Irish Soda Bread

My mother-in-law, Anne Durrigan Honan, aka Grandma Honie.


I often think about my childhood and remember fondly the family gatherings that I was fortunate to have. Our celebrations were always centered around food and family, something I always associate with my own heritage. An Italian thing.

Years later, I was blessed to know a great cook whose relationship with food had very different origins. My mother-in-law, Anne Durrigan Honan, came to this country from Ireland when she was just 17-years-old. Her connections to  food back home were not of huge feasts, but rather meager conditions. I am sure her arrival to New York came with a lot of fear, yet she was strong of faith and knew she had to survive.  As I got to know her in about  20  of her 93 years on this earth, I learned a lot about this Irish lady who knew what many Irish ladies did not – how to cook.

She would tell me that she knew little of exotic cooking back home in Ireland. She knew how to make bread and that was about it. But here in America, especially New York City, she truly became the new citizen who was part of the melting pot.  She shared stories of her many neighbors who taught her many things. She learned to use spices from the Italian neighbor. She learned how to cook certain meats from the German women. She learned about soups and custards from the Polish women and cookies from others. She wrote everything down on little index cards and saved them, a tiny box of new food, things she’d never heard of. She had her specialities. My husband can remember the once-a-year kidney pie that she made, and how the apartment smelled awful while it cooked. But it tasted delicious when it was done. My daughters can remember clearly the smell of bread baking in the oven every time we visited her. She used honey and the white bread was dense and chewy. They would drizzle more honey as it came out of the oven before they would eat it.

But her most famous recipe brought her back to her roots – Irish Soda Bread. She make a soda bread that would probably not be found in an Irish cookbook because it is so sweet and delicious. People could joke about the Irish boiling their food to death, but Anne was one Irish woman who used more garlic than my mother ever imagined.  And she did all of the cooking in between the three jobs she kept when she was widowed, and still found time to knit hats, sweaters and  blankets. She was a remarkable woman of great talents.  I think she would like for me to share her recipe for Irish Soda Bread, since sharing was how she learned to be such a wonderful cook.  Enjoy.


3 cups of flour- sifted
2/3 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick melted butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins
350 degree oven
loaf pan

Combine the cream, butter, sugar, eggs – add buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Slowly mix in dry ingredients – stir in raisins and seeds.

Pour into prepared loaf pan – Bake for about 60 minutes  Test for doneness with knife.

Enjoy with butter and jam and friends, preferably at a house party after a parade.