What is a Soda Farl I hear you say?
Although not originally invented by the Irish I think it is safe to say the Irish have made the humble soda farl their own. The bread was made by Irish mothers in the 1800s looking for a cheap and easy way to feed their large families. It uses the acid in the buttermilk to activate the baking soda which creates tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide that act as the rising agent.
My Memories of Soda Farls
Growing up in Northern Ireland a soda farl was possibly my favourite breads. Toasted and spread with butter and jam for breakfast. That and the Veda loaf (but that’s another story). As I said I like my farls toasted with butter and jam but it is a very versatile bread. I remember having sandwiches made with cheese and branston pickle in my lunch box at school. It is also not uncommon to see them feature fried as an accompaniment to the Ulster Fry. I have even picked up a bacon and fried egg soda farl sandwich in a petrol station when I was still living at home. Perfect cure for a hangover.
When I came to England the soda farl for breakfast was no longer a regular thing as it wasn’t available to buy. I used to bring packets of farls, wheaten bread and Veda loaf with me to University after I had been home for the holidays as a treat.
In recent years I found some soda farls and wheaten bread available in the supermarket but that seems to have stopped. I still pick up some supplies when I go home to visit my mum and dad or they bring me some if they are over here. They don’t last long though. Especially now that I have two hungry girls of my own looking for different ideas for breakfast.
I had never really considered baking soda farls until this summer when my eldest daughter was the Rose Queen at her school. We themed the day “Everything Northern Irish” and so I thought I’d enter the baking competition with some soda farls.
Traditionally the soda farls are baked over and open fire on a griddle. If you haven’t got a griddle a wide, flat frying pan will be fine. Luckily I have stashed away in a kitchen cupboard my Granny’s old griddle! I didn’t go for the open fire option, the gas hob does just the job. They really are a simple bake with only four ingredients required. The hardest part is getting the griddle temperature right, this is something that I am still perfecting, so that the inside of the soda farl cooks through.
- 225g Plain Flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 200ml Buttermilk
- Put your griddle on the heat.
- Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk.
- Using your fingers and a circular motion bring combine the flour and buttermilk into a soft dough.
- Once combined turn out onto a well floured surface and gently shape into a round about 2cm thick. I do this by hand but if you need to use a floured rolling pin.
- Using a sharp floured knife cut the round into four quarters.
- Your griddle should be ready now. Dust with flour. It shouldn’t be so hot that it is smoking but should turn the flour brown quickly.
- Place your farls onto the griddle to cook. They should take roughly 10 minutes on each side but it will depend on how hot your griddle is.
- Once coloured on one side, turn over and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Use a skewer inserted into the side to check they are cooked through. They should sound hollow when tapped.
Serve immediately with butter and jam. Any left over can be toasted the following morning. Enjoy!