Monday 20 May 2019

Kitchen wizardry


Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd's Pie
Homemade Chips
Chicken Korma

Turn everyday dishes into taste sensations with these magic formulas from Neven Maguire, who waves a culinary wand over 50 family favourites in his latest book

Shepherd's Pie

This has to be the ultimate comfort food that should only need to be eaten with a fork, preferably in a wide shallow bowl. Imagine settling down on the sofa with this, a mug of tea and a slice of thickly buttered bread for mopping up - life can't get much better! It's great to have one of these stashed in your freezer to help you to feed a large group at short notice. If you want to cook it from frozen, simply cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

Serves 6-8


2 tbsp rapeseed oil

675g (1½lb) lean minced lamb

A knob of butter

2 onions, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

3 celery sticks, diced

100g (4oz) button mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp tomato purée

2 tsp tomato ketchup

300ml (½ pint) white wine

25g (1oz) plain flour

300ml (½ pint) chicken or beef stock (from a cube is fine)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mash: 1kg (2¼lb) Rooster potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

75g (3oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated

50g (2oz) butter, plus a little extra

To serve: Buttered peas


1. Put a frying pan over a high heat and add a little of the oil. Season the minced lamb, then add it to the pan to fry in batches. Don't cover the surface of the pan completely, as adding too much meat will reduce the temperature of the pan and the meat won't brown. Avoid over-stirring the mince as it fries. Leave it alone and allow it to develop a good brown colour before breaking it up with a wooden spoon and turning it over. Drain in a colander to remove any excess fat.

2. Wipe out the pan, then add the butter and allow it to melt over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and thyme and season with the cinnamon and some salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veg are starting to soften.

3. Tip in the browned lamb mince, stirring to combine, then stir in the Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and ketchup. Pour in the wine and scrape up all the crusty brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then allow the liquid to reduce by three-quarters.

4. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Gradually pour in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 1 hour, until meltingly tender. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.

5. During the last half an hour of cooking time, make the mash. Put the potatoes in a pan of cold salted water. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan over a low heat for 2-3 minutes to remove as much moisture as possible. Remove the pan from the heat, then mash with a potato masher until smooth. Beat in the cheese and butter and season to taste.

6. Preheat the grill.

7. Spoon the mince into a baking dish, then spoon the mash on top. Dot with a little more butter and grill until golden. Alternatively, leave to cool completely and store in the fridge for up to two days, then preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and cook on the bottom shelf for 45 minutes, until bubbling and brown. Serve straight to the table with a dish of buttered peas alongside.

Chef's tip

To make this recipe into a cottage pie, replace the lamb with beef. There are now different types of mince available in supermarkets and most butchers. As a general rule, the higher the price, the better quality the meat and the lower the fat content. If you're lucky enough to have some leftover roast lamb or beef, it makes the best pie. Follow the instructions below but add the diced meat once the sauce has been made, as it has already been cooked, and use any leftover gravy instead of stock.

Homemade chips

Homemade Chips

Homemade chips should be perfectly crispy on the outside and super fluffy on the inside. At home we don't cook chips very often, so when we do make them, we definitely want the real deal. The secret is to cook them twice at two different temperatures, so you will need a deep-fat fryer or deep pan and a thermometer for this recipe.

Serves 4


4 large Rooster potatoes (about 1.5kg/3¼lb), peeled

1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable oil, for deep-frying

A good pinch of fine sea salt


1. Trim the potatoes into rectangles, then cut into 1cm (½in) slices, then cut again to make chips that are 1cm (½in) wide. Rinse the chips in plenty of cold water to remove the excess starch. If time allows, leave them to sit in a bowl of cold water for a couple of hours or even overnight.

2. If you're using a deep-fat fryer, heat the vegetable oil to 95°C (200°F). Alternatively, fill a deep, heavy-based pan one-third full with oil and use a sugar thermometer to check that it has reached the correct temperature. Take great care if using a pan: always watch over it and never fill it more than a third, as hot fat may bubble up when the potatoes are added.

3. Drain the chips and dry them really well on kitchen paper, then carefully lower them into the heated oil and cook for 10 minutes. This blanches them and ensures that they are completely cooked through without colouring them. Check that the chips are tender using the point of a knife, then remove from the oil using a slotted spoon if using a pan and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Increase the heat of the oil in the fryer or pan to 190°C (375°F). Lower in the blanched chips and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Shake off any excess fat, then quickly drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt to serve.

Chicken Korma

Chicken Korma

This is a delicious curry with a milder, creamier taste than other curries, which makes it a great one for all the family to enjoy. To make it into more of a celebration meal that will rival any takeaway, add some packets of poppadoms or naan bread, a nice lemony green salad, a jar of mango chutney and some natural yogurt. Serve the adults some ice-cold beers and you'll be guaranteed that everyone will have a great time!

Serves 4-6


12 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

250ml natural yogurt

4 tbsp sunflower oil

1 cinnamon stick

10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, grated

2.5cm (1in) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

50g (2oz) ground almonds

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp chilli powder

1 tsp tomato purée

4 tbsp cream

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp saffron stands, soaked in a little water

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve: Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Fluffy basmati rice


1. Cut the chicken into large bite-sized chunks and marinate in half of the yogurt for at least 2 hours, but overnight in the fridge is prefect, to tenderise the meat. Take it out half an hour before you want to cook to allow it to come back to room temperature.

2. Heat a large heavy-based pan or casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat. Add the oil, then add the cinnamon stick and cardamom seeds. Once the cardamom starts to pop, add the chicken and brown on all sides, in batches if necessary, then take out of the pan with a tongs and set aside.

3. Reduce the heat and add the onion. Fry for several minutes, until softened and a medium-brown colour, stirring occasionally but not constantly or the onion will not have time to catch and caramelise a little.

4. Add the garlic, ginger and ground almonds and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned. Tip in the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for another minute.

5. Add the cream, garam masala and saffron with the rest of the yogurt, stirring until combined. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and stir to coat them in the spice paste. Season to taste. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and tender.

6. Put the chicken korma into a serving dish and scatter over the coriander. Serve with the basmati rice.

The Stew Formula


This is a great basic formula that works every time. Chunks of meat are cooked in liquid until they are meltingly tender, the flavour is deep and the liquid has developed into a thickened gravy. The meat should be cut into approximately 2cm (¾in) cubes and most prepared packs from the supermarket are this size. The way I’ve written this recipe allows you to easily chop and change it, using different meats, herbs and liquids, and in no time you’ll be making up some of your own variations.

Serves 4-6


3 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery sticks, sliced

3 bay leaves

2 tbsp plain flour

300ml (½ pint) chicken or beef stock (from a cube is fine)

1 tbsp light muscovado sugar

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Beef and beer (3 hours):

900g (2lb) diced stewing steak

1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh thyme

750ml (1 ¼ pints) beer (preferably an Irish craft beer)

Pork and cider (2½ hours):

900g (2lb) diced stewing pork

1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh sage

750ml (1 ¼ pints) medium-dry cider

Chicken and white wine (1½ hours):

900g (2lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes

1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

750ml (1¼ pints) dry white wine

Lamb and red wine (2½ hours):

900g (2lb) diced stewing lamb

1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

750ml (1¼ pints) red wine

To serve:

Crusty bread or creamy mashed potatoes

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Steamed greens 


1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3).

2. Heat a heavy-based pan or casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat. Pat dry any excess liquid from the meat or chicken with kitchen paper. Add 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil to the pan or casserole, then add the meat or chicken and brown it in batches, leaving plenty of room around each piece to ensure that they brown nicely and don’t end up stewing. Set aside on a plate.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan,then add the onions, carrots, celery sticks, bay leaves and your chosen herb. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are just beginning to caramelise and soften. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for another minute or two, stirring.

4. Gradually pour in the booze that you’re using and then the stock, then add the sugar and vinegar.

5. Return the meat or chicken to the pan or casserole and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, then transfer to the oven for the times shown above, removing the lid about halfway through to help the liquid to reduce and to concentrate the flavours.

6. To serve, put some mashed potatoes into each warmed wide-rimmed bowl and ladle over some of the stew scattered with the parsley or just serve with some crusty bread. Have a bowl of some steamed greens alongside so that everyone can help themselves.

Ragu Sauce

Feel free to bulk this out with as much vegetables as you like or even add extra ones, such as mushrooms or courgettes. I also often add a tin of kidney beans or black beans with a scattering of fresh chilli flakes for a chilli con carne. I use this to make lasagne or add it to some freshly cooked spaghetti for spaghetti Bolognese. I like to add anchovies to it for a wonderfully subtle savoury note, but if you are unsure, leave them out and the ragù will still taste delicious.


Makes about 900ml (1½ pints) 


2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

100g (4oz) pancetta or rindless smoked streaky bacon, very finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

1 large carrot, finely diced

1 celery stick, finely diced

1 large garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

350g (12oz) lean minced beef

200g (7oz) minced pork

150ml (¼ pint) white wine

3 heaped tbsp tomato purée

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of Italian whole plum tomatoes

2 tinned anchovy fillets, finely minced to a paste, or 1 tsp anchovy essence (optional)

6 tbsp milk

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the oil, then tip in the pancetta or bacon. Cook for a couple of minutes, until crisp and the fat has rendered. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf with a pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and taken on a little colour.

2. Add the beef and pork mince to the pan. Mix to combine, then sauté for about 5 minutes, until well browned and any liquid has bubbled away, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Add the white wine, scraping up any sediment from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, then simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the tomato purée and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until well combined.

3. Break up the plum tomatoes with your fingers and add to the pan with the anchovies or anchovy essence (if using), then season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours is fine, until the beef is completely tender and the sauce is well reduced. It shouldn’t be too wet. Stir in the milk about 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time so that it has time to reduce down a little. Season to taste.

4. Use the ragù sauce at once or store in the fridge in a bowl covered with cling film for up to three days or freeze it in small batches to use when the need arises. Date and label the container or freezer bag before you freeze.

Irish Independent

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