I know that for the last couple of years (whilst I was living in the USA) I’ve offered you recipes for sweet treats to celebrate St Patrick’s day, but this year I thought that I might go down a more traditional route.
I’ve only made soda bread once before, a long time ago, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of it. It was a plain recipe and with no other flavourings I found the taste of the baking soda to be a bit overpowering. Thankfully though that’s not the case with this one! The buttery leeks and rich, tangy cheddar make this a delicious loaf. It’s wonderful for mopping up soups and stews and all manner of hearty meals.

makes 1 loaf
1 medium leek
35g butter
150g spelt flour
150g whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml buttermilk
100g grated cheddar
mixed seeds (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and if you have a baking stone then put that in the oven to pre-heat.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and then set aside two-thirds of it. Thinly slice the leek and gently fry it in the remaining butter until it is just starting to become golden. Set aside.
Whisk together the flours and raising agents in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the leeks and grated cheese (keep a little cheese back to top the loaf).
Combine the melted butter that you put aside earlier with the buttermilk and then use this to bring everything together to form a soft ball of dough. Give this a very brief knead on a floured surface before shaping it into a neat ball. Cut a cross in the top of the loaf and then sprinkle on the reserved cheese and the seeds if you’re using them.
Transfer the loaf to either the hot baking stone or a lightly greased tray and bake it for about 40 minutes, by which time it should be crusty and golden brown.