I'm going to start this post with a little advice. I know Christmas is not really top of the agenda, but I urge you to squirrel this snippet away for a few months and dig it out again in December. And the advice is: never, ever, whatever you do, slag something off on Christmas Eve. As you might imagine I speak from experience here.
Picture the scene: all the family sitting around the fire, all the presents wrapped up nicely and sitting on the window sill (there was no tree - hurumph) and I start explaining how Delia really doesn't do it for me. I believe I said something about her being quite scary and her recipes not working for me. And then, lo and behold, what do I find upon opening my Christmas present from my dearest grandmother? Why, it's Delia's Happy Christmas. Aaargh! I wasn't disappointed by the book - I'm always willing to give a chef another go, but I just WISHED I hadn't said that. Hence the new-found determination to only praise on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think the same could go for the week or so preceding one's birthday, actually, just on the off-chance.
Anyway, from the moment I saw the book, I knew the best way to save the situation was to cook something from the book and write my grandmother raving about my conversion to Delia's camp. And shamefully, it's taken me until March to do it. But at least I chose something seasonal - Irish soda bread. I'm submitting it to The Daily Spud's Paddy's Day Food Parade in time for St Patrick's Day on Wednesday.
I'm sure there'll be plenty of soda bread around blogsville this week, but for me, it's the highlight of visiting my relatives in Belfast. Well, that and the scones. (Though scones can be a little stressful - I have been told off by my grandfather for toasting the butter side first!) And this recipe was fab - stupendously easy and tasty. It had a good crunchy crust (make sure your bread knife is ready for the challenge!) and made the best toast ever. Most of the work was in finding buttermilk (Sainsbury's) and pinhead oatmeal (a health food shop).
Irish Soda Bread
275g wholemeal flour
75g plain flour, plus a little extra
50g pinhead oatmeal
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 284ml carton of buttermilk
a little milk
1 tbsp rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5. Grease a baking tray. Put the flours, oatmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl and mix. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and add them. Mix with a fork and then your hands to form a smooth dough. Shape the dough into an oval, add a dusting of flour, brush with milk and sprinkle with oats. Use the blunt side of a knife to make indentations diagonally across the bread.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, then put on a wire rack to cool.
So, have I been won over to Delia? Well, almost. There's just one niggly thing. What kind of cookery book index files soda bread only under I for Irish? (Am I just being too fussy?!)