Neven Maguire


Neven Maguire is one of Ireland’s best loved chefs. I met him recently at the Ploughing Match in Tullamore where he was charming Mna na hEireann with his cooking demonstrations.  He gave me a present of his latest book Neven’s Real Food which I have been enjoying very much.   Neven is the Proprietor and Head Chef of MacNean House and Restaurant, Blacklion, Co Cavan, awarded Georgina Campbell’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ Award 2007.

Neven has been cooking since in the kitchen of the family restaurant McNeans since he was twelve.  Like myself he’s one of nine children and he credits his passion for cooking to his mother Vera.  He dreamed of being a chef since those early days and was fully supported in this by his parents.

Sadly his dad Joe was tragically killed in a car accident seven years ago and his mother was involved in a serious accident two years later.  Consequently she no longer felt able to run the business, so in 2003 Neven took over as head chef and proprietor of the greatly expanded MacNean House and Restaurant in 2003.   The décor and menu at the restaurant were inspired by his travels with his girlfriend Amelda in London, Paris, Australia , New Zealand and Thailand.  They married in 2006, at first they lived above the restaurant but recently moved into their newly built home around the corner.  At last Neven has a huge kitchen which he adores. 

He is passionate about food as all good chefs should be and continues to travel and add to his knowledge.  He has done ‘stages’ in many eminent restaurants throughout Europe including Roscoff in Belfast, the Grand Hotel Restaurant, Berlin, Lea Linster Restaurant, Luxembourg and Arzac in San Sebastian in Spain.   

Neven employs about 27 people in the very small village of Blacklion in Co Cavan and recently he and his team pooled their tips and went off to Rome to check out the restaurants and food markets, experience the culture, and have fun!

Neven makes regular television appearances, he is familiar to many in Ireland through being resident chef on RTE’s Open House from 1998-2004, and he has also appeared on many other shows and series in the UK, France, South Africa and Australia. His new book, Neven’s Real Food for Families contains over 100 recipes for all occasions, presented by Neven in a straightforward way.    The recipes highlight easily available ingredients, ease of cooking and maximum flavour. They are focused on making a nutritious family meal easier than ever with everyone in the family helping out and sitting down together to eat the finished product, keeping in mind busy time poor parents as well as engaging children and getting them cooking.  

Neven has covered all occasions – Late Late Toy Show Treats, Christmas Lunch, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, anniversary dinners …..

 A must-have for anyone who wants to eat well at home without spending hours in the kitchen. 

 Here are some of Neven’s recipes for you to try from – taken from “Neven’s Real Food for Families” by Neven Magire published by Gill & Macmillan.

Breakfast Bar

This is a winning breakfast for children and adults alike.  As dried fruit and nuts are an excellent source of energy, they should keep everyone happy until lunchtime.  Eat in the car if you are planning an early start or use for lunchboxes or picnics as an excellent healthy option.  Experiment by replacing the sultanas with dried cranberries, cherries or banana chips.  Leave out the peanut butter and almonds if you have any doubt about a nut allergy.

Makes 16 bars

150g (5ozs) porridge oats

50g (2ozs) sultanas

75g (3ozs) ready-to-eat apricots, chopped

50g (2ozs) dried papaya, finely chopped

50g (2ozs) dates, pitted

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

25g (1oz) sesame seeds

2 tablespoons clear honey

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 egg white


Preheat the oven to 190°C/350°F/Gas Mark 5.  Line a 27 ½ cm x 18cm (11 inch x 7 inch) baking tin with non-stick parchment paper.  Place the porridge oats in a bowl and stir in the sultanas, apricots, papaya, dates, flaked almonds and sesame seeds.

Place the honey and peanut butter in a small pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Drizzle into the oat mixture and mix well to combine.

Put the egg white in a bowl and beat with a balloon whisk until light and frothy.  Fold into the oat and honey mixture until everything is sticking together.  Transfer to the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly, pressing down the mixture with the back of a spoon to make the surface as even as possible.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and feels firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the tin, then cut into 16 bars.  Leave to cool completely before removing them from the tin.  Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Butternut Squash Soup with Cheese Toasties

I love all soups made with winter squashes, but this one has a wonderful subtle, almost nutty flavour that is hard to beat, especially when it’s served with toasted cheese sandwiches.  For a smoother, more velvety finish, pass the soup through a fine sieve.

Serves 4 – 6


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 kg (2 ¼ lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock

4 fresh thyme sprigs

200g (7ozs) crème fraîche

For the cheese toasties
50g (2ozs) butter

8 slices white bread

200g (7ozs) Gruyère cheese, grated

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Cook the onions, garlic and butternut squash over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the onions have softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the stock and add the thyme.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender.

To make the cheese toasties, butter the bread and arrange the cheese over half of the slices, buttered side down.  Sprinkle over the chives and cover with the remaining slices, buttered side up.

Preheat a griddle or large non-stick frying pan and cook the sandwiches two at a time for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and the cheese has melted.  Cut into fingers and keep hot.

Remove the thyme stalks from the soup, then purèe with a hand blender until smooth.  Stir in the crème fraîche and reheat gently.  Season to taste.

Serve in a warm bowl with the cheese toasties stacked on the side.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Raspberry Meringue

This cake is a real favourite of mine, the raspberries, hazelnuts and chocolate being a particularly good combination.  Fill the meringue about 3 hours before serving; it will then cut into portions without splintering.  I’ve decorated it with white chocolate shavings, which can be very easily made using a thick bar of white chocolate and a potato peeler.

Serves 6 – 8

100g (4ozs) skinned toasted hazelnuts

6 egg whites

pinch salt

350g (12ozs) caster sugar

3 teaspoons sifted cocoa powder

For the filling
300ml (½ pint) cream

250g (9ozs) raspberries

For the chocolate sauce
50g (2ozs) plain chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons cream

white chocolate shavings, to decorate

icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.  Draw a 20cm (8 inch) circle on each piece of paper.  Place the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.  Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt.  Whisk on maximum speed with an electric whisk until stiff.  Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking, still at top speed, until the mixture is very stiff, stands in peaks and all the sugar has been added.  It should be stiff enough for you to hold the bowl over your head upside down!  Fold in the reserved chopped hazelnuts with the sieved cocoa powder.

Divide the meringue mixture between the two circles, spreading into rounds of an even thickness using a spatula.  Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 110°C/225°F/Gas Mark ¼ and bake for 1 hour, until the tops of the meringue are crisp and the insides are soft, like a marshmallow.  Switch off the oven, then open the oven door slightly and leave the meringue to dry out for another 30 minutes.  Slide the meringues, which are still on the parchment, off the baking sheet onto wire racks and leave to cool completely, then peel off the parchment paper. 

Whip the cream in a bowl until it holds its shape and use to sandwich the meringues together along with the raspberries.  Melt the chocolate and cream in a small pan over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Leave to cool.

To serve, decorate the top of the meringue with the white chocolate shavings, then dust with the icing sugar.  Bring straight to the table, then cut into slices and arrange on plates with a swirl of the chocolate sauce.

Foolproof Food


Chilli Popcorn

This recipe could also be made using a microwave.  Simply place all the ingredients for the chilli butter in a heatproof bowl and cook on full power for 30 – 40 seconds, until melted and just bubbling.  Set aside.  Cook a bag of microwave popcorn according to packet instructions, then immediately pour over the chilli butter, shaking the bag to ensure an even coating.  Tip into a bowl to serve.


Serves 4 – 6

50g (2ozs) butter

1 clove of garlic, crushed

½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

2 teaspoons hot curry paste or powder

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

75g (3ozs) popcorn kernels

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a small pan and add the garlic, chilli and curry paste or powder, stirring to combine.  Season with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and keep warm over a low heat.

Heat the oil in a large pan until very hot, almost smoking.  Add the popcorn kernels, and as it starts to pop, cover with a lid.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until the corn stops popping.  Quickly pour over the chilli butter, shaking the pan to ensure it gets evenly distributed.

To serve, tip into bowls and hand around to guests.

Hot Tips

Sunday 21st – Slow Food Festival Market on Patrick Street

Over 40 local food producers will line the pavements of Patrick Street from 11.00am – 5.00pm tomorrow. 

Cork Free Choice Meeting at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork,  on Thursday 25th October 10, 2007 at 7.30pm

Chicken for Dinner – Showing of Andrew Legge’s film ‘Fowl’

Breeding and feeding chickens for the table. 

Food and Living in Ethiopia – Gerald McSweeney on is life and work there.
Admission €6 including tea, coffee and tastings – proceeds to help projects in Ethiopia.
Gourmet Nights at Cookes Restaurant in Dublin

3 events priced at €85 per head to include a paired wine/accompaniment per course – a wine expert will choose the wines and introduce each choice.

Wild Game Banquet – Thursday October 25th

Seafood & Shellfish Extravaganza – Thursday November 1st

Spain Gourmetour – Thursday November 8th, featuring 2 chefs from Salamanca and Andalucia with the Cookes Team

Tel 01-6790536 for information and bookings or email 

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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