Soda Bread & Colcannon

joanne's raisin soda bread

In my dad’s youth, food was still cooked using the fireplace. They baked soda bread, similar to the recipe shared below, by placing hot coals onto the hearth and then resting the pan of doughy goodness atop. 

Soda bread takes varied forms: simple, hearty and sweet. Following is my mom, Joanne’s, recipe for raisin soda bread. My mom is also of Irish descent. Her father was from Cavan and mother’s family were from Tipperary. Her soda bread recipe reflects the different regional takes on the basic bread.

Joanne’s Raisin Soda Bread

  • 1 tablespoon uncooked rolled oats
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus scant more for kneading)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (omit or add more depending on personal taste)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Butter and flour 12-inch-diameter cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon uncooked oats on bottom of pan. Add flour and butter to large bowl, using fingertips to combine until coarse crumbs form. Add sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine with hands. Using wooden spoon, fold in raisins and caraway seeds. Slowly add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until fully incorporated. Transfer dough to prepared skillet and pat into place (should be approximately 1 1/2-inch thick). Using small, sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 1-inch-deep cross across dough.
Bake 30-35 minutes, checking doneness with toothpick.
Cool in skillet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.
Tip: My mom said the cake should sound “hollow” when tapped on the bottom with your finger. If it does, you’ve baked it just right.
Potatoes are ubiquitous in Ireland. Decoupling potatoes from the history and the people of Ireland is impossible. With a now antiquated reputation of being a nation of overly-boiled under-seasoned foods, Ireland now boasts a fabulous culinary scene. Yet, the nation still exalts the potato. I recall a trip to a pizzeria in County Cork. They served a great mound of boiled spuds alongside the truly awesome milanese pizza. It was a combonation that turned out to be unforgettable.  
Here I’m sharing a favorite potato recipe of my family: colcannon. The potato-based dish has many variations but generally includes cabbage or kale along with butter and cream. The addition of leeks or scallions is tasty, and substituting ham for bacon is welcome, too.
  • 2-3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and halved.
  • 4-5 slices of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Add potatoes to large saucepan of water and bring to boil. Cook until fork tender (approximately 15 minutes).
While potatoes are boiling, fry chopped bacon and cabbage in skillet. When cooked, turn off heat and set aside.
Drain and mash potatoes until smooth.
Heat cream and butter in small saucepan, then add to mashed potatoes. Add bacon and cabbage and mix through.


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