Herbed soda bread

This is the perfect recipe for those intimidated by the thought of making bread, because it uses a mix of bicarbonate of soda and baking powder instead of yeast. This means it’s faster to make, as you don’t need to wait for the yeast to activate; these sorts of loaves were made much more in the past because of this. You can use any herbs you like, but the more robust varieties such as sage, thyme and rosemary flavour the dough best.
The bread is great toasted and served with poached eggs, baked beans and wilted baby spinach.
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the tin
500g strong white bread flour
1½ tsp sea salt, plus 1 tbsp for the top
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp finely chopped mixture of sage and thyme leaves
450ml whole milk
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6. Oil a 26 x 12cm loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
Sift the flour, 1½ tsp of salt, the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar and herbs.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk and 3 tbsp of oil, mixing with your hands for about 5 minutes to gradually incorporate the dry ingredients (or combine in a food mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment). The mix will be very sticky and wet, but keep the faith …
Spoon into the prepared tin – it will need a little bit of encouragement to flatten down a bit – and sprinkle the 1 tbsp of sea salt on top. Bake for 45–50 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown with a hard crust. Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Slice and serve toasted or not, with plenty of good butter.