Paul Flynn: The hulking carnivore inside me is utterly bored

I’ve long wanted to put the vegetables centre stage. Here's now to make them the star of the show

Buttered tomatoes on toast with elderflower and crab

Buttered tomatoes on toast with elderflower and crab

 

There’s a large part of me that wants to change. Not the late-night, festival-going, disco-dancing part, but the hulking carnivore inside is utterly bored. As long as I’ve been in charge of a kitchen, my menus have been constructed the same way. Meat or fish in the centre, with vegetables playing second fiddle.  

Seasons are adhered to, of course, for without that there is nothing but lumpen tediousness. But I’ve long wanted to put the vegetables centre stage. How old do I have to get before I’m brave enough to do it?

These dishes put vegetables first, with a little meat or fish to enhance them. Sometimes the Irish man will only be satisfied by size. I’m qualified to comment as I’ve spent a large part of my life feeding them. Portion sizes grow the further you move away from the capital. I’m not judging, but it’s a fact.

Taste is the key with these dishes. Their full-on flavours are fabulous. There is no ethereal nuance here. Eating these is like getting an enthusiastic hug – remember hugs?

I love cabbage at any time of the year. I imagine eating today’s cabbage recipe on an uncertain summer day. We all know those days, when you spend a large part of it staring at the sky, wondering if it will rain. The cabbage is rendered soft in buttery juices, with the fat silkiness of the salami cut by vinegar and apple. As a treat, eat it with mash.

I made this crab dish in the height of elderflower season. It would be lovely on a pert salad but I decided to have it on toast – it was just the mood I was in. Elderflower, tomato and crab might not be obvious bedfellows but they’ve got on famously since I forced them together.

Yung Ming Yuan on Princes Street in Cork is our family’s favourite Chinese restaurant. The anticipation of our visits there send us all into an excitable babble. We always have a dim sum feast that includes four seasons green beans. We devour them silently, interspersed only by groans of happiness. I’ve made the beans with duck instead of pork because I love duck.

ROASTED SUMMER CABBAGE, SALAMI AND APPLE

Roasted summer cabbage, salami and apple. Photograph: Harry Weir
Roasted summer cabbage, salami and apple. Photograph: Harry Weir

Serves four

Ingredients
1 summer cabbage
100g butter
2tbs golden raisins
2 sprigs of thyme
200ml chicken stock
2tbs cider vinegar
A drizzle of honey
Salt and black pepper
200g of your favourite salami (mine is Gubbeen), diced or sliced.
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into batons (thin matchsticks)

Method
1 Preheat your oven to 185 degrees.

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2 Trim the outside leaves from the cabbage and cut into four, then wash and dry it.

3 Melt the butter in a sturdy oven-proof tray, or casserole dish over the hob, and when it is foaming add the cabbage, cut side down.

4 Cook gently until the cabbage starts to brown, then add the raisins, thyme, stock, vinegar and honey.

5 Season with salt and pepper, then cover tightly with foil.

6 Bake for 25-30 minutes, until tender.

7 Place the cabbage and raisins on to warm plates. Spoon the juice over the cabbage, then divide the apple and salami over the top. Serve with mashed potatoes.

BUTTERED TOMATOES ON TOAST WITH ELDERFLOWER AND CRAB

Buttered tomatoes on toast with elderflower and crab
Buttered tomatoes on toast with elderflower and crab

Serves four

Ingredients
100g butter
250g punnet of mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
½ a red chilli, finely diced
1tbs elderflower cordial
100g white crabmeat, picked
2tbs chopped chives
Salt and pepper
4 slices of decent bread for toasting

Method
1 Melt the butter and, when it is bubbling gently, add the tomatoes and chilli.

2 Cook for two minutes, until the tomatoes start to soften, then add the elderflower, crab and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

3 Toast the bread and serve the mixture on top. This would also be lovely with brown bread.

FOUR SEASONS GREEN BEANS WITH CRISPY DUCK

Four seasons green beans with crispy duck
Four seasons green beans with crispy duck

Serves four

Ingredients
300ml sunflower oil
2 packets French beans (about 400g), trimmed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 x 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cooked duck legs, meat removed and chopped.
1tsp spicebag spice
A handful of cashew nuts, roughly chopped (peanuts would be good too)
4tbs dark soy sauce
4 spring onions, finely sliced

Method
1 Heat the oil in a wok – to test whether it is hot enough, drop one bean in to see if it sizzles.

2 Carefully add the beans to the oil and fry for five minutes or so, until the beans cook and shrivel a little.

3 Remove the beans from the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, then drain them on some kitchen paper.

4 Pour out the hot oil (very carefully), leaving a little in the bottom of the wok.

5 Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger for one minute over a medium heat, then add the duck. Cook for two more minutes before adding the spicebag mix, cashew nuts and finally beans.

6 After a couple of minutes add the soy and spring onions and serve immediately.

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