preheat a flat griddle on the stove on medium low heat (closer to the medium setting though).

Mix the dry ingredients together very well in a medium size bowl. Make a well and add the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Mix the dough well and moving quickly, put the dough on a bread board that has been dusted with flour. You will also want to make sure your own hands are dusted with flour as the dough will be quite sticky.

Shape the dough as you would for Irish soda farls, into a circle. With the amount of dough we had, we cut it into 8 pieces.

Fit as many pieces as you can on the griddle, and cook about ten minutes each side.

When they are ready, be sure to try them hot off the griddle, by splitting them and spreading butter. They really are that good, and are still delicious when they have cooled down on a cooling rack as well.

 

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Irish Wheaten Bread

irish wheaten bread

Fresh Baked Irish Wheaten Right Out Of The Oven

One of my favorite things growing up was coming home from school and smelling the wheaten bread baking in the oven that my mother was making.  When she made wheaten, she frequently made soda bread at the same time and both were delicious. The problem was that my mom often made me wait for the bread to cool down before cutting a slice for me. However, when my father was home, he seemed to have more influence than I did, and as he enjoyed melting butter on warm wheaten and soda, he would convince her to let us have some of the warm stuff.

I continue to enjoy Irish wheaten and when an adult, had to learn how to make it myself if I wanted any.  My parents had moved and I couldn’t just show up anytime it was made in my parent’s house. So, I made sure to learn.

A note about this recipe: I am using Odlum’s Irish wheat for the whole wheat. It is a coarsely milled wheat, although you can use North American whole wheat flour and it will still turn out quite good;  not just quite the same. For more on why this is the case, please see my post on “The Trouble With Wheat.”

There are several ways one can make Irish wheaten. Often, some will bake it in a loaf tin. I prefer to do it the way my mom did, on a flat surface in the oven. I use a flat cast iron griddle to bake the bread.  It is a well seasoned griddle, so I don’t need to use any grease like shortening to prevent sticking. However, I do lightly dust the surface of the griddle with flour before putting the dough on it.

Because you will be using baking soda as the leavening agent, you need to work fairly quickly after you’ve added buttermilk to the flour mixture. There really is no kneading required once all the ingredients are mixed together. Simply just shape the dough into a circular shape. Some people once they have shaped the loaf will cut a “cross” into the top of the dough. For whatever reason, my mother never did that. Instead she cut the dough in half once it was shaped, and then each half faced each other on the griddle or bake sheet.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Pastry or Cake Flour (Or all purpose flour)
  • 2 3/4 Cups Odlum’s Course Wholemeal Flour (Or Wholewheat Flour)
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Heaping Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoons Sugar
  • 1/8 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Cups Buttermilk

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Shaped Irish Wheaten

Irish Wheaten Dough Shaped Into Circular Shape

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl very well. You need to remember that you want to ensure the baking soda is mixed well throughout the ingredients.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

Pour in the oil and buttermilk into the center of the ingredients.

Mix all of the ingredients to form a fairly wet dough. With some wheat flours, you may need to add more buttermilk.

Dust a bread board and your hands with flour and turn out the dough onto the board. Working quickly, form into a round shape and then cut into half so you end up with two separate bread doughs, each in the shape of a semi-circle. (As noted above, some people simply cut a cross in the top of the dough).

Place each on a flat griddle (a flat cookie sheet also works) after you have dusted with flour and put in the oven on a rack set in the middle.

Bake for about half an hour.

Remove the bread from the oven and put on a cooling rack. If you can’t resist, you can cut off a slice while it is hot however the bread may be a bit crumbly when it is hot. But, it is delicious with butter melting on it!

I also enjoy this bread with honey spread on it.

Irish wheaten on griddle

Wheaten Loaf On The Griddle Before Baked

Notes:

There are numerous variations on how to make this bread. This is just the way I do it. Some people will add an egg as an ingredient. I’ve never tried that. Some people don’t use vegetable oil, however I do as I find it helps to keep the bread from going stale. When I was younger, and there were five of us in the family eating it, there were never any worries about the bread going stale, but when you live on your own, it is something to consider. I can’t eat all of this myself within one day!

Some people will add a teaspoon or so of baking powder in addition to the baking soda, which will probably help the bread rise a bit more. If you would prefer that, feel free to try that yourself.

Some who bake Irish wheaten will also brush a small amount of buttermilk mixed with a teaspoon or so of sugar on top of their bread before they bake it. That is something I may try myself, but have never done.

If you make this, I’d appreciate knowing what you think of it! Another way you can enjoy it (as I do) is to fry slices of it along with your breakfast bacon, similar to what is done with Irish soda farls.

 

Quick And Easy Pork Pot Roast

pork roast in cast iron dutch ovenI just love cast iron. I own four different sizes of cast iron frying pans, a cast iron flat griddle, and a dutch oven. For me, there is nothing better to cook in other than the stainless steel saucepans and pots for other things that I wouldn’t use the cast iron for. Well seasoned cast iron are non stick, do a fantastic job, and I love the way the food tastes.

Cast iron is so versatile. You can cook on top of the stove, or in the oven. You can take it camping with you and cook in the coals of an open fire (and sometimes when needed, placing coals on the lid for heat from above), and never have to worry about damage. They are so easy to clean, I am amazed that there aren’t more people that cook with cast iron cookware.  Perhaps it’s because they just don’t know how to care for cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. It’s not that hard, but you can’t just throw them into the dishwater with soap and let them air dry. But other than that, they are oftentimes much easier to clean and maintain that other types of cookware.

Yesterday, I had a surprise in that my ten year old son had his schedule changed so he was staying with me for dinner.  And he needed a substantial dinner, and I was not into doing a lot of dishes after. But, I had a pork roast available.

“Did you enjoy it son?”

“Mmmm Hmmm!” was the reply.

Not bad for preparing everything in about 15 minutes. I didn’t really get fancy, because I didn’t have time, but sometimes the most simplest of meals are the best. I also have to admit I did not really measure anything. It was all done “by eye.”

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. pork roast
  • 1 onion
  • 5 medium size potatoes peeled and quartered (left over potatoes are always used up the next day, maybe for breakfast and fried with bacon)
  • A couple of handfuls of baby carrots
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano (I did not measure)
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1/2 Green Pepper
  • 1 Celery stalk

Method:

Warm up  dutch oven on top of stove with the bottom evenly coated with olive oil. As the dutch oven is heating up, peel the onion and cut into slices. Lay them in the olive oil in the dutch oven.

Prepare approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix with a good sprinkling of oregano. Lots of oregano. If you like oregano, the more the better. Brush the pork roast with the olive oil and oregano, and place on top of the onions.

Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Place potatoes all around the pork roast in the dutch oven. Drizzle and brush the remaining olive oil and oregano over the potatoes.

Toss in the baby carrots.

Slice the green pepper and add it on top of the carrots and potatoes. Cut the tomato into eights, and add to the dutch oven. Slice the green pepper and add.

In an oven preheated to 350F, put the dutch oven with lid on.

Cook for about 75 minutes and check the temperature of the pork roast. If it needs more time, give it another 15 minutes.

When it is done, you will have a scrumptious dinner, all made in one cooking vessel which means there are less dishes to do, and it will taste wonderful.

I remove the roast and let it sit on my meat serving platter for a few minutes before I slice it. I then just scooped out the vegetables onto plates (you could of course, put them all in a serving bowl if you want to be all formal and stuff), and then added the sliced pork to our plates.

“Good grub” as they say in Northern Ireland.

Plain Simple Delicious Hummus

Ever since I was a kid, I loved blueberries. Oddly enough, I also liked chickpeas. I sort of recall the first time I ever had chickpeas; they were mixed in with a leafy salad and added some texture that I really enjoyed. I got to the point where I would open a can of chickpeas that my mother had bought, and eat them straight out of the can. I liked them that much.

Then I discovered dried beans – and of course, dried chickpeas. That was when I was a bit older, in my 20’s. That’s when I found out that I liked re-hydrated chickpeas even more than the ones that came in a can. It helped too, that they were less expensive this way as well.

Some years later, and I don’t remember the exact moment, I discovered hummus. “Wow, this is good,” I thought to myself as I dipped some carrot and celery sticks into it. I had no idea that it was made from chickpeas though. When I found out, I wanted to head to the supermarket and stock up on dehydrated chickpeas so I could make hummus whenever I wanted.

Hummus is pretty simple to make and is very very healthy for you. One of my particular tastes is that I love garlic. This recipe calls for 2 garlic cloves, but I usually put in three, because of my love for garlic. But many of you might not like that much garlic and the effects it will have on your breath for a day or so after consuming this.  But keep in mind, that garlic is very healthy for you!  I recently learned from the Healthy, Happy, Beautiful! website that garlic  has some amazing health benefits.  I knew it was good for you, but I didn’t know it was that good.. and has even been used for healing battlefield wounds!  Oh, and it’s possibly an aphrodisiac too?

Chickpeas are also very healthy in their own right, too.  If you are the type of person that likes to stock up on things, including dried legumes for emergencies, consider making chickpeas one of those foods.  For nutritional information on chickpeas, visit here.  They are high in fiber, protein, and folate (a B Vitamin).

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 Tablespoon tahini paste (you can make your own, I’ll provide a recipe or you can purchase it at the supermarket)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Method:

Reserve some of the liquid after cooking/re-hydrating the chickpeas. With your fingers, remove the outer skin of the chickpeas and discard.

Combine the chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. If you it’s still too thick, then add a bit more oil or some of the reserved water liquid that you cooked the chickpeas in.

There are so many more things you can do with hummus to personalize it for your own tastes, but this is a basic starter recipe.  You could add cayenne pepper for example, for something a bit more spicy. Be creative!

Rice & Tuna Salad In A Pita

pita sandwich

Rice & Tuna “salad” in a pita bread

Several days ago, I had some leftover rice, a couple of pieces of pita bread, and a hungry kid. It was lunchtime. I wanted to do something with the rice as I had other plans for dinner that did not include rice.  In the fridge, I had some homemade tzatziki sauce and wondered what I could do with what I had to come up with a quick lunch.  Some thoughts just kind of went through my mind and I came up with what you see in the photo.

I’m not a great photographer and the angles are probably all wrong – that is a large dinner plate that the half pita bread is sitting on, and the pita was quite stuffed full of the mixture I made.  Not only did I enjoy lunch, but so did the hungry boy I had to feed!

I like a bit of “crunch” in my sandwiches that are made like this, so I made sure I had celery (check), and of course, there are always onions around too. You may not have the same ingredients on hand that I did, but perhaps it will give you some ideas when you are not sure what to make for lunch, but have leftover rice and perhaps a tin of tuna in the cupboard. I prefer flaked tuna myself over chunk, when I buy tuna in cans.

Ingredients:

  • Pita Bread with “pocket”
  • 2 Cups of cooked rice
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stock, chopped
  • ¾ cup tzatziki sauce
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Parsley for garnish

 

Combine the rice, tuna, tomato, onion, celery, tzatziki sauce and lemon juice in a bowl and mix well.

Add this to the pita pocket, filling it up. Garnish with parsley.

In a future post, I’ll provide my recipe for tzatziki sauce that I used.

Homemade Italian Salad Dressing

I eat a lot of salad. I especially love romaine lettuce and have a couple of dressings that I make myself. One is a Caesar dressing that is slightly modified but guests have told me they love it. I’ll post that recipe later. First though, is my homemade Italian dressing, which is easy to make and tastes better to me than store bought Italian dressings.

I’m sorry there is no photo of it, but next time I make a salad and use this dressing, I’ll be sure to post a photo along with this post.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ Tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped dried parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Method:

Mix all the above ingredients together. I use a “shaker” that I purchased from a Tupperware dealer. It works perfectly, and I keep the dressing in the shaker, in the fridge. The oil does harden a bit after refrigeration so warm it up or bring to room temperature before using, and shake well each time.

The Trouble With Wheat

Wheat does not always produce the same type of flour, the world around.  I provided a recipe for Northern Irish soda farls in this post, and want to provide a recipe shortly for Irish “wheaten bread,” a loaf of bread that is similarly leavened with baking soda reacting with buttermilk, but is baked in the oven and uses a whole wheat flour.

But first, we need to discuss flours. In the aforementioned soda farl recipe, I wrote that you could use all purpose white flour. And it does do the job not too badly. If you’re in North America however, you might want to consider a flour especially for cake and pastry making.  But you don’t really need to.

When it comes to the wheaten bread though, it will be tough to get the same flavor and texture using regular whole wheat flour that is available in North America. My mom, after we moved to Canada, would use the whole wheat that was easily found in the grocery store, but she would also mix it with something called “Graham Flour” which is no longer available for whatever reason. Adding graham flour gave the bread a much closer texture to what we would bake “back home.”

Perhaps you are wondering why this is? Well, North American wheat is generally a “hard” wheat whereas the wheat grown in Ireland is a “soft” wheat.  Soft wheat is lower in both gluten and protein and is easier to mill than hard wheat.  While lower in gluten and protein, it is higher in starch than hard wheat varieties.

If you are in North America and want to make Irish wheaten that is as close to that made in Northern and Republic of Ireland, you have a couple of choices. You could get a wholewheat flour made from a soft red wheat and this may be available at your supermarket if they carry the King Arthur brand of flours. If not, you can order it directly from their website:  King Arthur Soft Red Wheat Flour.

Your best bet though is to try to find a supplier of Odlums course wholemeal flour.  Odlums is the major supplier of flour throughout the island of Ireland, and it is milled from Irish wheat.  This is the exact same wheat flour that most people who make Irish wheaten bread in Ireland, would use. Thankfully, there is a specialty shop not far from me that imports Odlums flour products and I am able to get it that way, although it is not inexpensive.  If you’re interested though (I know they will ship across Canada, but not sure about into the US), you can try A Bit Of Home.

So now you know a little bit more about wheat flour and why your soda farls and wheaten bread might not be turning out exactly like the way it does in Ireland!