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Food: easy five spice soda bread

In that idle time between Christmas and New Year some have dubbed Twixmas, I found myself recuperating from spending a week with my very intense mother-in-law by watching mid-morning TV.

I flicked over to Nadiya's British Food Adventure where this recipe for red split lentils and five-spice soda bread caught my eye.

I'm a big fan of curry; it's my favourite cuisine and the combo of lentil soup and soda bread ticked the right boxes. My dad is a keen breadmaker and he talked about making soda bread over Christmas which had tickled my interest. While I like the idea of making bread, I'm unlikely to have bread flour or yeast in and I find the kneading and proving off putting, but soda bread is doable.

The lentil soup was eaten before I thought of photographing it. It's similar to dhals we routinely make for dinner - so cheap and easy to do - though the garlic and butter were a treat. The bread has lasted for a few days as there are only two of us in the house. I managed to snap a photo of the last chunk before polishing it off.

The final chunk of soda bread

I'll definitly make this again. The seeds add a delicious pops of flavour and it is so quick and easy to make. A handy standby for when I've run out of bread and can't be bothered to go to the shops or a nice gift if a friend has us over for dinner.

Before I get to the recipe itself here's the modifications I made:

  • I didn't have any strong flour in so I tried gram flour instead, using 350g wholemeal flour and 150g of gram flour. It worked! Next time I'm going to try half and half as I like the higher protein content of gram flour.
  • I didn't have any nigella seeds but did add half a teaspoon of chili flakes. MrG noticed they sank to the bottom of the bread, a nice surprise. The spices are delicious, I might play around with different combinations in future loaves.
  • I only had semi-skimmed milk in so added a little soy yogurt to the milk and vinegar. The tip for making butter milk is very useful. Thanks Nadiya!

Red split lentils and five-spice soda bread by Nadiya Hussain


For the five-spice soda bread
250g/9oz wholemeal flour
250g/9oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp Indian five-spice (cumin, mustard, fenugreek, nigella and fennel seeds)
400ml/14fl oz buttermilk (see tip below)

For the lentils
150g/5½oz red split lentils
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chilli
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp fine salt
75g/3oz unsalted butter
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
handful fresh coriander (approx. 10g), roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 and line a baking tray with baking paper.

For the soda bread, put the flours, salt, bicarbonate of soda and five-spice into a large bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add a little over half the buttermilk. Bring the dough together by hand, adding more of the buttermilk if needed (you may not need any more).

As soon as all the flour is absorbed and the dough comes together, lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough onto it and roll into a neat ball. Place on the baking tray. Using a sharp knife, make a cut down the centre vertically and then the same horizontally to form a cross, cutting all the way down to the base. Bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Put on a wire rack to cool.

While the bread is baking, wash the lentils, rinsing them till the water runs clear. Put the lentils into a pan with 1 litre of cold water, the bay leaf, red chilli, turmeric and salt. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes the mixture should be thicker and the lentils will have broken up.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and fry until golden-brown. Pour the garlic and butter into the lentils and mix through. Now add the chopped coriander and take the pan off the heat. Serve the warm lentils with chunks of soda bread.

If you don’t have buttermilk, as most of us normally don’t, just mix 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar with 400ml of milk, stir and leave to sit for 5 minutes. And hey presto – you have buttermilk.

If you enjoyed this you can find more of Nadiya's recipies on the BBC website.


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