Paul Flynn: simple recipes that give comfort all year round
The chef-owner of the Tannery restaurant returns as The Irish Times’s cookery writer with three comforting dishes
Winter warmer: Flynny’s lamb hotpot. Photograph: Harry Weir
It has been the bones of 15 years since I regularly wrote the cookery column for the Irish Times Magazine. Back then I would write in indecipherable longhand before passing the sauce-stained A4 tragedy to my wife, Máire, to figure out and type, through gritted teeth.
I’ve become a little more self-sufficient with the advent of smartphones. My finger cautiously stabs the letters on to my note. I curse my varifocals, eventually abandoning them altogether in frustration. I eventually get it done but still have to run it by the boss, because apparently my punctuation leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s around now that I would use the eye-roll emoji that I have become addicted to on social media, but that is not appropriate for proper, grown-up writing.
Cooking at home is far more important than any complicated creation that any chef can make. It literally shapes our children and can make every house a home
I’m thrilled to be back. Those columns, all those years ago, literally made us at the Tannery, our restaurant in Dungarvan, in Co Waterford. We were cooking good food, but we needed people to travel to us to sustain a year-round business.
We opened rooms and a cookery school, as I felt evangelical about passing on my love of cooking. Through the years the food I teach there has become less cheffy and more family orientated – the arrival of our own two girls focused my mind.
In the early years of the Tannery our home took second place. We never got to spend much time there. It was just a place to sleep and do some serious couch-surfing on our day off, usually with a dodgy takeaway for dinner, as I simply couldn’t chop another onion.
There were times set aside, of course, for fantastically wild parties. Everyone knows that restaurant people know how to work hard but are also pretty adept at letting off steam. So the house became a Mecca for off-duty restaurant people. This was around the time when Dungarvan was rechristened Fungarvan. I frequently wrote about those great times and the people we encountered, to ensure some sort of catalogue of the shenanigans remained.
I still have every copy of The Irish Times Magazine that I contributed to during that time. It was 3½ years of great memories and the inevitable great food that went with them.
The same friends still come to visit, but now I love to cook for them at home. We have some wine and watch the telly; by 11pm we are all nodding off. How times have changed.
These articles will be all about seasonality. For someone who loves to cook it is as important as a painter’s palette. I’ll be giving you simple recipes that give comfort all year round
Children change the dynamics of a house. They give it life and a purpose. All of a sudden it’s not about us any more. But that’s okay. The hours that we grasped for ourselves before are now the hours that we spend ferrying children to and from piano lessons, swimming and so on. Every parent knows what it’s like.
Cooking at home is far more important than any complicated creation that any chef can make. It literally shapes our children and can make every house a home.
These articles will be all about seasonality. I know it’s a cliche, but for someone who loves to cook it is as important as a painter’s palette. I’ll be giving you simple recipes that give comfort, whatever the time of year. I will endeavour to give you a little giggle whenever I can along the way, but this might depend on there not being any drama in the restaurant that day.
I still love food. I suppose I’ve slowed down a bit, although I would say I haven’t got any more sense. (Cue eye-roll emoji.)
So stay with me, when you can, and let’s see what happens.
BAKED EGGS WITH CHORIZO, CREAM AND PARMESAN
Classic oeufs en cocotte. The perfect teatime dish or even a dinner-party treat. Feel free to replace the chorizo with smoked bacon, smoked haddock or smoked salmon. For vegetarians a little sprinkle of smoked paprika over the egg will work wonders.These can be done ahead of time and refrigerated.
8 medium free-range eggs
12 thinly sliced rings from a small chorizo sausage
A little melted butter to coat your ramekins
2tbsp cream per ramekin
A little grated Parmesan to go on top of each one
Salt and black pepper
1 Heat an oven to 180 Celsius, or equivalent. Brush the ramekins with a little melted butter.
2 Crack one egg into each ramekin, drop in the chorizo, then crack the other egg on top.
3 Season each ramekin, then spoon the cream on top. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and bake for 12 minutes, until there is just a little jiggle in the middle.
4 Serve with hot toast.
FLYNNY’S LAMB HOTPOT
I love pulses. They collect every flavour that they are immersed in and melt in your mouth, little healthy flavour bombs. They are filling and heart-warming, which is what you want in the cold months. Also, I consciously want to use less meat whenever I can, when the recipe allows. So the lamb here, while present, is a lamby, jammy presence at the bottom of the pot rather than abundantly through the stew.
This would be lovely with a generous blob of redcurrant jelly and a crisp green salad.
350g diced shoulder of lamb
200g broth mix (widely available in supermarkets, a mix of barley, lentils and split peas )
1 chicken stock cube
400ml cider (optional but nice; replace with water if you don’t have it)
3tbsp country relish
1tbsp English mustard
A little fresh thyme and three bay leaves
5 medium Rooster potatoes , peeled and thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
Some butter to dot over the spuds
Salt and pepper
1 Find a medium pot or casserole dish with high sides and set an oven to 160 Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Put the lamb in the bottom and add the relish, mustard and thyme, and salt and pepper, and then mix well.
3 Sprinkle the broth mix evenly over the top.
4 Pour the water and cider into another pot, then add the chicken stock cube and a little more salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer briefly and whisk to amalgamate the stock cube.
5 Cover the broth mix by overlapping the potatoes on top. They should make two layers or so.
6 Pour the cider stock gently over the top; your potatoes will be immersed, but don’t worry.
7 Dot the butter over the top of the spuds, then intersperse the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
8 Cover tightly with a lid or foil and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes.
9 Turn the heat up to 190 Celsius, remove the lid and cook for 25 more minutes, until golden and crisp on top.
APPLES AND PEARS WITH BROWN SUGAR, CREAM AND HOT CROISSANTS
A little butter to grease the dish
3 pears, peeled and cut into quarters, with the cores removed
2 Gala apples, peeled and cut into quarters, with the core removed
2tbsp brown sugar
1 small tub of cream
4 croissants, opened up lengthways and heated gently in the oven
2 fresh bay leaves or a little fresh thyme
1 Heat an oven to 180 Celsius, or equivalent. Rub a shallow ovenproof dish with a little butter.
2 Put the pears, apples and bay leaves in the dish and scatter with brown sugar. Cover in foil and seal. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, depending how ripe the pears are.
3 Peel back the foil and add the cream. Put back in the oven for a further five minutes, until it starts to bubble and thicken.
4 Carefully scoop out the fruit and cream and spoon it over the warm croissants.