I will always remember the first time I went to eat at Neven Maguire’s restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan. The restaurant, on the main street of this border town felt like a family home, warm and comfortable. Jo and Vera, Neven’s Mum and Dad were there to welcome the guests – so proud of their boy – and rightly so – young Neven, barely out of his teens, had a string of awards. In 1996 he was made Eurotoque Chef of the Year, in 1999 he was chosen as Bushmills Chef of the Year – Best Outside Dublin, and in 2001 Neven represented Ireland in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Competition in France.
Although Neven and his restaurant ‘MacNean House and Bistro’ in Blacklion, Co. Cavan, were well-known among chefs and foodies, it wasn’t until he became studio chef on RTE’s Open House that he became a household name.
His infectious enthusiasm and passion for food, have inspired many timid novices and budding cooks and chefs to have a go. Viewers who would scarcely have cooked rice a few years ago are now rustling up risottos and searing swordfish. Recently, still in his 20’s Neven realised a life-time ambition to write a cookbook. Its called ‘Neven Cooks’ and is published by Poolbeg Press at E14.99 .
Its got lots of delicious simple recipes and top tips from one of Ireland’s most endearing young chefs.
Best Ever Home-Made Beefburger
All children love burgers, but what about the adults? I t seems that we never grow out of our fascination for this meaty sandwich. Well, this is my Cavan contender for the best ever burger and it caters specifically for the ‘older children’ out there. It’s rather exotic and uses fresh pineapple and Gruyere cheese. Make sure you make one for yourself while you’re at it.
4 flozs (110ml) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (5ozs) (600g) lean minced beef
1 rounded tablespoon chopped sage
2 eggs, beaten
8 thin slices Gruyere cheese
2 hamburger buns, halved
1 spanish onion, sliced into thin rings
2 ozs (50g) plain flour, seasoned
2 ozs (50g) rocket leaves
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
frying oil heated to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4
First make the chilli mayonnaise by mixing mayonnaise and chilli sauce together . Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Now sweat the onion and garlic in half the olive oil for 2 minutes on a medium heat. Cool the mixture a little before putting it in a bowl with the mince, sage and eggs. Mix well and season. Shape into 4 large burgers. In a frying pan , cook the burgers on a high heat in the remaining olive oil for about 6-7 minutes on each side or more if you prefer. You can also grill these or use the barbeque in the summer.
While the meat is cooking, grill the pineapple until hot and the juices are caramelising, then place 2 slices of Gruyere cheese on each pineapple ring and leave under the grill to melt. Dip the onion rings in the seasoned flour and deep-fry in the oil. Remove when golden and crispy and leave to drain on some kitchen paper. Toast the burger buns.
On each toasted bun, place a small amount of rocket followed by 2-3slices of tomato and a beefburger. Put a cheesy pineapple ring on the meat and top it all with some crispy onion rings. Drizzle the chilli mayonnaise over the open burger.
Hearty Winter Vegetable Soup
I created this recipe one day to use up some leftover vegetables. I gave some to my mother and I was delighted when she told me it tasted just like the soups she used to eat as a little girl – needless to say she loved it. It is true that this soup tastes kind of old- fashioned and really comforts on a cold wintry day. Take it from my mum!
2 ozs (50g) barley, washed
8ozs (225g) carrots, diced
4ozs (110g) onion, diced
4ozs (110g) leeks, diced
4ozs (110g) turnips, diced
4ozs (110g) parsnips, diced
4ozs (110g) celery, diced
2ozs (50g) plain flour
4 pints (2.2 litres) hot chicken stock
½ pint (275ml) milk or cream
1 scallion, chopped
1oz (25g) croutons (toasted cubes of white bread)
Place the barley in a saucepan with ½ pint (275ml) of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked. Drain and set aside. Now heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot, add all the diced vegetables and sweat for 5 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the flour thoroughly. Put the pot back on a low heat and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then gradually add the hot stock, stirring constantly, and bring to the boil. Add the cream or milk, whichever you prefer, and add season. Lastly, stir in the cooked barley.
Serve in a warm bowl with croutons, chopped scallions and crusty bread
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
So few people like anchovies in their Caesar salads that I’ve stopped putting them in mine. However, everybody seems to want chicken in it. I think people basically like the thick crunchy salad leaves and the creamy dressing of a Caesar salad- so for them, here it is, my way.
4ozs (110g) day-old bread
1 head of cos lettuce, washed
2 chicken breasts,8ozs (225g) each
1oz (25g) parmesan, grated
3ozs (75g) cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 free range egg
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
a few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4ozs (110g) low fat natural yoghurt
Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes until they are crispy, golden croutons. Set aside and leave to cool.
Now make the dressing. Put the whole egg in a food processor along with the garlic, mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and yoghurt. Add the Tabasco if you are using it. Blend for 1-2 minutes in a food processor, season to taste and store in the fridge.
Next grill the chicken . Put the breasts on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Place the tray under a hot grill and cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. The chicken is cooked when the flesh is firm to the touch. Don’t overcook or the chicken will dry out.
Place some lettuce leaves in a bowl and put some slices of grilled chicken on top. Toss in some Parmesan and cherry tomatoes and drizzle with lots of dressing. Repeat with a second layer and sprinkle some croutons on top.
Apple Crumble with Cinnamon and Walnuts
Everyone’s favourite, the apple tart. This is my version of that famous Irish classic. I’ve added nuts for extra texture and a bit of cinnamon in the crumble for flavour. I like to make this in small individual tins because it looks so amazing on the plate.
But you can use a large tin to save time and serve more people.
4ozs (110g) butter, diced
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
9ozs (250g) plain flour (Plus a little extra for rolling
4 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4ozs caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ pint (275ml) water
4ozs (110g) butter
6ozs (175g) plain flour
4ozs (110g) brown sugar
2ozs (50g) walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10ozs (275g) caster sugar
¼ pint (150ml) water
8flozs (225ml) cream
3ozs (75g) butter
First make the pastry by creaming the butter and icing sugar together. Slowly add the egg and flour and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to relax for at least 3 hours. This pastry is very sticky and has a ‘cake-like’ texture, so chilling is vital before rolling. When ready, roll the pastry on a floured counter and line six 1-inch / 10cm tartlet tins (or a 9-inch /23cm tart tin). Rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Now the filling. Boil the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pot. Add the apples and bring to the boil. Remove the apples immediately using a slotted spoon. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/Gas mark 5.
To make the crumble, rub the butter and flour together lightly. Add the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and mix together well. Spoon the cooled apples into the tartlet tins. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over them and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
To make the caramel sauce, place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to the boil and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until it has a golden-brown colour (if it’s too dark it will become bitter). Stir in the cream and butter and mix well. Keep on the heat until it reaches a thick sauce consistency. Leave to cool and store in the fridge. This sauce will keep for up to two weeks.
Place individual tarts onto plate and serve with ice cream and caramel sauce
Recipes from ‘Neven Cooks’ by Nevin Maguire published by Poolbeg Press.