independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Christmas with Neven Maguire

Renowned Irish chef gives his top tips for the festive season

If all the ingredients are organised and measured half of the work is done.

THIS year Christmas Day is on a Tuesday and that is the perfect day as you have the weekend to get a lot of work done. It is what we call in restaurants ‘mise en place’, literally putting in place.

If all the ingredients are organised and measured half of the work is done. And you can do even more by getting some of the parts of the meal cooked before the big day. You could make the ham glaze with Irish Mist at the weekend. It will keep for a week.You could also poach the raspberries for the cheesecake, make the cranberry sauce, and the stuffing.



I am always conscious that there are a lot of people who are cooking Christmas dinner for the first time and it is a nerve wracking affair. So everything here is very achievable. The turkey crown is easy to cook and quick to carve. Take a little time to dress the table and you will be sure to impress.



Christmas Day is a day I would never even think of opening the restaurant. It is one of the few times that I cook for all of the family. I also do lunch on my father’s anniversary each October. For me Christmas is a time for home and family and the only time I have been away was when Amelda and I went to Thailand two years ago. We loved it but it was surreal to have Santa arrive on a boat and present us with a carved elephant. Then we ate a spicy turkey curry with fragrant rice. With the arrival of the twins our travelling days are over for the time being. But we are so looking forward to their first Christmas



This year I am expecting all of the family and their families. It ended up being 35 people last year and I loved every minute of it. But then I am used to big numbers. That said I will spend pretty much all of Christmas Eve in the kitchen getting things ready.



In our house the adults open the presents on Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass. We always have mulled wine and we have it again on Christmas Day. I use red wine, port, orange juice, cinnamon sticks, star anise, sliced orange and brown sugar.



This roast crown of turkey with sage and onion stuffing is tried and trusted. To test if it is cooked pierce the thickest part with a long clean skewer. If the juices run clear, it is ready. If it is a little pink then cook a while longer. The glazed loin of bacon has a lovely even shape and is perfect for easy carving.



We serve this cheesecake in the restaurant and it is very popular. And as I said the poached raspberries can be done over the weekend and everything else can be done on Christmas Eve and assembled just before serving. It is a really light cheesecake and I use a light cream cheese from Jane and Kieran Cassidy of Kilbeg dairies in Kells, Co Meath.



And the leftovers are ideal or keeping St Stephen’s Day simple. The ham is great for a carbonara and I love turkey stroganoff. And remember when you have finished with the turkey on Christmas Day don’t leave it sitting in a warm kitchen. Either put it in an airtight container in the fridge, or freeze it.



Have a wonderful Christmas Day and Happy Cooking,



*For more Christmas receipes from Nevin and others, check out today's Weekender Christmas food special in the Irish Independent print edition

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