This bannock recipe makes what is essentially a quick bread cooked from the grains and other ingredients you have on hand. But this can vary greatly, and the term ‘bannock’ covers a wide range of breads from across the globe. Indeed, to pitch this bannock recipe as ‘Irish’ is already to mislead, as it is the Scots who are responsible for many of the recipes in Ireland today.
Perhaps ‘Celtic bannock recipe’ would be a more accurate. But even this involves a multitude of types and different methods of preparation. Because anytime the ‘woman of the house’ (bean an tí) made a bread for the local feast it was often a bannock. Even her rendition of the iconic Irish tea cake eaten as part of Samhain rituals could be considered a bannock recipe, with the bread in this case being cooked in the oven.
Bannock recipes in North America
That’s the point, it seems. It is the adaptable nature of the bannock that has enabled such widespread proliferation – it can be fried on a griddle, dropped in oil, baked, as in Barmbrack, or even cooked out in the woods with just a pot slung over a fire. The much-fabled Balep Korkun central to the diet on the Tibetan Plateau is a type of bannock bread, and bannocks have long played a major role in the traditional cuisine of many of North America’s indigenous peoples.
Bannocks in the North American context present an interesting case, as there’s still no consensus among food historians as to how they came into indigenous diets. Some experts suggest bannock recipes arrived with early settlers such as fur-trading Scots, others put bannocks as an embedded staple prior to any outside contact. There is evidence on both sides of the tale.
It is true that migrants of Celtic stock, especially Scots and Scots-Irish, made up a disproportionate amount of early settler waves, and thus often represented the first outsiders many indigenous people came into contact with. And bannocks would’ve been pretty regular fare among these groups. Especially around the deity festivals celebrated to mark the changing of the seasons – the Celtic calendar centered on four major feasts, with Samhain being the most important (Irish New Year’s).
During these Celtic festivals, specific bannocks were prepared accordingly, playing a role as pagan symbols. With perhaps the most symbolic bannock bread being that made for the pagan rituals held to mark Samhain.
Celtic festival of Lúnasa
As with most Irish dishes, the various bannock bread recipes put to use whatever was in abundance at that time. So what went into your bannock very much depended on the season. Lughnasadh (the modern Irish term is Lúnasa), the Celtic festival celebrated in early August, saw a more luxurious bannock recipe than the rest of the year, symbolically using the first cut of grain and livening things up with fruits fresh from the trees.
Lúnasa bannocks would’ve traditionally have been eaten by peasants celebrating the harvest, at a communal feasting table set up on a local hill. As this rambunctious Celtic festival sparked into life, Lunasa bannocks were cooked over the fire and consumed with a graceful thought. Honoring the earth goddess Tailitiu, mother of the original Irish saint, the all-conquering sky-god Lugh (from whom the festival derives its name).
Reflective thought emitted and bannock devoured, you and the rest of your village then got down to some serious dancing, matchmaking and bloodsports. Your brain high on poteen and your mind high on Irish food traditions.
Irish baking updates
Keep an eye on our Irish Baking page whenever you feel the seasons about to change, as we’ll be bringing you various quick recipes, including bannock recipes for each quarterly Celtic feast. That being said, if you do choose to partake in breakneck bloodsports or hip-busting Celtic breakdancing, hyped up on this Lúnasa bannock, you do so at your own risk. Irish Buzz promotes a policy of strict non-incited non-violence. Especially when it comes to bannock bread.
Historians of the Celtic Empire suggest bannocks may have been used to choose who would be ritually sacrificed at the next family-friendly Celtic fest….so Play Nice, everyone!
Easy camping recipe
Our bannock recipe makes a decent Lúnasa version of this Celtic quick bread. Use whatever flour you like; bannocks have been made from everything imaginable so do experiment. Self-raising is fine, too. You can whip up bannock bread super quickly on a griddle or a frying pan, but why not go the whole hog (and the full Irish bacon) by cooking it over a nice big fire pit?
Bannocks make for easy camping recipes and can be cooked so many different ways you’re unlikely to bore of them, even on the longest of hikes. It really just depends on what utensils you have to hand. If you’ve got a frying pan, plop on your dough. If you’ve only got a stick, wrap the it on that. If even a stick is hard to come by in the harsh terrain you abode, forego it and chuck your flattened dough straight onto the coals.
For this bannock recipe, we’ve haven’t quite gone full Bedouin on it, as we’ve used a Camping Pot. (For shame! Damn materialists, don’t you know that pot will end up owning you?)
Preparing bannock bread for Lúnasa
Embark on your bannock by Stirring your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (or the hood of your jacket, if you’re in the woods (in)adequately attired). Pop in 4 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil, then gradually Add Water, stopping when you get the just right (not too sticky and not too soppy, Goldilocks) consistency.
Bring the Dough together, Flour a surface and Knead the Dough a little. But not too much, just put it through a light workout. A minute of nice and easy finger action will do it.
Now that your Dough is Ready for It, Line your Pot with Paper (Cooking if you’re in the backyard, Yesterday’s if you’re up the side of a mountain) and Douse it in 1 Tablespoon of Oil. This will prevent sticking and help the bannock bread cook through. Due to its whimsical nature, an open fire can make cooking a bit tricky, as the uneven spread of heat often results in equally uneven cooking. Using Vegetable Oil helps offset this, as it has a higher burning point and so copes with the temperatures better than most.
Sweetening up your bannock recipe
These traditional Irish breads can be a bit too plain for some tastes, so if you want to sweeten up this bannock recipe, simply pop Half a Teaspoon of Sugar into your dough. This may not have been kosher at your Celtic fest of yore, but who is watching you?
Nuts would also have been used, especially natives like hazel and sweet chestnut, so do get creative with the recipe. Seeds are also a viable option. And currants, raisins, and dried fruits would certainly have made the odd appearance. We’ve wantonly defied our roots and worked in a Handful of very un-Irish Apricot, dried and chopped. If you’re still not feeling the sweet, you could also dust the cooked bannock with nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.
Cooking the bannock
Plop your Dough into the pot and Sling over that lovely fire you started a couple of hours back, and which is now pure charcoal and ticking over at a perfect heat. Cook the bannock through, testing to see if it’s done by piercing it with a skewer/stick/fingernail (backyard/woods/dessert). Cooking times will vary, so if the dough sticks to the probe, leave it in longer. When your bannock is ready, Decorate the top of it with a pat of Butter and Tuck in.
In original Celtic spirit, many mould their bannock into the shape of little men or animals. In true fake Celtic fad spirit, others still braid the dough. Done in an effort to make a quick bread version of their latest tattoo, no doubt. If you need that kind of attention, Irish Buzz suggests coating your bannock with an incendiary intoxicant of some kind.
Or learning how to embroider silver into your floury work of art. At least that way the recipient gets paid for the valuable eating time they’re missing out on by having to perform all that looking and cooing. Perhaps we’ll develop a cutting satire in the mold of our apple pie tarts parlor game to set the parameters, let’s see how much you irk us.
Skip the final smear and this bannock recipe is vegan and vegetarian hospitable.
Ingredients for Bannock Recipe
- 3 cups (360 g) Flour (you choose, a sturdy one)
- 1 cup (240 ml) Water
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 5 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- [1/2 tsp Sugar]
- [dried fruit, chopped]
- [nuts, seeds]
- Mix your Dry Ingredients in a Large Mixing Bowl.
- Add 4 tbsp Vegetable Oil, then Pour in Water until a balanced consistency is achieved.
- Bring the Dough together with your Hand, Remove it from the bowl (with said Hand), and then (Call in Other Hand from the Wings and) lightly Knead on a floured surface. Be careful not to knead too much – 10 times through will do.
- Line your Pot with Paper and Douse with 1 tbsp Oil.
- Pop your dough into the pot and cook over the fire. Cooking times will vary. Pierce bannock with a skewer to see if it’s ready. When the dough no longer sticks to the skewer, it’s done.
- Smear Butter on the finished quick bread (optional) and Eat (recommended).
Want to know more about the major Celtic festival of the summer? Check out our article on the roots of Lúnasa and all the delicious and brutal activities that mark this celestial holiday that’s still celebrated today.