Anybody who knows me knows I get a little, well, overboard perhaps, when it comes to St. Patrick's Day. Yes, I do have Irish heritage on my father's side. I'm still barking up the Cunningham family tree for the particulars, but my ancestry has been established and I relish in it, especially this time of year.

Our family St. Patrick's tradition involves good ole' corned beef and cabbage along with an in-house showing of  "The Quiet Man", even though that particular dinner, for those who don't know it, is not truly Irish cuisine. It was, in fact, adopted by the first wave of Irish immigrants to America as a substitute for their beloved boiled bacon, with the cabbage added because it was a cheap vegetable, readily available to them according to Delish.com.

Be that as it may, it still graces our St. Paddy's table (or TV trays, as the case may be.) I do have a hobby of seeking out true traditional Irish foods. Colcannon is a favorite (not the band we know here in Wyoming, but a mashed potato dish with cream, cabbage, and onions...what's not to like?)

Another staple at our house is Irish Soda Bread. You may see versions of this around, dotted with raisins or caraway seed. Nope, that's not traditional soda bread, that's an American version. In Ireland it's closer to something called "Spotted Dog", but that's another recipe.

Here's what shows up at my house every year, adapted from the Complete Irish Pub Cookbook (Love Food, Parragon Books). I've tweaked it some, and always bake it up in my special Irish Soda Bread dish. It goes great with the corned beef, John Wayne, and the island of Innisfree.

Susan's Irish Soda Bread:

Ingredients:

  • Butter, for the dish (vegetable oil, if you're using a baking sheet)
  • 3 2/3 cups all purpose flour, plus a little for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil the baking sheet, or if you have a fancy baking dish like mine, butter it up and dust it with flour.  Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, make a well in the center, and pour in most of the buttermilk. Mix it all together with your hands (you might want to take your rings off first). The dough should end up soft but not too wet. Add the rest of the buttermilk if you need to.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (more dusting) and knead it lightly, then shape it into an 8-inch circle. Place on the baking sheet (or in the fancy dish) and use a sharp knife to cut a cross into the top. Tradition says that's to ward off the devil and protect the household. On a practical side, it allows the heat to penetrate the thickest part of the bread and for the bread to expand.

Bake for 25-30 minutes more or less, until it's golden brown. The experts say it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, but I never know that until I turn it out of the dish, so I eyeball it. Seems to work fine.

Serve warm. It's fine later after it cools, but mine rarely lasts that long. Oh, and butter butter butter.

Enjoy and Sláinte. --Susan Burk