• Kay

Soda bread and Pea Sticks


After a night of heavy rain, the temperature seems noticeably warmer. Before going outside to work in the garden, I decide to make soda bread, which we will eat with the butternut squash and leek soup for lunch. I haven’t made soda bread for years, but I have built up a store of recipes for this very useful bread. I first became aware of soda bread when I visited Ireland with Patrick when we first met, Patrick’s mother would make it all of the time. When I returned to England, I tried making it myself but I didn’t continue the habit. Recently, I came across a recipe, torn from a magazine, that used milk mixed with lemon juice to produce butter milk, therefore making the necessary ingredients easier to obtain, actual buttermilk isn’t that easy to come by.

The recipe also uses honey. I am always very pleased to find a new use for honey as we have quite a large supply. Luckily honey is very versatile. In recent weeks, it has been used in a honey/garlic salad dressing, the honey/mustard glaze on the Christmas gammon, it is used frequently in hot drinks (honey, lemon and blackcurrant) and now, in the soda bread. Apart from having to leave the loaf in the oven for slightly more time than the recipe requested, the soda bread turned out really well. When we eat it at lunch time, Patrick assumed the bread was ‘shop bought’ and was most impressed when he realised it was homemade, so I certainly take that as a compliment from such a connoisseur of soda bread!

During my morning stint in the kitchen there was a dramatic episode. Patrick rushed in calling for assistance because there was a dog in the orchard…in fact there were two dogs, and neither of them were Bella! Fortunately, Bella was in the house which was lucky, as Bella doesn’t like other dogs. She thinks she is human. We have several professional dog walkers who walk their charges in the fields surrounding Church Gardens. I am afraid to say that losing track of one of their dogs is a fairly regular occurrence and it is not the first time that we’ve retrieved a straying canine for it’s shouting dog walker. This is very concerning, as I feel much greater care should be taken of these treasured pets.

When the bread came out of the oven I went outside, intending to plant my peas. First I hunted around the garden for spare canes before remembering that I didn’t need canes, I needed pea sticks! This was a little frustrating as it requires cutting numerous light, twiggy branches off the nut trees. Peas much prefer twig sticks because it gives them more to cling on to. Although time consuming, collecting pea sticks is a very pleasant job and it is satisfying to know that this is another product that the garden provides. The nut trees are far more use for pea sticks and poles than they are for nuts…thanks to the squirrels!

Finally, I collect two root trainers of peas from the polytunnel (more than 60 plants) to plant out. The pea plants are quite long and desperate to be in the ground and clinging to their sticks.