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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four Farls - A Curiosity from Northern Ireland



From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I was born to the green, but it's been years since my family celebrated St. Patrick's Day in an overt way. Those celebrations ended when my paternal grandmother, Maude, passed away. Maude was the grandchild of Irish immigrants, and was born here thirty years after the Great Hunger had ended. She was, however, raised in a community so insular that she spoke with a soft lilting brogue and retained that curious fusion of religion and superstition that some immigrants never put behind them. She attended Mass every day of her adult life and thought that the "Lives of the Saints", with it's graphic depictions of martyrdom, was the perfect picture book for children. She spoke of banshees, told of sin eaters and warned of the Dark Man's terrible wrath, but she wove these fiercesome creatures into lyrical tales of such beauty and redemption they'd make even the Irish poets weep. We learned about the "Hunger," the "Troubles," the "Drink" and the coffin ships that carried famine Irish to their deaths in the depths of an ocean they probably could not name. Only Christmas and Easter were more important than St. Patrick's Day to her. If she was staying with us for the holiday, we were expected to attend Mass before traveling downtown to see the parade and watch the Chicago river run green. There would, of course, be soda bread and colcannon and a bread pudding so soaked in Jamesons, that sobriety tests would probably be failed. Once she was gone, we put aside the trappings of St. Patrick's Day, and made a conscious decision to, instead, celebrate the Irish, and by extension, all immigrants, who braved the coffin ships to make new homes across the sea. Seven million people were driven from that island in the Irish Sea. Another million died of starvation in a passive genocide of which no one speaks. They spread across the continents and wrested something from nothing. It took some time, but they were successful where ever they chose to settle. They survived, "Irish need not apply." They endured, "Irish keep the pigs in the parlor." They triumphed and did indeed hang "lace curtains" at their windows. They even managed to put "a fine Irish lad" in the White House. In our house, St. Patrick's Day serves as a reminder of cruelty in the extreme and the capability of the human spirit to overcome, endure and triumph. Over the course of the year, I've shared many Irish recipes with you. It's fitting that the last comes on St. Patrick's Day. Four Farls is the simplest of all the Irish breads to make. I recommend it to you as an oddity that serves as a reminder of how far immigrant communities have come. I hope a few of you will try it. The Irish peasant kitchen would have used whole meal to make the bread. I recommend using cake flour should you decide to make farls. For the record, they taste a great deal like a biscuit made without shortening. They really are not bad. Here's the recipe.

Four Farls Soda Bread
...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

Ingredients:

3-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 cups buttermilk

Directions:

1) Preheat a heavy based flat griddle, skillet or frying pan over medium to low heat.
2) Whisk flour,salt and baking soda together in a medium pan. Make a well shape in center of flour mixture and pour in buttermilk.
3) Quickly mix ingredients to form a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead to form a ball. Pat into an 8-inch circle about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 4 pieces with a floured knife.
4) Sprinkle some flour over base of a hot pan and cook farls for 10 to 15 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Be careful not to overcook. Serve warm. Yield: 4 servings.

You might also enjoy these recipes:

(Almost) Irish Soda Bread - One Perfect Bite

Barmbrack - One Perfect Bite
Irish Caraway Crisps - One Perfect Bite

44 comments:

Joy said...

Thankyou! It is such a treat to read about your grandma. I especially love the mix of religion and old beliefs!

taste traveller said...

That's a beautiful story, one that certainly strikes a chord with many immigrants, Irish or otherwise. Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you!

Jamie said...

Oh such a wonderful story and your grandmother sounds like a wonderful character out of a novel. How fantastic growing up with someone who could hold children to something so mysterious, mystical and magical as that wonderful mix of strong religion and old-fashoined beliefs. And tradition. It seems that so many of our traditions passed on with our grandparents generation which is sad indeed.

Fantastic and unusual bread. ONe I would love to try!

Allie and Pattie said...

Your grandmother reminds me much of my mother-in-law. And the post you wrote- heart-breaking in a way, yet a story of triumph. Wonderful post
xoxo Pattie

MaryMoh said...

Thanks for sharing the story about your grandma.....beautiful life story. Love the bread...looks delicious and great with a cup of tea.

Debinhawaii said...

What a wonderful post. Your grandmother sounds like a treasure. It's so fun to learn about traditions and traditional foods. ;-)

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said...

I am in love ,with ur dear Grandma...so cute n precious.....Love this recipe,i baked an Irish bread for dinner,and would have loved to stumble on this recipe ....
Have a fantastic happy St.Paddys day...

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

This is a personal dimension of the Irish story that is rarely heard on St. Patrick's Day. Thank you for sharing, Mary, and for bringing us these lovely bread recipes.

KathyB. said...

I am going to save this recipe and make it with my grandchildren. They too are home schooled as I home schooled their Mom and they have been looking into the history of St. Patrick's day. The more I read about this day and the history of the Irish, the more important is it seems to relay this to the children of today. History really is the story of our parents and grandparents...and friends.

Do you have pictures of your Grandmother?

3 hungry tummies said...

I am loving all your Irish recipes, my great grandfather is Irish but we were not left with any family recipes.

Bellini Valli said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!! Thank you for sharing your story and history with us.

Penny said...

Great story Mary. It is so important to keep our past alive to pass on to future generations. What a simple bread. Happy St. Patricks Day to you.

♥ Kathy said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day Mary

shopannies said...

perfect
happy st. patricks day

zurin said...

what an interesting story about ur grandmother....religon n superstition have always been two best friends complementing each other with their own mysteries...teh bread looks good !

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

Mary, Happy Patrick's Day to you! Thanks sharing for such lovely story.

shriya said...

It's very rare to find an traditional recipe. I am glad you shared one. Very nice post and lovely click. :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

Lovely story; my neighbor is Irish and I would love to make this bread and enjoy it with her. Did not know it had so few ingredients!

Foley said...

How I enjoy your posts - always so informative! Had to smile at the word 'banshee'..remembering my grandmother using it quite often!

Diana's Cocina said...

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. The bread sounds fantastic.

From the Kitchen said...

Your and Ina's "almost soda bread" is in the oven. I'll pull out my fancy Williams-Sonoma (on sale) orange marmalade and soften some butter. Instead of corned beef and cabbage, we're having an omelet for dinner. It isn't the one from my "post". I've learned to make an edible omelet at last!

Best,
Bonnie

From the Kitchen said...

P.S. Loved your post today!

B
B

Joie de vivre said...

Cooked in a skillet huh? Cool!

Susan said...

Thank you for sharing your grandmother's story. I loved reading about it. (There is an excellent book on the famine and will send you details on it by email. It was critically acclaimed, but is not generally well known.)

Don't know if I shall prepare colcannon or boxty today (maybe both : )) Your farls would be lovely lashed with golden Kerry butter.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Mary!

Claudia said...

A most beautiful post. Thank-you. Happy St.Patrick's Day. It's not about green beer.

Valérie said...

This looks quite simple to make indeed! I've heard of Irish soda bread, but have never made it. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed your post very much. And thank you for your comment on my blog. I must say, your blog is very lovely! I'm looking forward to reading more!

Lady Ren said...

I loved reading about your grandmother- I would love to learn more about what is considered an Irish superstition. Lovely post.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Mary! What a rich, wonderful history. I want to hear more about these 'sin eaters' - makes me think of a character that would be show up on True Blood.

I can tell you the celebration is alive and kicking right now in NYC with the parade. I can hear the yips all the way up in my office from down below on the street...

The Blonde Duck said...

This is a cool recipe!

Bob said...

Great story, makes me wish my family had celebrated it in a more than "corn beef and cabbage for dinner" kind of way. Ah well.

Lori said...

Happy St. Patricks Day Mary.

It is a very enat recipe.

Andreas said...

I love "They really are not bad."
Thank you for sharing.
Happy Paddy's Day!

Arlette said...

Hello my friend
I enjoyed reading about your grandmother and her traditions, and its true about the old immigrants and their traditions and believes. My grandparents run away from the turkish attack on christians and they went to Lebanon, they brought with them their believes traditions and the idea that one day they are going back home and they never bought a house with all the gold they brought with them, as they own a big house in Turkey.
I never heard of this bread before.
I like old recipes... I must give yur bread a try. Thanks for sharing

A Year on the Grill said...

It is so noce to hear more than green beer traditions... Love to hear more about her

DailyChef said...

Love your story. Also love the recipe. Tonight might be my first try at an Irish dish!

Rambling Tart said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Mary. I enjoyed it tremendously. :-)

msmeanie said...

Lovely store about your grandmother. Happy St. Patrick's Day! The bread looks great too.

Kim said...

What a lovely post Mary! Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful Irish woman. I agree with you that we should celebrate all immigrants and their plight. The Irish, however, really did endure some extra hardships in coming to this country. My great grandfather came from Ireland in the early 1900's and had a rather difficult time. He also attended mass regularly and was devout in his faith. Love the farls! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Chef Fresco said...

Lovely St. Patrick's day post! A really great story as well. We just made and posted your miso chicken on our site if you wanna check it out!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What an interesting history. I am Irish-mix but 7th gen Canadian so I really don't know much about my Celtic roots.
Thanks for this!

sophia said...

Not bad indeed! I like how you described it as a biscuit without shortening...

And I loved the way you introduced this dish! what a beautiful, poignant, and personal post!

Carrie said...

Man... I wish I would have seen your post earlier today, I have all the ingredients in my pantry for Four Farls! Soda bread is still yummy the day after St. Paddy's, right?! ,-)

Joe Ambrosino said...

I will try this recipe! "Erin go bragh"

Katy ~ said...

My grandmother was half Irish, my husband was Irish.

Love the Irish.

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