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Donal Skehan’s favourite summer salads — fennel with lemon chicken, halloumi and chorizo, and bougie bacon and egg frisée

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Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

Flavour Bomb Salad. PIcture: Donal Skehan

Flavour Bomb Salad. PIcture: Donal Skehan

Bacon & Egg Frisée. Picture: Donal Skehan

Bacon & Egg Frisée. Picture: Donal Skehan

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Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

I don’t know about you, but I am in full-on summer mode at the moment, and my kitchen and cooking certainly reflects that. Salads, in some shape or form, are ever present on the dinner table, outdoors and indoors. Leaves simply dressed with a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and a spritz of lemon or apple cider vinegar, seasoned well and mixed with whatever soft herbs I can pick from the garden — it’s the beginning of every good summer meal.

In its most basic form, salad on the table is often an afterthought, treated as a side dish, but this week I want to introduce you to three recipes that bring it to the fore. We are not going full vegetarian here — more let’s call it reducetarian. Less meat, more greens and big flavour.

The combination of fennel and orange is one that works wonderfully together — bitter and sweet and intensely fresh tasting. I would happily eat it by itself, but with thinly sliced onions and herbs like dill and mint, it really shines in my recipe for lemon and oregano chicken thighs. I cook the thighs on the barbecue to give them deep, smoky char marks and crispy skin.

The marinade for the chicken is incredibly simple but highly effective — olive oil, lemon zest and orange zest and plenty of dried oregano. Seek out dried branches of oregano rather than the miserable stuff in jars. The leaves and buds crumbled into this marinade will make all the difference.

Next up is an embarrassingly simple salad that is a classic in our house from a time when both halloumi and chorizo were once a novelty on the island of Ireland. If you ever needed proof that something incredibly delicious can be made in a very short amount of time, then this is it! It’s packed with the punchy heat from the chorizo and salty squidginess from the halloumi, making it delicious and satisfying enough for a midweek meal. Speed up this recipe by buying sun-blushed tomatoes instead of roasting them yourself.

Lastly, for a taste of bougie French dinner vibes, try the bacon and egg frisée salad. It looks fabulously effortless, and there is something chic about having the confidence to serve something so simple for dinner with a glass of wine.

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad

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Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

Lemon & Oregano Chicken with Fennel Salad. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 1 hour + marinating time Serves: 4

For the chicken:
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
Juice of 1 orange
4 garlic cloves
50ml olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp thyme leaves
8 free-range, skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

For the salad:
2 oranges, peeled and segmented, juice reserved
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 head of chicory, leaves separated
Small handful of dill, roughly chopped
Small handful of fresh mint, leaves picked
1 tsp Dijon mustard
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Method
1. In the bowl of a small food processor or spice grinder, add the juice and zest of half a lemon, orange juice, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, dried oregano and thyme leaves and blitz until smooth.
2. Pour over the chicken thighs and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour and for up to 24 hours.
3. When ready to cook, heat a barbecue, placing the coals only on one side, or place a griddle pan over a high heat. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, skin side down, until charred and golden. If using the barbecue move the chicken thighs to the side with no coals underneath and add the lid. Cook for 25-30 minutes, until the meat is tender. If using the griddle pan over a hob, once the thighs are charred and golden, move to a tray and place into the oven at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 25-30 minutes until cooked through.
4. To segment the oranges, using a flexible knife, slice a little off the top and bottom of the orange so you can place it flat onto a chopping board. Using the knife, slice the skin and pith from the orange, following its natural curve — be careful not to take off too much of the flesh! Holding the orange in one hand, use the knife to slice gently in between the membrane of each segment, prising them out from the centre until completely removed. You should be left with a segment of just flesh. Repeat until you have removed all the segments. Squeeze the leftover bit of orange over a small bowl to reserve the juice. Place all segments into a different small bowl.
5. Using a mandoline, thinly slice the fennel and red onion into a bowl and add the chicory leaves, orange segments and half of the dill and mint.
6. Add the Dijon mustard and extra-virgin olive oil to the bowl with the reserved orange juice. Season well with salt and pepper and whisk to emulsify. Pour the dressing over the salad and then place onto a serving platter. Scatter over the remaining herbs and serve with the cooked chicken on a separate platter.

Flavour Bomb Salad

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Flavour Bomb Salad. PIcture: Donal Skehan

Flavour Bomb Salad. PIcture: Donal Skehan

Flavour Bomb Salad. PIcture: Donal Skehan

Serves: 2 Time: 35 mins

Ingredients
300g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
100g chorizo sausage, cut into chunky discs
200g halloumi cheese, cut into 1cm thick slices
1 Baby Gem lettuce, leaves separated
200g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ red onion, peeled and finely sliced

For the dressing:
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Toss the tomatoes in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and place in a roasting tin. Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes until they have shrunk and become caramelised.
3. Meanwhile, dry fry the chorizo in a frying pan over a high heat until the discs are sizzling and coloured. Remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Retain the oil the chorizo has produced in the pan.
4. Place the frying pan back over the heat and fry the halloumi slices on both sides until they have a nice golden colour.
5. To make a dressing, pour the lemon juice into a bowl, then add the cider vinegar and garlic. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and whisk to combine.
6. In a large bowl, toss together the Baby Gem lettuce leaves with the dressing, chickpeas, chorizo and red onion and transfer to serving plates. Top with the halloumi slices and roasted cherry tomatoes and serve straight away.

Bacon & Egg Frisée

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Bacon & Egg Frisée. Picture: Donal Skehan

Bacon & Egg Frisée. Picture: Donal Skehan

Bacon & Egg Frisée. Picture: Donal Skehan

Time: 15 mins Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
200g smoked bacon lardons
2 slices of sourdough bread, cut into 1cm cubes
150-200g frisée lettuce, torn
4 large free-range eggs
2 tbsp chives, snipped
For the vinaigrette dressing:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Method
1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the bacon for 2-3 minutes until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Fry the bread in the bacon fat until crisp. Then drain on kitchen paper.
2. Put the lettuce in a salad bowl and add the bacon and crispy bread.
3. Mix the vinegar with the mustard, tarragon, sea salt and black pepper. Then whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil to form a vinaigrette.
4. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. One at a time, crack the eggs directly into the simmering water. Poach them for 2-3 minutes so the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny. Drain with a slotted spoon on kitchen paper.
5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine. Divide between four plates and top each with an egg. Scatter with the chives and serve.


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