Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Enter the plattermen

Yellow peppers, tortilla chips, guacamole, plum tomatoes, salami, olives, Skips, crema and Mexicana cheese. Note the can of Brewdog Punk IPA centre stage.

We’re firmly into antipasti at our house on a Saturday night. Cured meats, cheese, crudités and the obligatory fried potatoes – also known as crisps – antipasti is the ideal accompaniment to board games and a beer or a glass of wine – or both.

Antipasto (antipasti is the plural) is traditionally the first course at a formal Italian meal and typical ingredients range from the aforementioned cured meats to pickled meats to anchovies to salmon to pate to olives. Andiamo!

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We like antipasti because we can nibble away as the Saturday night unfurls and despite the initial short preparation, there’s very little in the way of steaming or roasting or boiling. In short, the cook time is reduced which leaves more time for games and the telly – God, I love Saturday nights.

The exception to this cooking rule was an adventure in calamari last week when I ran squid rings through seasoned flour and egg and then deep fried them in vegetable oil. The results were patchy, for want of a better description. The first few rings, dipped into a garlicky, lemony mayo were crisp and delicious.

The downside was that they didn’t sit well in their own heat and quickly turned soft and unpalatable. The moral of the story with calamari is: Eat them hot and crispy or don’t eat them at all.

Our antipasti actually works as a late supper, whereby we often forgo an evening meal on a Saturday.

Contrary to preconceptions, we’re never hungry either, not when there’s lots of cheese and cured meats on the go. Neither do we stick solely to the Med’s finest and anything goes for our hodge-podge of a platter: Mexican, Asian and even Middle Eastern ingredients find their way onto our international meze-cum-antipasti-cum-smorgasbord-cum-tapas.

My personal favourite for Saturday’s delectation are shards of corn tortilla chips topped with my own home-made guacamole (easier than you think to make), topped with Mexicana cheese topped with sweet tomato slices and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. It’s a winner time after time after time…

This is my own recipe for guacamole and if you’re doing any kind of platter in the coming weeks and you’re planning on including tortilla chips, this stuff is a must-try. I can eat it with a spoon, which I often do at the end of the night when the tortillas run out.

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INGREDIENTS
1 or two ripe avocados
big pinch of Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
lime juice
1 spring onion, chopped
half a red onion, finely chopped
tbsp of coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)

THE PLAN

The key with making guacamole is to use ripe avocados. If they aren’t ripe, don’t even try.

Cut the avocado(s) in half and remove the seed by thwacking it with a sharp knife and then twisting. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and retire this to a bowl.

Mash with a fork until nearly smooth – you still want a bit of chunkiness – and then add a good pinch of salt, the juice of half a lime and a good bombardment of black pepper.

Mix through and then add the chopped spring onion and half the red onions. Mix again. Now taste the guacamole and adjust the seasoning and/or add another touch of lime juice. Finish by scraping the mix out into a clean bowl (if you’re feeling fancy) and topping with the remaining red onion.  Now get it onto that platter and get the board games out!

Waiting for Saturday night is optional.

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