Also, my Inner Irish Girl gets to tell you about one of her favorite writers and people– Malachy McCourt. I’ve been to many writers’ conferences and sat through many a keynote speech. But there’s one talk that stands out in my mind. It was an address to a huge ballroom full of people, mostly restless, socially-awkward writers hungry to hone their craft. It was a speech about the power of story and the deep well inside the writer, the place you go to again and again, seeking those hidden springs, where everything comes from. It was the kind of talk that makes you jump up out of your seat and rush to find a quiet spot, because you can’t wait to get going on your writing. This talk was given by Malachy McCourt.
Nothing fancy, just a nice recipe for something called Irish Soda Bread. Why’s it called that? Bicarbonate of soda was introduced in the 1840s, and it reacts with the acidic buttermilk to make a fizzy leavening agent. It’s simple and delicious, so here you go. If you’re like me, you don’t keep buttermilk around so use yoghurt or cream or something, and a squeeze of lemon.
4 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten, optional
1 1/4 to 2 cups buttermilk (use more if you omit the eggs)
1 cup raisins or currants, soaked in hot water
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter, add eggs and buttermilk. Stir in raisins. Knead a few times and let rest 10 minutes. * Shape into an 8- or 9-inch round. Score top with a knife in the shape of a plus sign. Place in 9-inch cast-iron pan and bake at 375 degrees until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.
Serve toasted with butter. Try it with a wedge of sharp cheese and a bit of hard-smoked salmon. Good luck!
Speaking of luck, I have written several books about Ireland because I love it there. I love the people and their history and heritage. Irish Magic and Irish Magic 2 are anthologies written with some of my favorite writers–Roberta Gellis, Morgan Llywelyn, Barbara Samuel (aka Barbara O’Neal). The Mist and the Magic (republished as The Maiden of Ireland) takes place in Tudor Ireland. And the late, great Dancing on Air was republished with a new title: At the Queen’s Summons. Good luck with that, too!