Here is a recipe for easy soda bread, plus a way to turn it into the ultimate cheese on toast. It’s nice to use a local farmhouse cheese. I love Teresa Roche’s Kylemore cheese or the excellent Barr Rua from Dozio’s of Carracastle, but really this is great vehicle for using up ends of a variety of different cheese types.
Just as I do when I am cooking in Rua, at home in my own kitchen I keep it simple and local.
Keep some of your local cheese on your shopping list. The cows still have to be milked.
Aran McMahon is a chef and runs Rua delicatessen on Spencer Street in Castlebar, Co Mayo, with his sister Colleen
Makes one loaf
450g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius or gas mark 9.
2 Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a hole in the centre.
3 Pour in all the milk at once. Using one hand, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Don’t knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet and sticky.
4 When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm deep, and cut a deep cross in the middle.
5 Bake in the oven for 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 200 degrees (gas mark 6) and bake for a further 30 minutes, until cooked. To check that it’s cooked, tap the bottom of the bread, and if it’s done, it will sound hollow. Cool the loaf on a wire rack.
QUICK CROQUE MONSIEUR ON SODA TOAST
30g plain flour
1 bay leaf
300g Kylemore or other good Irish cheese
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk,
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 Heat the milk with the bay leaf, set aside.
2 Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, whisk it in and cook out the paste gently for five minutes.
3 Gradually stir in the hot milk (having first removed the bay leaf), beating it in well until you have a smooth consistency.
4 Add the cheese, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce and check the seasoning.
5 Remove from the heat and beat in the egg and egg yolk then allow the mixture to cool .
6 At this stage you can also mix in slow-cooked leeks, cooked bacon or anything you fancy as a filling, or use it just as it is.
7 Spoon generously onto a slice of lightly toasted soda bread, and top with a little extra grated cheese. Put it in the oven on a baking tray for 10-12 minutes, and give it a flash under the grill for a little extra colour, if needed.
8 Serve with pickles and mixed leaves.