Book Reviews

I Love Good Food - Irish Heart Foundation cookbookI Love Good Food, Irish Heart Foundation (Poolbeg Press €19.99; paperback, 230pp full colour; available from bookshops & online from at €16.99 + p&p)

The Irish Heart Foundation is well known for the excellent recipes they have published in recent years, including numerous appealing booklets to coincide with their popular Happy Heart Eat Out weeks and a successful Happy Heart Cookbook. Now they’ve gone one better and come up with a lovely new book, I Love Good Food.

Billed as ‘a practical tool to guide the nation to healthier cooking and eating’, the book is based on the premise that we all love good food - and that variety is the spice of life - and its 120 appealing recipes cover a wide range of occasions from weekday and ‘on the go’ meals to ideas for entertaining, together with many useful hints (eg you can reduce salt by replacing some of it with black pepper – try it and see!).

Smartly-packaged in striking red and white livery - with recipes edited by Orla Broderick, beautifully presented by food stylist Ann Kenny and photographed by Neil Macdougald - a glance through this well-produced book will prove that eating healthily is no hardship.

And you’ll be in good company too, with recipes contributed by chefs, cookery writers and celebrities such as former Miss World Rosanna Davison and Boyzone’s Mikey Graham, TV presenters Miriam O’Callaghan, Marty Whelehan and Caroline Morahan, actors, comedians, and culinary stars including Kevin Dundon (Dunbrody House), Neven Maguire (MacNean House & Restaurant), Catherine Fulvio (Ballyknocken House) and Donal Skehan.

Pointing out that ‘It is the overall daily and weekly balance of foods that determines whether an eating plan is healthy or not’, the book’s key message is to beware of the highly processed foods that are loaded with fat, sugar and salt; instead get into the kitchen, where you have full control of what you and your family are eating – and the simple, yet full-flavoured, dishes featuring at the cookbook launch in Peploe’s restaurant in Dublin proved that healthy food can be seriously delicious.

MC at the event was John Healy, Maitre d’ on the RTE show The Restaurant, who, having survived two heart attacks, is currently one of the many people in Ireland waiting for a heart transplant; like Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, whose father died following a heart attack in 2009, John is now a voluntary campaigner for the Irish Heart Foundation. Their stories are moving, and could be the catalyst that’s needed for us to make major changes to the way we eat.

This is the kind of book that you will happily buy for yourself and I intend to take advantage of the good value offered by IHF’s online sales - where multiple sales are only charged at the same p&p rate as one book - and get copies for all the family as stocking fillers this Christmas. What better gift could there be than a guide to better heart health for your family, in 120 tasty stages?

RECIPE: Warm Goats' Cheese And Mango Salad

Warm Goats' Cheese And Mango SaladThis is one of the dishes I enjoyed at the launch, photographed by fellow guest, Myles McWeeney. The recipe is from television presenter Sinead Desmond, who says “This has to be one of my all-time favourite dishes, perfect for entertaining. It is stunning and simple - need I say more? Oh, and it tastes great too.” So true.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes Serves 4

Click for recipe


LasagneThis anytime dish is my own contribution to I Love Good Food. Created for an earlier Irish Heart Foundation recipe booklet, this variation on classic lasagne uses everyday store cupboard items where possible, and low-fat ingredients and cooking methods provide a healthier alternative without losing flavour.

For an even healthier alternative, you could be less generous with the Parmesan or even use low-fat cheese.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 2 hours

Click for recipe

Neven's Country Living Cookery BookNeven's Country Living Cookery Book

(published by The Irish Farmers Journal ISBN-13: 9780953490226; rrp €19.95 204pp, full colour; available from bookshops, also online from at €15 plus €3 p&p, with free shipping on orders of 2 or more).

Neven Maguire is unquestionably one of Ireland’s most gifted chefs and, on a daily basis, he creates restaurant meals that amaze and delight his customers. But his USPs extend far beyond the kitchen, and he is known as much for other things as for his amazing restaurant: his warm, engaging personality and love of family and place; support of his treasured local producers and suppliers; and (perhaps uniquely among top chefs – and we put this down to early teaching by his mother, Vera) an ability to talk simply and directly to the home cook, both at demonstrations and in his recipes.

Since 2008, Neven has been the principle food writer of Irish Country Living (free with the Irish Farmers Journal every Thursday) and, with a shared enthusiasm for the country’s best food producers and constant linking of farm and fork, it is a partnership made in heaven.

The readers love his genuine respect for the farming community, of course, and also his down to earth approach. Small wonder then that the Editor, Mairead Lavery, says: “Over and over again we have been asked to gather Neven's recipes into a cookery book. And that's exactly what we've done. With over 100 favourite recipes from Neven's column in Irish Country Living, we hope this book will become a mainstay in many kitchens where good food is prepared, eaten and appreciated.”

Neven's Country Living Cookery Book is a lovely book, with some rural images as well as delicious dishes, to underline the source of the ingredients that Neven uses in his admirably straightforward recipes.

It is widely available and already a best seller – and, as I discovered to my delight on a recent visit to MacNean House, Neven ensures that each overnight guest finds a signed copy waiting in their room. Another good reason to visit Blacklion so!

RECIPE: Roasted Pepper with Boilie Cheese

Roasted Pepper with Boilie Cheese from Neven's Country Living Cookery Book Neven says, “The Boilie cheese I use is produced at a local creamery Fivemiletown, in Fermanagh. Boilie are fresh cheese curds that have been rolled by hand into balls; they are marinated in oil and herbs and are readily available in two varieties, one coming from cow's milk and the other from goat's milk. Both are soft and have a wonderfully delicate flavour. I just love them and like to use them to fill red peppers; although the stalks of the pepper are not edible, they do look attractive and help the peppers keep their shape.”

Note: The olive oil and Maldon sea salt suggested in this recipe could now be replaced with Irish produced rapeseed oil (Neven is a fan of Donegal Rapeseed Oil) and Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, from West Cork.

Serves 4

Click for recipe

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