Paul Flynn: A magnificent savoury cake with potatoes, peppers and mozzarella

Vegetarian dishes that are great on their own but will also go with your roast lamb

Potato cake stuffed with red peppers and mozzarella. Photograph: Harry Weir

Potato cake stuffed with red peppers and mozzarella. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

I think about cooking in colours and those colours always reflect the changing seasons. Earthy tones for autumn and winter are the turnips, beetroot, carrots and parsnips that suit the slow cooking that I love. These make the ultimate comfort food that we crave in the cold, dark winter months.

Summer is all glorious red. I lighten my cooking to reflect a  summer of sunny days on the beach (hopefully), and I let Mediterranean flavours dominate. Fruity olive oil replaces butter as my staple, teasing the flavour from the summer’s bounty.

Spring is a revelation. All green. Asparagus, peas, broccoli, spinach, broad beans. It’s all fresh and determinedly perky, a welcome brightness after the long months of slow cooking.

My mind turns to lamb, and Easter. Not that I’m giving you a lamb recipe today. There’s an abundance of those around this weekend. But all of my recipes this week can be served with it.

There are certain times of the year that are all about family, Christmas being the obvious one, but people love Easter too. Easter Sunday for most of us Irish meant the end of Lent. There was always a big dinner. I celebrated by eating as many Easter eggs as I could lay my chubby little hands on. Competition with my siblings for the eggs was fierce. 

My dad usually took us to the Whitechurch House Hotel as a treat at Easter. The food was reliably lovely, but of course we could hardly eat a thing being queasy with all that chocolate. Dad got annoyed, those were not times when people could afford to waste money, but he always forgave us.

The potato cake recipe is a real special occasion centrepiece. Sometimes I put some salami, mortadella or smoked bacon into it. Here I’m suggesting serving it with lamb. It’s equally good on its own, served warm, with a lovely salad.

You don’t have to make the goat’s cheese mousse to go with the caponata but it is an extra-fancy starter if you do. Just use your favourite soft goat’s cheese instead if you don’t make the mousse.  

The carrots can be served as a side dish, or add some feta cheese and toasted sunflower seeds to them to make a complex-flavoured, warming vegetarian main course.

Potato, parmesan and red pepper cake. Photograph: Harry Weir
Potato, parmesan and red pepper cake. Photograph: Harry Weir

POTATO, PARMESAN AND RED PEPPER CAKE

Serves four  

Ingredients
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into 1cm chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
850g potatoes, peeled, boiled and drained
100g butter
150ml milk
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
150g freshly grated Parmesan
4 eggs
1 mozzarella ball, sliced

For the base and the top:
40g butter
4 tbsp white breadcrumbs

Method

1 Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, or gas mark 6.

2 Cook the red peppers gently with the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and smoked paprika. Allow them to become soft and jammy. This will take about 15 minutes over a low heat. Season and set aside. 

3 While they are still warm, mash the potatoes with the butter and milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to cool a little. Beat the eggs and add to the potatoes, along with the Parmesan. 

4 Butter a 20cm spring-form cake tin and sprinkle in some of the breadcrumbs. Spoon over half the potato mixture into the tin.  

5 Layer the red peppers on top, followed by the mozzarella, then spoon the remaining potatoes on top of the peppers. 

6 Smooth over the potatoes with the back of a spoon.

7 Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on top and dot with the butter.

8 Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before unclipping the tin. 

ROASTED HERITAGE CARROTS, CARDAMOM AND ROSEMARY BUTTER

Ingredients
1kg of mixed carrots, scrubbed and cut into 3cm chunks (or leave whole if small; and if you can’t find heritage carrots just use organic carrots)
50ml olive oil
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated.
100ml water
Salt and pepper

For the cardamom butter sauce:
Juice of 1 orange
10 cardamom pods, crushed
1 sprig of rosemary
200g cold butter, diced
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs mint

Method

1 Pre-heat your oven to 185 degrees.

2 To roast the carrots, mix everything together in a roasting tray, add the water then roast for 20 minutes or so until caramelised and cooked through.

3 For the cardamom butter sauce, reduce the orange juice slowly by half, by simmering gently along with the cardamom and rosemary.

4 Whisk in the butter over a low heat. Pass through a sieve and set aside.

5 To serve, warm the carrots and divide them into bowls. Drizzle the butter sauce over the carrots, tear the mint leaves on top.

Goat’s cheese mousse with caponata bread salad. Photograph: Harry Weir
Goat’s cheese mousse with caponata bread salad. Photograph: Harry Weir

GOAT’S CHEESE MOUSSE WITH CAPONATA BREAD SALAD

For the goat’s cheese mousse:
1 x 12g sachet of powdered gelatine
200g of soft goat’s cheese
275g crème fraîche
125ml cream
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper

For the caponata bread salad:
2 slices white bread cut into 1cm dice
5 tbsp olive oil
1 aubergine, cut into 1cm dice
1 red onion, cut into 1cm dice
2 sticks celery, diced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
400g tinned plum tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
60ml red wine vinegar
1 tbsp capers
20 stoned black olives, roughly chopped
½ bunch basil leaves, torn
 

For the goat’s cheese mousse:
1 Dissolve the gelatine in a little warm water.

2 Whisk the goat’s cheese into the crème fraîche and make it as smooth as you can.

3 In a separate bowl, whip the cream to a smooth peak, add the honey, salt and pepper.

4 Fold the crème fraîche and goat’s cheese mixture into the cream along with the gelatine

5 Chill for four hours.

For the caponata:
1 Bake the bread with a drizzle of the olive oil until golden and crisp.

2 Cook the aubergine, onion, celery, red and yellow pepper and garlic slowly in the olive oil, for 15 minutes, until soft. 

3 Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar and red wine vinegar. Reduce until thick and syrupy around the vegetables.

4 Add the capers, and olives. Allow to cool, then season and add the basil leaves.

5 When serving, fold through the crispy bread and serve with the goat’s cheese mousse.

A little tip – heat a spoon before scooping the goat’s cheese to give it a lovely professional finish.

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