Dublin is many things, but in my experience (admittedly close on 10 years ago) a food capital it was not—unless (and there are plenty of reasons to support this theory) you believe that Irish stew is one of the world’s great dishes. If that’s your go, then a walk into any pub in any street in the Irish capital will have you content as you hoe into any of the thousand recipes that make an Irish stew, all of which must have slow-cooked lamb or mutton, and potatoes cooked to the second. Any other additions came from what was available at the time of the year, or the state of your bank account.
I travelled to Dublin four times, with the AFL’s International Rules team. I ate Irish stew every time, but not every day. There were days when a great sandwich was all that was needed. On those days, believe it or not, a pair of chains led the way. One, O’Brien’s, had outlets in shops and kiosks across the city, and specialised in simple sandwiches, encasing quality ingredients in the best bread; the other, Avoca, was/is a mix of homewares, Irish craft, soaps, and high quality cafes.
I wandered into Avoca’s Sussex Street cafe, around the corner from the renowned Trinity College (home of the Book Of Kells), looking for a gift for home, and lucked upon a true cafe, with a mix of great sandwiches and salads and coffee. I left with a cookbook, a full tummy and no gifts. The cookbook provided the basis of the marinade for a bunch of chicken breasts, and the marinade gets much of its guts from a decent dose of honey and a swag of mustard. The chicken, after bathing in the marinade, is just like that I took in my Avoca sandwich all those years ago, tender to the bite, while carrying the marinade in style.
PS: Before recent visitors to Dublin regale me, I do note that things have kicked on in the capital, as it catches up with the upsurge in quality of ingredients, cooking, and invention that was just starting in the regions in the early 2000s.
The Wall Street Journal reported, 12 months ago, about the resurgence: “Considering Ireland’s somewhat traumatic history with food—and its inferiority complex, from a centuries-long status as ‘England’s larder’—the shift is seismic. But it hasn’t been followed by a constellation of Michelin stars or led by a crew of swaggering young male celebrity chefs. Instead, artisanal producers and farmers have quietly pioneered this new wave, dramatically altering the perception of Irish food at home and abroad.”
Words & recipe Geoff Slattery
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- Handfuls of coriander leaves, chopped roughly
- Handfuls of parsley leaves, chopped roughly
- A few leaves of tarragon
- 225 Grams grams honey, warmed to allow for easy pouring
- 100 Grams Ancient Roman Mustard Recipe
- 2-3 lemons, Juice and zest
- Black pepper to taste
- 8 Chicken breasts, skin removed
Keep aside a quarter of the herbs, and add the rest to the Thermomix bowl, along with the honey, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest and black pepper. Blend 5 seconds/speed 10. Scrape down, and repeat if necessary.
Remove the under fillets from the chicken breasts, and save for another day. These can be cooked in seconds, in a hot pan.
Slash the chicken breasts several times, and pour over the marinade, rubbing it into the slashes. Leave to steep for at least an hour, preferably three hours. You can even leave to marinate overnight.
When ready, heat the oven to 180°C. Brown the chicken in a hot pan, in a little olive oil until nicely coloured all over. Add any of the excess marinade, cover with foil and bake in the oven until the chicken is done, about 20-25 minutes.
Set the chicken aside, re-covered with foil, and simmer the remaining juices, stirring to grab any sediment. Serve with the juices poured over and sprinkled with the retained fresh coriander, parsley and tarragon. The chicken is excellent with roasted vegetables, or a simple salad; allowed to cool, the chicken is brilliant in a sandwich, of buttered bread, sliced avocado, and finely chopped walnuts.