This little piggy

PAUL FLYNN, chef-patron of the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, bounced into the cookery school last week looking every inch a mischievous little boy in a chef’s rig-out.

He was all set to do a master class as a finale to the students 12-week certificate course. I didn't know it then but he'd told Emer (who assisted him) that he was scared to death because this was only the second demonstration he had ever done.

Well, he's a complete natural. The students were spellbound from the outset.

His self-deprecating humour and passion for food had the students all 10 nationalities drooling over all kinds of unmentionable bits of pig that they wouldn't have dreamed of cooking before.

Paul spent nine years with the irrepressible Nico Ladenis in London and many more with Marco Pierre White before opening his own restaurant in his home town with his wife Máire. Running his own place, with a free hand to cook whatever he fancied, proved to be quite a learning curve.

But it wasn't long before the word got out that it was well worth making a detour to lovely Dungarvan to Paul and Máire's minimalist restaurant. The food has won many accolades and has recently been voted "best restaurant in Munster" by Food and Wine magazine.

Paul also wrote an entertaining column in the Irish Times magazine for several years which formed the basis of his recently published cookbook: An Irish Adventure with Food, which was named "cookbook of the year, also by Food and Wine. This is a personal account of Paul's love affair with food and his fascination with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

He writes brilliantly and wittily the book is peppered with wonderful quotes that can't fail to get even the most blasécook excited about even the most mundane ingredients: "Parsnips are fantastic. I like the way they lie in greengrocers, ugly and muddy, crying out to be scrubbed and peeled to reveal their creamy flesh."

He loves cooking offal and the cheaper cuts of meat and bemoans the passing of ox cheek, "meltingly delicious, as rich as Bill Gates", no longer available from Irish butchers because of the ox heads being incinerated.

His demonstration was entitled Piggy Pleasure, so he cooked lots of delicious dishes with the succulent cheaper cuts of pork and bacon: spring rolls filled with crubeens and served with choucroute and apple and cinnamon butter; a ham hock terrine made with shoulder of bacon with sage and onion; glazed belly of pork with savoy cabbage, celeriac and potato puree.

While waiting for the pork to caramelise in the oven, he whipped up a bacon and cabbage risotto which he raised to fluffy new heights with a few spoonfuls of horseradish cream borrowed from the terrine.

We had no dessert but I rather fancy his banana gingerbread served with a few extra caramelised bananas.

Paul's book would make an ideal present for a foodie friend, or maybe a gift token for lunch at the Tannery would whet the appetite.

An Irish Adventure with Food, by Paul Flynn, is published in Cork by the Collins Press.

The Tannery, Dungarvan, tel 058-45420.

Terrine of ham hock with sage and onion

Serves about 10

1 shoulder of bacon boiled and kept in bacon water. This can be done a day or two before

1 2lb loaf tin lined with cling film that overlaps the edges

1 large onion, finely diced

1 handful fresh sage, finely chopped

1 handful of prunes in Armagnac, moderately chopped (or some prunes soaked in tea may be used)

75g/ 3oz butter

1 splash of sherry or cider vinegar

optional black pepper

Boil the ham until falling off the bone. Then allow to come to room temperature. Then chop into 2cm pieces along with most of the fat. This is essential to make it stick together. Sweat the onions very gently until they are a golden colour. Then add the sage. There must be no bite to the onions at all. Add a little salt and black pepper to the onions, then add the ham. Now add the chopped prunes and splash of vinegar. Mix everything together and pile into the terrine or loaf tin as tightly as you can. Bring the clingfilm back from the sides and overlap on the top, piercing four or five holes in it. Place the terrine in the fridge for two hours to set a little, then take out. At this point you need to get a piece of wood or strong plastic to use as a press. This should just fit into the top of the tin. Place a heavy weight (3 or 4kg) on top. Refrigerate overnight and turn out. Slice, present and accept acclamation. Serve with toast and chutneys. This keeps for 2/3 days (ideal for around Christmas time).

Banana gingerbread

Serves 8

(from An Irish Adventure with Food by Paul Flynn)

This makes one 900g/2lb loaf tin

225g/8oz self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

110g/4oz treacle

110g/4oz butter

110g/4oz Demerara sugar

175g/6oz golden syrup

1 egg

3 ripe bananas

This is combination of bananabread and gingerbread. It freezes superbly, is great for an afternoon tea and is light enough to be used as a dessert, which we do in the restaurant.

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 2½. Mix the flour and ginger in a bowl. Melt together the treacle, butter, sugar and golden syrup. Beat the egg and mash the bananas well.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out on a wire tray. This is delicious with some whipped cream and a dash of maple syrup. If you want to go a little further, caramelise some bananas (see recipe), and sprinkle with sesame seeds. To reheat, slice and place in the microwave for a very short time: a few seconds should do it.

Chocolate and hazelnut cookies with special hot chocolate

(from An Irish Adventure with Food by Paul Flynn)

Makes 25 cookies (approx.)

150g /5oz butter

75g /3oz caster sugar

75g /3oz ground hazelnuts

300g/11oz flour

pinch baking soda

225g/8oz small chocolate pieces of good quality plain chocolate

Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the hazelnuts, flour, baking soda.

Beat until the mixture comes together. Add the chocolate chips.

Divide in two halves and roll in clingfilm into a sausage shape to refrigerate for one hour.

When ready to use, peel away the clingfilm.

Cut in half centimetre slices and place on a greased baking tray.

Bake in a preheated oven, 170C/gas 3 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

If you wish you can freeze this mixture to be taken out when you fancy.

Glazed bananas

4 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

Peel the bananas, cut them in half lengthways and half them again.

Cover the cut side of the bananas with the sugar and slowly caramelise with the gun or glaze under the grill until all the sugar has turned to caramel.

Special Hot Chocolate

Serves 4

600ml/1 pint milk

225g/8oz good quality plain chocolate, chopped

sugar to taste

Boil the milk, pour on top of the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add sugar to taste.

This can be laced with your favourite liqueur. Try Tia Maria, Cointreau, Amaretto or Brandy.

Ballymaloe mincemeat

Makes 3.2kg approx

2 cooking apples, eg Bramley Seedling

2 lemons

450g/1lb beef suet or butter chilled and grated

pinch of salt

110g/4oz mixed peel (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

225g/8oz currants

450g/1lb sultanas

900g/2lb Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)

62ml Irish whiskey

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 45 minutes approx. Allow to cool. When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp. Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice. Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly. Put into jars, cover with jam covers and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using. This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.

HERE are some ideas for Christmas presents: gift token or an apple tree from Irish Seedsavers Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare, tel 061-921866; a hamper from Sheridans Cheesemongers, tel 01-6793143 or 046-30373, cheese@eircom.net; a hamper or voucher for Country Choice in Nenagh, tel 067-32596; subscription for Food and Wine magazine, tel 01-240 5324.

Clodagh McKenna does little hampers of her pates with chutney.

Tel 087-8631602.

For glamorous foodies, Jo Malone cosmetics are offering wonderful scents and creams with flavours of mandarin, basil and lime. From Brown Thomas in Dublin.

Fruition baskets of the finest seasonal fruit are available for all occasions, including Christmas. Nationwide delivery. Contact Grainne O'Kane at 01-672 9676 or 086-8290835, grainne@fruition.ie, www.fruition.ie.

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