Donal Skehan

Griddling lettuce? Sounds wrong but it’s so right!

Simple summer dishes using in-season ingredients feel so right they just can’t be wrong! This wonderful little dinner came about when I had very little in the kitchen to cook with apart from a few potatoes, some baby gem and some beetroot. If I’m left with a glut of tomatoes I always roast them in the oven, it’s a great way to make them go further. You can use them straight away while they’re still warm from the oven or store them in a jar with olive oil to be added to pasta or in sandwiches.

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Griddled Baby Gem Lettuce with Beetroot, Roast Tomatoes and a Buttermilk Dressing

This is a truly beautiful little vegetarian dinner which is so appealing you won’t even realise there’s no meat in it! Cooking the baby gem lettuce on the griddle is a little trick I picked up in America. It really adds the most wonderful deep smoky flavour to an otherwise simple salad leaf. The chive flowers are an optional extra but really make a difference to the final dish. You can grow them quite easily during the summer.

Serves 2
2 baby gem lettuce, cut in half
2 potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes
2 cooked beetroot, cut in thin slices
6-8 tomatoes, cut in half
Chive flowers to garnish
Balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
Olive oil, to drizzle

For the dressing:
6 tablespoons of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
A handful of chopped chives
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190˚C.

Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and roast for about an hour until reduced in size and caramelised.

Toss the potato cubes in a little oil and season with sea salt on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crispy for about 1 hour.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

Place a large griddle pan over a high heat and brush the lettuce halves with a little oil and season. Place the lettuce halves onto the griddle and cook for about 2 minutes either side until they have nice deep char marks but still hold their shape.

Arrange on serving plates by placing slices of beetroot and the tomato halves around the side of the plate.

Then add the lettuce halves, followed by the potato cubes and drizzle over the dressing. Finish with sprinkling of chive flowers and serve straight away.

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One Wedding and a Roast Chicken…

Last weekend my cousin Emma got married in Brooklodge, Co. Wicklow, now if you are a regular subscriber to Delicious magazine you might recognise her as one of the people I was teaching how to cook a roast chicken a couple of months ago.  Emma is my eldest cousin on my mom’s side of the family and up until my little brother arrived on the scene we were the only little people around, therefore lots of attention, presents you know the deal.  Earlier this year before all the marriage madness took over I roped her in to a photoshoot for my Delicious magazine column, and after promising there would be dinner, she reluctantly agreed.

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One Tray White Wine Chicken Roast with Zesty Potatoes and Asparagus

When choosing a chicken for roasting make sure to choose a bird that’s nice and plump, which looks healthy with no blemishes or imperfections and has nice unbroken skin. You can use whatever veggies are in season to pop in the tray alongside the chicken. Veggies like beetroot, squash, and tomatoes are all ideal additions. This is a great repertoire recipe which you can produce at the drop of a hat with little thought!

Serves 4
800g baby new potatoes, halved
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated
1 lemon, sliced
Handful fresh thyme sprigs
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1.5kg free-range chicken
Large knob of butter
1 large bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
1 125ml glass white wine
Handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Put the new potatoes garlic cloves and lemon slices into a large roasting tin. Scatter with the thyme sprigs and drizzle with the oil. Season well and toss to combine.

Remove the string trussing the chicken. Gently loosen the skin on the chicken’s breasts to form a pocket, being careful not to tear it. Push a little butter under the skin, then spread more over the outside. Season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken on top of the potatoes, then roast for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate, add the asparagus and pour the win into the roasting tin. Mix everything together so the asparagus is coated in the wine and chicken juices. Sit the chicken back on the veg. Return to the oven and roast for 30 minutes more, until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender. Rest the chicken and veg somewhere warm for 10 minutes, covered with foil, then stir through the parsley and serve.

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Seaweed Foraging On Ireland’s West Coast…

A few weeks ago we spent some time at the Burren Slow Food Festival in Lisdoonvarna. Invited down by Birgitta Curtin from the Burren Smokehouse to give a cookery demonstration on the Saturday, we stayed at the Wild Honey Inn, a fantastic little guesthouse with some amazing food on offer. The whole weekend was full of wonderful people and delicious dishes but the highlight for me was a trip to Spanish Point for some seaweed foraging.

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Pan Fried Hake with Carrot and Sea Spaghetti Salad

This is wonderfully simple and healthy little supper. There is a bit of an Asian  twist with the salad, which makes it almost like a pickle but it’s full  of wonderful texture. If you can’t get sea spaghetti you could  substitute some finely shredded cabbage.

Serves 2
1 fillet of hake per person
A knob of butter
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into long fine strips
50g of dried sea spaghetti
4 large spring onions
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Sea salt to taste

Cook the sea spaghetti in boiling water for about 15 minutes until tender. Drain under cold water and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and rice wine vinegar until it has dissolved. Mix in the sesame oil and salt. Add the sea spaghetti, spring onion and carrot to the dressing. Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Place a large non stick frying pan over a medium high heat and add in a little oil to coat the pan. Fry the fish for 2-3 minutes on either side until it is cooked through and no longer translucent. When you turn the fish, add a little butter into the pan with a tablespoon of water and cover for the remaining cooking time.

Serve alongside a portion of the sea spaghetti salad and finally sprinkle the whole dish with toasted sesame seeds.

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Simple Summer Entertaining…

My garden at home is finally bursting with colour and lots of things to keep me interested. This year my main aim was to have an abundance of different varieties of salad leaves. I have staples like rocket and cos but the most exciting leaf this year has been grown from a packet I bought from Brown Envelope Seeds ( in Skibbereen. The very dramatically named Oak Fire Mustard leaves look wonderful and have a deep purple colour with a fiery coloured stem and an incredibly strong mustard taste!

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Simple Summer Feast

Meals which take little preparation but are totally delicious are always a plus in my book. This simple supper uses lots of fresh ingredients which, once assembled, look really beautiful on the dinner table. Once everything is prepared you can get your guests to dig in!  I spatchcock the chicken here to speed up the cooking time.  Once the chicken is roasting in the oven you are left with time to assemble the salads to accompany.

For the chicken
1 free-range chicken (about 1.1–1.4kg)
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning
Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the tomato salsa
1 small punnet of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely Chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt and black pepper

For the Avocado Salad
2 ripe avocados, in thick slices
1 red onion, sliced in half moons
A generous handful of coriander
Salt and pepper to season
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad and Dressing
1 tablespoon of apple balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Sea salt and ground black pepper
A generous selection of mixed salad leaves

For the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6.

To prepare the chicken, place the bird breast-down and, using a knife or a sharp scissors, cut along either side of the back bone to remove it.

Open the bird out and flip it over breast-side up and, using your fist, push down hard on the breast to break the bone.

Place the chicken in a large roasting tin and coat with oil. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning over and roast the chicken for 50–60 minutes or until cooked through. When cooked, carve in to wings, breasts, legs.

For the Avocado Salad:
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside.

Assemble the ingredients for the salad on a serving platter, start with the slices of avocado then top with the red onion slices and then the cherry tomatoes.

Pick off little leaves of coriander and sprinkle all over the top of the salad. Drizzle over the dressing and then season with sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

For the tomato salsa:
Prepare the salsa by combining all the ingredients together in a bowl and tossing to combine.

For the salad:
Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

Wash and dry the salad leaves and assemble on a large serving platter. Drizzle over the dressing when you are ready to serve.

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Travel Inspiration and Maple Bacon Buttermilk Scones

Travel is one of the most important sources of inspiration for any home cook. For me it has become a bit of a drug; I spend my time scouring the internet for information about foreign food markets, festivals and restaurants. I always travel with a notebook and every time I see or taste something I make a note, sometimes even a little sketch to make it more memorable. Last week I was lucky enough to be in New York City where there’s a never ending source of inspiration when it comes to food fads and trends. While I can appreciate high-end cooking, getting all dressed up and spending large sums of money on food isn’t for me.

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Maple Bacon Buttermilk Scones

I love the combination here of sweet and savoury, and it makes for an extremely delicious breakfast treat.

Makes 16 scones
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
250g of smoked streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
450g flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
A generous pinch of salt
225g cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
180ml maple syrup, plus a little extra for glazing
180ml of buttermilk
1 egg
Sea salt to sprinkle

Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the bacon in a little oil until crisp and sizzling. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a fork or pastry cutter press the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a mixture with resembles rough breadcrumbs. Don’t worry too much if there are still some rogue lumps of butter.

Combine the maple syrup and buttermilk in a pyrex jug and pour this into the butter mixture along with the cool bacon.

Using a fork bring the dough together making sure not to over mix it.

When the dough has come together, turn it out on to a clean work surface sprinkled with flour.

Roll the dough out to about 6cm in thickness and cut out 5cm diameter circles. You may have to roll the dough out again to use it all up.

Place the scones on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and then place in the fridge to rest for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Whisk the egg in a bowl and set aside.

Before the scones go into the oven, brush a little beaten egg and sprinkle a little sea salt on each one, and then bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the scones from the oven and brush over a little maple syrup on each one. Place back in the oven for another 3 minutes and then remove to a wire cooling wrack.

Serve the scones straight away or parcel up in paper bags for a savoury breakfast snack!

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