Sometimes just getting good ingredients and treating them with respect is enough

Sometimes just getting good ingredients and treating them with respect is enough

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. Hed been to university in Belfast, twice it turns out, but it wasnt 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. Its 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 Frances iconic chefs. His restaurant, Les Près dEugénie, 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 its 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 Georges 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. Its 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.
Im also giving you a recipe for a feta and basil spread, as I appreciate not everyone can get to a Toonsbridge shop. Its fabulous as a dip, or as a sauce with roast lamb.
Serves four
Spaghetti with yellow pepper cream. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Ingredients50ml olive oil2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced1 sprig of fresh rosemary3 yellow peppers, deseeded and dicedA pinch of dried chilli150ml cream100g grated Parmesan500g dried spaghettiSalt and black pepper
Method1 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.
Serves four
Anchovy toasts. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Ingredients100g butter10 salted anchoviesA few fresh thyme leavesJuice of 1 mandarin1 ciabiatta loaf
Method1 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.
Serves eight
Feta and basil dip. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
Ingredients200g feta cheese200g light cream cheese140g tub of high-quality basil pestoZest and juice of 1 limeA little salt and black pepper
Method1 Blend everything together in a food processor and chill until needed.

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