In Ireland, for the first time, St. Brigid’s Day will be marked in Ireland with a new public holiday, on Monday February 6. Today, we celebrate both St. Brigid but the lives and stories of the women of Ireland. February 1st is known as the first Day of Spring, Imbolc and St. Brigid’s Day. There are many stories and culinary traditions associated with the Feast of St. Brigid. So in honor of the day, let me share an easy and delicious recipe with you for Irish Oatmeal Soda bread. It is said that Brigid would travel around farms all over Ireland with her white cow and bless the animals. So on this day, butter would be churned and placed with fresh bread, and some corn meal for her cow and left sitting out on the windowsill. Another story is that Brigid made the best mead and ale in all of Ireland. Most of all Brigid is remembered for her hospitality and how she never turned the hungry away. It was said her ale and dairy miraculously never ran out.
These traditions may not be practical in to day’s modern world, but hanging a simple cross on the front door of the home or making oaten bread is still a common practice. The cross is said to be a protection for the home in the coming year and asks for God’s blessing. Enjoy this bread with creamy butter and it’s best eaten still warm from the oven. And… as we say in Ireland…never confuse the truth with a good story when we remember our heritage and traditions.
St. Brigit’s Oatmeal Soda Bread
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (pulsed to fine)
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra to shape the bread).
3-4 Tbsp seeds (e.g., sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2-3 Tbsp butter
1 2/3 cups plain yogurt or full fat buttermilk
1 egg (beaten)
How to make it
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Grind the oats in a food processor until they are fine.
- Sieve the flour and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the oats, seeds, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with fingertips in to the dry ingredients.
- Beat the egg and combine it with the yogurt. Make a well in the center and stir in the wet ingredients with a knife until the dough comes together, (add a little extra yogurt if the mixture is still dry or hold back if it seems too wet).
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and turn it with hands to shape it into a round, kneading lightly once or twice if necessary, being careful not to overwork the dough.
- Transfer the bread to a lightly greased baking sheet. Use a knife to mark the bread with a deep cross. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
- Transfer to a wire wrack to cool and then wrap up the bread in a kitchen towel (this will help keep the bread moist).
Happy Feast day 2023