He’d done what planning was possible. Once the strategy and tactics of a battle were decided, you put it out of your mind until you came to the field and saw what was what. Trying to fight a battle in your head was pointless and did nothing but fret the nerves and exhaust the energies.
He’d had a hearty breakfast of black pudding and buttered eggs with toasted soda bread, washed down with Mr. Beckett’s very good beer. Thus internally fortified, and dressed in a county gentleman’s good wool suit – complete with gaiters to save is lisle stocking from the mud – and with several documents carefully stowed in separate pockets, he was armed and ready.
Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum illuc, unde negant redire quemquam
Now he goes along the dark road, thither whence they say no man returns.
Diana Gabaldon, The Scottish Prisoner (Chapter 22 – Glastuig)
We’re finishing off our month of LJ with two out of three items from his Irish breakfast in The Scottish Prisoner.
I’ve excluded the black pudding for the simple reason that I can’t buy it here on my tiny island. I love black pud. I crave it when we’re back in the UK traveling and visiting friends and family, but I rarely think to add it to my list when we’re doing a “big shop” in Victoria, a 45 minute ferry ride away.
(And while I’m pretty adventurous and willing to give most things at least one go, I’m short both the barrel and the pig’s blood to attempt Claire’s black pudding from ABOSAA — Lizzie’s beer is another matter, though. Watch for my first batch in the next couple of weeks!)
The timing is just right for soda bread, with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner. There are a number of variations: sweet with currants or raisins, savoury with caraway seeds, plain made with white flour, brown made with whole wheat. All are traditionally baked in a round loaf cut into farls, or quarters.
Soda bread is leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. Ready in minutes rather than hours, the loaf is dense with a thick crust and wonderful when slathered in butter and served with soup for lunch. Add cheese and jam for the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea and toast yesterday’s leftovers for tomorrow’s breakfast.
My version combines both white and wheat flours. Soda bread has a bit of a reputation as being tough, so I used pastry flour to balance the extra chewiness from the whole wheat flour.
With that in mind, I think most of you know by now that I’m a big fan of using what you have in your pantry. If you don’t have pastry or cake flour, use the All-Purpose in your cupboard. The difference is slight, and if you decide you can’t live without soda bread, then you can always go buy the pastry/cake flour for subsequent loaves.
Other than mixing the flours, I kept the recipe basic. Buttermilk is a common ingredient here on OK. Mrs. Bug’s Buttermilk Drop Biscuits, Honey-Buttermilk Oatbread at Madame Jeannes and Jem’s Mickey Mouse Pancakes all use it. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute clabbered milk instead. See the notes below the recipe.
As for the raisins, you either love ’em or hate ’em. I leave the choice up to you.
: Delicious, creamy eggs that are out-of-this-world rich and stick to your ribs until lunch.
Use 1 Tablespoon of butter per egg. Beat the eggs well with a fork, and season with salt and pepper. Do not add milk or cream.
Melt the butter in a heavy pan over medium-low heat. When the butter froths, add the eggs, and use a fork or spatula to occasionally gently stir the eggs and scrape them from the bottom and sides of the pan as they cook.
Remove the pan from the heat while some liquid egg still remains and stir off heat to finish the cooking — do not overcook the eggs — they should be very moist.
Season to taste and serve hot, garnished with chopped green onions and parsley.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: Dense and crusty, just like Tobias Quinn…also delicious fresh out of the oven, or toasted the next day.
Yield: 1 Loaf
- Raisins – ½ – 1 Cup (120-240 ml) (optional)
- Buttermilk – 1½ Cups (360 ml)
- Pastry or Cake Flour – 2 Cups (500 ml)
- Whole Wheat Flour – 2 Cups (500 ml)
- Sugar – 1 Tble (15 ml)
- Baking Soda – 1 tsp (5 ml)
- Salt – 1 tsp (5 ml)
Read the recipe through at least once before you begin.
Move the rack to the centre position and preheat the oven to 425° F.
Soak the raisins (if using) in the buttermilk in a small bowl for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk and raisins. Mix until just combined.
Knead 3 to 4 times on a lightly floured counter, then shape into a disk about 7” across and 2” deep on a parchment lined baking sheet or cast iron skillet. Cut a 1” deep cross in the dough and bake until golden, about 30-40 minutes.
Cool on a rack before slicing. Soda bread is best eaten within hours of baking. Wrap leftovers tightly and consume within the next 2 days.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- To make clabbered milk (a substitute for buttermilk), mix 1½ Cups whole milk with 1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon/lime juice. Set aside for 10 minutes, then proceed with recipe.