Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Paula’s buttermilk fried chicken

You may or may not have noticed but Omagh Food Festival is on the horizon again. Personally, I can’t wait.

Purported to be a bigger (and thus better) affair this year, the festival has exited Main Street in Omagh into a marquee setting and that means more stands and hopefully, more eatables.

As with last year (and the year before), Paula McIntyre is set to return as the celebrity chef. Radio Ulster’s Saturday Magazine host will be doing her usual cookery demos, with a distinct emphasis on mouth-watering.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Paula during her visit to Omagh for the inaugural festival in 2017. There was a launch party at the Silverbirch Hotel and I ended up sitting beside Paula after the meal and as was the way of things, we wound up talking about food. She was particularly interested in my father’s locally produced honey and I subsequently promised I would endeavour to purloin a jar for her delectation (this never transpired as demand had exceeded supply that year and none remained). Maybe this year, Paula. If you’re lucky.

I was flicking through Paula’s own publication this week, ‘Paula McIntyre’s Down to Earth Cookbook’ and before I knew it, I was actually drooling –

DROOLING! Like a dog, just!

Anyway, I was particularly taken with Paula’s recipe for salt ling, which she previously cooked at the Slow Food Terra Madre Festival as a representative of the UK Chef Alliance. Paula uses the salt ling to make that French classic, brandade. Now, I’ve made brandade before, but never with ling. Why? Because you never see it in the shops, despite the fact that ling thrives in the North Sea.

As I nipper I was thrilled to catch a huge ling during a deep sea fishing expedition. I actually won the prize for the biggest catch that day. Go me!

Alas, Paula’s ling-inspired brandade will have to wait for another day, until I catch another ling or they start selling them in Centra.

This week, in honour of Paula’s appearance at Omagh Food Festival next month, I’m doing her version of buttermilk fried chicken. If you haven’t tried buttermilk fried chicken before, you’re in for a real treat.

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Sliced on a salad, snuggled in a wrap, carved up on rice and beans or (my own personal favourite), in a bun with lots of creamy slaw, buttermilk chicken is a wondrous creation.

One of my guilty pleasures as a teenager was a mucky chicken burger, with coleslaw and a pineapple ring. I used to forgo the chips and eat two of them at a time, with squirts of Tabasco for the purposes of background heat – like a dog just!

In this instance, you won’t need any background heat other than that provided by the smoked paprika. Altogether now, “I LOVE fried chicken!”

INGREDIENTS
• Buttermilk fried chicken
• 4 chicken breasts, preferably skin on
• 450ml buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• 1 teaspoon fresh picked thyme leaves
• 1 teaspoon fresh picked rosemary leaves
* if you’re using dried herbs just use a pinch of each*
• salt and pepper
• about 250g plain flour
• rapeseed oil for frying

THE PLAN
Mix the herbs with the garlic and buttermilk.
Add the chicken, mix well and cover. Marinate in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight.
Heat about half a thumb depth of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When a piece of bread sizzles when you add it to the pan you’ll know its ready.
Mix the flour with the paprika and salt and pepper.
Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture so it’s nicely coated.
Place the chicken in the oil (medium high heat) and cook for about 15 minutes, turning constantly until golden and crisp and cooked through.
Drain on kitchen paper.

BUTTERMILK SLAW
• 1 small hard white cabbage
• 2 carrots
• 2 red onions
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• 4 chopped scallions
• 100ml mayonnaise
• 50ml buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 1 tablespoon American mustard

THE PLAN
Quarter and core the cabbage and slice as thinly as you can.
Peel and coarsely grate the carrots and mix in with the cabbage.
Peel and slice the onions as thinly as you can. Mix in.
Toast the mustard seeds in a dry pan until they pop and place in a bowl with the red wine vinegar, honey and mustard. Whisk in the mayonnaise and buttermilk. Add the scallions and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix into the cabbage mixture well. Now all you have to do is serve up. As per the picture, mine went into a wrap and later into my tummy.
Yummy! Thanks Paula.

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