Paul Flynn: Three perfect dishes for busy families

Baked risotto; Sticky shallots with Mozzarella and Parma ham; Spiced tomato tart

Does parenthood automatically come with guilt or is it the fact that I was brought up a Catholic that amplifies it?

Either way, the summer has its familial challenges when you have a restaurant in a seaside town. It’s busy and that’s great after all we’ve been through, but there’s always a worry the girls will be floundering and lonely while we are at work.

They are lucky they have an action woman for a mother though, who organises the staff, the restaurant and the husband as well. Our summer days are punctuated by zipping home numerous times a day, because it was some clever bozo’s idea to have a house on a hill away from town for the serenity and the view.

Dungarvan is a haven for little sailors and that keeps them occupied, but I’m afraid I’ll be called upon to do some manly Dad sailory stuff. However, I’ll do anything to get us all off our phones, so if you see some nautical photos of me in due course, don’t be alarmed. I’ll give new meaning to the phrase “lost at sea”.


These dishes are for busy houses where food can’t take over from the business of the day.

The risotto is baked, not something I usually do being a fan of the real thing but this allows you have more time to yourself. Eat with a salad to alleviate the richness, otherwise you’ll have to go straight to bed.

The shallot dish is a riff from a dish served for years in Le Caprice, London – was there ever a more glamorous restaurant? I nervously bogtrotted through its doors on a few occasions back in the day, a young and innocent fish out of water. I was a long way from home.

I love this with a good rocket and Parmesan salad. I’ve left whole garlic in its skins, prise them open and savour.

If you can’t find large shallots, either double the amount of small ones or use red onions peeled and cut into six.

The tart is a fabulous little lunch, or a snack. The hummus, chilli and cumin give it a subtle hint of the Levant.


Serves 4


50g butter
1 medium leek, finely chopped and washed
½ tsp smoked paprika
300g risotto rice, rinsed
150g frozen petit pois
700ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
2tbsp light cream cheese
100g grated mature Cheddar cheese


1 Set the oven to 185 degrees, or equivalent.

2 Melt the butter in a casserole dish and add the leeks.

3 Cook gently for 5 minutes then add the smoked paprika, rice and petit pois, then season.

4 Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and put in the oven for 25 minutes.

5 When the rice is cooked, fold in the cream cheese and most of the Cheddar leaving a little for the top then serve.


Serves 4


80ml olive oil
8 banana shallots (large), peeled and halved
A generous sprig of thyme
1 bulb of garlic, pulled apart but the cloves left whole
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 large balls of Mozzarella
8 slices of Parma ham


1 Set the oven to 180 degrees, or equivalent

2 Place the olive oil, shallots, thyme and garlic into a roasting dish.

3 Season and roast for 15 minutes turning once or twice, then add the balsamic vinegar.

4 Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so until the shallots are soft, sticky and tender. This will all depend on the size of your shallots.

5 Serve the shallots warm or at room temperature with the Mozzarella torn, and the Parma ham draped over the top.


Serves 4


1 roll of shortcrust pastry (320g)
3 generous tbsp of your favourite hummus
3 plum tomatoes, finely sliced
Drizzle of olive oil
Pinch of cumin powder
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and black pepper
Some picked fresh coriander


1 Set the oven to 185 degrees, or equivalent

2 Unfurl the pastry on to parchment/baking paper and place it in a shallow roasting tray.

3 Smooth the hummus evenly on top, then distribute the tomatoes on top of the hummus.

4 Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle over the cumin, chilli, salt and pepper.

5 Bake for 18-20 minutes till crisp.

6 Eat hot or cold with a scattering of fresh coriander and a little salad if you please.