Ballymaloe & Soda Bread Too!
Writer & Photographer / JJ Kaplan
As I was ushered into Catharine (“Cathy” to her friends) Richardson’s sunlit kitchen, she invited me to sit down and have a “Ballymaloe type of day.” I needed a little help in understanding exactly what that meant. She informed me that one should have fun, embrace their roots and enjoy fellowship with, of course, some delectable food to boot. Shortly after that, she was showing me how to “release the fairies” from her Irish soda bread dough. This was the genesis of my own “Ballymaloe type of day.”
Catharine and her husband, Tommy, have been longtime residents of Zionsville, where she enjoyed the later part of her 30-year career in real estate. When the market went south, she began evaluating her passions to carve out a new direction for her life. Cooking, art, painting, travel and serving others were the ingredients that she needed for the faith-based recipe of her life.
In 2011, she decided to enroll a two-and-a-half-day cooking class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork, Ireland, with three other friends just for fun. Catharine ended up staying an additional week and taking another two-and-a-half-day class. While there, she lived in a self-catering 18th-century cottage with a shared kitchen and living space. Beyond the cottage walls, less than a mile from the sea, lay the 100-acre organic farm with chickens, pigs, Jerseys and gardens that supplied the school with fresh seafood, eggs, butter, milk and plethora of herbs and vegetables.
It is here that Catharine embraced the “farm to fork” way of life, and she vowed to return and complete their 12-week course and be totally immersed in that lifestyle. Catharine recently earned her certificate after a 12-week course taught by Darina Allen, Rory O’Connell and Rachel Allen. She now has plans to create artisan products and would like to offer a guided culinary tour back to Ireland next spring.
Catharine’s vision for our community is to make Zionsville a “Taste Of The Midwest Destination.” She was dismayed when the Indianapolis Star wrote an article about various day trips for foodies, and Zionsville was not on the list. As she sees it, we should come together to build our community’s presence as a “farm to fork” travel destination. We already have a wide variety of businesses that embrace organic, healthy or unique products. We already have a beautiful location. We already have a strong sense of community. All we need is a coordinated effort to bring our businesses together to make Zionsville the travel destination for food in the Midwest. In addition, Catharine is hoping to find a location where she can demonstrate recipes and teach cooking skills that will enable all levels of students to follow any recipe … even me!
The highlight of my visit was watching her make a loaf of Irish Soda Bread. She shares the recipes on her blog and with us here. This quick and easy recipe does not require yeast. Yippee! As she took the loaf from the oven, the kitchen was quickly filled with an aroma of friendship and hospitality. She split the loaf, and steam trickled upward into thin air. She gave me a sample to take home, but I have to sheepishly admit that it didn’t make it to my home during that five-minute ride. Here is what you should bake for your next family dinner:
Ballymaloe Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Easier to bake than driving to the store!
Irish White Soda Bread is a really quick Irish bread to make and very tasty! Soda bread only takes two or three minutes to make and 30-40 minutes to bake. It is certainly one of Darina Allen’s “Great Convertibles.” She has the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. Try adding olives, sun-dried tomatoes or caramelized onions! The possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.
1 lb (450g/4C) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) kosher salt
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) baking soda
12-14 fl oz. (approx.) of buttermilk or sour milk
Fully preheat your oven to 450F. Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Pour most of the buttermilk in at once. Using only one hand, mix the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft — not too wet or sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.
Stop to wash and dry your hands. Tidy the dough up, and flip it over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches deep and cut a cross on it to “let the fairies out.” (The cuts should go over the sides of the bread.) Bake at 450F for about 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 400F and continue to bake the bread for 6-30 minutes or until cooked. If you’re in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: If it’s cooked, it will sound hollow.
Catharine will be offering her seasonal jams, various chutneys, small cakes and the traditional Irish “sticky toffee pudding” at Serenity’s on Saturdays during the scheduled Zionsville Farmers Market hours. She hopes to move into the market as space becomes available. You might even find loaves of Irish Soda Bread there.
Tucked into my camera bag was a jar of her homemade orange marmalade with the largest chunks of orange rind that I had ever seen. The mouth-watering nectar was the perfect ending to my “Ballymaloe type of morning”!
To learn more about Catharine Richardson, visit catharineacts.wordpress.com or contact her at 317-289-2775.