Thai thighs and other sky-high ski delights

trav-tignes2TRAVELLING chef Philippa Davis has been in the Alps, catering for skiers in the French resort of Tignes, reflecting on the various types she observes on her many recent flights … (oh, and serving delicious food, of course!)

I realise you don’t have to be in Sherlock’s league to decipher the purpose of everyone’s trip.  For instance:

– Dublin to London early morning flights to City airport are full of suits, ties and busy Blackberries off to seal their deals (afternoon City flights are full of suits, no ties and a few empty miniature bottles).

– London to Inverness flights are full of well spoken tweeds, Barbours and swathes of cashmere off to inspect their Highland acreages.

– February half-term flights are packed with stressed-out parents, grunting teenagers and excited children, with at least five layers on who tend to waddle round like sweet little starfish, all off to clog the Alpine slopes.

In my experience this makes security very slow as everyone has to peel off their various coats and jackets to go through the scanners, then put them all back on again. I think the game is to wear as much as possible in order to keep the weight of the checked-in bag under 15kg. To be fair to parents, probably to get a child dressed once a day is stressful enough, let alone having to do it twice and in a busy airport .

However, it all seems worthwhile when you get to the end of the journey and you see the first glimpse of those beautiful snowy mountains – which for me were the ones surrounding Tignes. I was working on behalf of the delightful company Bramble Ski, who although mainly based in Switzerland and Austria, are now venturing into France and have snapped up the lushest chalets in the Tignes resort.

Tignes is not perhaps the most beautiful of ski resorts. There are a fair few 60s/70s/80s monster builds, but the new chalets and hotels are all very attractive and, more importantly to the keen skier, there is a fantastic expanse of skiing area, pretty much guaranteed snow and a high chance of one of the longest seasons in the Alps.

The job began with a mammoth shop in Bourg St Maurice, just below Tignes, where my chalet host had to patiently wait for three hours as my bus from Lyon got caught in every traffic jam going that day. Having spoken to the clients about their food preferences before leaving Blighty I had a rough idea what to cook for the week. But bearing in mind that you are heading up to 2000 metres, and despite knowing there will be a few small shops for emergencies, you are never quite sure what you will find. You have to be super-organised and prepared… and depending on your idea of fun it can be a bit of a struggle lugging shopping around in blizzards and on ice rink like pavements once there.

The food, as you can imagine, for such an action-packed holiday needs to be nourishing and energy boosting.  There is a definite trend however, by day three – having had a few croissant breakfasts, hearty mountain lunches (often involving cream, butter and excellent fries) and some five-course evening meals, clients are crying out for something lighter and I note they don’t make it through to the cheese board.  By the end of the week, maybe through exhaustion, hunger levels are back up and there is a final push to make it through the canapés, starter, main, dessert and the cheese board after their final day’s skiing.

This recipe is based on a canapé idea given to me by the chef from the adjoining chalet, who came out for the busy half term week.  The Thai flavours really do pack a punch and they have a fantastically light texture.  You can replace the chicken with raw fish.

Thai flavoured chicken sesame balls trav-tignes3

Two raw free range/ organic chicken thighs
10g green chilli with seeds and membrane
15g ginger
15 spring onion
1 garlic clove
1 egg white
20g coriander (stalks and leaves)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
50g of toasted sesame seeds

Place everything (apart from the sesame seeds) into a food processor and blitz till a paste (about 2 minutes). Spoon out into a bowl and form into 16 small balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and pop them onto a baking tray. Place in the fridge for 30 mins or until ready to use (you can make a day in advance).

When ready to eat: pre-heat the oven to 180°C then bake for 15 mins or until cooked through and piping hot in the middle.

To serve squeeze  a little lime juice over each one, and place on a skewer topped with a coriander leaf. (You could also make this into a main course and serve with fried garlic and soy rice and greens).

For more of Philippa Davis’s postcard recipes visit