Paul Flynn: Easy paella, cheesy soup and a warm hug of a pork dish

A simple paella, a traybake of pork chops and a cheesy soup, inspired by my chef heroes

 

I’m a bit of TV addict, and now, for obvious reasons, I have too much time to watch it. I have to force myself to get a bit of structure into the day and to get some exercise, so I’m trying to keep it to night-time only, starting with the six o’clock news, which is invariably scary.

I always gravitate towards food TV. You might think I’d have enough of it as that’s all I do during the day, and the night for that matter. But I look forward to a new series from Rick Stein like a flushed Juliette hovering on her balcony waiting for Romeo.

Rick is the best. I look at his life and travels through my rose-tinted glasses and wish I was him. He’s urbane, likeable and has a mischievous glint in his eye. He’s a curious, educated traveller who always appreciates where he lands. His love of literature separates him from other shouty chefs. Quotes emanate easily from him. My eager ears soak them up, like soft sweet rain over parched land. He loves Spain, and so do I, so I am doing a simple paella here as a homage.

Nigel Slater is one of the most gifted natural cooks I’ve ever seen. His ability to do so much with so few ingredients amounts to alchemy. His body of work is phenomenal. He’s a one-man cook book industry that has eased many a reluctant cook into the kitchen. He is all about comfort food and deep delicious flavours. Eating his food is like a warm hug from an old friend. This pork dish is an easy and apt tribute to a wonderful cook and communicator.

I have to mention Darina; she doesn’t need a surname. She lives for food and not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The reputation of Irish food would not be the same without her input. We are now enjoying a young, dynamic food culture in Ireland that is rooted in the traditions that Darina always championed, even when it wasn’t fashionable. I think she would approve of this white onion, Cheddar and apple soup which shows that humble ingredients, cooked well, can be stunning.

AN EASY PAELLA 

Serves four

Easy paella
Easy paella

Ingredients
50 ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
I red onion, peeled and sliced
100g chorizo, sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
300g long grain rice
I tin of chopped tomatoes
200g frozen petits pois
300ml chicken stock
250g cod fillets, bones removed and cut into 2cm cubes.
250g prawns (shelled) – frozen will be fine but make sure they are defrosted
Salt and pepper

Method
1
Put the olive oil, garlic and onion into a large, wide pan.
2 Cook over a gentle heat for five to six minutes, then add the chorizo, smoked paprika and cook for two more minutes, then add the rice.
3 Turn the rice in the pan until it is completely coated and glistening, then add the tinned tomatoes, peas (straight from the freezer) and the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer, add salt and pepper then cover with a lid.
4 Cook for 15 minutes, then place the fish evenly on top, gently pushing it into the rice. Cover once more and cook for a further five minutes or so, making sure that the rice is tender, all the stock absorbed and the fish cooked. 

PORK CHOPS WITH ROASTED PEARS, SAGE, ONION AND GORGONZOLA

Serves four

Pork chops with roasted pears, sage, onion and Gorgonzola.
Pork chops with roasted pears, sage, onion and Gorgonzola.

Ingredients
4 pork chops, on the bone if possible
4 medium potatoes (Roosters), cut into half cm slices, skin on
4 small red onions, peeled and cut in half
2 pears, quartered and deseeded
10 sage leaves
75ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
2tbsp maple syrup
2tbsp red wine vinegar
150g Gorgonzola

Method
1
Preheat an oven to 190 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Place the chops, potatoes, onions, pears and sage leaves on a roasting tray.
3 Drizzle the olive oil over everything, then season.
4 Scrunch together so the oil coats everything.
5 Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, turning the chops once or twice.
6 Add the maple syrup and the vinegar, then pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes until everything is caramelised and golden.
7 Divide onto four warm plates with a piece of melting Gorgonzola on each for a creamy kick.

CREAM OF WHITE ONION, CHEDDAR AND APPLE SOUP

Serves four

Cream of white onion, cheddar and apple soup.
Cream of white onion, Cheddar and apple soup.

Ingredients
80g butter
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Good sprig fresh thyme
750ml chicken stock
250ml cream
150ml good apple juice
1tsp English mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g Cheddar cheese, grated

Method

1 Melt the butter in a large heavy based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and, once melted, add the onions and thyme, stirring to coat. 
2 Reduce the heat right down, cover with the lid and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the onions are soft, melting and tender.
3 Pour the stock into the onions and bring to the boil.
4 Add the cream, apple juice, mustard and bring back to a simmer.
5 Cook gently for another 10 minutes. 
6 Season, remove the thyme and ladle into warmed serving bowls with the Cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.

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