Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking... A Full Irish Breakfast

If you have ever been to Ireland, especially if you stayed in a B&B, you are no doubt familiar with what is called a Full Irish Breakfast. You will be asked if you want the full version, or for the faint of heart, something a little less substantial. Often, especially in colder weather, you will be offered oatmeal to start, that very healthy steel cut oat version. Then will come the hot breakfast.

The Irish like their pork product and their dairy products, and both are on display at breakfast time. Typically, the Irish breakfast will start with a couple of pork sausages and a slice of Irish bacon. Now Irish bacon is a very different thing than our typical American bacon, more like ham or Canadian bacon. It is called back bacon and is made from the loin rather than fatty, belly meat like the American version.

Then there are the puddings, a slice of black and a slice of white typically. What is this black pudding? I remember being at breakfast in a B&B once and a couple at the next table asked the waiter what it was. He danced around the issue and never really said, because if he did they would not have tried it. It is a blood sausage, made with pork blood, barley or oatmeal and spices. It is sliced into rounds and fried crispy...which makes it turn black. White pudding is similar but without the blood. The Irish have been until recently, a very rural people and on a farm, no part of the pig goes to waste. The best black pudding is found in smaller butcher stores, while many of the commercial version, especially the ones you can buy in the US, are an inferior product. But beggers can't be choosy.

And then of course, there will be a farm fresh egg. If the kitchen is putting in a bit more effort, there will also be a grilled tomato and some grilled mushrooms. If you go up to the north, there will often be some baked beans as well. Sometimes, some sort of fried potatoes may make an appearance.
But there will always be an endless amount of strong, hot tea (oh, ok, coffee too) and a basket of brown bread and white soda bread with some wonderful Irish butter. If you are lucky, some homemade jam may be on the table too.

Now, I do wonder how many Irish eat anything like that for breakfast in their homes. Just as few in the US eat eggs and bacon for breakfast on a regular basis these days, I suspect many Irish are eating some cold cereal or a container of yogurt in the morning. But I know for a fact those same foods are still very popular other times of day in many an Irish home, for lunch or supper or a late night meal, and called a fry up.

Start your day with that and you will be fired up to face a full day of farm work..or a full day of touring the countryside!

Back on St. Patrick's Day, I shared my recipe for brown bread, made with Irish whole wheat flour, oatmeal and buttermilk and today I will share my recipe for soda bread, a quick, white, slightly sweet loaf. I don't put raisins in my soda bread, as many American versions have, but you could certainly add raisins or currents, or as the Niece suggest, craisins.

Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. baking power
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 to 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then combine the two. The dough will be rather wet and sticky. Dust your hands with flour and just knead a few turns to form a ball. You can bake it in a flat non-stick pan or, as I do, in a oiled and floured Pyrex bowl.
Bake in a pre-heated 375 degrees oven for about 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean and the loaf sound hollow if tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven and wrap in a clean tea towel until cool.
At least a bit cooler...

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Your recipe sounds really good. My late friend Barbara used to make soda bread in a cast iron frying pan and we all loved it. Unfortunately I never got her recipe. I'll have to try yours. Have a great weekend!

  2. Oh, my, I was just thinking how hungry I am and that I need to make some breakfast. Now I want bacon and eggs and all those other delicious things! In northern Germany, where I grew up, blood pudding was also quite common. Never my favorite.... Enjoy!! Hugs, Silke

  3. We also wondered how many Irish eat the Full Irish. We tended to say no thanks and go for the fruit, cereal and yogurt while staying at B&Bs. Now the brown bread is a different story. I LOVE brown bread. My sis makes a great soda bread so I leave that to her. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Looks yummy, but I feel my arteries closing up as I just think about eating this...LOL

  5. I'm part of the faint of heart - I'd take the lighter version. No puddings for me, that's for sure.

  6. Ever since I read about Leopold Bloom's breakfast in Ulysses (fried kidneys with the scent of urine filling the kitchen), I have been wary of Irish breakfasts! Blood pudding doesn't make me feel any better about it! :--)

  7. I haven't eaten breakfast yet and geez, that looks good. Even the blood sausage. :)

  8. I guess I always knew that "Full Irish Breakfast" was big (hence the word full) but that is a doozy! The Polish are big into their blood sausages too, and I for one cannot stomach it. I know it is probably mental, I'd probably eat it if they called it savory sausage or something.

  9. What a lovely post, Caite. Your description of an Irish breakfast make me feel as if I'd been there. I want to try the soda bread when the weather turns cooler. I'll let you know when I try it.

  10. Oh, yum. I'm excited to try the recipe. I've been to Ireland a few times and I never grow tired of this breakfast. Though... I had no idea what was in that pudding. Eek. :)

  11. I must say, I have tasted many soda breads and I really like this recipe. easy and tasty.

    And the name blood pudding does not endear it to many people. But it's not like you would know it was blood really...well, pretty much

  12. Maybe because I grew up eating a lot of kosher meats (my family did not keep kosher, but my grandmothers and mother bought meat from the kosher butcher), I cannot abide blood in my meat. One blood pocket in chicken and I just can't eat it. The white pudding, however, sounds yummy as well as all the other parts of the full Irish breakfast.

    I suspect that many modern families in Ireland are eating healthier these days.

  13. I've been to (Northern) Ireland once and the breakfast in the hotel was more or less as you describe. I guess the Irish being a rural people, they can handle the calories when they're cleaning out the stables. For us, more sedentary people, it's definitely a very-sometimes type of breakfast.

    Anyway, the best part of the breakfast is the soda bread so I'm very happy with the recipe! I will try this. I love love love soda bread!

  14. Beth F, i think there is a bit of a movement toward healthier food, but he Irish still love their pork and their full fat dairy products.

    Leeswammes, yes it does help if you will be working in the fields all day, which we are

  15. it's Monday morning here and now I am super hungry from your breafast photo. yum yum
    the bread recipe looks great too

  16. Heavy, but very very delicious. This kind of meal would keep me full the rest of the day. We did breakfast for dinner the other night and it was yummy. Not this extravagant, but close! As for my normal breakfast: banana and low fat yogurt. :)

  17. I made this bread yesterday, and it was delicious! I baked it for my book club, and we ate it with a basil/pesto type pate and a tomato pate. It was lovely.

    I didn't have any baking soda (I don't think you can buy it in the Netherlands) so I used some lemon juice, which I read could be used instead.

    It wasn't quite how the soda bread tastes that I sometimes buy in England, but it was still very nice. For sweet and savory toppings.


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