Paul Flynn: What I cook when I’m cooking for another chef
Sometimes just getting good ingredients and treating them with respect is enough
Spaghetti with yellow pepper cream. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
I want to tell you about a dinner I cooked a little while back for a man I have a lot of time for. Paddy came to our cookery school eight years ago to do a week-long course. We bonded straight away. I suppose he was 22 or 23 years of age at the time. He’d been to university in Belfast, twice it turns out, but it wasn’t for him. He had the cooking bug.
He subsequently worked in the Tannery, and stayed for three years, solid as a rock. Chefs move about. It’s about gathering experience and knowledge in different kitchens before honing your own style. After some illustrious years in Chapter One and The Greenhouse, where he helped gain two Michelin stars, he and his young family have made the move to France. He has always been quietly ambitious.
Michel Guérard is one of France’s iconic chefs. His restaurant, Les Près d’Eugénie, has held three Michelin stars for more than 40 years and he is still in the kitchen in his 80s. This is where Paddy is now, and it’s a momentous move for any chef, the highlight of a glittering CV.
I was lucky to get to the English Market the day before he came for dinner. This week I am writing about what to buy, as much as what to cook. As always I went to Toonsbridge Dairy (now also open on George’s Street in Dublin), where I bought olives, mozzarella, olive oil, breadsticks, and feta and basil dip. This was the starter; no need for fuss. I tore the mozzarella and drizzled it with oil and a posh gooseberry vinegar, then added flecks of sea salt. Everyone helped themselves.
The main course was yellow pepper spaghetti, as mild mannered as Paddy himself. It’s a well-loved recipe in my home that I tweaked and served with some charcuterie as an accompaniment. I also made some anchovy and mandarin butter to spread on toasted ciabiatta for the middle of the table. It was a flavour bomb that was a lovely contrast to the mellow spaghetti.
I’m also giving you a recipe for a feta and basil spread, as I appreciate not everyone can get to a Toonsbridge shop. It’s fabulous as a dip, or as a sauce with roast lamb.
SPAGHETTI WITH YELLOW PEPPER SAUCE
50ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 yellow peppers, deseeded and diced
A pinch of dried chilli
100g grated Parmesan
500g dried spaghetti
Salt and black pepper
1 Very gently cook the garlic and rosemary in the olive oil until the garlic starts to colour.
2 Remove the rosemary, then add the peppers and dried chilli.
3 Turn the peppers in the oil, cover and continue to cook over a low heat for 20 minutes until they are soft and melting.
4 Add the cream, bring to a simmer, season and then blend in a food processor or blender straight away, and return to the pan.
5 Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Drain and fold through the yellow pepper sauce.
6 Serve with lashings of Parmesan.
TOASTED CIABATTA WITH ANCHOVIES
10 salted anchovies
A few fresh thyme leaves
Juice of 1 mandarin
1 ciabiatta loaf
1 Melt the butter, then chop the anchovies and add them to it along with the thyme.
2 Stir over a low heat for a minute or so, until the anchovies melt into the butter.
3 Add the mandarin juice and remove from the heat.
4 Cut the ciabiatta in half lengthways. Toast the bread, then smear it with the anchovy butter.
5 Cut into chunks and serve. This would be wonderful with the charcuterie on its own, as well as with the pasta.
FETA AND BASIL DIP
200g feta cheese
200g light cream cheese
140g tub of high-quality basil pesto
Zest and juice of 1 lime
A little salt and black pepper
1 Blend everything together in a food processor and chill until needed.