We are into what I call “Soup Season.”
Autumn is the time of potatoes and butternut squash and parsnips and all my favourite root vegetables, and no one loves soup more than I do.
But I am the lone woman in a house full of men, and the only way to convince a bunch of boys that blended-up veggies and chicken stock is a good option for dinner is to include a few chunky slices of fresh, soft bread, slathered in butter. No – more like topped with slices of butter so thick they have to ask if it’s butter or cheese.
This is my go-to bread, because I can mix it up in less than an hour, it looks beautiful, and it’s a whole-grain that tastes delicious and is the perfect accompaniment for all my soups.
Or, if you want to really change your life, do what I learned from my food hero Sophie Dahl – top it with smashed goats’ cheese and a few small tomatoes you’ve drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and thrown under the grill (that’s the broiler) for 10 minutes.
Spelt Soda Bread
3 cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk *
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Using your hands, slowly mix the buttermilk into the dry mixture by pulling the flour down into the centre of the bowl. When it has all come together, it shouldn’t be too sticky (add a little more flour if it is). Turn it out onto a floured surface, gently roll it into a ball, and then lay it on a floured baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the middle, and bake for 40 minutes.
If you’re new to baking bread and not sure if it’s done, take it out and tap the bottom; it should sound hollow.
Serve immediately as above…or save it till the next day, soak it in eggs beaten with a little milk, and make the best French toast of your life.
*I never have buttermilk. But you can make your own version in 5 minutes by using 1 tablespoon of lemon juice plus enough milk to make up one cup (so for this recipe, about 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice plus milk to make up 1 1/3 cups). Stir, then let sit for 5 minutes.