Paul Flynn: ‘I cook country food with style and I’m okay with that’

In my world, winter food needs to be a little bit rich. It insulates us against the cold.

Brussels sprout risotto, toffee parsnips and apple. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Brussels sprout risotto, toffee parsnips and apple. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

I haven’t the discipline or the inclination to do really complicated food. I naturally veer towards bumbusters, as the nail in a country restaurant’s coffin is pretty but Lilliputian portions.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. irishtimes.com/foodmonth

There’s a fine line between making something look attractive on a plate while also sating the customer’s appetite. Some people are put off by hefty, groaning plates literally dripping with excess, myself included. However, a sense of generosity in a restaurant is compulsory. You don’t want guests complaining they had to stop for chips on the way home. I heard a good expression the other day: country food with style. I’m okay with that.

In saying all of this, I truly marvel at the amazing creations made by some of my fellow chefs. They are true artists and my stubby little fingers couldn’t hold a candle to them. Our industry is as diverse as a bag of dolly mixtures and I’m very thankful for it.

Instagram is the source of the ultimate food porn. I gaze in wonder at the posts of the Mickael Viljanens of this world and I’m astonished at their beauty. The acclaim is richly deserved.

Back in my world, winter food needs to be a little bit rich. It insulates us against the cold. Sprouts are upon us and I love their farty charm, so much so that I’m putting them into a risotto with lots of cheese and topped with chewy caramelised roasted parsnips. This unctuous concoction is livened up by a hit of sharp apple. It’s a satisfying option for the non-meat eaters in your house at Christmas.

I rarely have gammon, finding it flat in every sense of the word. But here I’ve given it personality by paring it with a perky sweet and sour cabbage that’s laden with fresh ginger. The nutty sweet potato roasties have a crunchy companion in the form of the sesame seeds and it works well.

I haven’t done a mussel dish in a while. Given the time of year, I use clementines whenever possible and they work well together here. Butter and more ginger give them a warm luxury and the parsley breadcrumbs bring texture. This is an easy dish. Once you’ve prepped the mussels, it can be made in minutes.

BRUSSELS SPROUT RISOTTO, TOFFEE PARSNIPS AND APPLE

Serves four

Ingredients

80g butter

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

Sprig of sage or thyme

2 parsnips

Drizzle of rapeseed oil

1tbsp golden brown sugar

Pinch of mixed spice

Salt and pepper

400g risotto rice (Arborio)

200ml cider

1.2 litre hot chicken stock

12 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded

100g grated Parmesan

1 red apple, cut into small batons

Method

1 Set the oven to 185 degrees.

2 Melt half the butter in a pot and add the onion and sage. Cover and turn down the heat and cook slowly for 15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent but with no colour.

3 Meanwhile peel and top the parsnips then cut each into six, lengthways.

4 Put them on a roasting tray, add the oil, sugar, mixed spice and seasoning. Turn together until everything is coated then put in the oven for 20 minutes turning once or twice until they are sticky and golden. Keep them warm.

5 Add the rice to the onions making sure everything is nicely coated in the butter, then add the cider. Bring to a simmer, then add half the stock, salt and pepper.

6 Allow to cook over a low heat until the liquid has nearly evaporated, stirring once or twice.

7 Add the sprouts to the pot along with half the remaining stock and bring to a careful simmer once more. From this point on you will have to do a little more stirring.

8 When the stock has evaporated the sprouts should be almost cooked and so should the rice. You will have to check the texture of the rice. It needs to have a tiny bit of bite.

9 Add more stock to loosen the risotto, it should be a little runny in the pot and not sit in a mound when you stir it.

10 Dice the remaining butter and add it to the pot with most of the Parmesan and stir in.

11 Divide the risotto on to warm plates and scatter over the remaining Parmesan, followed by the parsnips and lastly the apple. Serve straight away.

Grilled gammon, Asian cabbage, sweet sesame roasties. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Grilled gammon, Asian cabbage, sweet sesame roasties. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

GRILLED GAMMON, ASIAN CABBAGE, SWEET SESAME ROASTIES

Serves two

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks

A drizzle of sunflower oil

1tbsp sesame seeds

Salt and pepper

2tbsp sesame oil

1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 x 2cm piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and shredded

1tbsp raisins

Half head of Savoy cabbage, trimmed, washed and shredded

40ml white wine vinegar

100ml water

1tbsp caster sugar

2 gammon steaks

Method

1 Set the oven to 185 degrees.

2 Put the sweet potato on to a small roasting tray, add the sunflower oil and sesame seeds, then season, making sure everything is coated.  

3 Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice until golden and crisp. Don’t worry if some of the sesame seeds get a bit dark. That’s okay. Keep the sweet potato warm.

4 Meanwhile put the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, raisins, cabbage, vinegar, water and sugar into a pot. Season, cover tightly and cook on full heat until the liquid has evaporated. This will only take about five minutes. You want the cabbage to steam but not boil dry. Desist from looking into the pot, you will hear it sizzle as it comes near the end.

5 Turn the cabbage off, give it a little stir and keep it warm.

6 Put a grill on to high heat. 

7 Oil a tray and brush a little more oil on the gammon, then grill for five to six minutes .

8 Arrange on warm plates with the sweet potato roasties and the cabbage.

Mussels with clementine and ginger butter, parsley crunch. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Mussels with clementine and ginger butter, parsley crunch. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

MUSSELS WITH CLEMENTINE AND GINGER BUTTER, PARSLEY CRUNCH

Serves two

Ingredients

6tbsp breadcrumbs

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

A drizzle of olive oil

Salt and pepper

2tbsp finely chopped parsley

1tbsp butter

2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely sliced

1 x 2cm piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and shredded

Juice of four clementines

1kg mussels, washed and de-bearded

Method

1 Set the oven to 185 degrees.

2 Put the breadcrumbs and garlic on to a small roasting tray and mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper. You need just enough oil to moisten the breadcrumbs.

3 Cook in the oven for 10-12 minutes turning once or twice, until golden and crunchy.

4 Allow to cool, then mix with the parsley.

5 Put the butter, shallots and ginger into a large pot and cook gently for two minutes.

6 Add the clementine juice and the mussels, cover tightly and cook over a high heat, stirring once for three to four minutes until all the mussels open. This will depend on the size of your mussels.

7 Divide into warm bowls then scatter the parsley breadcrumbs on top.

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