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Paul Flynn: Three comforting dishes that champion root vegetables

irishtimes– I like the soil, graft and tradition of root vegetables. For me that means carrots, parsnips and turnips from Ardmore. Spuds from Ballinacourty. Beetroot from Bohadoon. All sitting proudly in our local veg shop, Country Store. It also means Conor, the owner, chatting about his twin passions – horses and GAA – as he loads bags of spuds into the boots of cars. This is a real connection, and it’s hard to get that with vegetables that spend more time in an airport than I do.

This chicken and root vegetable stew is all that I love about one-pot cooking. The flavours combine and enhance each other as the stew blips along. A little barley supports the dish. Thyme, cider and cream are the other main ingredients, a hint of cardamom lends a bit of sultriness to the affair. Eat it with rice or boiled potatoes for a bit of added comfort.

The turnip and cheddar parcels are showstoppers and perfect for a vegetarian main course. The mashed turnip is infused with a nutmeg scented brown butter and good cheddar cheese, then enveloped in crisp filo pastry, sprinkled with almonds. It is ultra crisp and gooey, at the same time.

I love gratins of any kind. This method allows you to prepare the dish one or two days before, then finish it when you need it, a handy tip for (cough) Christmas. Here I’m using potato and parsnip and combining it with mortadella and a little fresh pear. It’s something I’m very fond of. It holds great memories for me of a chefs’ trip to the Dolomites, and a perfect little bar that had a porcine hunk of mortadella resting alluringly behind the counter.

There was lots of snow, a wayward Egyptian, a jealous Italian, some Russians, plenty of crisp little beers and even more craic. The lady behind the bar would hack off pieces of mortadella when she thought we were waning. It did the trick. We ate it like giddy gannets. By the end of the night we were half mortadella, half beer and wholly shook. But what a memory. What more could a man on a ski holiday ask for.

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