As Paul Flynn marks 20 years of the Tannery, he shares his ideal Christmas menu with Vickie Maye
ROUNDING the corner to the entrance to the Tannery, the restaurant that put Dungarvan on the food map, there’s Paul Flynn, marching across the footpath. Wearing his chef’s whites, this looks like a man with purpose, someone who means business.
Errand complete, he meets me at the front door. A firm handshake — and then he breaks into a smile.
“You know what they say,” he says, “always look busy and people will think you are.”
It’s an encounter that encapsulates Paul Flynn, and the Tannery’s success.
He is busy, devoted to his restaurant (later he describes it as a “vocation”) but all the while, he conducts his business with an amiability that cuts to the heart of The Tannery’s renown.
Twenty years ago, in a time when the top restaurants were fusty, French affairs, starched white linen tablecloths and the like, Paul and his wife Maire had something of a dream.
He had left Dungarvan many years before, learned his trade in London’s top restaurants, fine tuned it in Dublin’s La Stampa. Tired of big cities, he wanted to come home, back to Dungarvan. He wanted to make his native town Waterford’s own Kinsale, a food destination.
But key to their version was the kind of restaurant they would create.
This would be local, serving the people of the town, but it would always strive for more. It would have city ambition, but with a country feel. Professional, but without the formality. This would be a place where people would come to enjoy food, to celebrate it.
In effect, Paul would bring his own personality into every aspect of the restaurant.
In the early days, people thought they were mad. They bought the disused tannery, where his grandfather had worked once upon a time.
“I remember when we were kids cycling down this road and holding our breaths, the smell of the cow hide was so bad,” Paul recalls.
The walls were painted white, exposed wooden beams to create an intimate feel.
And in 1997, The Tannery opened its doors. In the early years there were constant hours, minimal reward.
Then came a chance encounter with a magazine editor, and a regular column for the Irish Times. From there the media demands came thick and fast. TV shows, cookery books — business was booming. The (now award winning) cookery school and accommodation were a natural progression.
“I would have been quite shy,” Paul says of the early days of TV. “It was Darina Allen who nudged me. She would come with her cookery students and ask me to talk to them.”
And then the recession hit, literally overnight. One weekend bookings dramatically dropped, from an average of over 100 to less than 60. It would be years before they were fully booked out again.
The fact that the Tannery survived such tumultuous times, makes the 20th anniversary all the more rewarding for Paul.
His role has changed at the Tannery too, these days he’s handed over head chef duties.
“I think being a chef is a bit like being a footballer. It was like watching 18 year olds passing me by on the field.” He is hands on on very aspect of his menu, but now he can step back, take a more creative, overall look at his business. After all, 20 years after he first started The Tannery, he now has a cookery school and his accommodation to run. “I’m a hotelier now too,” he says, almost with a sense of surprise, as if this was never part of the plan. Today The Tannery is part of the prestigious Blue Book. He’s also got his responsibilities as Lidl ambassador.
Most important of all, though, is that now he has more time for his two daughters.
“A while back one of them asked, ‘do people really get weekends off?’” he says, laughing.
“But don’t get me wrong, we have a good life, we have a good life. And I’m my own boss.
“This is not a job to be medicore at,” he adds. “Coupled with the hours, it’s a vocation. You have to love it.”
And with that, he rises to his feet, shakes my hand and resumes his busy stride, this time through his restaurant for another busy lunch time trade.
Poached Pears in Mulled Wine
This is the base recipe for a lot of dishes I do. I know a bottle of wine for eight pears seems a little excessive. You can use the liquid over and over again or reduce it to make syrup. If you skimp on the wine, the colour and flavour of the pears will be insipid. You could also use a bottle of pre-made Mulled Wine but it’s so much nicer to make your own and the aromas around the kitchen are so festive.
8 almost ripe pears peeled carefully to keep the shape
1 bottle red wine
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
300 mls/10 fl. oz water
Juice and peel of one orange
100g/4 oz Demerara sugar - a pinch
1 black peppercorn
2cm slice of gingerbread or traditional tea brack crumbled into a bowl
1 tub of sour cream Place all the ingredients in a deep pan.
Cover with a layer of greaseproof paper, and then poach gently for 20 to 25 minutes until they are soft but not mushy.
Leave to cool and refrigerate in the liquid.
Fold the sour cream into the gingerbread and place in the fridge until needed.
The liquid can be reduced a little if you wish to form syrup.
This can be used to pour over ice-cream or add some red wine vinegar and olive oil as a dressing for salad or if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could turn it into a sorbet.
Whatever you do, do not waste it.
You could always freeze it to use at a later date for another batch of pears.
Spanish Christmas Duck
I am always torn between turkey and duck at Christmas. Thisyear it’s defiantly duck but puttogether with some of my very favourite flavours with a distinctly Spanish feel.
Serves 4 2 ducks (2.2kg each)
500 mls water
2 heaped tspns of paprika, mixed with warm water to form a paste
Salt and pepper
Orange, chorizo and almondstuffing
Some fresh herbs, thyme bay or sage
Trim the excess fat from inside and outside the duck at both ends.
Keep some of the fat to put at the opening once the duck has been stuffed to stop the stuffing drying out.
Gently score the skin of the duck to allow some of the fat to run out during cooking — about four cuts per breast will do.
Put the stuffing into the cavity but don’t overstuff or compress it too much as this will result in a heavy stuffing. Then place a little of the excess fat at the mouth of the cavity.
Preheat your oven to 220C. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin. Put the herbs and the water into a deep roasting tray, place a wire rack securely on the tray and the ducks on the rack. Then put in the oven for 10 minutes.
Turn down the oven to 180C, brush evenly with the paprika paste and leave to cook for a further 1 hr 20 mins.
Remove the ducks and keep warm. It is important to let them rest for 15 minutes or so before carving.
Crab Claws with Clementine, Pomegranate and Rosemary Butter
320g crab claws -
4 pks Zest and juice of 2 clementines
1 sprig of rosemary finely chopped
2 spring onions finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
The seeds and juice from 1 ripe pomegranate
125g of butter salt and pepper
Melt the butter and add the rest of the ingredients to it except the crab claws, these tip into a casserole dish, season and spoon the butter mixture over the top (this can be done two-three hours in advance.
When serving preheat an oven to 180C , put the crab in the oven for eight minutes. They should not be piping hot!
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Chorizo, Orange and Almond Stuffing
This stuffing is mega, I’m of the opinion that chorizo improves everything and with the orange and the crunch of the almonds it really makes a lovely and different stuffing.
There’s enough stuffing for two birds plus a little left over. I love to use this stuffing with turkey or chicken.
2 packets of fresh breadcrumbs (800g)
1 deluxe tub (150g) of roasted and salted almonds, lightly crushed.
150g of butter
1 lg mild onion (270g) peeled and diced.
Zest of 1 orange.
1/3 of a chorizo (100g) peeled and cut into small dice
A little chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Cook the onion gently in the butter for 10 minutes then add the chorizo. Cook for a further two or three minutes until the chorizo starts to soften, then add your breadcrumbs, orange, almonds, thyme, salt and pepper.
Glazed Parsnips with Sherry, Honey and Bacon
6 medium parsnips peeled
100 mls of water
1 pkt of lardons (1 of the 2 in a pk)
100mls of cream sherry or cider
1 tbsp of honey
A twist of pepper no salt
1 tbsp of butter
A drizzle of olive oil
A sprig of fresh herb (thyme sage or bay)
Cut the top off your parsnips and cut them in half lengthways. Lay the parsnips flat on a roasting dish. Add the water, sherry, and herbs, then scatter over the bacon and dot the butter on top. Drizzle the oil and season.
Cover with foil, making sure it’s nice and tight on the tray so no steam escapes.
When cooking, preheat your oven to 180C. Put the tray in and cook for 20 minutes (this part can be done in advance if you like).
Take the foil off, drizzle over the honey and turn the parsnips, cook for another 15 minutes untill the parsnips are cooked and shiny when turned in the juice.
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