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Covent Garden Real Food Market Stall: the recipes

And… drumroll! Now for the recipes.

I was really excited by how many people really enjoyed the brown soda bread and cucumber pickle. I was a little nervous about how they would be received, and at 6am, sleep deprived and coffee’d up, I had a thought: what if people hate it?! Thankfully no one seemed to, in fact lots of people wanted the pickle and bread to take home, so if I do it again folks, I’ll make sure that I jar some and make some extra bread (if that’s possible!).

As I said in my previous post, both of these recipes are very straight forward but with excellent results, it’s virtually impossible to mess these up. Depending on your taste you may want to alter the sugar/vinegar ratio in the pickle, I prefer it to be a little on the tart side. Both recipes are adaptations of Ballymaloe recipes. The original Ballymaloe soda bread calls for buttermilk, however, that’s not terribly easy to find in the UK, and when available it’s expensive. I substitute whole milk, soured a little with fresh lemon juice, about a tablespoon for every 850ml. You need the sour aspect to wake up the soda. The Ballymaloe cucumber pickle calls for onion and less vinegar so that it’s a sweeter pickle, I prefer to make with just cucumber and a little more vinegar.

This is utterly perfect with smoked salmon, but if you’re vegetarian try it with a robust cheese, like a good strong cheddar or Mrs Kirkham’s. It would work a treat.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Frank Hederman you can visit his site – www.frankhederman.com.

To get your hands on some delicious Bisol Jeio (it really is delicious!), you can order some from Bibendum. I will be.

Brown Soda Bread


600g wholemeal brown flour
600g plain flour
850ml whole milk soured with 1tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 230 C.
Mix the flours, salt and sieved baking soda thoroughly.
Make a well in the center, and add the milk, drawing in the dry ingredients from the outside as you add it with your hand.
Mix until sticky but not too gooey, you should be able to pick it up and shape into a round.
Wash your hands and flour them and transfer your dough to a floured board. Shape into a round. Turn over onto a floured baking tray and shape once more, tidying the edges is necessary. It should be 1 1/2 – 2 inches thick at most.
With your knife, draw a cross in the centre (as per the picture) cutting down to the bottom of the bread. The idea is that it should come apart into quarters quite quickly. Stick the knife into the centre of each quarter to let the fairies out (yes!).
Cook for 20 minutes and then turn down to 200 C. After 20 minutes, take the bread out of the oven, turn upside down and knock on it. If it sounds hollow it’s done. If it doesn’t put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes, upside down, and try again. That should be enough.

Cucumber Pickle


2 cucumbers, sliced as finely as you can.
240 ml cider vinegar
200g sugar
1 tsp salt


Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt just until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Allow to cool.
Pour over the cucumbers and leave overnight in the fridge (or for 5 hours).
Your cucumbers are pickled!
Keeps for up to a week in the fridge.





  1. My Irish grandmother made a loaf of soda bread (with buttermilk!) every day when I was a girl in the sixties.

    I generally make mine with half yogurt/half milk – seems to work.

    • Milk and lemon works well for me, I like it. If I wasn’t making such a lot of it I would use buttermilk, but it’s too expensive here to do that. Top tip on the yoghurt though, I will try it!

  2. laura says

    Hi Niamh,
    Can you not buy buttermilk online from ocado or some other supermarked delivery company? I checked sainsburys website too and they sell it. I have a Spanish work collegaue who is in London at the moment on a project. The thing she misses most about Ireland is soda bread and is making her own over there. I recommended sour milk to her in lieu of buttermilk, just leave a pint or a litre off! Course, with the life of milk nowadays, it takes ages. My grandmother used sour milk as often as she used buttermilk and her soda bread was delicious.

    • Hi Laura!

      You can absolutely buy it, but it would have been a financial nightmare, the bread is quite expensive to make. Already, things were very tight. If making one loaf for myself, absolutely fine. It really doesn’t make a huge difference anyway, I quite like with soured milk

      There’s so many different recipes for soda bread, loads of ways to try it!

  3. laura says

    It’s so strange to think of sodabread as being expensive to make, when it was what Irish people survived on bread wise when the country was poor and our economy was more agriculturally based! Buttermilk is less expensive here in Ireland and the Irish are notorious for complaining about the high price of groceries! :-) For your quantities, with ingredients from superquinn, the milk and flour would cost 2.1875 per loaf. Which, when you think about sodabread quarters (maybe 2 people would eat one per day) is bread for about 54 cents, which is cheaper that a plain white sliced loaf. I’m not trying to sabotage this post and turn it into a debate on food prices, I just think that it’s interesting that the milk for sodabread would cost 1.35 euro in ireland but would cost 1.65 sterling over there. Ocado prices for flour, milk for your quantites works out at 2.15 sterling per loaf. Superquinn prices for flour, milk for your quattites works out at 2.18 euro per loaf. Global wheat price inflation I think. Sodabread brings me back to my childhood. My maternal grandmother always made brown sodabread, “brown cake” she called it. My paternal grandmother made it with white flour only. Both were so different and so delicious. If I was making bread daily, I wonder would I go for sodabread or sourdough. I’ve a delicious sourdough starter (it smell so sour) starting at the moment, it’s nearly ready. Salmon is lovely on brown sourdough, something happens to the wholemeal part of the flour in a sourdough made from wholemeal. It gets broken down and sort of evaporates into the bread. Have you tried that? Salted capers from Carluccio’s essential accompianment. :-)

    • Hey Laura,

      I know, I’m Irish, I just live in London :)

      What you say is true, the same goes for Oysters, they were peasant food too, hence beef & oyster pie. Lobsters were peasant food in Nova Scotia and people were embarassed to eat them.

      Buttermilk is not a common ingredient here like Ireland, and, really this works fine. Lots of trad Irish recipes use sour milk too. I had bought all premium products, and fantastic salmon, so the buttermilk was way out of budget. Worth the concession, I didn’t notice a difference. Try it and let me know how you get on! :)

      I do love salmon on sourdough and poilane with red onions or shallots and capers, but for the market, I wanted to do something quintessentially Irish.


  4. laura says

    Yeah, you can’t beat Hedermans. It’s impossible to go to the English market (in Cork) and not buy some smoked fish from Hederman’s while you are there. I know you’re Irish! :-) I have made soda with sour milk, I like the idea of leaving the milk go sour and then using it up. Buttermilk i normally use for pancakes, I find it gives them a delicious flavour. I wonder why buttermilk is so expensive in Britain and elsewhere (the buttermilk), In Sweden it is also very popular, a colleague who is Swedish is very homesick for her buttermilk, the Irish one tastes different to the swedish one, I think she told me she gets a buttermilk in Lidl or Aldi, not an Irish one, but more akin to the Swedish buttermilk that she is used to. Anyway, congrats on your stall. will it become a regular? I was staying in Islington for a few weeks (for work) and there looked to be a a great market there. (Chapel Street). I was always sorry that the stall holders were gone home when I got back from work.

    • Lol, sorry!

      You really can’t beat Hederman’s. Where do you get it in the market?

      It’s a niche product here, not an everyday one. I suspect that’s why. Interesting about the Swedish one, I must investigate!

      The stall was a once off but you never know… watch this space :)

      I used to work near Chapel Market. That’s a real everyday London market, they’re rare these days!

      Thanks for all your comments!


  5. laura says

    I think that it is near O’Connells and Iago. It was a discreet stall. White plastic dough/fish/produce containers on a table and your purchase wrapped in white waxed paper is my memory of that stall. Maybe they aren’t there still? But they used to be. (I live in Dublin, so not in the English Market as often as I would like, you get very homesick up here for East Cork and West Cork produce :-) ). Failing that, Midleton farmer’s market.

    • AH! That’s well gone.

      I go home a lot and always to the English Market en route. Midleton or Cobh Farmer’s market are where to find it. Also deli in Dungarvan where I am from! We’re never short of supplies.

      • Eimear Ni Cheilleachair says

        Hi Niamh, I was just reading your blog and just wanted to let you know that I have reopened Frank Hederman’s stall in the English Market in Cork, we are just starting our 4th week and it’s all going well so far! We are doing a few different things to try and get people to try Frank’s amazing produce! When you’re in Cork again you should call by for a smoked salmon bagel!

  6. Treasa says

    Hi Niamh,

    Have you ever tried Bextartar (cream of tartar)? You can use normal milk and add a spoon of it, to make a buttermilk substitute.
    If it’s not easily avaialbe in the UK, you should be able to get it in the baking section of any Irish supermarket, the next time you’re home.


  7. Virtually impossible to mess up — now THAT’s my kind of recipe! I love the idea of instant pickles, and if I don’t start pickling my cukes then I may have to resort to burning them for firewood just to keep up with them. Tis that season. I’ll give it a try. Sorry I couldn’t see you in at the market, but there’s a rather large pond between us!

  8. Good tip about the buttermilk substitution I have had that issue before – yes you can get it from Ocado but not from the corner store when you have just realised you needed it in a recipe. Otherwise off milk – genius!

  9. Lucy says

    Just made the soda bread…add some rosemary. It was magic on a plate. Thank you so much!

  10. sosusie says

    Bit late with this response but only because I’m FINALLY looking up your pickle recipe and thinking of making the bread today. I just wanted to say – adding a bit of lemon doesn’t seem like much of a hardship, pretty much as easy as plopping a carton of buttermilk in. Point being – I had some of that original market batch and it was super stunningly DELICIOUS – so, using lemon is fine and dandy.
    Ho hum – off to make some now.

  11. food cookbook says

    I’ve seen so much of your blog over this months but i never said Thank You! you’ve been quite an inspiration for me.

  12. Pingback: Foodie Blog: Eat Like A Girl « Annette J Dunlea Irish Author's Literary Blog

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