NI Breads History

Potato Bread

Potato bread

Since the Sixteenth century the potato has formed the basis of the Northern Irish diet. So it should come as no surprise that the enterprising Northern Irish began to use mashed potato leftovers, to make another form of bread – potato bread. Commonly referred to in different parts of the country as ‘fadge’, ‘potato cake’ or ‘farls and slims’, it is an unleavened bread in which the potato replaces a major portion of the wheat flour. It too traditionally found its baking arena on a hot griddle over an open fire. Apple potato fritters are an interesting use of the bread – where it is wrapped, like pastry, around an apple filling. Potato bread also forms an essential part of the Ulster Fry, but it is also lovely eaten hot with butter and jam.

Soda Bread

Soda bread is indigenous to Ireland and its climate. Created in the 1840s when bicarbonate of soda was introduced to Ireland, the bread was baked on a griddle hung over a peat fire. The climate of Northern Ireland hindered the growth of hard wheat, which created a flour that rose easily without the assistance of yeast. The bread can be made with white or brown flour, with raisins, or as they do in Co Armagh, packed full of apples. Soda bread takes two major forms, the farl and cake. It is more likely in the North to see the farls for sale, whereas in the South the cake is more popular. Rolled thinly for ease of baking, the bread was traditionally cut into quarters, with a cross cut into the bread before baking. According to superstition this was to rid the bread of demons and let it rise – consequently it became known as lucky bread. It is a quick bread to make because it is not kneaded.