Have meat, will barbecue... whatever the weather
Oven-barbecued chicken. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
Charred Caesar salad. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
Irish weather – it’s not as though we can rely on it, but when it’s as good as it has been recently, the whole country takes to barbecuing with a level of enthusiasm that would give even the Aussies a run for their money.
All things charred, seared, grilled and, let’s face it, burnt to a cinder (including ourselves) are suddenly everywhere. Testosterone levels soar as we channel our inner warrior over hot steel and charcoal. Fridges are optimistically stocked with ribs, kebabs, burgers, salads and marinated everything, ready for even the slimmest possibility of eating outdoors.
But barbecues can break down and Irish weather has a dark and drizzly sense of humour, so it’s no harm to have a plan B.
This doesn’t mean abandoning the idea of barbecued food, entirely. It is possible to replicate indoors at least some of those essentials of texture and flavour that define food cooked outdoors: crisp, succulent meat; the charred smokiness of barbecued veg; the umami hit of fat and protein on the tongue.
This week’s recipes bring the outdoors indoors. First up is a chicken dish – when marinated and charred to perfection, not much beats chicken. This dish is simplicity itself. Strips of chicken breast – without the skin – are marinated for a short while in a robust blend of sauces, mustard and spices, and then baked in the oven until they start to caramelise, the sauce reducing to that gorgeous stickiness that will have you grabbing a napkin every five seconds.
The marinade is perfect for getting some charred action quickly, thanks to the sugar from the molasses and (ahem – look away now nutritionists) ketchup.
The recipe would also work well with legs, thighs or breasts on a barbecue, but I would get them cooking a bit before brushing the sauce on – the sugar content will the sauce will produce that scorched colour in no time.
The second dish is a neat twist on an old favourite – the Caesar salad. It might sound ludicrous to char lettuce, but the stiff leaves of cos or romaine and little gem all succumb to heat remarkably well.
In this salad, the cos leaves are rubbed with oil and charred flat side down before being slathered in a lip-smacking garlicky dressing and garnished with a few preserved lemons. Simple yet sophisticated flavours and, if you omit the anchovy essence, vegetarian to boot.