“ Brand: Irwin's / Type: Bread „
Since I eat the same thing for breakfast Monday to Friday, I like to try different things at weekends and spotted these shortly after returning to the UK. I didn't even know what Soda Bread was (though I've since learnt it's bread without yeast, but with baking soda instead, hence the name) but they looked good, so I popped a packet in the trolley.
The first packet I bought - and the one shown above - contained 2 medium Farls, though I've since also tried the new, 'mini' variety which are the same taste but smaller. This is the only brand I've consistently found in the various supermarkets I rotate my shopping through, but I wasn't particularly swayed by the celeb endorsement. That said, they are inexpensive and a quality product, so I'm in no hurry to find a cheaper generic own brand and will keep buying these as they are decidedly yummy. Don't be fooled by the word 'Selection' in the name - they mean selected by Rankin, not a selection of different goodies. The 2 medium or 4 mini farls are all the same.
These Soda Farls are like a doughy version of bread, and are more filling than they look. Working from the calorie content, I decided half a medium one would be enough for a serving, even though it looked small, and so ate half for breakfast and half for lunch. The smaller ones are a better size for one serving - either way, you're looking at a substitute for a large roll or 2 slices of bread with these. The Farls are triangle shaped and quite dense, but not difficult to slit in half. They are also remarkably crumb-free - I tend to cut them over the sink as a precaution, but they don't make a mess like a crispy roll or baguette would.
I find them filling enough to keep me going through my weekend morning gym sessions, without being too heavy that they limit my workout. In other words, they're perfect, and fill me up a lot more than a bowl of cereal. Plus, as winter approaches, I do like something warm for breakfast before I set off to treadmill central.
Because of the way they are prepared before you buy them, they look rather sweetly almost home made (every one slightly different), or at least like they come from a small farmhouse kitchen rather than a mass producing factory. That may not be the case, but it's what they look like, and it's rather appealing.
To warm these, I tend to stick them under the grill though you could fry them too. I prefer not to do this, (a) because it seems wrong to have a fry up and then go for a workout (though eating chocolate before working out is a Sensible Way to get an energy boost) and (b) because I think these are more sweet than savoury, though more on that later. I toast both sides even though only one is doughy, and while the outside edge has black splodges in places, the farls don't burn any easier on this side, or go too tough. I haven't managed to over-toast these - I let the grill warm them until they start to go nicely tanned, but even when I once got distracted by the postman and left them in longer than planned, they weren't too tough because they're quite thick and only the top layer really gets toasted. I have frozen these on occasion and though I tend to defrost thoroughly before toasting, I've noticed no difference in taste or texture compared to those eaten the day after I've bought them.
These Farls are made with buttermilk, which gives them a delicious and unusual taste, and also makes them sweet, I think. I really liked these Soda Farls, but they weren't quite what I was expecting. They are, and I may be sounding repetitive here, sweeter than you might imagine, and quite heavy and dense too, like more of a stodgy cake than a bread. I've found through trial and error that I prefer mine with the toppings I would put on a teacake or a sweet scone rather than the whole range of things I'd put on toast. So, I like them with Nutella, or butter, or honey, but not so much when I spread on peanut butter or try to make them into a (vegetarian) bacon sandwich or top with cheese or use as an accompaniment to a salad. My absolute favourite way to eat these is with a scraping of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon - you could also add sugar but I don't bother. It's a lovely mixture of sweet and tart, and the butter sinks straight in leaving you with a delicious, moist snack. I always have to have some topping with them, as they're a little dry with nothing on. I definitely prefer these toasted, as it brings out the rustic flavour so much more and helps the butter saturate the bread, but there's no reason you couldn't try them cold.
I like the packaging too - they come in a basic combination plastic / paper wrapper, and seem a lot less packaged that other products. It probably would be suitable for wrapping the other farls back up in, but since I tend to freeze the left-overs, I put them in a plastic bag as well to prevent freezer burn. I like the way you get a little 'window' in the package so you can see the state of the farls inside - on occasion if they've looked a little worse for wear I've dug towards the back of the supermarket shelf to get a more intact pair.
I expected to like these, because the ingredients list showed me no reason why I wouldn't, but I didn't expect to love them quite so much. They are a versatile and filling snack or basis for a meal, and my only problem is that far from trying new things for weekend breakfasts, I do seem to be rather stuck eating these all the time now.
Available in all big supermarkets for about 88p (pack of 2, so 4 servings the way I eat them)
The options for how you eat these are endless. For more inspiration, see the website: