Irish Brown Soda Bread

This method for baking Irish Soda Bread was shown to me by my mother, who was shown by her mother so it’s at least seven or eight decades old. I’m sure my grandmother was shown how to make this by someone of the previous generation so who knows how long this bread has been made in our family. It’s true parampara bread!


6 ounces of Cream Plain Flour (white flour)

1 teaspoon salt

Half teaspoon sugar

1 ounce butter (at room temperature) or 1 tablespoon oil

12 ounces coarse wholemeal flour (or non-coarse if you cam’t get it)

4 ounces oat flakes (optional)

4 ounces wheatgerm (optional)

Approx half a litre of buttermilk

White flour for kneading

A little more butter for greasing the dish

First of all, you will need to have the right dish. I use a cast iron casserole dish with a lid. If you bake the bread without a lid it will be very crispy on top. I always use the lid.

Grease your dish with a little butter and put it into the oven to heat up.

Preheat your oven to 240℃, 475℉ or gas mark 9 (in other words, very hot).

While the oven and the dish are heating up, put 6 ounces of cream plain flour (white), 1 teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of sugar into a sieve and sieve them into a large mixing bowl. It is best to have a bowl with steep sides as this will make the mixing easier later.

Rub 1 ounce of butter or 1 teaspoon of oil into the mixture.

Add in 4 ounces of oats or oat flakes, 4 ounces of wheatgerm and 12 ounces of coarse wholemeal flour (the oats and the wheatgerm are optional, so if you don’t have them just substitute the same weight in wholemeal flour i.e. with no oats or wheatgerm just add a total of 20 ounces of wholemeal flour).

Make a well in the middle of your mixture.

Pour the buttermilk into the well, a little at a time, mixing it evenly with a knife into the rest of the mixture. The resulting dough should be sticky to the touch but not wet (if it is not sticky add some more buttermilk, if it’s too wet then you’ve added too much…don’t panic).

Put some white flour onto a bread board and empty your dough onto it.

Now comes the really important part,

With a little flour on your hands, knead the dough for a minute or two (the longer you knead it, the more dense the finished product will be, so it’s really down to personal taste). The technique for kneading takes a little time to master but this youtube clip is the closest I could find to the way I was taught.

If you added too much buttermilk into the bowl at the mixing stage you can keep adding white flour to the board as you’re kneading so the dough will become a little more dry (you will get better at judging how much to use with experience). The finished bread will be less brown and more white if you keep adding more white flour but for your first attempt, just try to get the dough so it’s no longer sticking to the board.

When you’ve finished kneading the dough remove the dish from the oven (it should be piping hot) and lift the dough into it. It will make a very satisfying sizzling sound as it goes in. Press the dough so it fills the dish all the way to the edges. I usually sprinkle some sesame and pumpkin seeds on top at this stage (press them into the dough so that they won’t fall out when you upturn the dish to remove the bread at the end) and put across into the top of the bread with a knife so that it will rise a little better.

Place the dish back into the oven for 40 minutes (35 for fan-assisted ovens) with the lid on.

When the time is up, turn the dish upside down and the bread will fall out.  If you’re not sure that it’s baked enough rap your knuckles on the base of the bread (as if you were knocking on a door) and it should make a hollow sound. If not, then it needs another five minutes or so.

Place it on a cooling rack until it has cooled down.

Enjoy with the mushroom and nut paté that was posted above.

Absolutely delicious!

Mushroom and Nut Paté

Our first recipe is something that we always have at Christmas. We have still to meet anyone who doesn’t absolutely love it and, more often than not, they ask for the recipe. Served hot or cold this is an absolute winner. It has a little red wine or port in it but all the alcohol will be burned off in the cooking process, so it is completely alcohol-free. It can be baked in individual sized pie-dishes and served in the dish, or in a larger tin and then cut into smaller sections.

It was given to us by our friend Aura Stone.


50g brazil nuts

50g Cashews

50g Walnuts

50g Pecans

1 oz butter

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Large onion (chopped)

1 Clove garlic (crushed)

6 0z or 125g mushrooms

1 Tsp mixed herbs (Oregano or thyme is good)

1 heaped tsp Marmite (or miso, Marmite is better)

2 Tbsp tamari (wheat free soy sauce)

good glug of port or red wine

¼ pint water

2 oz or 50g breadcrumbs

1 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Mix and grind nuts. Cook onion, garlic, mushrooms and herbs in oil and butter (in a covered pan) for 7-8 minutes. Stir in Marmite until blended, then add tamari, wine or port and water. Heat until simmering then cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, add nuts and bread crumbs.

Make a paste with flour and a little water. Add to other ingredients. Add salt and pepper and put into greased tin. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool before turning out of tin.


The paté is best served with warm home-made brown bread. Watch this space for the brown bread recipe! If you make both of these things your home will smell like santa’s grotto 🙂

Please let us know if you make it, and how it turned out.

A beautiful verse from 2,500 years ago

As the year draws to a close I thought I’d share one of the most beautiful verses from Indian scripture which I have read. This verse comes from the Isa Upanishad, which is part of the Yajur Veda (the Vedas are the oldest of all Indian scripture).

All is perfect, so perfectly perfect!

Whatever being lives, moves

And breathes on Earth

At every level from atom

To galaxy is absolutely perfect in its place

Precise and choreographed,

Because “That” flows from the Glory of the Infinite

The Lord

The Self


The Source,

Awareness, Peace, and Love,

And is therefore perfect.

When you have surrendered your ego

To “That”

You will find true happiness.

Never ever envy the place of

Any other man or woman

(Translation by Alan Jacobs)

Yoga and the Isle of Man TT races

I watched quite a compelling film yesterday evening; “TT: Closer to the Edge”. You can watch the trailer here but I can just explain the gist of it to you.

It’s a documentary film which follows some of the competitors in the Isle of Man TT races. The TT races are a series of five motorbike races which take place every year around the winding and narrow roads of the Isle of Man at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. A lot of the riders are injured every year and there have been a lot of deaths over the history of the races.

So why do they do it? Well, obviously, it’s thrilling to take your life in your hands. And of course it takes a certain type of personality to decide to dedicate their lives to the sport. But as I was watching, it dawned on me that the attraction these people have to the sport is not just for thrills. No doubt they are ‘adrenaline junkies’ but it goes much deeper than that.

There is certainly, to my mind, an equivalent here to the practice of yoga. On some level the riders are approaching Patanjali’s definition of Yoga.

Yogaś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

(Sūtra I:2)

Let me put it another way, thanks to a translation by TKV Desikachar; “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain focus in that direction without any distractions”.

Whether or not the riders would use that type of terminology is irrelevant. There is a level at which all thought is absent.

In the film “Senna” (about one of the greatest formula 1 racing drivers of all time)  Ayrton Senna relates an experience he had in the Monaco Grand Prix  in 1988, in which  he had built up an enormous lead over his closest rival, “That day I suddenly realised that I was no longer driving it… conscious, and I was in a different dimension. The circuit for me was a tunnel, which I was just going, going, going and I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding”.

Many sports require such an effort (whether it’s true sheer physical exertion or total concentration) that these experiences can spontaneously come about. The cyclist Sean Kelly comes to my mind, in particular his famous 1985 time trial in the nissan classic. And also snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record-breaking maximum break in just over 5 minutes at the 1997 world championships.

My experience as a musician has given me glimpses of this level of absorption too. One can sometimes completely forget one’s-self and be momentarily caught-up in the in the act of creating something. Many artists, including painters, musicians, authors, playwrights and dancers are compelled to continue with the pursuit of their art in the hope that they can tap into this level of total concentration. It is the process of creating the art, rather than beholding the finished product, that drives the greatest artists.

So what is this state of consciousness?

It could be described as the seventh limb of yoga. Dhyana. That is ‘the state of consciousness in which concentration (dharana) is continuous’. The reason some of us are compelled to seek out these experiences over and over is that they are fleeting. If we could abide in total absorption that would be the blissful state of Samadhi. Through the creation of art or through focussing our minds via sport we are only ever going to get one step below the pinnacle of human consciousness.

The ultimate goal of Yoga practice is a continuous state of Samadhi. If we don’t know what we’re looking for that then how can we achieve it? The riders of the TT races may think that they are thrill seekers but I believe that, actually, they are truth seekers. They are, perhaps unwittingly, tapping into something of the truth about the nature of consciousness and temporarily stopping all conscious thought. They are willing, it seems, to put their lives on the line to do it.

Ashtanga Yoga: The no-frills approach

Sometimes I wonder what people think when I tell them that I practise Yoga. I think very few of them would have a clear picture in their heads of exactly what it is that I do while they are all still sleeping.

It is my guess that the predominant mental picture that people have, is that I do a few stretches and maybe some deep breathing, sniffing incense, sitting serenely, buddha-like, on my yoga mat and chanting Oooooooooommmmmmmmmmm.

The truth is that, actually, that is a small part of yoga practice but it paints a much-too-comfortable picture.

Ashtanga Yoga is hard work.

It’s not all lavender-scented eye-pillows and getting-in-touch-with-your-emotions.

It is not for pampering yourself. The purpose of Yoga is not relaxation. Some days I feel extremely relaxed after practice, some days I don’t.

People tell me that they’d like to try Yoga but they prefer things that are more physical, or that make them fit, or that make them sweat. Let me just say, for the record, that I have run, cycled, rowed, lifted weights and done thousands of sit-ups in my time. Nothing I have done has been more physical than Ashtanga Yoga. Nothing I have done has produced a more profuse sweat than Ashtanga Yoga has. And nothing I have done has matched the physical benefits I have received from this practice.

This yoga method is a method of hard work and discipline, which is designed to result in the purification of body and mind, through the practice of physical postures and breath control. Purification of body and breath in this way leads to the purification of the mind. The ultimate goal of yoga is to escape from the constant mental chatter, which is going on in all of our minds.

Ashtanga Yoga differs from new-agey spirituality because it is based on something that is very real (we could even say mundane); the body. There is nothing wishy-washy about this practice. You either do or don’t do (to paraphrase Yoda). It is not escapism. You are forced to face yourself every day and observe your own reactions. In this way you get to know yourself a little more all the time. When it becomes clear what your habitual thought-processes are then you can begin to see through them towards the true Self (note the capital ‘S’). This, ultimately, is called self-realisation or enlightenment.

Ashtanga Yoga has great physical benefits but that is not the ‘point’ of the practice. Pattabhi Jois said, “This yoga is not for exercise. Yoga is showing where to look for the soul – that is all”.

So the reason for the title of this blog is that I see that yoga is being marketed as the ultimate in relaxation and serenity, and yes that can sometimes be a pleasant by-product of the practice. But do not be completely fooled. In the Ashtanga practice we are encouraged to take the ‘no-frills’ approach.

You will not be told to ‘feel like you are floating like a cloud’ or to ‘feel like their is a rainbow coming out of your chest’ in a traditional Ashtanga class. But what you will receive is an extremely powerful method, which it is then up to you to practice. As Sharath is so fond of saying; “Anyone can practise”. Eddie Stern adds, “Not everyone wants to practise”.

I can only encourage you to get onto your mat every day and see what happens. If you feel like there’s a rainbow coming out of our chest then let me know. I know a good doctor!


No frills in Guruji’s old shala in Mysore

What does ‘Ashtanga’ mean

The word Ashtanga in the Sanskrit language means eight limbs (astau means eight and anga means limb).

These eight limbs are

  • Yama
  • Niyama
  • Asana
  • Pranayama
  • Pratyahara
  • Dharana
  • Dhyana
  • Samadhi

Ok, I know, they’re in Sanskrit too so that’s no help. Well, I’ll try to explain what each of these words mean without getting too technical.


There are five yama (or yamas, if we follow the incorrect custom of pluralising them using the English language ‘s’).

  • Ahimsa
  • Satya
  • Asteya
  • Brahmacharya
  • Aparigraha

Yes, Sanskrit again!

Translated into English they mean,

  • Non-violence
  • Truthfulness
  • Not stealing
  • Temperance
  • Not coveting

I won’t go into any further explanations of yama here but as you can see they form a basic guide to living harmoniously with the world outside our-selves.


 Niyama is also five-fold

  • Saucha
  • Santosha
  • Tapas
  • Swadhyaya
  • Ishwarapranidhana

 That is,

  • Cleanliness/Purity
  • Contentment
  • Self-discipline
  • Study (self study and study of yogic texts)
  • Devotion to a power greater than our-selves

Again, a detailed commentary is not what I’m going for here, so it will suffice to point out that niyama form a basic guide to living harmoniously within our-selves


Asana is what most people think of when they think of Yoga. Asana  is the physical practice of yoga postures. Guruji (Pattabhi Jois) recommended that we start our yoga practice with this, the third limb, because the first two limbs are very difficult. If we try to take even one of the yama or niyama and practise it in its purest form we will see how right he was. Mahatma Gandhi is an shining example of somebody who practised absolute non-violence (ahimsa) and he changed the course of history.

It is more realistic and practical for most of us to start with asana.

First we must make our bodies healthy. Otherwise, how can we think of purifying our minds and gaining enlightenment? If illness is in the body we are pre-occupied with that and there is no space for spiritual practice. When asana becomes firmly grounded then yama and niyama happen automatically.


The practice of breath control taught in many yoga traditions is pranayama. In his Yoga Sutras (the cornerstone of yoga practice and philosophy) Patanjali states

Tasmin sati svasa prasvasayor gati vicchedah pranayamah

 That being acquired, the movements of inhalation and exhalation should be controlled. This is pranayama.

(Sutra II:49)

The word ‘that’ refers to steadiness in the practice of asana.  So we should take it that pranayama is not to be practised until we have firmly established our asana practice. Guruji did not teach pranayama until the student had completed the second series of the ashtanga vinyasa method.

With reference to pranayama Patanjali also states

Tatah ksiyate prakasavaranam

As its result, the veil over the inner Light is destroyed

(Sutra II:52)

Dharanasu ca yogyata manasah

And the mind becomes fit for concentration

(Sutra II:53)


 Pratyahara is the bridge between the previous four, external, limbs and the following three, internal, limbs. It can be translated as the withdrawal of the senses. In other words our senses turn inwards and our minds are no longer distracted by the outside world. All of our focus is internal.

Tatah parama vasyatendriyanam

Then follows complete mastery over the senses

(Sutra II:55)

Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi

The last three limbs are inseparable and follow on from each other. Dharana is usually translated as ‘concentration’ and technically it is the state of consciousness in which the mind is aware of only one object or idea. Dhyana is translated as ‘meditation’ and it is the state of consciousness in which concentration (dharana) is continuous. Samadhi is the state of consciousness in which the mind and the object of meditation are as one. The student in the state of samadhi ‘forgets themselves’. This is sometimes translated as ‘bliss’ and is the highest form of Yoga practice.

Above is a very brief explanation of the eight limbs. There are thousands of books written on the subject of Yoga from both a philosophical and a practical point of view and it is a vast subject. However, theoretical knowledge is useless unless we have practical knowledge. Guruji was famous for saying that yoga is “99% practice and 1% theory”. We can practise asana and, following that, pranayama. According to Guruji, if we do this, then “all is coming”. He was telling us that all of the other limbs will spontaneously happen (provided we are conscious of yama and niyama) and we will experience that state of yoga called samadhi.


 To hear Guruji speak a little about this you can watch this video

Our shiny new website

So I decided to build this website myself and, well it was both easier and more difficult than I thought it would be. Having never done anything like this before I was daunted at having to “design a website”. I mean, where do you start? Well my fear was soon turned into curiosity as I realized, actually, this is pretty straightforward (thank you If there’s anything I don’t know how to do I can just type it into Google and, as if by magic, I find that the answer is there. Somebody somewhere has already asked the question. So… easy peasy.

Well, no.

The actual designing was the easy bit (although error strewn and time-consuming) and I learned loads of new words (like “search engine optimization” – should it be or or or or……I’m sure we’ve chosen the wrong one).

I realized that, actually, I have to try to describe the vast area of Ashtanga Yoga, Mysore Style, pay justice to Guruji, Sharath and all the other practitioners who have gone before us while trying to be as informative as possible and give any visitors to the site all the information, and encouragement, they need to come to a class (because once they come, they always love it). And of course writing about yourself is always difficult.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, this is our new website and we hope you like it. Having a website makes us feel very grown-up. If it means one person discovers the power of Ashtanga Yoga then it will not have been a waste of time.



We’re offering online classes for the duration of the level 3, 4 or 5 restrictions in Ireland. Book your spot here.

The next moon-day is Wednesday the 13th of January. There are no classes on that day.

The online classes will stop after the evening class on December 23rd and restart on January 1st at 9am

  • 7 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2
  • (087) 2780 559
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