Salty, sweet, sour: Thai-inspired barbecued chicken

Lilly Higgins: Lime juice and fish sauce give this marinade a clean, fresh flavour

Barbecue chicken with Thai salad.

Barbecue chicken with Thai salad.

 

Summer is when I cook chicken most often. Its lightness and ability to take on flavours makes it a real barbecue winner. It also cooks incredibly fast. Cooking an entire spatchcocked chicken takes about 30 minutes on a barbecue. My children can’t get enough of the chicken from David Kra’s stall at Midleton Farmers' Market. Originally from the Ivory Coast, Kra cooks the most delicious Afro-Caribbean street food, from jerk chicken to stews, curry and rice. We’ve been enjoying it for more than five years now. His recipes are family secrets and the queues for Le Kiosk each week show its popularity. 

I took inspiration from Thailand for this marinade, as I love the clean, fresh flavours of lime juice and fish sauce. Adding a little garlic and brown sugar gives you the most delicious marinade, dip and dressing that makes everything brighter and sharper.

For my 18th birthday, we travelled through Thailand and Vietnam and since then I’ve been in love with that salty, sweet and sour combination. Paired with mint, basil and coriander, it’s just divine. I love that there are so many flavours going on. 

You can use ripe or a slightly under-ripe paler mango for this as it holds its shape and is quite piquant. Once the flesh starts to turn red and it is soft, then it’s no longer suitable for use in a salad. However, really ripe mango is lovely blitzed to a puree and stirred through curry, adding a fruity twist.

If you’ve been investing your time in the garden these past few months, then your herbs are a wonderful asset to have. All types of mint grow voraciously here in Ireland, from the tropical pineapple mint to the decadent chocolate mint. It can be quite invasive, which I’ve never minded, but if you do, grow it in a pot or bury a container in the ground and set it into that.

Similarly, lemon balm sets off roots in every direction and can shoot up anywhere. I usually pop a sprig into glass bottles of water on the table or use it in fragrant floral displays or to flavour jams. 

BARBECUED CHICKEN WITH THAI SALAD

Serves six

Barbecue chicken with Thai salad.
Barbecue chicken with Thai salad.

Ingredients
Juice of 2 limes 
2tbsp fish sauce
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp water
2 cloves garlic
1tsp brown sugar
25g or 1 large handful mint leaves
25g or 1 large handful basil leaves
25g or 1 large handful coriander leaves 
4-6 chicken breasts
300g salad leaves
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1tsp nigella seeds (or black onions seeds)

Method
1
Place the lime juice, fish sauce, oil, sugar, garlic and water along with half of the mint, basil and coriander into a blender or food processor. Blitz until it forms a smooth paste. 

2 Butterfly each chicken breast open, then flatten with the palm of your hand so they are all the same thickness and will cook evenly. Place the chicken in a container with a lid or a Ziploc bag. Set three tablespoons of the marinade aside and add the remainder to the chicken, ensuring each piece is coated evenly. Leave to marinade for at least half an hour. Light your barbecue to preheat it, if you are using one.

3 Next, assemble the salad. Tear the salad leaves into bite-size pieces and roughly chop the remainder of the herbs. Place in a large bowl or platter. Dress the leaves and herbs with the reserved marinade and scatter over the cubed mango and finely sliced red onion. 

4 Cook the chicken on the barbecue or under a grill until cooked through, turning halfway. Serve immediately with the salad.

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