Weekends are my time for experimenting with food and this morning I was looking to Northern Ireland for inspiration. Visiting Belfast last year and stopping by at St. George’s Market, there was a huge variety of potato farls on offer and I’ve been a fan ever since. Irish potato farls are simple ‘breads’ made from potatoes, flour, butter and salt. Try my potato farls bread recipe for a simple and comforting treat.
“The word farl literally means ‘fourths’: they are shaped from a circle of dough cut into quarters.” The Guardian
Potato Farls Bread Recipe
A simple recipe, success guaranteed. Have the potato breads with your cooked weekend breakfast or simply with butter.
Potato Farls Ingredients
1 kg floury potatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
190g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
How To Make Potato Farls
The day/evening before you plan to make the potato farls, cook the potatoes and mash them with a potato ricer or regular potato masher.
Add the butter and season to taste.
Leave to cool, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
On the day of making the potato farls, add the flour (and thyme if using) to the mashed potatoes until well combined and smooth.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half.
On a floured work surface (to prevent sticking), flatten the dough into a round shape. You can do this with your hands or with a rolling pin. The round should be approximately 5mm thick.
Cut each circle into quarters.
Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until hot.
Add the potato farls in batches (use a dough scraper if they stick to the surface), and fry for four to five minutes on each side, or until golden-brown on both sides. I don’t use extra butter to do this.
Keep warm until ready to serve.
Irish potato farls can turn your breakfast into something extra special but if you are looking for other breakfast options, take a look at these:
On my latest visit to Dublin, I tasted a delicious loaf of Irish treacle bread. Dark, heavy and deliciously earthy. However, it was of course a soda bread and when I returned home, I decided to make a sourdough version of the Irish black treacle bread. The black treacle bread recipe I developed uses cracked rye and rye flour to support the rich and aromatic flavours of the treacle.
Before I jump into the recipe, I wanted to share a few facts about treacle. I was astounded when, at a conference in Powerscourt Hotel in Co. Wicklow, someone mentioned that Dublin was built around the largest natural treacle lake – a fake fact which was quickly dispelled by a quick Wikipedia check on the matter.
What is black treacle?
Uncrystallised dark syrup, a byproduct of sugar cane refining, obtained from later boilings in the process
About 55% sucrose
Also known as dark molasses
Almost-black with an otherworldly, thick, viscous consistency (for any Star Trek fans here, it really reminds me of Armus in the episode “Skin of Evil”!)
Back to actual treacle… so why use treacle in baking?
Black treacle is rich in vitamins, minerals and iron
It adds a distinctively dark colour, intense and distinctive bitter-sweet burnt caramel flavour and moisture to baked dishes
When baking with dried fruits, black treacle accentuates the fruit flavour and adds a deep, rich note
Prepare the sourdough and boiled rye grain soaker by combining the respective ingredients in two separate bowls and mixing thoroughly. I use a silicone spatula to do this which works well.
Cover the bowls with their lids and keep at room temperature for about 16 to 24 hours.
On day 2, after the 16 to 24 hour wait, dissolve the black treacle in the warm water. Use a small bowl or pan to do so.
Combine 300g of the sourdough (the rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake) and all of the rye grain soaker with the treacle water and the remaining dough ingredients (except the sunflower oil).
Work the dough for a few minutes. You won’t be able to knead it but mix it well. Cover and rest for an hour or two.
Give the dough another quick mix, then place in an oil-brushed baking tin (I use a dough scraper to help with this process). The dough should only fill about half the tin, giving it room to proof and rise to the top.
Wrap a polythene bag around the loaf tin to prevent the dough from drying out.
Proof for about 5 hours until almost doubled in size. Please note, the time required will depend on the room temperature. This process may happen more quickly if you live in warmer climes!
Preheat the oven in time, then bake for 20 minutes at 240°C on the second lowest shelf, then at 200°C for another 50 minutes.
One of my recent visits to Ireland brought me to The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore and, oh my, they do good brown bread there. Luckily, I found the recipe in The Cliff House Hotel Cookbook: Granny McGrath’s Brown Irish Soda Bread.
Some of the ingredients were rather hard to find in the UK (they are more readily available in Ireland) but I did succeed and found what I needed.
The recipe is fantastic. There is no doubt, this is the real deal.
Brown Irish Soda Bread Recipe
A beautiful recipe for brown Irish wholemeal soda bread.
I found our bread basket empty this Sunday morning. Not good! Traditional Irish white soda bread is the perfect loaf for situations like this. It’s very easy to put together, only five basic ingredients are needed and fresh bread will be on your breakfast table in just over an hour.
Quick White Soda Bread Recipe
This quick white soda bread recipe will reward your taste buds and will also fill your kitchen with the most amazing smell of fresh baking. Great things happen when fragrant flour, tangy buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda come together. Bicarbonate of soda is the raising ingredient used in soda bread recipes. As an alkali, it needs an acid to perform its magic – in this case buttermilk, yoghurt or the lemon-milk mix.
White soda bread ingredients
400g plain flour
100g wholemeal wheat flour
15g bicarbonate of soda
400g buttermilk – Both real or cultured buttermilk work. If you can’t get buttermilk, you can also work with yoghurt or souring milk with lemon juice or white wine vinegar. As always when replacing ingredients, you may need to adjust the dough’s hydration to get the desired texture.
Where can I buy real buttermilk in the UK & Ireland?
Real buttermilk is the thick, acidic by-product of butter churning. Cultured buttermilk, as sold in many supermarkets and shops, is made by adding lactic cultures to ordinary milk. Buy real buttermilk in the UK from Longley Farm and in Ireland from Cuinneog.
How to make white soda bread
Preheat the oven to 200°C (gas mark 6). Don’t ignore this step, it’s important that the oven is fully preheated by the time the dough is ready.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl and mix well. The sifting is important, particularly for the bicarb of soda, as the lumps do not dissolve in the liquid.
Make sure the dry ingredients are mixed evenly, then add the buttermilk. Mix well but minimally i.e. don’t over-mix. Make sure everything is happening swiftly as the bicarbonate of soda will begin to react with the acid buttermilk as soon as they make contact. Working quickly helps you take advantage of all the carbon dioxide produced to lift the dough.
The soda bread dough will be quite soft but that’s just perfect. Shape into a round loaf and flour lightly.
Place the loaf on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Now make the trademark soda bread cross to divide the loaf into four sections. Cut the dough with a knife to make a deep cross; cut almost fully through the dough (about 80%).
Bake for approx. 45 minutes at 200°C on the top shelf. The loaf is ready when it has a nice brown colour, has risen well and sounds hollow when tapped. Cover with tin foil after 30 minutes if the bread browns too quickly.
Wrap the soda bread loaf in a tea towel while it cools to soften the crust or cool on a wire rack if you like your crust to be crisper.
Best served fresh and eaten on the same day – what a Sunday morning treat!
You can store the soda bread at room temperature for about two to three days. I usually freeze half a loaf and defrost again later in the week. It doesn’t otherwise keep that well. Freshen the defrosted bread by placing it in the oven for a few minutes before serving.
Also try this delicious brown soda bread recipe which is a much more wholesome version of the above basic white soda bread.
Any visit to my husband’s grandmother’s house would see the obligatory cup of Barry’s Tea accompanied by a slice of brown soda bread topped with generous amounts of Kerry Gold butter and raspberry jam. Happy memories!