Paul Flynn: This chicken and bacon soup is wholesome and healthy

Spring brings opportunities to cook lighter, brighter dishes such as salads and shellfish

My cooking changes in March. I leave slow cooking and comfort food behind for a while and I embrace the hopeful green of spring. I start to gather wild garlic. In truth it’s one of the only things I forage for. Of course it’s fashionable to forage but it’s not a habit I ever adopted.

Anyhow in the interest of self-preservation, it’s wise for me to rely on my many wonderful and hardworking suppliers. I’m spectacularly ungainly and have a recently acquired fear of heights, so I’m better off indoors in the confines of my kitchen.

The waters also warm up and I look forward to cooking, eating and serving more fish to our customers. We start grilling instead of stewing, and our food becomes more immediate and lighter.

It’s hard to get chefs, everybody’s crying out for them. These days, interviews cringingly involve me selling myself to some young hopeful who might turn into the next kitchen sensation. But I love working with a young eager team, they fire me up and give me life.


So here are a few springtime ideas, for dishes that might appear in the Tannery or at home.

Lemon and greens are firm friends and I tend not to have one without the other. This is a lovely salad that has petits pois at its heart. It’s vibrant and lovely.

I love shellfish. Mussels are easier to find than clams, so don’t worry if you can’t get clams, use all mussels. I collect wild garlic by the black bag. Pick it when it’s young, before it flowers. Wash and dry it before blending it with some light olive oil. It will keep this way in the fridge for two weeks. Think of it as pesto’s dusky cousin.

This chicken and bacon soup is wholesome and healthy. The dried soup mix is available in most supermarkets. It makes the soup filling, delicious and yet worthy.


Serves four

1 bunch asparagus
Juice of 1 lemon
100ml olive oil
1 small red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
A good pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
700g petits pois peas, defrosted
1 red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 small bunch mint, torn into small pieces
150g soft goat's cheese

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil

2.Trim 3cm from the bottom of the asparagus, then cut the remainder into chunks, leaving the tips intact.

3. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, chilli and sugar in a bowl and add some salt and pepper.

4. Put the asparagus and peas into the water and bring back to the boil as quickly as you can.

5. When just boiling, add the sliced onion, stir and straightaway drain through a colander.

6. Run cold water on the peas and throw in some ice if you have it to cool them as quickly as possible.

7. Shake off the excess water thoroughly and add the vegetables to the bowl with the dressing.

8. Season with salt and pepper then add the fresh mint.

9. Serve in one of your best bowls with the goat's cheese crumbled on top.

Mussels and claims in wild garlic broth

Serves four

1 kg mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
500g clams, cleaned
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
300ml cider
A good knob butter
2 tbsp wild garlic puree (see below)
Juice of half a lemon
Few twists black pepper

For the wild garlic puree:
2 heaped handfuls of wild garlic leaves
Enough sunflower oil to make it turn around in the food processor
Salt and pepper

You will need a pot with a lid for this, or a large wok would be great

2. Put the mussels, clams, chilli flakes, cider and butter into the pot.

3. Bring to the boil with the lid on as quickly as possible

4. Turn once or twice with a wooden spoon.

5. When the shells begin to open, add the wild garlic puree, lemon and black pepper.

6. Cook for one more minute until the shells are fully open and serve with some lovely bread to mop up the juices.

To make the wild garlic purée: Wash and pat dry the leaves. Cut them roughly with a sharp knife. Put into liquidiser or food processor and blitz with the oil until fine. This will keep for two to three weeks in the fridge. Make sure there is a thin layer of oil on the surface to protect the purée.

Chicken, leek and bacon broth

Serves four to six

1 tbsp butter
1 packet smoked bacon lardons, 125g
2 medium leeks, finely sliced and rinsed (keep a little water on the leeks)
200g dried broth mix
1 sprig thyme
2 ltr chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 cm pieces
1 large apple
Salt and pepper

Cook the bacon gently in the butter for three minutes, then add the leeks and the thyme.

2. Turn in the bacon juices, cover with a lid and cook gently for five minutes, turning once or twice.

3. Add the broth mix and the stock.

4. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the broth mix is tender.

5. Add the chicken and cook for 10 more minutes.

6. Meanwhile peel and grate the apple, add to the soup.

7. Remove the thyme, season and serve.