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How to use leftover baked bean cans to make traditional Irish soda bread

As a born and bred Dubliner, Anna Haugh knows a thing or two about how to make soda bread.

The chef and restaurateur remembers her aunt Sadie baking it fresh every week during her childhood, measuring the ingredients with her hands – never using scales.

If the idea of baking bread by eye fills you with fear, Haugh has “taken my talented aunty’s guesswork out of baking” with a recipe from her new cookbook: “If you follow it, you are sure to be sinking your teeth into delicious homemade bread without any trouble.”

She says: “Traditional Irish soda bread was literally made from just buttermilk, salt, flour and bicarbonate of soda, and was best eaten on the day it was baked.

“I’ve brought the recipe up to date and added butter, sugar and egg, which makes the crumb softer and allows it to stay fresh for up to three days, so there’s less chance that any of it will go to waste.”

Her advice is to keep it in the fridge, so it’ll last longer and be perfect for toast.

Even better, this ingenious recipe uses something you’ll likely have lying around the house – tins of baked beans.

Anna Haugh is the chef-owner of Myrtle restaurant in London
Anna Haugh is the chef-owner of Myrtle restaurant in London (Laura Edwards/PA)

Haugh says: “A clever way to use leftover cans from your baked beans is to wash them out and use them for this recipe. If you don’t have any cans, a 500-gram loaf tin will do.”

Still not convinced you should try this recipe yourself? Let Haugh explain what it really means to her.

“When my mother fed us homemade bread, she thought she was doing what my grandmother did, feeding and nourishing her children,” she says.

“What she didn’t realise is that she gave me warm, happy memories of eating and this is something I hope to create for my son.”

Soda bread

Makes: 1 x 500g loaf, or 2 baked bean can-sized loaves, or enough for 4 generously


30g salted butter, plus more for the cans or tin

300g coarse wholemeal flour, plus more for the cans or tin

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

25g demerara sugar

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

300g buttermilk


1. Preheat your oven to 200C fan. Butter and flour two old baked bean cans, or a 500 gram loaf tin. It’s important to have your oven preheated and your cans or tin prepared before starting the recipe, as once the dough is mixed it is best baked immediately.

2. Melt the 30 grams of butter and leave it to cool slightly.

3. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix so they are evenly dispersed. Make a well in the centre, then add the cooled melted butter to the well with the egg and buttermilk and mix well and quickly with a spoon. Your mix should be wet and drop off the spoon.

4. Working fast, divide the dough between the prepared cans or tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 160C fan and cook for a further 35 minutes.

5. Take the bread out of the cans or tin and let cool. Once cool, if you wrap it in clingfilm it will stay fresh for longer. This is delicious just with butter, or wonderful with smoked salmon.

‘Cooking With Anna: Modern Home Cooking With Irish Heart’ by Anna Haugh (Bloomsbury, £26).

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