Paul Flynn: Three small plates with big, bold flavours

Here are three fun dishes that you might make all together or individually, including one that is ugly delicious

Small plates are big. People love the idea of having a little bit of everything, where the dishes keep coming until they overwhelm the table. In the end, both your curiosity and your hunger are sated.

I love them myself. It’s a much less formal way to eat, everything is shared and it’s not about getting a pile of spuds just to fill you up. In many ways, a classic starter, main course and dessert format seems a bit dull in comparison. There’s great fun to be had in obliterating that staid structure. Today I’m sharing with you three fun dishes that you might make all together or individually.

The polpette, or meatballs, recipe is based on an unusual but classic Italian dish, maiale al latte, or pork braised in milk.

I’ve made the original a few times over the years, despite being ignorantly sceptical at first. I couldn’t see the appeal of a whole joint of pork baked, semi-submerged in a bath of milk. What emerged from the oven wasn’t pretty, a worryingly split milky sauce, but yet the meat was tender and succulent. It was ugly delicious.


The milk works its way into the pork to tenderise it and then sets into a porky, cheesy custard. I’m scaling the classic dish down and making meatballs scented with sage, Parmesan and lemon. It is wondrously different.

The next dish is based on a Mediterranean stalwart cod brandade. I’m using butterbeans instead of potato in the mix and leaving everything a little lumpy – it’s more of a crush, I suppose. Eat it with toasted baguette smeared with some shop-bought tapenade to give a bit of punch to the mellow flavour of the hake. The parsley is optional; it will still be lovely without.

Chermoula is akin to a more interesting salsa verde. Its gentle spicing and slight heat takes us to North Africa, its original home. It really lifts the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the ricotta joins the two together. You could use a mild creamy goat’s cheese in its place or even Greek yogurt that you have strained, to make labneh, but only if you have time.

Recipe: Pork polpette al latte

Recipe: Crushed hake, butterbeans and roasted garlic (a sort of brandade)

Recipe: Asparagus, ricotta, chermoula