Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen
The Stables 52A Ballymorran Road
Killinchy, Northern Ireland BT23 6U
+44 7711 4848 50 • traceysfarmhousekitchen.com
A 17th-century thatched cottage on the shores of the Celtic Sea surrounded by the Mourne Mountains, there are few places more scenic to learn to make the breads of Northern Ireland than at Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen. After a quick 30-minute journey from Belfast, visitors pull up to a cream-colored cottage adorned with potted flowers—and a frying skillet—decorating the exterior walls. Tracey Jeffery emerges to greet them with a hearty Irish welcome.
Tracey may offer a relaxed (no weighing or measuring!), convivial baking setting and “less exact” style of bread-baking, but don’t let that fool you. She takes her bread seriously. For her, it’s personal, not only because she’s hosting you in her home, but because she’s sharing one of the most beloved, centuries-old crafts of her people. Soda farls, potato farls, and wheaten bread are quintessential parts of her culture. “People across Northern Ireland make these griddle breads every day, and I’m very proud of these breads because they are totally ours,” Tracey says. “You can’t find them anywhere else in the world, not even in Dublin.”
In Tracey’s Traditional Bread Making class, you’ll bake in the very kitchen that Tracey enjoys meals with her two sons and husband, who lovingly restored and converted the farmhouse into a family home that now doubles as a cookery school and a tearoom. As Tracey fires up the griddle, it quickly becomes apparent that this teacher is particularly sharp—she has memorized and is effortlessly referring to everyone in the class by name within the first few minutes—and has an inherently deep understanding of the region, explaining to patrons the compelling history of the land and its people. “The breads were traditionally cooked over an open fire on a cast-iron griddle and brought to us by the Scottish, which means they are an Ulster Scots’—who migrated to Northern Island in the 1600s—tradition,” Tracey says. She walks the class through traditional Ulster Scot baking terms, like what it means to “harn” the bread and why one calls it a “farl” (meaning “four parts”).
As she shows the students how to make each bread, Tracey shares the origin of the key ingredients. Just about every ingredient needed, and there are very few, is made or grown within a 10-mile radius of the farm—from the self-rising soda bread flour milled locally to the award-winning, hand-churned butter she gets from a neighboring farm and the iconic Northern Irish potatoes that are grown just 5 miles up the road.
Then, it’s the students’ turn. They start with the farls, soda then potato, and finish with the wheaten bread. In Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen, it’s okay to get a little messy. Students learn how the potato bread mixture should feel between their hands just before it’s ready to go on the griddle and when to add more flour or more buttermilk to the soda bread dough. “It’s all about the texture,” Tracey says, as she tilts her bowl over to show the class.
Once their bread is done, they gather around the farmhouse table to feast on golden, warm-off-the-griddle creations with an added bonus of Tracey’s buttermilk fruit soda bannock loaf and, of course, strong Irish tea, piping hot.
For those interested in simply enjoying afternoon tea and a cooking demonstration in Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen, there are regular offerings—available by reservation only—that are sure to please and in keeping with governmental COVID-19 recommendations. “My guests enjoy watching me make soda focaccia bread, which only takes about 10 minutes,” explains Tracey. “The bread goes into the oven, and my guests start their afternoon tea.”
Tracey serves an array of savory and sweet tea foods, whose flavors change regularly because she uses in-season produce from local suppliers, as well as herbs and vegetables from her own garden. And naturally, there are endless pots of hot tea. She gives guests choices of herbal brews and classic teas like green, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, jasmine, and a decaffeinated black tea. However, in true Irish fashion, Tracey’s personal favorite is an unflavored black tea.
“I use a delicious strong Belfast brew, Thompson’s Family tea,” she says. “I use tea leaves and not tea bags, as you get a fuller flavour, and we use tea strainers, which I think guests love because they’re traditional and genteel.”
The idea for doing the country-style afternoon tea in her home came to Tracey during the first coronavirus lockdown of 2020. “Initially I had planned just to try the afternoon tea for a few months, but it has been a big success. Guests just love to come into your home and to feel the warmth of an Irish welcome,” she shares. “I will be offering this year-round!”
- 1½ pounds (680 grams) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- to 1¼-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ cup (94 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
- In a small saucepan, combine potatoes and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high, and cook until potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Add butter, salt, and pepper, and mash potatoes until smooth. Let cool slightly.
- Place 2 cups (446 grams) mashed potatoes on a heavily floured surface, reserving remaining mashed potatoes for another use. Add ½ cup (63 grams) flour, and knead until a stiff, pliable dough forms. Add up to remaining ¼ cup (31 grams) flour, if necessary. Divide dough in half. Flour work surface again and roll or pat each dough portion to ⅓-inch thickness. Using a knife, cut each portion into 6 pieces (12 total).
- Lightly butter a cast-iron griddle or skillet, and heat over medium heat.
- Shake or brush any excess flour off dough pieces. Working in batches, cook farls until golden brown, slightly puffed, and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (The farls should have patchy brown spots when nearly done.)