Typical nutritional content (per portion)
450g (1lb) wholemeal flour (coarse or medium), plus extra for dusting
175g (6oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bread soda
15g (½ oz) butter or 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1-2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (optional)
About 450ml (¾ pint) buttermilk, plus extra for brushing
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Put the wholemeal flour in a bowl. Sieve together the plain flour, salt and bread soda over the wholemeal flour and mix lightly. At this stage you may rub in the butter or stir in the oil and/or add the sugar, if desired. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in about two-thirds of the buttermilk. Mix, then gradually add just enough of the remaining buttermilk to give soft dough.
Turn the dough out on to a clean surface dusted with wholemeal flour and knead lightly into a ball. Place on a sturdy non-stick baking sheet and pat out into a round that is about 4cm (1½ in) thick. Brush with a little buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with wholemeal flour. Cut a cross into the bread and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the bread sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool, wrapped in a tea towel, on a wire rack. When ready to serve, cut into slices and arrange on a plate.
Use all plain white flour to make white soda bread.
Add 75g (3oz) of finely grated Cheddar instead of the sugar, if using.
Add three tablespoons of chopped fresh mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chives and basil instead of the sugar, if using.
Add three tablespoons of mixed seeds to the dough or one tablespoon of mixed seeds on top.