Irish Fare: Farls, Wheaten Bread and Whiskey Brack

WITH ST.PATRICK’S DAY just around the corner, I thought I would share three of my favorite Irish recipes that you might like to prepare and share with your friends and family.

I am a total foodie and I do love to bake but I’m not great with fiddly, complicated recipes. So I am hoping these  three lovely recipes will be simple enough even if you’re someone who doesn’t cook much.

SODA FARLS^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I can remember my mother making these for my father, who was from Northern Ireland, where they are a firm favourite, particularly to accompany any kind of a fry.  They have recently become my Saturday morning breakfast go-to recipe – so comforting, filling the house with the smell of bread.

Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use plain wholemeal)
1 level teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder but soda)
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup buttermilk OR ½ cup any type milk + ½ cup good quality yoghurt


  1. Heat a heavy frying pan until fairly hot.
  2. Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the buttermilk/milk with yoghurt
  4. Mix the ingredients together quickly and lightly until it’s almost mixed – don’t overwork the mix or it will be tough.
  5. Make the dough into a round shape to fit the frying pan, almost an inch thick.
  6. Shake a dusting of flour into the frying pan.
  7. Put the dough round into the pan and cut into four 4 quarters.
  8. Put a lid on the frying pan (helps it to rise) and cook each side 6-8 mins.
  9. If it’s a bit doughy or uncooked in the middle, cook a little longer or split the farl and place the inside down to toast on the warm pan.
  10. Add lots of butter, jam, marmalade, cheese or whatever you fancy.


WHEATEN SODA BREAD^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

This is based on a recipe given to me by a lovely lady in Dublin over 20 years ago, who’s name I have sadly forgotten. I have made this bread for 20 years or more and have adjusted it to my liking. There are many ways of making this bread, which is similar to Brown Bread except that it usually has molasses added to it.
In this recipe, you can use whatever mix of bran, oats, oatbran, wheatgerm or psyllium you like as long as the total amount is about the same as the recipe.

Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Quantity: 2 loaves

Ingredients: Dry Mix
600g/ 1lb 5oz/ 4 cups wholemeal flour – can mix with strong white flour or spelt flour.
3 tablespoons whole porridge oats – I use a large tablespoon for this recipe.
2 tablespoons bran
2 tablespoons wheat germ/ oat bran/ psyllium
1½ teaspoons brown sugar
1½ flat teaspoons bi-carbonate of soda

Ingredients: Wet Mix
In a measuring jug:
– Add 2 small eggs lightly beaten
– 1-2 tablespoons plain good quality yoghurt (not needed if you have buttermilk)
– Top up with milk and/ or water or buttermilk until you have 900mls/1.6US PT

Sesame seeds for the tin and top of loaf
Oil for tins


  1. Pre-heat fan-forced oven at 170ºC/340ºF.
  2. Oil the 2 tins well and heat the tins in the oven for 10-15 mins and remove tins to cool. (I find the loaf is much less likely to stick to the sides with this method)
  3. Measure the flour and sift well with bi-carb soda into a bowl.
  4. Add the oats, oatmeal, bran, wheat germ/ psyllium and sugar to the flour and stir well.
  5. Measure the wet mix – eggs, yoghurt and milk/water – then whisk.
  6. Make a hole in the middle of the dry flour mix and pour in the egg/ milk/yoghurt mix.
  7. Mix well until very wet sloppy dough like concrete, with all the dry bits mixed in.
  8. Pour mix evenly into the tins and sprinkle seeds on top of the mix.
  9. Cook for 50 mins at 170ºC/340ºF.
  10. Loaves are suitable for freezing – slice first!

IRISH WHISKEY & TEA BRACK^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Adapted from Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Darina Allen says that even though brack/ barmbrack is a very rich bread, it’s traditionally served sliced and buttered in Ireland. If you can’t get sultanas and/or raisins, just use all raisins instead, or you could substitute dried cranberries too. Darina’s recipe calls for glacé cherries but I always use dried cherries. In fact, you can use whatever dried fruit you have to hand as long as the quantities are around 350g/2 ½ cups approx.

If you don’t want to use alcohol in your brack, just use 300 ml/1 ¼ cups tea. For a twist, use Earl Grey or even chai tea instead of regular black tea. I have doubled the spices as I like the spicy taste of freshly grated nutmeg but adjust to suit.

Time: Preparation time includes leaving fruit mix to soak overnight + 1 hour 45 mins to prepare, mix and bake.
Serves: Makes 1 loaf – square or round.

100 g (3/4 cup) prunes without stones
100 g (3/4 cup) sultanas/ raisins
100 g (3/4 cup) currants/ blueberries or cranberries
50 g (1/4 cup) glacé cherries/ dried cherries
50 g (1/4 cup) zest of 1 lemon or fresh candied peel
250 ml (1 cup) hot, strong black tea
50 ml (1/4 cup) Irish whiskey
1 egg, lightly beaten
225 g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour OR (1 cup spelt wholemeal: ¾ white plain flour + baking powder)
200 g (1 1/4 cup) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice – I used cinnamon, ginger, freshly ground nutmeg and cloves


  1. Put the raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries and candied peel in a large bowl, one that’s big enough to accommodate all the ingredients later on. Pour over the tea and whiskey and allow the fruit to soak for at least 30 minutes or even overnight.
  2. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F fan-forced.
  3. Line a 450 g (1 lb) loaf tin or round tin 18cm/7” tin with parchment paper or a loaf tin liner and some oil/butter/ margarine.
  4. Add the sugar into the dried fruit, whiskey and tea mix, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Add beaten egg and stir to mix in.
  6. Sift flours and mixed spice then add to the fruit and tea mixture.
  7. Stir really well until everything is combined.
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour 10 mins or until a skewer comes out clean- CHECK THE TOP DOESN’T BURN.
  10. Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing. This keeps very well in an airtight tin wrapped up.
  11. Eat with heart-stopping amounts of butter…

Happy sharing!
Nora Stewart
Irish Bliss

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