Paul Flynn: three perfect dishes for a long family lunch
A ling option to linger over and a pissaladière fit to transport you straight to Provence
Ling with chickpeas, orange and ras al hanout. Photograph: Harry Weir
Bank Holiday weekends beg for long lunches. Some of my fondest memories have been made over lunches. Long, lazy affairs with friends that meld into the night. They are often enjoyed while on holiday, where balmy days are assured and eating alfresco cements the leisurely nature of the day.
Dinners can be special too, but my impatience means I have to wait too long before I’m propped at a table and raring to go. I have vivid and warm memories of the best lunches, no matter how far back they go. My addled brain unearths them from time to time when I’m feeling wistful, like a tantalising message from the past.
Lunch should never be complicated or showy. Where possible, I like to serve it on platters. That soothes the cook’s nerves and enhances the bonhomie.
I adore ling, we should be championing it more. This dish, however, can be made with any chunky white fish. The sauce is almost an infusion, the spices, chickpeas and oil should get to know each other, in a tentative way. You can use ground cumin, or curry powder, if you can’t get ras al hanout.
I love roasting asparagus. It intensifies the flavour beautifully. Here, I’m pairing it with shop-bought gnocchi. It’s a lovely dish with the lightness of lemon, butter and Parmesan, for an easy fix on a lovely day.
A true pissaladière is not for the faint hearted. It should take you straight to Provence. I had the best one of my life at a friend’s house recently. A committed Francophile and food lover, his culinary prowess was alluded to over many a pint, but the evidence was slow to come by.
Then he cooked an astounding pissaladière. The depth of flavour transported me. The amber of the caramelised onions, potent niçoise olives, abundant anchovies and the crisp base, all showed knowledge and commitment to the cause. Washed down with a lovely rosé, we could have been overlooking the bay of Nice. Fair play to him, it wasn’t all talk.
LING WITH CHICKPEAS, ORANGE AND RAS AL HANOUT
120ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 x 150g fillets of ling, skinned and deboned
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ras al hanout
A pinch of brown sugar
Juice of 1 orange
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
125g mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of baby spinach
Salt and pepper
1 Preheat your oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
2 Drizzle a little oil in a roasting tray and set your ling on top.
3 Brush creme fraiche liberally all over the fish.
4 Drizzle with a little more oil, then season with salt and pepper.
5 Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes,approximately, but the time will completely depend on the thickness of your fish. Check it with the tip of a knife after 10 minutes and decide whether it needs a little more time.
6 Warm the olive oil with the garlic, ras al hanout and sugar. Add the orange juice followed by the chickpeas. This can be done ahead of time.
7 When the chickpeas are hot, add the tomatoes and baby spinach then season.
8 Wilt the spinach for a minute then serve in warm bowls with the ling nestled on top.
ROASTED ASPARAGUS, BUTTERED GNOCCHI AND PARMESAN
2 bunches of asparagus
A drizzle of olive oil
Some fresh thyme
500g pack of gnocchi
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper
80g Parmesan, grated
1 Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2 Trim the bottom third from the asparagus and discard, if it’s thin it won’t need peeling. Place it on a large roasting tray, drizzle with the oil and thyme. Season and make sure all the asparagus is coated in oil.
3 Put in the oven and cook for six to seven minutes, until tender. Larger asparagus will take a little longer.
4 Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and add the gnocchi. Once the water returns to a simmer they will only take one more minute.
5 Lift the gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon, then add it to the roasting tray with the asparagus.
6 Add the lemon juice and butter, then season.
7 Transfer to warm plates, scatter the Parmesan on top and serve.
For the dough:
200g strong flour
1 packet dried yeast
1 tsp salt
150ml warm water
1 tsp olive oil
For the topping:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 kg onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp golden brown sugar
2x 80g cans of salted anchovies, drained and chopped
A handful of good black olives, stoned and roughly chopped
A little extra oil for drizzling
1 Put the flour, yeast and salt into a bowl and slowly add the warm water and oil until the mix comes together.
2 Remove the dough to a floured board and knead for five minutes (if you have a mixer, you can do this with the dough hook).
3 Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm then put it in a warm place to prove for an hour.
4 Meanwhile put the olive oil, onions and thyme into a pan. Cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.
5 Uncover and cook for a further 10 minutes over a higher heat until the onions are lightly golden and caramelised.
6 Towards the end of their cooking time add the vinegar, sugar, anchovies, olives and black pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the thyme.
7 Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and lightly oil a large baking tray.
8 Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead just a little on a floured surface, then roll out and press into the tray. Don’t let it rise again.
9 Evenly spread the onion mixture over the dough, drizzle a little oil over the top, then bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Serve warm or cold, cut into squares.