Paul Flynn: I love chicken wings. I could eat them all day

I’m a committed butter boy, but I’ve fallen for olive oil - it can elevate any dish to glorious heights

Chicken wings with roasted garlic, balsamic, rosemary and olive oil. Photograph: Harry Weir

Chicken wings with roasted garlic, balsamic, rosemary and olive oil. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

I have a confession to make. I never fully appreciated good olive oil until recently. I’ve always used it in my cooking, but it was always the workmanlike everyday stuff, pleasant but unobtrusive. The dark, bitter, green oil scares me.

There are a few reasons, some of it ignorance on my part. Some of it is stubbornness as I harbour a distain for elitism in food, and some of it is down to my roots as I remain a committed butter boy. I bristle at the insistence of some food writers that only the olives harvested on the foothills of Mount Etna and pressed by Vestal Virgins should be used for cooking. Food is simpler than that, more democratic. Delicious food can be made without breaking the bank or delivering a lecture.

I’m not going to tell you how recently my epiphany was. I bought a golden bottle of Extremaduran nectar one day when I was feeling flush. I drizzled it over some Toonsbridge burrata with abundant flecks of sea salt and ate it with decent toast. I was transported. What a fool I had been to wait so long for such a joy. I always keep a bottle to hand now, never for cooking with, but always for anointing something special like a beautiful piece of fish.

I love chicken wings. I could eat them all day long, in all their manifestations. The true devotees will suck the garlic in this recipe with as much enthusiasm as they devour their wings.

I should eat more aubergine. I never fell out with it, but somehow in the past I needed others to convince me of its slippery glory. This dish is soothing, creamy and fiery at the same time. If you like aubergines, you’ll love this. If harissa isn’t your thing, some smoked paprika would be fine here too. 

Pepperonata has been in my repertoire for a long time. I cook it only in summer. It’s best friends with everyone – carnivore or vegetarian. I eat it with rice or perhaps some flatbread, something to absorb all its smoky goodness.

CHICKEN WINGS WITH ROASTED GARLIC, BALSAMIC, ROSEMARY AND OLIVE OIL

Serves four

Chicken wings with roasted garlic, balsamic, rosemary and olive oil. Photograph: Harry Weir
Chicken wings with roasted garlic, balsamic, rosemary and olive oil. Photograph: Harry Weir

Ingredients
1.5kg large chicken wings
4tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2tbsp honey
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bulbs of garlic, broken into cloves and left unpeeled

Method
1
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
2 Put the wings in a roasting tray, add the olive oil, season and cook for 20 minutes.
3 Remove the wings from the oven, add the honey, balsamic, rosemary and garlic to the tray and mix well.
4 Turn the heat down to 180 degrees and cook for 20 minutes more, turning once or twice in the tray until the wings are dark and sticky.

BAKED AUBERGINES WITH HARISSA, ORANGE AND MASCARPONE

Serves six

Baked aubergines with harissa, orange and mascarpone.
Baked aubergines with harissa, orange and mascarpone.

Ingredients
3 aubergines
6tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
250g mascarpone
1 egg yolk
Zest of half an orange
½tbsp harissa paste
100g panko breadcrumbs (ordinary breadcrumbs will do too)
More oil, for drizzling

Method
1
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2 Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise. Score the flesh and place on an oven tray, cut side up.
3 Drizzle the olive oil over the aubergines, making sure it is rubbed well into the flesh, then season them with salt and pepper.
4 Bake for 40 minutes, until soft and tender.
5 Meanwhile, mix the mascarpone with the egg yolk, orange and harissa, then season the mixture.
6 Spoon the mixture evenly over the aubergine, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle with a little olive oil. This can all be done ahead of time.
7 When ready to serve, bake for 20 minutes more until the tops are golden and crisp. Serve with some salad.

PEPPERONATA

Serves six

Pepperonata.
Pepperonata.

Ingredients
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
50mls olive oil
3 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
½ a red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 pieces of orange peel
½tbsp of honey
Salt and pepper

Method
1
Cook the onion gently in the olive oil for 10 minutes in a covered pan.
2 Add the peppers, garlic, chilli and spices.
3 Cover and cook on low heat for another 20-25 minutes – until soft and sweet.
4 Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, orange peel and honey. Cook over a medium heat for another 10 minutes, with the lid off, until the mixture is thick and syrupy.
5 Season well and set aside until needed.

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