Writing Irish stories means I like to do something special for fans of Irish tales right around St. Patrick's Day and the month of March. So this month, I'm celebrating the print format release of Mother Love, my second Village of Ballydara novel, with a Goodreads Giveaway! The giveaway lasts through March 31... so if you're interested in a free autographed copy of the book, here's the Goodreads link.
Fun stuff this month also included my recent St. Patrick's Day party and Mother Love book launch at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. There's a lovely story, "Writing Irish," about the book and event in the March 11-18 issue of The Cascadia Weekly (click on Archives). I hope you'll check it out. And you'll find a review of Mother Love in "The Bookmonger" column in The Bellingham Herald!
For the St. Patrick's Day bookstore festivities, I brought shortbread, as well as "Spotted Dog," which isn't a Dalmatian breed, but a traditional soda bread! I used Irish chef Darina Allen's recipe. In addition to the usual flour, soda, salt and buttermilk, for "Spotted Dog," she uses a touch of sugar, raisins, and an organic egg, making a more cake-like soda bread. The raisins create the "spots."
I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins, and it turned out great! They add enough sweetness to offset the soda, I think. The trick to soda bread, according to Darina, is to mix things the traditional way, with your hands, not a spoon: first the dry ingredients, lifting the flour mixture and letting it sift through your fingers. Then make a "well" in the dry stuff, and pour in your the wet ingredients, mixing with your hands as well. The first time I made soda bread, I made the mistake of soaking the raisins in a little boiling water before combining. The wet raisins made the dough soggy and the bread heavy, so just put your dried fruit in with the flour mixture. Then get your hands right into the flour and swirl it around!
I also found that if you use a bit less salt than the recipe calls for, the bread doesn't have that trace of bitterness that baking soda can impart. I never liked soda bread much before, but John and I are going to make it a regular thing here at Berryridge Farm!