Paul Flynn: Three of my family’s favourite dinners
Here are some recipes from the Flynn household – handy, crowd-pleasing and nutritious
Baked pasta with chorizo and parmesan
I sometimes think back to what was my favourite thing to eat when I was at school. We ate dinner in the middle of the day back then. Everyone did.
The food in our house was always very simple, because my mother was simply tired of cooking. Breakfast was unintentionally cursory – sometimes milk bottles were polished off on the doorstep on the way to school, much to the chagrin of my mother.
As with many other families in the 1970s, you knew what you were getting every day of the week and it simply followed a rota. Monday was always beef stew. I used to mop up the juices with some buttered sliced pan.
Another day would be fish fingers and peas, which I still love to this day. Bacon and cabbage would always feature too. I still crave this Irish staple, with lashings of English mustard. We had roast chicken on Sundays, with new potatoes and more butter than was good for me. A fry on a winter’s evening was a special treat.
I was 18 and working in London when I had my first Chinese meal. That would be unthinkable nowadays.
My girls are now 13 and 14, tall and hungry. The hormonal maelstrom has begun. I’m hanging on tight. We try to give them good food. I’m not dictatorial but I am careful. They love burgers and pizza, like any teenagers. Family dinners can still be a bother though. One girl eats everything and the other still doesn’t eat veg, so there’s always a compromise. My stubbornness won’t allow me to do two dinners.
Here are a few crowd pleasing staples from our home that might come in handy. The fusilli is a handy pasta bake, a little twist on macaroni cheese. Make it, then bake it when you want.
Packet gnocchi is a handy fallback in our house. Usually it gets paired with sausages and some onions to make a hearty dinner.
The duck quesadillas are brilliantly tasty. You can replace the pickled cabbage with some red onion jam if your kids won’t eat it, I’d totally understand. If you are making this for four, you will have to do them in batches and keep them warm in a very low oven.
BAKED PASTA WITH CHORIZO AND PARMESAN
300g dried pasta, fusilli or penne or rigantoni
1 tin of tomatoes (240g)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
A pinch of sugar
1 chicken stock cube
100g sliced chorizo, roughly chopped
100g grated Parmesan
1 Pre-heat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet.
3 Meanwhile blend the tomatoes, cream, garlic, sugar and chicken stock cube together.
4 When the pasta is cooked, drain it and put back in the pot, along with the sauce and the chorizo and grated Parmesan.
5 Season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix everything well.
6 Place into a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
7 Serve with a lovely green salad.
SAUSAGE, GNOCCHI AND RED ONION ROAST
8 large sausages – fancy or plain – pick your favourite
3 red onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves of garlic, skin on
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
A drizzle of olive oil
1 packet of gnocchi
80g grated Parmesan
1 Pre-heat an oven to 185 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
2 Place the sausages, onions, garlic and thyme in a roasting tray and coat in the olive oil.
3 Cook for 20 minutes until golden, turning once or twice.
4 Meanwhile cook the gnocchi as per packet instructions, then drain them, retaining a small ladle of water.
5 Add the gnocchi and water to the sausage and onion mix, along with the butter.
6 Divide onto warm plates and scatter the Parmesan over the top.
8 plain tortilla wraps
80g butter, melted
4 tbsp sour cream
4 confit duck legs, cooked, skin removed and the meat shredded
200g mature cheddar cheese, grated
4 heaped tbsp pickled red cabbage or choucroute
1 Off the heat, brush a large non-stick frying pan with some of the butter then lay one tortilla on top.
2 Spread the sour cream evenly on the tortilla, then scatter over the duck, cheese and cabbage. The objective is to make sure they are thinly filled and don’t fall apart.
3 Place another tortilla firmly on top and brush with a little more butter.
4 Place on a medium heat for three to four minutes, making sure you take a peek at the underside to make sure it’s not browning too fast.
5 Turn deftly with a fish slice when golden brown and cook for another three minutes.
6 Slide from the pan into a chopping board and cut into wedges.