In an attempt to keep our heads screwed on during lockdown, myself and my wife Sofie take it in turns to get out for some fresh air by ourselves most mornings, before the onslaught of daily demands kick off from our two under three.
My routine is get out early before everyone is up, take some deep breaths and clear the mud in my mind in an attempt to get some clarity on the day. It's quite the juggling act to get little slivers of time by a laptop before the distractions of nap-time, lunch-time, potty training and driving the choo-choo train around the track take precedence.
Getting this walk in the morning is a little semblance of self-love and we've stuck to it pretty well for the last few weeks. The other morning as I pulled on my shorts and a jumper, I was quickly reminded of the indecisive Irish weather I grew up with. I've been made soft by four years in Los Angeles, where the weather tends not to attack you when you walk out the front door. Despite the fact it is nearly June, I found myself pulling the sleeves over my hands and clenching them tightly to try and bring a little warmth to the morning as I battled my way down the road against a fairly ferocious wind.
It was the same morning I was writing the recipes for this column - a summer BBQ feast! I would have chuckled to myself had my jaw not been clenched so tightly. Look, I know we can still have spectacular summer days, in fact, they are one of the main reasons the seed was planted to return to Dublin after a visit home last August. When the sun does shine and the temperature decides not to dip below 10 degrees, recipes just like these are a welcome reprieve to cooking indoors.
Crack out BBQ, give it a few test runs with some burgers and sausages, and then master it using these simple but really impressive recipes.
When we lived in LA, I explored it's sprawling Koreatown as often as I could. Korean BBQ is one of the most popular ways to enjoy this unique cuisine, and short ribs, cut flanken-style, are commonplace there. Ask your butcher for the steaks cut in this style or use rib-eye or T-bone with the same marinade. If you can't find gochujang, a Korean spice paste, use a tablespoon of tomato purée and a teaspoon of chilli flakes or hot sauce.
For the ribs:
1.5kg short ribs, cut flanken-style
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp dark brown sugar
50ml rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp gochujang
6 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, finely grated
1 small onion, finely grated
1 small firm pear, finely grated
4 spring onions, finely sliced
Toasted sesame seeds
Freshly cooked white basmati rice
2 baby gem lettuce, leaves separated
Ssamjang sauce (or hoisin)
1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the ribs before adding the meat and coating. Cover and leave to marinade for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
2. Once marinated, shake off any excess sauce (discard the marinade) and place the ribs on a BBQ or griddle pan over a high heat to cook for 2 minutes either side or until you have deep char marks and are medium rare.
3. Rest the meat, keeping warm for 5 minutes, before slicing into bite-size pieces.
4. Serve the meat on a platter, scattered with spring onions, sesame seeds and bowls of rice, lettuce leaves and ssamjang sauce.
The seafood here is merely a suggestion, most will work well, though avoid white fish on the BBQ unless you fancy scrubbing charred bits off the grill for weeks to come.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A good handful of coriander, finely chopped
300g clams, cleaned and prepared
250g mussels, cleaned and prepared
6 baby squid, cleaned and prepared
For the nam jim sauce:
75ml fish sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Small handful coriander roughly chopped
1. For the dressing, whisk together the lime, fish sauce and caster sugar. Stir through the garlic, chillies and coriander.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, garlic, chilli & half the chopped herbs. Add the seafood and toss to combine.
3. With a hot griddle pan or over a high heat on the BBQ, cook the marinated seafood. Cook for 2-3 minutes either side or until cooked all the way through and the mussel and clam shells have opened completely.
4. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with the nam jim sauce for dipping.
This recipe creates a wonderfully thin, crisp yet chewy dough, which ticks all the boxes for me. I make my pizzas on the BBQ on a pizza stone, which you can pick up quite cheaply these days. Get the stone really hot and assemble your pizza on top.
For the pizza dough:
250g strong white flour or bread flour (oo tipo)
175ml of lukewarm water
7g of fast action yeast
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of caster sugar
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp of semolina
For the toppings:
700g jar of passata
6 slices prosciutto
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Small handful of basil leaves
2 large balls of mozzarella
A tub of pesto
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt and make a well in the centre.
2. Mix the water with the sugar, yeast and oil and whisk until combined. Pour this mixture into the centre of mixing bowl and using a wooden spoon or your hands mix together to form a rough dough.
3. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Place back in the bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place to rise for 50 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
4. Place a pizza stone over a hot BBQ. Punch down the risen dough and divide into 4 small balls or 2 large ones depending how big you want your bases to be. Sprinkle the work surface with a little semolina and roll out each ball as thin as possible.
5. Spoon on a couple of tablespoons of the tomato passata.
6. Add on your toppings, cheese, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, a few dollops of pesto and basil leaves, as little or as much as you like.
7. Bake each base for 4-5 minutes on the pizza stone sprinkled with a little more semolina and enjoy straight away.
The hedgerows across Ireland are erupting in colour at the moment and we've been out collecting some of the beautiful wildflowers on offer. Keep an eye out for the pinky purple flowers of "vetch", a vine-like cousin of the pea plant, whose leaves can be popped into ice cube trays for a splash of colour in summer drinks.
Sofie seriously brought home the bacon this week in the form of four free-range pork loin chops with the skin on, after a visit to our local butchers, Higgins in Sutton. Simply pan fried with some garlic and rosemary and finished with a little butter in the pan, they were a treat of a midweek supper with some roast vegetables on the side. Higgins have just started deliveries nationwide so if you've a hankering for some chops, get your order in.
Breakfast in bed
As we missed Irish Mother's Day a couple of weeks ago in the midst of leaving LA, we celebrated the US version last weekend and Sofie got treated to breakfast in bed. However, our son Noah, never one to be left out when it comes to food, wanted in on the action!
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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.