Paul Flynn: Dungarvan was like the Klondike during the gold rush

After a strange, busy summer, time for some autumny dishes to enjoy on chilly evenings

Sweet potato, spinach, spiced pumpkin seeds and goat’s cheese. Photograph: Harry Weir

Sweet potato, spinach, spiced pumpkin seeds and goat’s cheese. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

It was a strange summer. I never want to see its like again. Work was busy. Dungarvan was like the Klondike during the gold rush, but I’m keenly aware it wasn’t the case for everyone in our business. Due to a freakishly unfortunate set of circumstances, we were drastically short in the kitchen. I now have life-enhancing shares in Johnson’s baby powder.   

In the Tannery, our summer food is all about seafood, and I was on the fish section. When I wasn’t being irascible I enjoyed getting stuck in. There were many moments of self-pity, mostly when getting up for an early breakfast after a long day and late night. After 38 years at the stove, I would moan that all I am is a sausage rustler.

A glare from herself would quieten me and I’d get the head down. It was good for the lads to see I could still do it, leading from the front and all that.

It’s autumn now, with its prospect of chilly evenings and a warm fire. I own an inordinate amount of coats and jackets. Every eventuality is covered, from the tweedy “I’m going to a horsey dinner” Paul, to music festival “I can’t believe you’re in your 50s” Paul. I possess all the appropriate clobber.

This week’s slightly autumny sweet potato dish is lovely. I’ve made it with feta cheese in the past, this time I’m going with the smooth creaminess of goat’s cheese.

I’m using cooked duck leg again as it’s easily available. The barley soaks up the flavours from everything around it and fortifies you. The sherry is optional, but lovely.

I love a pie, but I rarely make pastry (shocker). What’s crucial here is the ham hock. You may have to order it. Its lip-sticking gelatinousness is like addictive hammy fudge. You can use another small joint of ham if you can’t get a hock.

The onions are also crucial, they should be melting and sweet. The cheese is grated Cheddar as it was at hand. You can use something fancier if you like. Gubbeen, for instance, would give it a marvellous funk.

SWEET POTATO, SPINACH, SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS AND GOAT’S CHEESE

Serves four

Ingredients
800g small sweet potatoes, peeled and halved
80ml olive oil
A sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper
A knob of butter
80g pumpkin seeds
A pinch of chilli flakes
½ tsp cumin powder
A bag of baby spinach (200g), washed
A small log of goat’s cheese with no rind (150g)

Method
1. Set your oven to 185 degrees.
2. Put the sweet potatoes, oil and rosemary on a tray, turn everything together to coat and bake, cut side down, for 20-25 minutes, until soft and lightly coloured.
3. Remove the potatoes to a platter, drain the remaining olive oil into a pot.
4. Add the butter, pumpkin seeds, chilli flakes and cumin and cook over a gentle heat for two minutes or so.
5. Add the baby spinach to the pot and wilt just for a minute. Season and drape over the sweet potatoes.
6. Crumble the goat’s cheese on top and serve. 

Baked duck with barley, sherry and field mushrooms. Photograph: Harry Weir
Baked duck with barley, sherry and field mushrooms. Photograph: Harry Weir

BAKED DUCK WITH BARLEY, SHERRY AND FIELD MUSHROOMS

Serves four

Ingredients
100g barley
500ml chicken stock
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Some fresh thyme and 2 bay leaves
100ml sweet sherry  
A stick of cinnamon
80g butter
Salt and pepper
4 thick rashers of smoked bacon
4 cooked (confit) duck legs
4 field mushrooms, halved
Some leaves of chard or cabbage (washed and trimmed into manageable pieces)

Method
1. Set your oven to 180 degrees.
2. Soak the barley in plenty of water for two hours or more before you use it. Rinse and add it to a wide casserole dish.
3. Boil the chicken stock and add to the casserole along with the garlic, herbs, sherry, cinnamon and butter. Season then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Remove the casserole from the oven then place the bacon, duck legs, mushrooms, and chard or cabbage evenly on top.
5. Make sure the mushrooms and chard are immersed in the remaining stock so they don’t dry out, then bake for another 20 minutes, until the duck starts to crisp up and the stock is absorbed by the barley.
6. Serve with a generous amount of Dijon mustard.  

Ham hock, cheese, onion and apple pie. Photograph: Harry Weir
Ham hock, cheese, onion and apple pie. Photograph: Harry Weir

HAM HOCK, CHEESE, ONION AND APPLE PIE

Serves four

Ingredients
1 ham hock
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
60g butter
A sprig of fresh thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100g grated red Cheddar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
Freshly ground black pepper
1 roll of shortcrust pastry
1 egg beaten with a little milk
A sprinkling of onion seeds (optional)


Method
1. Simmer the ham hock for 2½ hours or so, until it starts to fall off the bone. Remove, let it cool dpwn, and pick off the meat, discarding the abundant fat.
2. Cook the onions very gently with the butter and thyme in a covered pan until very soft and melting; this will take at least 20 minutes.
3. When cooked, let the onions cool and add the mustard, Cheddar, apple and pepper, then fold the ham hock through, making sure it’s broken up evenly.
4. Chill this mixture for 30 minutes, and meanwhile set your oven to 185 degrees.
5. Unfurl the pastry, with the wide end towards you. Brush it with eggwash then spoon the mixture along the middle, leaving a 3cm edge of pastry at each side. Bring the bottom half of the pastry over the filling to meet the top and press down firmly to expel any air and join the pastry together. Crimp the pastry or press with a fork to get a seal. Brush with more egg, then scatter over the seeds.
6. Bake on some greaseproof paper for 25 minutes, until golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature with some chutney.  

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