Cookery Feature - Neven’s Midweek Meals

A new book from Ireland’s best-loved chef, Neven Maguire, is always welcome - and, once again, he’s right on the money with Neven Maguire’s Midweek Meals (Gill, hardback. €22.99).

MacNean House - the restaurant with rooms in Blacklion, Co Cavan, that Neven owns with his wife Amelda - is so popular that you need to book months in advance for weekend meals and breaks, and he is also a hands-on father to their twins, so he knows that getting dinner on the table Monday to Friday can be a daily challenge, even for the best of cooks.

Many more people than usual have been responsible for putting meals on the table every day during the Covid-19 pandemic, so - always one to see where help is needed and step in with practical assistance - Neven decided to guide his Facebook followers with regular cooking videos from his home kitchen in Blacklion, all filmed by his wife Amelda. Similarly, Midweek Meals is just what is needed right now, with its dozens of straightforward recipes to help us all to get fresh and tasty family food on the table fast.

Neven has always believed strongly in the importance of family time around the kitchen table and, practical as always, these recipes - which are bright and fresh yet easy to prepare and based on everyday ingredients - make that easier to achieve. Some are quick to prepare in one go, others suit advance preparation and make good use of the slow cooker - which may well become your most-used appliance. Many of the dishes in Midweek Meals are upbeat variations of established favourites, sometimes replacing classic ingredients with a local alternative - as in the delicious pearl barley risotto, below, which is likely to earn a place in the regular repertoire in many a household.

Dedicated to Neven’s old friend and colleague, Marty Whelan, and produced by a great team led once again by Orla Broderick, who compiled the content, along with other regulars including copy editor Kristin Jensen and photographer Joanne Murphy, this is a solid reference that will become a go-to friend in many a kitchen.

RECIPES to try:

Pearl Barley Risotto with Bacon and Cabbage
This dish (from the ‘Cupboard’s Bare’ chapter) uses pearl barley instead of rice for an interesting nutty texture. It’s much cheaper than traditional risotto rice and has the added bonus of being extremely good for you too. I’ve used a leftover bacon joint here, but you could also use a couple packets of ham chunks.
• Serves 4–6
• Loads of veg
• Preparation time 15 minutes
• Cooking time 1 hour

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
15g (½oz) butter
1 onion, diced
4 large carrots, diced
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
400g (14oz) pearl barley
1.5 litres (2½ pints) hot chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard, plus extra to serve
1 Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
200g (7oz) cooked lean bacon joint or ham, chopped into small pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pan over a medium heat. Add the oil and butter, then add the onion, carrots, leeks and celery and sauté for 6–8 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2–3 minutes, until fragrant.
Stir in the pearl barely and cook for 1 minute, until well combined. Pour in the hot stock, add the mustard and season to taste with a little salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cabbage and the bacon or ham and cook for another 5 minutes, until the cabbage is wilted and tender and the bacon is nicely warmed through.
Divide between plates and serve with a dollop of mustard on the side if liked.

Pork and Apple Burgers with Wicklow Blue Cheese and Winter Coleslaw
From the Spermarket Sweep section (‘for days when you have time to pick up a few ingredients on your way home’) this winter slaw is very versatile and can be served with all types of things. It’s best with the mayonnaise mixed in just before serving, but leftovers are still good if kept covered in the fridge for up to two days. The combination goes beautifully with the pork and blue cheese, spiked with a little sweetness from the apple.
• Makes 6
• Preparation time 15 minutes + 1 hour draining;
• Cooking time 20 minutes
• Loads of veg
• Freezer friendly (burgers)

2 red dessert apples
800g (1¾lb) lean minced pork
2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
150g (5oz) Wicklow Blue cheese, sliced
6 blaa or burger buns, split in half
4 tbsp caramelised red onion chutney
50g (2oz) baby salad leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ celeriac, peeled
¼ red cabbage, tough core removed
2 carrots, peeled
2 tsp caster sugar
5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

To make the winter slaw, use the grating attachment of a food processor or the coarse side of an ordinary box grater to grate the celeriac, red cabbage and carrots. Sprinkle over the sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Make sure it’s well mixed, then place into a colander set in the sink. Leave to drain for at least 1 hour to remove the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, cut the apple into quarters, remove the core and grate the flesh into a bowl with the minced pork and paprika. Season with salt and pepper and mix well with your hands. Shape into six round patties, flattening them slightly.
Heat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Brush the burgers with the oil and add to the hot pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5–6 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Turn off the heat, lay the cheese on top of the burgers and leave to rest.
Give the grated vegetables a good squeeze before placing in a large bowl. Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar in a small bowl, then fold into the grated vegetables until evenly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toast the buns on a grill rack under a medium heat until lightly toasted. Add a little of the coleslaw, then cover with a burger topped with the blue cheese and finish with a dollop of the chuntey and a small mound of baby salad leaves. Place the burger bun tops to the side and serve the rest of the winter slaw alongside.

Pumpkin, Chorizo and Spinach Frittata
Pumpkins will keep for many months if correctly stored. They don’t like too much heat or the bitter cold, so the bottom shelf of a well-ventilated store cupboard is perfect. A small one is the right size for this recipe. Look out for the delicious blue-skinned Crown Prince, which has a wonderful flavour. Otherwise there are a number of small orange-coloured varieties readily available in farmers markets and most Asian supermarkets. Otherwise use butternut squash.

• Serves 6–8
• Preparation time 20 minutes. Cooking time 1 hour
• Loads of veg
• Freezer friendly

1kg (2¼lb) small pumpkin (such as Crown Prince – see the intro), peeled, seeded and chopped
4 raw chorizo sausages, cases removed and torn into pieces
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
250g (9oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
150g (5oz) soft rindless goat’s cheese, crumbled
100g (4oz) shop-bought red onion relish
8 large eggs
250ml (9fl oz) cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
TO SERVE: slices of chargrilled sourdough bread (optional)

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7). Place the pumpkin and chorizo in a 30cm (12in) deep ovenproof frying pan or similar-sized baking dish. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is lightly golden and just tender. Remove from the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).
Add the spinach, goat’s cheese and red onion relish to the pan and gently fold everything together.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add the cream, then season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, whisk gently to combine, then pour over the vegetable and cheese mixture in the pan.
Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until puffed up and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little, then cut into slices and serve on plates with slices of chargrilled sourdough bread, if liked.

Beef and Celeriac with Chestnut Mushrooms and Soured Cream
I love this ‘Slow and Low’ recipe! It’s hearty, rich and unbelievably flavourful. Plus the slow cooker does most of the work, making it a great recipe for busy weeknights. Chunks of beef with shallots, mushrooms and celeriac are simmered all day. Then, just before serving, freshly cooked egg tagliatelle, soured cream and Dijon mustard are added.

• Serves 4-6
• Preparation time 30 minutes
• Cooking time 6 ¼ hours
• Loads of veg
• Freezer friendly (beef)

25g (1oz) plain flour
1 tsp sweet paprika, plus a little extra to garnish
500g (1lb 2oz) stewing beef, cut into chunks
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp tomato purée
knob of butter
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
200g (7oz) chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp white wine
1 small celeriac, peeled and finely diced
450ml (¾ pint) beef stock (from a cube is fine)
225g (8oz) fresh egg tagliatelle
200ml (7fl oz) soured cream, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp Dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
TO GARNISH: torn fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Preheat your slow cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sprinkle the flour and paprika over the beef and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, shaking off any excess. If your slow cooker has a sauté option, you can use this; if not, use a large sauté pan on the hob over a medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, then working in batches, add the beef and quickly sear until golden brown on all sides, turning regularly with a tongs. Transfer to a plate while you continue to cook the remainder. Add the garlic and tomato purée to the last batch of beef, stirring to coat, then transfer to a plate until needed.

Once you’ve cooked all the beef, add the remaining tablespoon of oil with the butter, then add the shallots and mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes. Pour in the vinegar and allow it to bubble right down, then add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any browned bits. Stir in the celeriac and stock. Place in the slow cooker (if you have used a separate pan), then add the seared beef and any meat juices and season to taste. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

When ready to serve, cook the tagliatelle for 2–3 minutes or according to the packet instructions. Stir into the slow cooker with the soured cream and mustard. Leave to rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to combine.

Divide between bowls and add a dollop of soured cream, then sprinkle with a little paprika and some parsley (if using) to serve.

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