John's Irish Soda Bread

This recipe is via our amazing parent Fi. She says: “This is my daughters Irish farmer grandfather’s recipe. John O’Sullivan was born in coastal Southern Ireland in 1901. He was the eldest boy in a large rural farming family, and travelled to America for work - to save the farm - in the 1920’s. He got involved in hard manual working jobs like laying railway lines and sending money home … This recipe was not written down but passed down to me, with stories attached, by my Mum, Val. I first made it as an older child and I continue to make with my children. In the olden days at the farm, the bread would cook go on top of the large boiling potato pot, (large floury potatoes with skins on cooked whole) on top of the heavy lid, over an open fire, every day.

Irish soda bread


Oven set to gas mark 7/190c fan oven, 200C other.

Brown or brown and white plain bread flour. It also works well with spelt I think.

Butter, or buttermilk, milk fresh or sour. Soya milk also works well.

Bicarbonate of soda.

Sugar or honey.


Optional mixed dried fruit or wheat bran.

Optional oats to sprinkle on top.



5 or 6 fistfuls of flour in a large bowl.

2 Large pinches  of salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda.

Rub in 1 or  2 fingers of  butter.

Mix in liquid about half a pint, with your hand, in a light scooping mixing motion. Do not kneed.

Mixed bread should be more wetter than yeasty bread.

And gently shaped on a greased and floured baking tray. A whole shape is better than small rolls. Also can be shaped into a round with a cross mark, which once cooked can be split into four chunks.

Place in the middle of a hot oven, for about 15/20 mins. Until brown with a hard nutty crust. You can tell by the smell usually when it's ready.

Slice whilst still warm or toast when cold. Lovely with butter melting in.Also great with jam or cheese and I use it as a pizza base for quickness.

This bread works well with soups, especially spinach or nettle, or fish chowder.

This bread does not last, is crumbly, so best to make less, and more often and cut loaf in thicker slices when you need it. If you’ve never had soda bread before it's similar to scones.

Note: You need to avoid a lot of bicarbonate of soda whilst trying for a baby or pregnant or breastfeeding so don't make this your staple foods during these times.

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