Honey ale soda bread with hand-churned butter

This traditional recipe for honey ale soda bread is a lovely quick recipe, and great for a first-time baker. Making your own butter is simpler than you'd think too, and well worth the effort. Use good quality cream for the tastiest results.

To discover more about Northern Irish cuisine and for more of Chloë's recipes from the country, take a look at her feature.

First published in 2020
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Soda bread in Ireland is so much better than the pale, dense, occasionally dusty loaves you might have tried from supermarkets. Wheaten bread, made with wholewheat flour and often flavoured with porter, seaweed or black treacle is a revelation for its speed, simplicity, taste and homeliness. This version with brown ale is seedy and robust, and makes a perfect accompaniment to a plate of fresh oysters.

Handmade butter is a luxury that must be tried, not only for its purity of taste and texture, but for the magic of watching the transformation. The jam jar method is remarkably easy and a good way to entertain kids in the kitchen. Once you have your basic butter, you can flavour it with garlic, herbs, seaweed or crystallised sea salt. The buttermilk, of course, should be used to make the soda bread!




Honey ale soda bread

  • 360g of wholemeal flour, Chloë uses Little Mill
  • 50g of rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml of brown ale, ideally honey ale or a lighter brown ale
  • 200ml of buttermilk, or milk soured with lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of runny honey
  • 40g of butter, melted

Hand-churned butter


  • Large loaf tin
  • Large sterilised jar
  • Muslin cloth


Prepare a 2lb loaf tin by buttering and dusting with a layer of flour. Preheat an oven to 200°C/gas mark 5
Use your hands to mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine the beer, buttermilk, honey and melted butter in a jug and mix well
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir lightly as you might a cake batter, trying to keep the air in. The mixture will be wet and easy to pour. Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and scatter over a few extra oats
Bake in a hot oven for about 35 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a wire rack and consume within 3–4 days
To make the butter, pour the double cream into a jam jar and shake vigorously for up to 20 minutes until the yellow butter fat separates from the watery buttermilk
Strain the buttermilk through a muslin cloth into a bowl and then squeeze the cloth well to ensure all the whey has been taken out. Any whey that is left in the butter will sour and cause it to spoil quickly
You may want to cool the butter in the fridge for 30 minutes before squeezing again to remove any whey because you don’t want to handle it too much. Spread the butter out on a plate as thinly as possible, sprinkle with sea salt and seasonings, if using, and then roll up
Serve slices of homemade butter with warm soda bread. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, provided the butter is well salted and drained
First published in 2020

Writer and illustrator Chloe King is founder of the food lovers’ book club Cook the Books.

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