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Dublin: -2°C Monday 17 January 2022

'I make this with instant noodles': 6 chefs share the meals they make when they're off the clock

Chefs, they’re just like us. We asked six of Ireland’s pro foodies for the easy off-duty dishes that hit the spot.

Image: Shutterstock

EVERY CHEF I SPEAK to lovingly describes the comfort food that they make when they’re off duty. Everyone assumes that chefs keep it as fancy at home as they do at work but the reality is they are shattered just like the rest of us and they want something that hits the spot. 

I asked some of my favourite Irish chefs to share recipes for their comfort food favourites, from old reliables like tomato pasta to easy-peasy roast chicken.

1. Simple tomato pasta: Katie Quinn of Lilliput Stores in Dublin reaches for an old favourite pasta recipe. “It is a very simple tomato sauce that my old boss Luca D’Alfonso showed me,” she says.

“Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan – enough oil to cover six crushed garlic cloves. Crush garlic and gently cook in the olive oil until the garlic is soft. Then stir in a pinch of dried chilli flakes and a handful of chopped basil stalks. Cook for five minutes or until the stalks are soft. Add 1 jar of tomato passata and add salt, pepper and a little sugar to taste. Leave to simmer for 30-45 mins. Just before serving with the pasta of your choice add some basil leaves.”

Quinn uses this sauce as a starting point for other dishes too:

The beauty with a basic tomato sauce recipe is how versatile it is. It can be turned into a puttanesca sauce, bolognese or base for a stew. I have a very soft spot for pasta and in my house we cook this dish at least once a week.

shutterstock_482513539 Source: Shutterstock/Frannyanne

2. Dolled-up instant noodles: Chef Holly Dalton loves instant noodles, which she uses for a quick fix ramen. Here’s her recipe:

“In a small saucepan, gently fry a clove of chopped garlic on a low heat in 1 tsp of vegetable oil. Add around 100g of minced pork and continue to cook until it starts to brown. Add in two anchovies and sriracha to taste, along with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and add your instant noodles (and yes, the flavour sachets too!). Cook for about 4 minutes and in a separate pan fry your egg.”

When ready, pour your ramen into a deep bowl, garnishing with fried egg and chopped scallions on top. Ground sesame seeds are also a great garnish if you have them.

3. Roast chicken with mash and shallots: Anita Thoma, executive chef at Las Tapas de Lola in Dublin loves a roast chicken straight from the oven (“I prefer the brown meat so it’s two legs for me”) served with mashed potatoes, roasted shallots and spinach – which she wilts in the chicken juices. It’s one ultra-flavoursome meal, says Thomas:

I’ll usually put a halved lemon or three gloves of garlic into the chicken before roasting for a deeper flavour.

Here’s Thomas’s recipe:

“Take one small chicken, season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Place four peeled whole shallots and two small potatoes around the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a preheated oven at 180C / gas mark 4 for one hour.

When the chicken is done and the juices run clear when you slightly pull at the leg, remove the chicken, veg etc and set aside leaving to rest. Add the spinach and toss it in the juices. Cover and leave to wilt in the oven for 5 minutes. While the chicken is roasting boil some peeled potatoes until cooked and drain well, then add the garlic from the chicken, crushed, with a good knob of butter and season to taste. What’s not to love?”

shutterstock_89912563 Source: Shutterstock/Liv friis-larsen

4. Easy cheesy flatbread: Karan Mittal of Ananda Restaurant loves to make a cheese paratha (a quick and very tasty Indian bread) for comfort eating at home. Here’s how:

“Make a dough with 1 cup of whole wheat flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to bring it together. Allow to rest for half an hour. Mix some grated cheese and chopped green chillies together. Make small balls with the dough and make a well in the centre. Stuff the cheese mixture and enclose it with the dough. Roll the dough into a round shape. Pan fry the rolled bread till golden brown on both sides. Enjoy with mint chutney or any condiment of your choice.”

5. Leftover chicken tortillas: Bryan McCarthy of Greene’s in Cork loves nothing more than reimagining the leftovers of a Sunday roast chicken into something delicious the next day or even the following couple of days. His go to is an eggy chicken tortilla.

It is a crying shame if you waste even a morsel of your leftover roast chicken! This is also a great way to use up bits and pieces of veg from the darkest crevices of your fridge. I use a few thinly sliced potatoes, onion, mozzarella and sugar snaps. 

Here’s McCarthy’s recipe:

“Prep all the veg and saute in a little butter (yes, real butter), then season with salt and pepper in a deep cast iron or non stick ovenproof pan. Add the salvaged chicken meat, whisk together 6/8 eggs depending on how many mouths you have to feed add a splash of milk, and pour on top of the veg and chicken. Add in the chopped mozzarella and give it a quick stir. Bake in the fan oven at 180C until lightly golden on top 15 to 20 minutes. Give the pan a shake place a plate on top and turn over. Cut into slices and serve with a dressed salad.”

6. Baked apples to satisfy a sweet tooth: JR Ryall, pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, reaches for sweet when in need of comfort.

I seldom want fancy desserts at home and often something as simple as a baked apple is the perfect fix for my sweet tooth.

Ryall stuffs his with marzipan filling (shop bought is fine here, if you don’t want to go full pastry chef like Ryall and make your own.) Here’s the recipe for Ryall’s baked apples:

“Peel and core your apples. Stuff the cavities with marzipan filling. Roll the apples first in melted butter and then in some castor sugar and cinnamon. Place in an ovenproof dish and bake at 180°C for around 1 hour. To test if the apples are ready use a skewer, it should easily push into the centre of the apple and the flesh should be soft. Serve warm with a generous amount of softly whipped cream.”

Simple life: 6 one-pot pasta combos for comfort food without the washing up>

About the author:

Niamh Shields

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