Paul Flynn: ‘I still have all my old menus. One dish stands out: bang bang chicken’
This recipe from La Stampa is deliciously retro, as are all the dishes I’m cooking today
‘I had eaten Bang Bang chicken at Marco Pierre White’s Canteen and loved it. So, too, did the people of Dublin.’
I used to be the head chef of a Dublin restaurant called La Stampa. This was in the early 1990s and it was a pretty rock’n’roll place at the time, with wall-to-wall celebs and giddy weekly reportage in the gossip columns.
It was a great place to work. It bustled with people, like the great Parisian brasseries do. There was always a frisson in the air, especially on the walk from the bar through the corridor that opened up into a room of breathtaking beauty. Bagging a Saturday night table there was like being given a golden ticket by Willie Wonka. Ireland was on the cusp of the mad years; things were on the up and people were flashing the cash.
Everybody was glamorous, the room befitted it. It was a million miles away from the staidness of the restaurant I had come from in Park Lane in London. Here, for the first time, I cooked what I wanted. I had to find my own way.
That restaurant taught me a lot of things, most importantly that a great restaurant is not all about the food. Front of house is every bit as important. The waiters were famously the highest tipped in Ireland and the managers ran the place like a Las Vegas show. I kept the food simple and tasty. I had to, we were doing 250 people a night. It was all about the infamous buzz and the happy punters clamoured to return.
I still have all my menus from La Stampa. One dish stands out. Bang bang chicken. I had eaten it at Marco Pierre White’s Canteen and loved it. So, too, did the people of Dublin. It’s deliciously retro, as are the other dishes I’m cooking today.
The prawn cocktail is super easy. You could cheat a bit and buy some decent hummus to replace the butterbean dip to make a snazzy little starter. The quiche is delicious. I’m using shop-bought shortcrust pastry but fire away if you want to make your own. I’ve added dark sherry and a few raisins into the onions to give it some robustness
BANG BANG CHICKEN
400ml light coconut milk
3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
½ a cucumber
2 spring onions, shredded
100ml rice wine vinegar
½ a red chilli, finely diced
1 cooked chicken, shredded
Salt and pepper
6 heads of Little Gem lettuce, trimmed and washed
Small bunch fresh coriander and toasted sesame seeds, to serve
- Bring the coconut milk up to a gentle simmer then whisk in the peanut butter and ginger. Set aside, cool and chill.
- Peel and trim the carrot then cut it lengthways into six and then slice it into small pieces
- Peel the half cucumber then cut it lengthways into six and then slice it into small pieces
- Bring the vinegar, water and sugar to the boil, add the carrot and the chilli and set aside.
- When the liquid is cool add the cucumber and then chill the pickle.
- To serve, turn the chicken in the peanut dressing, season and place on the Little Gem lettuce leaves.
- Drain the carrot and cucumber pickle and scatter it over the salad, then sprinkle the spring onions, coriander leaves and toasted sesame seeds over the top.
A NEW PRAWN COCKTAIL
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
1 x 400g tin of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Half a head of iceberg lettuce, washed and shredded
A knob of butter
20 large prawn tails
4 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
4 lemon wedges
- Bring the lemon juice and sugar to the boil in a small pan, then remove from the heat.
- Put the butterbeans and garlic into a food processor with the lemon syrup and purée till smooth.
- Add the creme fraiche, olive oil and seasoning, then remove from the processor and set aside.
- When ready to serve, divide the butterbean purée between four nice glasses and then top with the lettuce.
- Heat the butter in a frying pan until gently foaming.
- Add the prawns and cook for a minute on each side before adding the sweet chilli sauce.
- Remove from the heat and let the sauce bubble around the prawns.
- Spoon the prawns into the glasses and serve with a wedge of lemon.
PEDRO XIMENEZ, CARAMELISED ONION AND COOLEA CHEESE QUICHE
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
50ml Pedro Ximenez or other dark sweet sherry
50g raisins, soaked in boiling water
Some leaves of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 packet shortcrust pastry
Plain flour for dusting
3 large eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
150g grated Coolea cheese
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Cook the onions in the butter over a medium heat for 20 minutes until they are soft and golden brown, then add the sherry and allow it to be absorbed.
- Drain the raisins, add them to the onions along with the thyme, then season with salt and pepper.
- Roll the pastry out a little on a lightly floured surface.
- Oil and flour a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin.
- Line the tin as best you can making sure you have a slight overhang around the edge of the tin. This will prevent shrinkage later.
- You may have to take some excess pastry to patch up any shortcomings; simply trim some off one side and press it into the less abundant side.
- Prick the base lightly with a fork and place into the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.
- Line the tart base with parchment paper and fill the base with ceramic baking beans or a good amount of rice.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes before removing the baking beans and parchment.
- Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Spread the caramelised onion mixture over the base of the tart .
- Whisk the eggs with the milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then ladle this over the top of the onions.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the custard mixture then put back in the oven at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden and the custard has a slight wobble in the centre.
- Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Trim the excess pastry then carefully remove from the tin and slice.