When I turned up early for my cookery demonstration at the Bulgaden-Martinstown Ladies’ Club in Co Limerick bar/venue/nightclub Bulgaden Castle (a spot I would have been well acquainted with as a teenager), there was already a throng in the car park. I was a little puzzled though; they all looked a little young and the dress code seemed to be veering on the undress side of things, with hotpants, strapless tops and fall-down high heels the order of the day.
No, they weren’t there for a demo on Good Eating at Easter but rather for that night’s underage disco downstairs. Whatever they had on when leaving the house – I know that was our trick! – I’m not quite sure that they were expecting a roomful of mammies to be on the premises at the same time, walking past the huddles of girls and being entertainingly scandalised with what they were wearing.
The night certainly kicked off in style for both groups – but I’m not sure the disco crew were as well fed, or as warm, as the ladies upstairs.
Spiced Citrus Chicken and Lemon Herb Couscous
This is a well flavoured and economical dish perfect for both cold and warm weather. The most expensive ingredient are the chicken thighs and you can pick up a pack of them for around €3. Tinned chickpeas are about 60c – or you can use dried ones that you have pre-cooked – and there’s nothing else in the recipe that costs more than a few pence.
Olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
900g chicken thighs, bone-in
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cut into 1cm thick slices
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ red chilli, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
300mls vegetable or chicken stock
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 cherry tomatoes
Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4, 350°F). Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof pan or casserole dish, add the chicken pieces and brown well on both sides. Season well. Remove the chicken and place to one side.
If necessary, add more olive oil to the pan, then tip in the onion and red pepper. Cook until softened, then add the garlic, chilli, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and fry for 2 minutes until you can smell the spices.
Put the chicken back into the pan with the lemon and orange juice, stock, chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. Bring to the boil then place in the preheated oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through to the bone.
Sprinkle with finely chopped mint, serve with couscous and a dollop of natural yoghurt. Serves 4.
Lemon Herb Couscous
½ teaspoon sea salt
Juice and zest 1 lemon
400mls boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
A couple of handfuls of finely chopped chives or other soft herbs
Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest, olive oil and sea salt. Mix well, then pour over the boiling water. Put a plate over the top of the bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Fork through the chives.