Paul Flynn: The perfect meal for the love of your life

Had enough of the cliched table for two? Stay home and cook something delicious

Grilled plaice with roasted garlic and parsley butter. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Grilled plaice with roasted garlic and parsley butter. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

Every 10 days or so I’m on the The Today Show in RTÉ’s Cork studio. Sometimes I arrive in the city early so I get a chance to amble around and soak up the spirit of Cork.

On a recent such morning, as I walked, a woman stopped me and pressed a 20 cent coin wrapped in a note into my hand. It was Handsel Monday, a tradition I had never heard of before. She kissed me on the cheek and wished me good luck for the coming year. It warmed me.

I went to the English Market. In Coughlan’s, I watched an elderly butcher teach his apprentice how to perfectly roll a beef brisket. I bought some sparkling prawns from Ballycotton Seafood and fillets of plaice from O’Connells, the well-honed chat and banter from Pat and Paul ever present.

I also bought some olives and ate a sample of Medjool dates stuffed with a hint of gorgonzola and wrapped in Parma ham – a delicious flavour bomb of pleasure. I urge you to try this at home.

I’m always drawn to the kind, caring and innovative brother-sister combination at O’Mahoney Butchers. Their spiced buffalo was a revelation, a logical twist on traditional Cork spiced beef.

The Farmgate Cafe is the jewel in the market’s crown. The late AA Gill gave it five stars for taste and integrity. Then there is the Mutton Lane Inn. Nestled in a shy capillary of a lane that leads to the heart of the market, it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and it’s not only men that are placated when they’re well fed. If you’ve had enough of the cliched table-for-two scenario, stay home and cook something delicious, maybe fish, for a change.

I’m using plaice, smearing it with some creme fraiche before grilling it. This protects it and gives it a really creamy coating. In truth, it only needs a squeeze of orange or lemon, but I added a sauce for a bit of easy luxury .

If  poultry is more your thing, chicken, mushroom, bacon and sour cream are all great friends. Serve this dish with basmati rice for a bowl of delicious comfort food. 

The apple pie recipe is my version of a strudel, and the most reluctant of cooks will be able to impress their partner with this easy dish full of familiar flavours.

GRILLED PLAICE WITH ROASTED GARLIC AND PARSLEY BUTTER

Serves four

Ingredients
4 large double fillets of place, skin on and trimmed
2 tbsp creme fraiche
A drizzle of melted butter
Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
4 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
50ml olive oil
100g of butter, diced
A few baby plum tomatoes, halved
A squeeze of orange
A good pinch of flat parsley, finely shredded

Method

  1. Cook the garlic in the olive oil slowly over a gentle heat.
  2. When it is evenly golden brown, add the butter, let it bubble and then remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Add the tomatoes to soften, then orange juice and parsley. Set aside till the fish is ready.
  4. Turn your grill on to high. Put the plaice skin side down on a lightly buttered grill tray. Brush the fish evenly and liberally with the creme fraiche then drizzle over the melted butter.
  5. Put under the grill for five to six minutes, until the fish is cooked (this depends on the thickness of the fish).
  6. Warm the sauce for 30 seconds. Serve the fish on heated plates and spoon the sauce over the top. I like to eat this with boiled potatoes and some green veg, tomatoes, or salad, depending on the weather outside.

CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS, BACON AND SOUR CREAM

Serves four

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
125g smoked bacon lardons
2 tbsp olive oil
30g butter
A sprig of thyme, or bay leaf
3 or 4 chicken fillets (depending on size) diced into two-centimetre cubes.
250g mushrooms, sliced (button or chestnut mushrooms are best)
150ml chicken stock
200ml (1 tub) sour cream
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Sweat the onion, bacon and thyme in the butter and the olive oil over a low heat for 10 minutes. I always like to use a lid to keep all the flavour in.
  2. Add the chicken and mushrooms and continue to cook over a medium heat for 12 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the stock and cook for a further five minutes with the lid off.
  4. Stir in the sour cream, bring to a simmer, remove the thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with basmati rice.

 

APPLE ROLY POLY PIE

Serves four

Ingredients
3 eating apples (I prefer to use Gala apples)
3 tbsp brown sugar
A knob of butter
1 packet of ready-rolled puff pastry (275g)
1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

Method

  1. Pre-heat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
  2. Peel, core, quarter and thinly slice the apples. Mix the apple with half of the sugar.
  3. Grease a baking tray with the butter.
  4. Lay the chilled pastry out on a counter top with the wider side facing you (if you work quickly you will not even need flour).
  5.  Brush the pastry with egg wash, then scatter the apples evenly over it, leaving room around the edge.
  6.  Roll the pastry away from you as tightly as you can, it should resemble a Swiss roll.
  7. Pinch the edges and bundle the parcel as carefully as you can onto the tray.
  8. Brush with more egg wash and sprinkle over the remaining sugar and put straight into the oven.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and crisp.

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