I love bread. Rarely can I resist walking past a nice bakery without popping in or at least gazing longingly through the window. So it was a real treat to not only fall in love with a bread in Ireland but to have it served to me time and again in pubs and restaurants.
I'm talking about brown bread, which is a staple in Ireland. The defining ingredient is wholemeal flour, preferably the extra coarse variety. It's deliciously sweet and hearty, often served alongside soups, chowders, stews, salads and breakfast dishes. What was most interesting to me is how no one seemed to have exactly the same recipe and even the basic ingredients can vary from loaf to loaf. Perhaps this is part of the appeal - I couldn't pin the flavours down. Just as I thought I'd found my favourite, another would take its place. Some were drier and crumblier than others, some sweeter, some not so great. But I kept coming back for more. By our last week I was ordering things on the menu just because they came with brown bread.
Almost as good as the brown bread was the Irish butter. Whereas butter was dear in South America and Portugal, in Ireland it was practically forced on you - not that I was complaining. I love butter! I keep worrying that my doctor will pronounce me afflicted with early high cholesterol when 2011 comes to a close. The fat content of butter in Ireland is higher than that of butter found in the United States and it has a lower moisture content. This results in a higher smoking point and tolerance to heat. It's also more flavoursome. Don't believe me? Pick some up at your local upscale market and try it. It's sweeter, creamier and softens faster than American butter. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling a lot heavier after our trip to Ireland!
Have you tried Irish brown bread or butter? What do you think?