I spent a good part of my 20s frequenting an Irish pub walking distance from my apartment building. When it was that lean time right before paydays, my neighbor Kathy and I would scavenge in coat pockets, raid our laundry funds and check the couch for spare change so we could walk down for a pint of Harp or Newcastle, some live music and a chat with some Irishmen. As a result, I have an affinity for all things Irish.
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up (which was the only day of the year my neighbors and I ever ventured to English pub across the street), I was happy to find a fine Irish recipe for soda bread in this month’s issue of Cooking Light. This is a real thick, dense bread delicious slathered with butter. It has great texture from the steel-cut oats and whole-wheat flour. (I used locally milled Bob’s Red Mill flours.) It’s the kind of bread I picture Frank McCourt drooling for in the book Angela’s Ashes.
And even better, the issue contains a recipe for a Ploughman’s Lunch Platter. This was on the menu back at Irelands 32. Admittedly, the only time I really ate at Irelands was when my friends and I could talk Kevin the bartender/cook into making us “chips” after the kitchen was closed. But seeing the recipe made me want to try it with my freshly baked Brown Soda Bread.
The Ploughman’s Platter ended up being an economical use of odds and ends in the fridge. The recipe called for homemade tomato chutney. I swapped it for some mango chutney I had. (Even if you don’t make a platter I highly recommend eating the soda bread with Cheddar and chutney. It’s unbelievably good.) We almost always have sharp Cheddar on hand as well as some salad greens and pickles. I happened to have some chicken sausage in the freezer. You could always use a couple of hard-boiled eggs instead. It was a tasy and filling lunch. I can see why Irish wives fed this to their hungry farmer husbands. It’s cheap, healthy and fortifying.
Brown Soda Bread
Ploughman’s Lunch Platter