Make the most of sum­mer

Travel is good for the taste­buds as well as the soul: here is a flavour of some re­cent so­journs

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD - DONAL SKE­HAN

Like most peo­ple, my sum­mer has been busy. Part of my job re­quires quite a bit of travel and this sum­mer has been no dif­fer­ent. From a food per­spec­tive this has al­ways pro­vided plenty of in­spi­ra­tion and – bar dodgy air­port meals and de­lays – it’s al­ways an op­por­tu­nity to savour new cul­tures and cuisines.

Our first sum­mer in Los An­ge­les was a hot one. To beat the heat we ex­plored dishes such as slow- braised meat tacos, Korean bul­gogi and kim­chi and fresh pasta dishes from trendy Ital­ian pop- ups; only a small taste of the city’s di­verse food scene. Time in Swe­den sat­is­fied crav­ings for all things seafood with piles of prawns and cray­fish en­joyed with dill and baby pota­toes, while Ire­land gave me my fill of fa­mil­iar­ity and a re­minder of our unique food prove­nance.

While I write this I’ve just fin­ished four days work­ing in Bangkok – a true ad­ven­ture in eat­ing. Spicy pa­paya salad with peanuts and dried shrimp, grilled snake fish, fiery tom yum soups and blood clams – the food is sim­ply cap­ti­vat­ing. This week’s recipes are a nod to the sup­pers I’ve been cook­ing through the sum­mer: grilled meats with sim­ple sides that al­low for min­i­mal has­sle.

Htip­iti is a Greek feta cheese and roasted red pep­per spread that re­sults in a sweet, smoky and salty con­coc­tion that works well as a dip for toasted pitta chips or spread on toasted sour­dough bread and topped with roasted veg­eta­bles for an easy starter. Pro­nounced “h- tee- pee- tee”, the sauce is said to be named after the tra­di­tional method of pound­ing the cheese in a pes­tle and mor­tar to pre­pare it. In this recipe it pro­vides a spiky sweet­ness to thin slices of striploin steak cooked medium rare on a hot grid­dle pan. It’s a treat served as it is but the ad­di­tion of a puy lentil salad makes it a meal.

The yogurt mari­nade for the In­dian grilled chicken is one I use to trans­form a tra­di­tional Sun­day roast into some­thing a lit­tle more al­ter­na­tive. A fresh cucumber pickle, and stems of baby broc­coli charred un­til ten­der, give this chicken dish its edge. For the cucumber pickle mix in a bowl the sugar and vine­gar un­til the sugar has dis­solved. Mix in the salt and shal­lot, and add the thin slices of cucumber. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight.

To make the mari­nade, mix all the in­gre­di­ents in a large bowl and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

Add the chicken to the mix, and leave to mar­i­nate for at least four hours – or, prefer­ably, for up to 24 hours.

Once ready to cook, put the broc­coli in a small mix­ing bowl and toss in oil to coat. Sea­son gen­er­ously with sea salt and ground black pep­per.

On a grid­dle pan or BBQ on high, cook the chicken skin side down for 6- 8 min­utes, and then turn for a fur­ther 6- 8 min­utes un­til cooked all the way through.

Add the broc­coli to the pan or grill and cook for six min­utes, turn­ing reg­u­larly un­til ten­der.

Ar­range the chicken pieces on a serv­ing plat­ter with the charred broc­coli and cucumber slices.

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