Staten Island, New York — For curious chefs, Kathleen Gorman of Anadel offers Irish soda bread a formula that includes raisins and optional caraway seeds.
Truth be told, this is not a formula you usually share. But in these days following a COVID quarantine, the town’s Grand Marshal in St. Patrick’s motorcade along Forest Avenue is feeling especially festive and compassionate. There’s a story to boot this easy-to-prepare Irish treat.
At the age of 14, Kathleen decided to learn the recipes that her father loved so much from the old country. Born to Margaret and Jim Brick in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Kathleen remembered the days when mom and dad talked about Ireland.
She said, “When they came my mom was only 7 or 8, so my dad was talking about Ireland all the time. He missed him terribly, you know. So I was going to the Bronx with him for uncles—and that’s all they talked about was Ireland” .
Kathleen’s determination to learn authentic cooking led her to Kerry, Ireland, in the early 1960s. There, in a hut nestled in the mountains, her Aunt Sheila guided her into the kitchen. The floor was filthy and the window overlooked the mountains.
“You could look out that window all day, and like I said, it was a small kitchen. On the other side, the cow’s face was covered in glass,” said Kathleen.
“It was like a painting, almost–and the fog was coming down in the morning and you were waiting for it to rise. And you’d say, ‘Wow, how tall are these mountains?'” said the girl in Brooklyn, in awe of the beautiful setting.
“We had to say the rosary every night. Aunt Sheila had extra rosary beads hanging on nails in case someone walked in the door. And every night after dinner, you turn your chair and get on your knees and say the rosary,” said Kathleen.
During cooking classes, I described flour flying around the kitchen and Aunt Sheila’s sauteing.
And there were lighter moments when I was a teenager away from home.
“Wise man,” said Kathleen, “I brought cigarettes with me . . . and Aunt Sheila, goodnight, we were dumping the Jameson family” and they had smoke.
These were all necessary steps toward sleep.
“When you get into the bed, the sheets get wet from the damp. But Aunt Sheila brought a flannel-wrapped brick and put it at the bottom of the bed. That and a shot of Jameson—that kept you warm,” said Kathleen firmly, smiling.
Just as the view of the kingdom of Keri swelled in her heart, so did the view from Annadale’s kitchen – the choppy Raritan Bay.
The Recipe: Easy Irish Soda Bread
(makes 1 loaf)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice, (Cook’s note: This is how my Aunt Kerry taught me).
1 stick melted butter
1 scrambled egg
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cumin seeds optional
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a spoon to mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, and spices. Add the melted butter and eggs to the mixture. Add raisins and mix with hands. Do not use a blender or whisk.
Form the dough into a round mound on a baking dish. Get a large wet knife and carve a cross on top of the pile. (When Kathleen did this, she said, “God bless everyone who eats this bread.” I learned this in Keri, too.) Bake for about 50 minutes. Insert the toothpick into the middle and when it comes out clean, it is done.
Pamela Silvestri is the Advanced Food Editor. It can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org.