February 17: Festival of Fornax, Roman Goddess of Bread-Making

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soda_bread1Today, I discover is the Festival of Fornax, Roman Goddess of Bread-Making. Nothing else is known about her, except that her festival was held on February 17. I decided to honour this festival by making a simple Irish soda bread. It is a bread that can be made in minutes and because it contains no yeast requires no ‘proving’ time it can be prepared and baked quickly. It is such a simple traditional recipe and tastes delicious warm from the oven with a slather of real butter. I like it plain but you could also add some raisins or sultanas. Or you could make soda scones with the mixture instead or even turn it into focaccia with the addition of sundried tomatoes, rosemary and olives. This recipe is from Rachel Allen’s Bake series. Olive Oil 450 g Plain Flour 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 1 teaspoon Salt 400 ml Buttermilk Preheat an oven to 230c. Brush a swiss roll tin or baking tray generously with olive oil. Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a big bowl. Add the salt and mix with your hands. Make a well in the centre, pour in most of the buttermilk, and with one hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing in a full circle once the buttermilk has gone in. Keep mixing like this until you have a soft dough Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together. Transfer to a floured surface and roll it out to about 35x20cms (14x8inches), and transfer it to the oiled tray. Put it in the oven and cook for 18-25 mins, depending on how thick it is. Turn the oven down to 200c after 10 mins. When cooked, it should feel firm in the centre and be gorgeous and golden brown. Transfer it to a wire rack and cool for a couple of mins, then cut it into squares and serve!!

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