From yesterday until this Saturday 10th October, National Bread Week is calling on the nation to ‘Love Your Loaf’ and celebrate one of Ireland’s favourite foods – bread! The week is organised by Ireland’s bakers, who make the fantastic range of great tasting breads for us to enjoy every day. Whatever kind of loaf you prefer, be it soda, batch, brack or sliced pan, Irish bread has so much to offer and is arguably the best in the world.
The week-long celebration, supported by TV chef and author Rachel Allen, will highlight the heritage, value and versatility of bread, and dispel some of the myths about breads. Irish bread is steeped in history and tradition and has been part of our culture for hundreds of years – and is definitely something we should all be proud of.
Imagine breakfast without toast, a picnic without sandwiches or soup without soda bread – bread has a part to play in every meal and is also one of the most versatile foods there is. As registered dietitian Dr. Mary McCreery explains, bread also has a valuable role to play as part of a healthy balanced diet. “National Bread Week is a great opportunity to correct some of the confusion there is about bread. For example, many of the facts quoted about bread are based on American bread which is completely different in its composition, particularly its sugar content, to the healthier-style Irish bread. Contrary to popular belief, bread is good for us – providing protein, folic acid and many nutrients such as dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.”
To find out more about bread and National Bread Week, visit www.nationalbreadweek.ie to find a host of information all about bread as well as details of participating bakers, follow @loveyourloaf on Twitter and like the Facebook page. To celebrate, here’s some inspiration from previous Easy Food guest editor Rachel Allen: two fab recipes developed especially for National Bread Week showing how to use brilliant Irish bread at home!
Rachel Allen’s Simply Nutritious Wholemeal Bread
Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves
“This recipe is a more modern version of soda bread and couldn’t be simpler to make – just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and it also great when toasted!” – Rachel
400g stone-ground wholemeal flour or a wholemeal flour of your choice
75g white flour
1 tsp salt
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), sieved
1 egg, preferably free range
1 tbsp arachide oil or sunflower oil, unscented
1 tsp honey or treacle
425ml buttermilk or sour milk
Sunflower or sesame seeds, optional
Loaf tin measuring 23 x 12.5 x 5cm
1 Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/gas mark 6.
2 Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl and mix well.
3 Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey most of the buttermilk.
4 Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins.
5 Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top.
6 Bake for approximately 60 minutes, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped.
7 Cool on a wire rack.
Rachel Allen’s Bread and Butter Pudding
“This is one of the older nursery puddings that has enjoyed a terrific revival, but initially it was just a way of using up leftover bread, made with just milk and a scattering of dried fruit. But there’s nothing frugal about this recipe – it’s got lots of fruit in it and a generous proportion of cream to milk. When people taste it, they just go ‘Wow!’ I know it has a lot of cream in it, but don’t skimp – just don’t eat it every day! We play around with this formula and continue to come up with more and more delicious combinations, depending on what’s in season and what we have around; see below for some of them.” – Rachel
12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed
50g butter, preferably unsalted
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice
200g plump raisins or sultanas
4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
110g sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
Pinch of salt
1 x 20.5cm square ovenproof pottery or china dish
1 Butter the bread and arrange four slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish.
2 Sprinkle the bread with half the spice and half the raisins, then arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top.
3 Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down.
4 In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt.
5 Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread.
6 Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
7 Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
8 Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream.