Soda Bread

soda breadsoda breadI FOLLOWED Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Family Cookbook recipe when I first made soda bread yesterday, halving the ingredients as there were only two of us. We didn’t want any leftovers as it’s best eaten warm from the oven but even half quantities made a substantial little cob (left).

So today I cut down the quantities a bit more so that we had just enough for three small scones (above). Doing it this way you get more of the rough crispy crust and you can be sure that it’s baked all the way through. The centre of the larger cob had turned out a little bit doughy, although it’s supposed to be soft and moist on the inside, so that’s what you’d expect.

We decided to add chopped fresh chives and a couple of tablespoonfuls of grated double Gloucester cheese, saving a sprinkling for the top of each scone.

Yogurt provides a mild acid for the bicarbonate of soda to react with, producing the bubbles of carbon di-oxide which makes the bread rise.

Cheese & Chives Soda Bread Scones

  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g plain wholemeal flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 90ml plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese

Turn to oven to 230°C.

making soda bread1. Seive the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.

2. Add the yogurt and stir.

3. Using your fingers bring the mixture together into a smooth dough. If it turns out too sticky add more flour. Add the chives and three-quarters of the grated cheese and mix them in too, but don’t overwork the mixture. No kneading is necessary.

baking soda bread
4. Divide the mixture into three balls, place them on a non-stick baking sheet on a baking tray. Score each of them deeply with a cross to allow them to rise and press the remaining grated cheese on top of them.

5. Put them into the oven for 5 minutes then turn the oven down to 200°C and bake for another 5 minutes or so. They’re ready when if you turn one upside down (being careful to avoid the melted cheese!) and tap the bottom it sounds hollow.

Great with homemade tomato soup. We’ve got a bit of glut of tomatoes at present and, thanks to my inconsistent watering in the greenhouse, many of them had split their skins so soup was the best thing to do with them.

Focus on Fungi


IT’S ABOUT a month since we last walked through the woods at Newmillerdam and it now feels as if autumn has arrived. Bracket fungi are starting to sprout from the fallen silver birches with shapes that remind me of the cream-filled meringues of my childhood.

A Finger on the Button

Like most digital cameras my new FujiFilm S6800 focuses on whatever is in the centre of the screen when you half press the shutter button. But what if you’d prefer to have your subject off centre?

As I should have worked out long ago when using previous cameras, if you keep button half-pressed you can then move the camera to get the composition you’re after but the focus of the lens will stay as it is, set to your subject.


I think that having the main subject at the junction of thirds, rather than slap in the middle of gives a better composition. Central can sometimes be too obvious, like a passport photograph.

Throwing the background out of focus also gives emphasis to the subject.


As a record shot to help with identification it wouldn’t matter if the subject was central or the background in focus but I feel that by moving the subject to one side you introduce a little bit of narrative, a bit of expectation perhaps, and keeping the background out of focus goes a little way to building up that feeling of mystery that you get when you see fungi emerging in autumn woods.

Second Nature


Inspired by the new camera, I’ve been reading Doug Sahlin’s Digital Landscape & Nature Photography for Dummies. I’m making an effort to get thoroughly familiar with its controls, so that they become second nature to me. With previous digital cameras I’ve had such good results with the auto or programmed settings that I’ve never got around to trying manual settings such as aperture priority and shutter priority.

rowan berriesIt’s the photographic equivalent of making the move from marker pens to watercolour in sketchbook work. There’s nothing wrong with in-your-face boldness in photography or in illustration but when it comes to trying to express a more enigmatic mood I think you need to develop a more subtle technique.