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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 20 September 2020
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A simple recipe for fruit soda bread and some thoughts on the lockdown, from an expert Co Down baker

Tracey Jeffrey had built a breadmaking business that relied on tourism, but when that stopped overnight, she decided to bake for her neighbours.

Tracey Jeffrey

I AM A mother of two young boys and I live on a small farm on the shores of beautiful Strangford Lough in an area of outstanding natural beauty in County Down – Northern Ireland. I love where I live and I know that I am so fortunate to live rurally – especially at this difficult time. 

I am very lucky to finally get the opportunity to do something I love and from my home.  I offer a traditional Northern Irish Bread making experience to tourists and visitors. I think and hope that my visitors love coming to my home and rolling their sleeves up to give Soda or Wheaten bread making a try! 

Huge changes

When Covid-19 happened, the bottom fell out of my business as 95% of my customer base was international. Truth be told – it took me a week to come to terms with this. I had worked so so hard at building up my business and now this.

My daily routine has changed so much – the main change being that I had two kids to home school (bah humbug!) and to feed – and they take some feeding I can tell you. I really wanted and needed to do what I enjoyed so much – baking sweet treats and making my quick breads – no yeast required. 

I was aware that there were a few elderly neighbours who were living in solitude and I thought that maybe they would appreciate some freshly griddled breads. I thought that it might just brighten up their day, and after all, it is the food of the freshest kind.

So, I started making Soda and Treacle Soda, Wheaten bread and Fruit Bannocks and I walked to my neighbours’ homes and left the breads on the doorstep. 

Community spirit

Well, I did not expect what happened next. I received some delicious surprises on my doorstep – rhubarb, carrot cake, eggs and more. I was absolutely delighted. It turned into a swap shop and was definitely a win-win. 

To my surprise word then got around and I was asked if I would be interested in making some fresh breads and leave them on a table at my gate along with an honesty box. In this way, walkers and other locals could pick up some fresh breads on their way past. 

I still make fresh griddle breads every Thursday morning which my kids drop into the neighbours. I feel it cheers my everyone up and hope they look forward to a homemade bread delivery on a Thursday morning.

The sense of giant community spirit that comes from keeping in touch with our neighbours and looking out for them is so strong. I think that when everything is back to normal, we will have a stronger bond with those in the community, one which we will build on going forward. In fact, it is something very positive and heartwarming that has come out of this strange situation we find ourselves in. 

I have a plentiful supply of buttermilk which is delivered by my lovely milkman and I have endless supplies of soda bread flour which I intended to use for work, but that hasn’t happened. Doing this for the locals has lifted my spirits, to know that it is wanted and appreciated, and I fully intend to continue long after our isolation period has passed. 

Tracey 2 Source: Tracey Jeffrey

Tracey’s Fruit Soda Bannock

You will need:  

250g – soda bread flour 

I teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt 

60g dried fruit 

25g caster sugar 

200 – 250ml – buttermilk  

10g butter 

Method: 

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and then add sugar and fruit. Pour in the buttermilk.

Mix lightly to form a loose dough.

Grease a 10cm deep round cake or loaf tin. Turn the dough into the tin. I sprinkle some Demerara sugar on top – for some added crunch and great texture.

Put into the oven for 20 minutes at 190 degrees/gas mark six.

Reduce heat to 150 C degrees gas mark two and cook for a further 30 minutes. Bread should be golden brown and crisp to the touch.  

Turn out onto a clean cloth and leave on a wire rack. Serve with butter. Enjoy!  

Source: Discover Northern Ireland/YouTube

Expert baker Tracey Jeffrey runs Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen on the shores of Strangford Lough. Find out more at www.traceysfarmhousekitchen.com.

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Tracey Jeffrey

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