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Georgina Campbell's Cookery Feature - A Taste of Spring

The arrival of April, and Easter, brings a change of tone in the kitchen. Here are a few suggestions for some aromatic recipes that can be served as sharing dishes and suit the longer, brighter days - and, perhaps, a little casual entertaining.

Moroccan-Spiced Mackerel

Moroccan-Spiced Mackerel

This is from Northern Irish chef Paula McIntyre’s popular book, A Kitchen Year (Gill & Macmillan, 2008). The recipe introduction is pure Paula: “My favourite way of eating mackerel is straight off the boat (preferably caught myself) and simply grilled on a barbecue with a squeeze of lemon. Doing this on a cold April day isn’t feasible, but pairing mackerel with sunny Moroccan flavours is. Throw in a spicy; sweet carrot salad with creamy chickpeas and crisp flathread (see below) and who needs summer?”

Serves 4

8 mackerel fillets, pin boned
Spice blend:
10 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 tablespoons olive oil

Crack the cardamoms to release the seeds. Place the cardamom seeds with the other seeds in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and process to a fine powder. (Set aside half this mixture for the carrot salad below, if making, otherwise store in a screw top jar to use again.) Combine the remaining spices with the orange zest, smoked paprika and olive oil. Rub all over the mackerel and set aside for 1 hour.

To cook the mackerel, heat a griddle pan or frying pan until smoking hot. (Alternatively, weather permitting, light the barbecue.) Season the mackerel with salt on both sides and place, skin side down, on the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, or until you can actually see the mackerel cooking up the sides. Flip over and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. Serve immediately.

 

Spiced Carrot and Chickpea Salad

This salad is ideal with the Moroccan-spiced Mackerel, above, but also works well with salmon and grilled chicken.

4 tabespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
Half of the spice mixture given above for the mackerel
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 lemons
100 ml mayonnaise
100 ml natural yoghurt
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 red onion peeled and finely sliced
handful fresh coriander, chopped roughly

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add the carrots and cook until golden.

Add the ground spice mixture, garlic and ginger to the carrots and cook for 1 minute. Set aside in a bowl.

Clean out the pan, heat until smoking and dry toast the sesame seeds in the pan until they start to pop. Set aside.

Cut the lemons in half and brush with oil on the cut side. Heat the pan until smoking hot and cook the lemons, flesh side down, until golden, about 1 minute. Squeeze the juice into a bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise and yoghurt. Toss this dressing into the carrot mixture and add the sesame seeds, chickpeas, red onion and coriander.

 

Flatbread

Flatbread

These crispy flatbreads are the perfect contrast to the soft mackerel and the spiced carrot salad.

150 g plain flour
125 g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
100 ml water

Place the flours and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the yoghurt, oil and water together and mix to a dough with the flour mix. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece in a ball and roll on a lightly floured surface into a 2-mm thick round (don’t worry about perfect circles, this is a rustic bread). Heat a griddle or frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a prepared flatbread. When the surface starts to bubble, turn over and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Repeat with the other breads and stack them as you go.

 

Roast chicken wings with dipping sauces and herbs

Roast chicken wings with dipping sauces and herbs

An enjoyable brunch in Brother Hubbard recently sent me scurrying back to take a fresh look at Ballymaloe-trained co-owner Garrett Fitzgerald’s Brother Hubbard Cookbook and its cornucopia of aromatic Middle-Eastern and Southern Mediterranean inspired dishes.

“Chicken wings are a bit of a secret shame for me,” Garrett confesses. “They are an addictive snack to have any evening, but I generally feel quite guilty about them, as they are too often deep-fried and served with a very buttery, oily and surprisingly sugary sauce.

So we decided to have a go at making them just a little healthier without compromising on flavour. The fact that they eliminate a lot of that guilty feeling just adds so much more to the experience! This is actually one of the dishes I'm most proud of.

I hope you will see why when you taste it. These are very easy to make, and with the yogurt and herbs they are really quite a delight and far better for you than the typical wing, so please do make them as suggested below, with the sauces recommended, for the full effect.”

I can totally endorse the idea of roasting chicken wings - buy good big free range ones from producers such as Bertram and Celine Salter’s Carlow Foods, or The Friendly Farmer in Athenry, and you’ll be surprised how much tasty eating there is on them.

Serves 2-3 people as a substantial meal with some salad or 4 as a decent starter

l kg chicken wings
3 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

l00g in total mixed soft fresh herbs (a mixture of at least 3 or ideally all of the following: coriander, flat-leaf parsley, mint, lovage and/or dill)
6 dessertspoons thick Greek yogurt
squeeze of lemon
4-5 tbsp hot sauce (a recipe is given; or use Tabasco ‘or any hot sauce that takes your fancy’)

When buying your wings, they are often sold as a full joint with the wing tip attached. If you get them like this, it's very easy to prepare them as follows. Straighten out the wing and just cut down through the joint or 'elbow' - it should be easy enough to cut through. On the wing section, trim off the wing tip.

Next, marinate your chicken wings by placing them in a big bowl with half the crushed garlic and the lemon juice, cumin, paprika, turmeric, oil and some seasoning. Toss them around well and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour or several hours or overnight if you have the time (for a longer marinade, pop them in the fridge, covered). When ready, preheat the oven to 180°C. Tip the wings out onto a lined roasting tin in a single layer and pop in the oven for 20 minutes.

While that's all happening, prepare your herbs by chopping the stalks very finely (except the mint) and placing them in a bowl, then chop the leaves quite finely and add them to the bowl too. (If you fancy it, some very finely chopped fresh chilli and/or very finely diced red onion would be sensational added to this mix.)

Make your yogurt dipping sauce by folding the remaining garlic puree, seasoning and a dash of lemon juice into the yogurt - don't overmix. Taste and adjust any of the components as you feel necessary. It should be lovely and creamy while also having a nice punch of lemon and garlic to it.

Take the chicken wings out of the oven and turn up the heat to 220°C. Toss them in a decent amount of the hot sauce and return to the oven for the final blast to get them nicely browned and a little crisp and charred on the outside - 5-10 minutes should do it. You can do this under a very hot grill or on a hot frying pan if you prefer, turning once they are nicely browned and repeating on the other side.

To serve, put the yogurt sauce in a bowl with a dash of hot sauce stirred through it. Put the finely chopped herbs in a separate bowl. Serve these on the side, dipping the wings into the yogurt and then the herbs as you eat! Having more hot sauce available on the side too would be appreciated by some people, I'm sure.

Serve with finger bowls of warm water with a slice of lemon in each and a good few napkins, and wash down with some crisp white wine or a cold beer.

 

Rhubarb & Orange Meringues

Rhubarb & Orange Meringues

Using Anne Marie Walsh’s Tipperary Kitchen Marvellous Meringues made in Holycross - see my ‘trip to South Tipperary’ in the new edition of the SuperValu magazine Fresh - this is a pretty and very easy dessert for spring and early summer.

The sweetness of the meringue nests offsets the natural tartness of the rhubarb, and thickening the juices a little with arrowroot makes a glossy, translucent sauce.

Rhubarb and orange make a natural partnership, but you could substitute extra water for the orange juice if preferred.

Serves 6 -12

Ingredients

125g/4oz caster sugar
150ml/¼ pint water
150ml/¼ pint orange juice
1 bunch pink rhubarb, trimmed & cut into approx 2.5cm/1” lengths
1 tsp/5ml arrowroot
1 dsp/10ml cold water
2 packs x 6 meringue nests (such as The Tipperary Kitchen Marvellous Meringues)
250ml/8 fl oz fresh cream, whipped
Crystallised orange zest to decorate (optional).

Method

In a shallow stainless steel saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat and then add the orange juice.

Bring up to the boil, add half of the prepared rhubarb and simmer over gentle heat for about 5 minutes, until just tender but holding its shape.

Using a slotted spoon, remove carefully and transfer to a shallow bowl. Repeat with the second half of the rhubarb.

Blend the arrowroot and the cold water, stir into the warm syrup and bring up to boiling point; cook gently, stirring, until the mixture clears and thickens.

Add this sauce to the bowl of rhubarb, mix gently and leave to cool.

When ready to serve, place the meringue nests on a serving plate, or lay one or two meringues on individual dessert plates. Place a spoonful of whipped cream in each meringue nest, arrange some rhubarb pieces and sauce on top and around the nests, and finally sprinkle with crystallised orange zest, if using.

Serve any remaining rhubarb and cream separately - or, if you have any broken meringues, use them to make up a simple ‘Rhubarb Mess’.

 

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