Baking, Cooking, Recipes

Wild Garlic Soda Bread

I know , I know. I said I was going to get back to blogging earlier in the year but between moving house, setting up a new kitchen for Hey Pesto! and my involvement in the inaugural Harvest Offaly Food Festival it just didn’t happen.

So here it is – my first blog post in months and I’m starting with an easy one! Earlier in the year Helen from  Failte Ireland asked the food champions for an Irish recipe with a ‘modern twist’ and this was mine.

My Nana was famous for her soda bread, well within our family anyway and there’s enough of us! Everyday she made two loaves in her Aga . Always two, never any more than two and to paraphrase an ad ‘when it was gone, it was gone’.

I asked her once for the recipe and she told me ‘a handful of this and a handful of that’. If I’d had the sense at the time I’d have measured the size of her hands! I’m still trying to recreate the taste of her bread and apparently I have come close once or twice though I think the real difference is that she used unpasteurized milk straight from the cow that my great uncle kept in the orchard, that was allowed to go sour naturally (the milk not the cow!)

The great thing about soda bread is that you can add flavours – such as pesto or sundried tomatoes or even chocolate chips for a sweet cake.

In this version of soda bread I have added  wild garlic pesto and dried wild garlic leaves to give the taste of summer. I also use spelt flour, an ancient relative of modern wheat, which I think gives a better, lighter loaf

What you need:

  • 450g/1 lb. white spelt flour
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon bread soda
  • 340-400 ml / 12-14 fl.oz approx buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp wild garlic pesto
  • 1-2 tsp dried wild garlic leaves 


What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 230ºC/Gas 8
  • Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl, making sure that you sieve in the bread soda.
  • Add in the wild garlic pesto and the dried leaves if you have them ( dry them overnight in a very low oven when in season and store in an airtight jar).
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk at once. The exact amount of buttermilk can vary, even according to the weather!


  • Stir in the liquid until completely mixed but be very careful not to overmix.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured board and  gently form into long ‘loaf’ shape.  I know a circle is more acceptable but this is the shape my grandmother always used and it makes cutting the bread much easier!


  • Place the loaf on lined  baking sheet.  Score a deepish line down the centre and prick the sides  to let the fairies out.
  • Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes,  then reduce heat to 180ºC/Gas 4 for another 15-20 mins, or until just cooked.


  • Tap the bottom of the bread; if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on wire rack and eat as soon as possible!


  • Perfect with soup or with as a base for bruschetta

I’m not sure if Nana would approve of the garlic but it went down very well here.

If you don’t have wild garlic pesto or if you just fancy a plain white soda then leave it out.

Give it a try – you’ll be amazed at how quick and easy it is to make your own bread.

Happy Cooking!


Catering, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Nature’s Larder

There are lots of free foods available in nature – and I’m lucky to have a prolific patch of one of them,  wild garlic, near my house. Some of my neighbours may have  spotted me a few weeks ago heading into the woods armed with my basket and wondered ‘what is she up to now?’ ! I was simply harvesting  a large bunch of delicious wild garlic…

I used some of the leaves in a mixed salad and more wilted into pasta but the majority of it was transformed into delicious garlic pesto.

And this is how easy it is:

  • First wash the garlic leaves in salted water (to kill off any unwanted protein!!) and then rinse and dry in a salad spinner.
  • For approx 150g leaves, you need to whizz 100g parmesan and 100g cashew nuts in the food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Add 1 large garlic clove (roughly chopped) and a pinch of salt .
  • Then add the wild garlic leaves and pulse.
  • Pour in enough rapeseed  oil to get to a ‘wettish’ mix (sorry it’s hard to quantify this bit!) and Hey Pesto! you’re done!
  • Pour the  pesto into clean sterilized jars and make sure the top is covered with additional oil before sealing.

These quantities should yield 3-4 jars of Wild Garlic Pesto.

The pesto is delicious with pasta, on pizzas, as a dip…..We use it on parmesan shortbreads topped with goat’s cheese as one of our canapés.

ps you can substitute other herbs such as basil, coriander or parsley for all or part of the wild garlic.