Light summer suppers that deliver on punchy flavour is what this week's recipes are all about. Much needed in our house, if I'm honest. As we hurtle towards the summer months in some sort of relentless Covid-19 daze, I'm thankful for the change in seasons to remind us of the bounty of summer ingredients we can look forward to.
As I juggle the day job from the kitchen table with my recent appointment as chief nappy consultant and short-order cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family, the routine of dinner time in our house allows for a much-needed signal to the end to the working day. I've been attempting to herald the longer, brighter days with some lighter, vibrant meals. If all the current kitchen time is driving you round the bend, you may find respite in a barbecue in the back garden to grill up some fiery jerk chicken. An old favourite in our house - to serve it with a sweet mango salsa is true Caribbean beachside escapism.
One of the first jobs I worked at was in a Swedish restaurant in Gothenburg serving up traditional Christmas fare - I credit this experience with my love of dill, an often underused herb that grows well in Ireland. While it pairs beautifully with the Scandi-inspired potato and hot smoked salmon salad here, its uses should not solely be relegated to delicate dishes - it makes a surprise appearance alongside Vietnamese flavours in the classic Hanoi dish "Cha Ca", a turmeric-spiced fish feast served with noodles and piles of green herbs. I've also started picking the fronds into dressed salad leaves with other soft herbs like coriander to bring brightness and freshness to summer salads.
Pork chops were a staple ingredient of my mother's home-cooked meals and they make a regular appearance now in our kitchen when I can get my hands on some really good quality free-range pork loin chops with the skin on. In the recipe I share today they are dusted with Chinese five spice, a great kitchen cupboard ingredient that pairs well with the pork. Served to the table with a shaved red cabbage slaw dusted with ground green pistachios and a generously seasoned salad leaves dressed lightly with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, it's effortless and elegant mid-week eating.
This jerk chicken marinade is quite quirky and has lots of interesting flavours like lime juice, cinnamon, honey and ginger. Served straight from the BBQ with this mango salsa, it's total sunshine food.
For the chicken:
1 large free-range chicken, cut into breasts, wings and legs
2 scotch bonnet chillies, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
3 tsp of allspice
1 tsp of ground nutmeg
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of dried oregano
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp of honey
6 tbsp of tomato ketchup
For the salsa:
2 ripe mangos, peeled, stone removed and chopped into chunks
½ cucumber, centre removed and diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp of olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1. Place the chicken in a large resealable bag and add in the rest of the chicken ingredients. Seal the bag and give it a good shake until everything is completely combined and the chicken is evenly coated. Leave in the fridge to marinate for at least two hours, or overnight if you've time.
2. Combine all the ingredients for the salsa (except the coriander) in a mixing bowl and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Mix through the coriander when you're ready to serve.
3. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you are ready to cook. Get the BBQ to a medium-high heat and cook the chicken pieces for 15 minutes, turning only once during the cooking time, until the chicken is completely cooked through. The different pieces will take slightly different cooking times, so a good way to check if they are cooked is to insert a meat thermometer at the thickest part and check that it registers 82.2˚C for drumsticks and thighs and 73.9˚C for breasts.
4. Serve the chicken with the mango salsa and some couscous if you need a bit more sustenance!
Seek out the best quality pork chops you can find, preferably with the skin on which is arguably the best bit of this dish. The addition of a little touch of Chinese five spice gives this classic combination a hint of the Orient. Serve with a selection of summer vegetables and dressed salad leaves.
2 tbsp olive oil
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 2cm (¾in) pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into thin wedges
1 tsp fennel seeds
Good pinch of Chinese five spice
2 thin ethically reared pork chops, skin on
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onions and fennel for 5-6 minutes over a medium-high heat until they begin to soften and become golden.
2. Add the spices and cook for a minute more, tossing the onions and fennel until coated, then remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Increase the heat and fry the chops for 2-3 minutes on each side until lovely and golden and nearly cooked through.
4. Return the spring onions and fennel to the pan with a splash of water and the vinegar. Bubble for 1 minute, then serve.
A simple and elegant assembly-job supper. Boil some potatoes, flake the hot smoked salmon (I love Burren Smokehouse's selection) and you have the building blocks for an ideal al fresco meal. Pile up with easy additions like salty capers from a jar, chives, a tumble of watercress, thinly sliced red onion or soft boiled eggs.
500g baby potatoes
200g hot smoked salmon
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cucumber, finely sliced
Small handful of dill, leaves picked
Sea salt & ground black pepper
For the dressing:
200g of créme fraîche
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1. Place the potatoes in a pot of cold heavily salted water and bring to the boil over a high heat. Simmer gently for 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and allow to cool before slicing in half.
2. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Adjust seasoning to your liking.
3. Assemble the potatoes in serving dishes, topping with hot smoked salmon broken into pieces with your fingers, finely sliced spring onions, cucumber slices and dill fronds.
4. Spoon generous dollops of the dressing over each plate and serve.
Sheelin Conlon runs The Kind, a zero-waste lifestyle store specialising in sustainable and eco-friendly products for the home. Items like beeswax wraps to replace cling film, upcycled yoga mats, Sómas Irish candles and stainless steel sandwich boxes are lovely additions to more mindful lifestyles. While the shop is closed during lockdown, you can order from their online shop which delivers across Ireland. thekind.co
Wild atlantic kitchen
Maura O'Connell Foley is a force to be reckoned with, and her life story in food unfolds beautifully across the pages of her stunning debut cookbook, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen. An example of Ireland's food past and present, the grand dame of Kerry's food scene may not be a household name, but her pedigree in food shines through in her sage advice throughout the recipes.
Cheesy does it
Easily one of the ingredients I missed the most living away the past couple of years was Irish cheese. Sheridans cheesemongers was one of the first online orders I put in once I arrived home. Gubbeen, Carrig Bru (a beer-washed, earthy and buttery firm cheese) and Templegall (a creamy nutty cheese), all from Cork, were highlights. sheridanscheesemongers.com