Originally I’m from Northern Ireland and one of my all time favorite Irish things to eat are soda farls. In Northern Ireland, they are quite often called soda bread, although here in North America, we think of soda bread as that which is baked in the oven. Soda farls on the other hand, are cooked on a flat smooth griddle on the stove. The ingredients are simple and few and these traditionally would have been a quick way to make some food for visitors that would drop by unannounced (as is often the case) and hospitality along with a cup of tea would be offered.
And seldom is the offer refused as that would be seen as an insult to the hosts.
The term “farls” comes from the Ulster Scot word, fardel which means “a fourth” or “a quarter.” When making farls, the dough is flattened into a circular shape and then cut into four pieces.
Although in North America, some have added ingredients to the traditional recipe, they are not really and truly genuine Northern Irish soda farls. The majority of soda farls that are made in the north of Ireland just use the few simple ingredients below. If making scones however, dried blackcurrants or raisins might be added but this is an exception more than it is the rule.
Instead of yeast, baking soda is used as the leavening agent. I prefer to use a flat round cast iron griddle for making farls, but a frying pan will also work.
- 2 cups of white flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat flat griddle on stove top with medium-low heat.
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking soda together.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk.
Mix all the ingredients well, but work quickly as the baking soda is activated immediately with the acidity of the buttermilk.
Dust some flour on a wooden breadboard and your hands. Move the dough from the bowl to the breadboard and flatten it and shape it to a circle, about 8″ in diameter. Cut the dough with a knife (a pizza cutter also works well) into quarters (you could also cut it into 8 parts).
Cook on the griddle, turning over the farls so that both sides are cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes. Your farls should rise while cooking, and you may need to “harn” them after they have cooked on both sides. Harning means to set them on the griddle, leaning against each other, so the edges also get cooked.
Soda farls taste fantastic right off the griddle, split in half and butter melting into them. You could also spread jam or honey on them as well. In Northern Ireland (as well as my home here), they are also used as part of breakfast. The are cut in half and then fried in bacon fat until there is a crispness on both sides.
As I wrote above, they are not truly genuine soda farls when additional ingredients are added to the dough, but from time to time, I do like to add dried blackcurrants to mine, which then they would be called “tea scones.” My ten year old son loves these. To make them, I add about 6 ounces of dried blackcurrants to the above recipe, adding them to the flour before the buttermilk is added.
If you’re looking for a very easy recipe that involves virtually no measuring of ingredients, be sure to also see “An Improved Northern Irish Soda Farl.”