Many of us have been diving into our store cupboards to use up all those odds and ends. In my own larder, I have all sorts of different flour remnants that, combined with a lack of access to bread and yeast, naturally led to today’s recipe for soda bread. The recipe is adaptable, so you can use up any combination of flour. In mine, I used wholemeal, rye, quinoa and buckwheat flours with a dash of oatmeal, which made a satisfying and deeply flavourful, nourishing bread, but even plain white flour will make a wonderful loaf.
Soda bread is traditionally made with buttermilk, which is hard to find at the best of times, but it can just as easily be made with water or milk. Random oats, nuts and seeds can also be salvaged to make a rustic, crusty topping.
Chefs and food writers love sharing our recipes. We want you to cook and enjoy our food, and be nourished by it, but I sometimes worry that we are not teaching people how to cook, but rather to follow a precise set of instructions using an obscure list of ingredients, and in the process leaving home cooks with all sorts left over that they don’t know how to use up.
Maybe instead of writing recipes, we should be writing cooking formulas, techniques and preparations – more flexible recipes that will help people cook with creativity and intuition, using up what’s available? I’ve written today’s recipe with that in mind, without a specific ingredients list, so it’s quick, flexible and easy to make. Play around with different flours, top with a variety of seeds and make different-sized loaves, depending on what you fancy.
Makes 1 loaf
½ tsp sea salt (per 100g flour)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (per 100g flour)
1 tsp vinegar (per 100g flour)
50ml water or milk (per 100g flour)
Mixed seeds, nuts and/or oats, to top (optional)
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Depending on the size of loaf you’d like to make, tip 100-500g mixed flours into a large bowl. For every 100g flour, add around half a teaspoon of sea salt and a teaspoon each of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Mix in around half the quantity of water or milk to flour (ie, if you used 300g flour, add about 150ml liquid) to form a loose but not too sticky dough; add a touch more water or flour, as necessary.
Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and wet the top with a splash of water. Sprinkle over a handful of seeds, if you like, and press in, then cut a cross into the top of the loaf. Put on an oven tray and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until browned on top. Keep warm in a clean tea towel and serve as soon as possible with lots of butter.