In the first of a series with some of Ireland's top chefs recalling their favourite Christmas food memories, we are delighted to chat to Neven Maguire about how he spends the holidays and some of his recipes for you to try at home.
Chef-proprietor at one of the country’s best restaurants MacNean House, which initially belonged to his parents, Neven has been working with food since he was a teenager. Neven is a regular fixture on Irish bookshelves and television screens.
Here, Neven recalls his favourite Christmas food memory.
“For me, Christmas is first and foremost a family time. We always close the restaurant. That was the way even back when my mother and father began MacNean. People in our industry work hard all year round, but Mum and Dad always said it was family time for the staff and we have continued that tradition.
You will not be surprised that food plays a big part in our Christmas. All of our family appreciate food. Everyone helps out and a lot of them are very good in the kitchen. Someone will do starters and someone else the desserts. Amelda always sets the table Christmas morning. My twin brother, David, serves the food and that gets him out of the washing up! The numbers vary from year to year, but the big thing that changes is that each year everyone’s children are one year older. I think we all remember our Christmas Days mostly because of the stages the children were at that year.
We have a regular routine: Santy has arrived and that usually means the twins will be up at an unearthly hour, probably 5 am. That is a fabulous part of the day. After the presents, we have a very light breakfast, something like a poached egg and toast because you need to keep room for later. We will go to mass locally and we always visit my parents’ graves after that to pay our respects and have a quiet moment. They gave me the opportunity to do what I love, and I appreciate it every single day.”
Neven has kindly shared three delicious recipes from his cookbook, Neven Maguire’s Perfect Irish Christmas, published by Gill Books.
First up is the perfect seasonal starter, his Wild Mushroom and Chestnut Soup; followed by a recipe for Salt-Rubbed Turkey with Sage and Orange, which Neven says makes the turkey super juicy and flavourful.
To finish your Christmas feast, Neven's Mulled Winter Berry Victoria Sponge is the ultimate dessert, which is inspired by the scent of mulled wine.