Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Easy Cheesy Pepper Loaf - Or a Taste of Ireland
We're coming up to St. Patrick's Day which has reminded me of a driving holiday I took with a couple of friends a few years ago around Ireland.  Being tourists we (of course) did the Ring of Kerry, Moll's Gap and made an attempt at Blarney Castle - but it was absolutely rammed with other tourists, so we took in the beautiful grounds and gardens before heading off again! Then on down the west coast to Bantry, Kinsale and Cork - although I may have that in the wrong order.  We stayed in small hotels, pubs and guest houses along the way, it was completely brilliant.  Now, Irish hospitality is the stuff of legend, so I expected us to be well fed and cared for...what I didn't expect was the amazing array of breads, cakes and scones that seemed to appear out of thin air as soon as we arrived anywhere.  Mostly, they seemed to be based on a Soda Bread style of loaf but with a million variations! So, in honour of St Patrick's Day I offer my best attempt at copying one of those quick breads.  The easy cheesy part is entirely authentic though I must confess the addition of roasted peppers is my could add some chopped chilli or jalapeno too for a bit of bite.  See what I mean?  A million variations present themselves from a basic recipe!
400g / 3 cups plain or all purpose flour
1 tsp bicarb / baking soda
2 tsps cream of tartar
1 tsp fine or table salt
2 large roasted red peppers (from a jar in brine not vinegar, or home roasted fresh ones)
150g / 6oz good strong cheddar style cheese, grated
25g / 1oz of the same cheese, grated, for sprinkling on the top
75g / 3oz unsalted butter, melted
265ml or 1 cup + 1 tblsp milk at room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F and line a large loaf tin.
  2. Chop the roasted peppers, then thoroughly mix them with the flour, bicarb, cream of tartar, salt and 150g of cheese.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the melted butter and milk, then pour them onto the dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly but don't over-mix them as this will make the loaf tough.  The mixture will be fairly sticky.
  4. Turn into the prepared tin, level the surface, then sprinkly over the remaining 25g of grated cheese.  Bake for 30-35 mins depending on your oven, or until it passes the clean skewer test.
  5. Cool the loaf a little (say for 15-20 mins) before slicing thickly and serving on its own, as part of afternoon tea, or with soup.  

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