I recently had the great fortune of attending a one day bakery course at The Cook’s Academy in Dun Laoighre. It was certainly not on their manual, but one valuable lesson I inadvertently learnt from them was – baking is a lot like beating a red headed stepchild, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And both activities are extremely satisfying.
That wasn’t the only nugget I picked up that day, I went away with a real revelation actually – soda bread is a piece of piss to make. A doddle even. It needs bugger all work, doesn’t need any time to rest and you can put practically anything into it. But pesto and soda bread go really well together.
On the day of the course, we used basil pesto. I didn’t want to say it there and then, but basil pesto is for pussies. It’s also completely overused. Practically impossible to avoid these days. Walnut pesto is much better, especially when you roast the garlic. This recipe will give you enough for a few jars, some of which you can stick into some of the ridiculously easy to make soda bread.
WALNUT PESTO INGREDIENTS:
- 250 ml of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup of walnuts, slightly browned for 2 minutes on a dry frying pan
- 6 cloves of roasted garlic (peel the garlic, rub in some olive oil and roast for 15 mins @ 180 degrees on a tray)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 fistfuls of flat leaf parsley, without their stalks
- Lash the oil and parsley leaves into a blender. Blitz it. Then lash everything else in and blitz it up. Bring it all to whatever consistency you prefer, it should be paste like and not too liquidy. When you put the pesto in a jar, leave enough space at the top for a little bit of oil. Helps to keep it fresh.
WALNUT PESTO SODA BREAD:
- 450 g plain white flour
- 1 teaspoon of sieved bread soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 400 ml of butter milk
- 1.5 tablespoons of walnut pesto
- 50 g of coarsely grated parmesan or a mature white cheddar
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a wide bowl.
Add in the pesto and cheese. Make a well in the centre of the mix and pour in most of the butter milk. Mix it all up with your hands drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, add more milk if needed. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. Once it is, leave it, don’t over mix. When it’s all together, turn it onto a well floured, dry work surface.
Flour your hands. Gently roll the ball of dough for a few seconds then pat it into a round shape, about 5cm high. Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross into it going over the side of the dough. Then you prick the four triangles with a fork. This will give it all a shape.
Lash the dough into the oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200 degrees for about another 25 minutes or until it goes golden in colour. The bread is cooked when you hear a hollow sound after tapping the base.
If you have a phobia of baking, this is the one that will break the fear. A limbless crack addict could make this bread and still have time to mug a girl scout.