Smoked Salmon with Soda Bread, Tapenade and Avocado Salsa

Image of toasted soda bread with smoked salmon, tapenade and avocado salsaRegular readers will know that I made a brief but nostalgic foray to my old stamping grounds in Ireland recently and came home with an enormous piece of smoked salmon and a yen for wheaten bread.

There seems to be some debate in Ireland as to whether or not wheaten bread is just another name for brown soda bread – if anyone can enlighten me as to the difference I’d be delighted to hear from you. For safety’s sake I’m describing this version simply as soda bread as I don’t want to incur the wrath of Irish friends and in any case it’s made with half-and-half brown wholemeal and white flour.

Soda bread is meant to be so easy it’s idiot-proof but it took me several goes to come up with an edible loaf, although I’m the first to admit I’m not the world’s greatest bread maker.  This version, largely based on one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, worked for me.

Image of cooked soda bread

Brown soda bread goes extremely well with smoked salmon but I wanted to add some complementary flavours. This is what I came up with. As a combo it makes a good starter or light lunch and you can make the tapenade and salsa in the time it takes for the bread to cook.

Then just slice the bread, toast it if you like, spread it with a thin smear of tapenade and top it with the smoked salmon and a dollop of salsa. In daintier quantities this would also make a good canape.

Brown Soda Bread

Image of sliced soda bread


250g wholemeal flour

250g plain white flour (not bread flour)

2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

1 tspn sea salt, ground

About 400 ml buttermilk + maybe a little milk

A small handful of porridge oats


Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.

Sift the flours and bicarb into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the buttermilk, cutting and mixing with a knife as you go. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if it’s not coming together – you’re aiming for a dough that’s, as Hugh puts it, “just this side of sticky”.

Image of buttermilk being poured into flours

Turn it onto a lightly floured board and knead very briefly to pull it into a loose ball. The buttermilk starts working with the bicarb immediately to give a rise, so you need to get it into the oven as soon as possible.

Put it on a lightly floured baking sheet and form into a circle about 5cm/2″ deep. Cut a deep cross in the middle almost to the base of the loaf, then quickly brush with more buttermilk or milk and sprinkle with porridge oats. If you’re feeling superstitious, you can poke a knife into the side of each quarter to let the fairies out (it’s always best to be on the safe side with the fairies).

Image of soda bread ready for the oven

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack, although it’s delicious still warm from the oven. Best eaten on the day it’s made, though it will toast well the following day.

Image of soda bread, sliced


  • Servings: makes 1 small pot
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This is quite pungent and a little goes a long way. You can leave out the anchovies if you hate them but you may then have to add a little salt, to taste. You can use any good olives but please, not the revolting soapy-tasting ones out of a tin.

Image of a pot of tapenade


110g/4oz black olives (I used Kalamata), pitted

6-8 anchovy fillets, to taste

2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbsp capers, rinsed

1 tspn lemon juice or wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2-3 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil


Image of tapenade ingredients

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor and whizz, gradually adding the oil as you would for mayonnaise. You should end up with a rough paste, although you can process it to a smoother consistency if you prefer.

Avocado salsa

It sounds a little weird to mix avocado and celery but it’s the way my sister makes guacamole and it works – the finely chopped celery adds a welcome crunch. If you prefer, you can replace it with half a small red onion.

Image of salsa ingredients


2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into small dice

1 stick of celery, trimmed and finely chopped (or use half a small red onion)

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

A few drops of Tabasco or a small pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper


Put the chopped avocado in a bowl, sprinkle with the lime juice and gently mix through the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Image of avocado salsa

4 thoughts on “Smoked Salmon with Soda Bread, Tapenade and Avocado Salsa

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