I am often asked for my soda bread recipe. During the lead up to St Patrick's Day, soda breads are front and center on store displays. I have yet to find a loaf of soda bread similar to the one I grew up eating in Ireland. The breads I have found here in the USA are speckled with raisins and caraway seeds and encrusted with sugar. These were not the loaves eaten in early Ireland. They would fall into the category of a tea loaf. They were a sweet loaf and ingredients such as raisins and caraway seeds would have been luxury items as they would have been imported ingredients.
The recipe below is one that I eat and one that frequents most homes, restaurants and pubs in Ireland, also known as 'brown bread' as it is made with whole wheat flour.
I came across this recipe some time ago from Theodora Fitzgibbon, contributor for the Irish Times newspaper and author of 'A Taste of Ireland' and 'Cosmopolitan Cookery' to name but a few. Her recipe called for white flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. I have added a few simple ingredients like rolled oats and wheat germ. I only do this to add some more nutrients or to vary the texture and flavor from time to time. Normally, when in a hurry, making something to accompany a quick bowl of soup, I make the basic recipe using whole wheat flour, buttermilk and salt.
Theodora Fitzgibbon cites her recipe from Co Roscommon , circa 1857. There you have it. No raisins, no caraway seeds and no sugar.
That being said, whatever you like to eat and whatever recipe was handed down in your family is all that matters if you enjoy it. Food is fun and recipes evolve over time. Thats what makes it so interesting as we move around the globe, we take recipes with us and adapt to our surroundings, adding ingredients within our reach.