Saturday 15 December 2018

Neven Maguire's Countdown to Christmas


Neven Maguire with jumper, tree and decorations - all from Dunnes Stores. Photo: Fran Veale
Neven Maguire with jumper, tree and decorations - all from Dunnes Stores. Photo: Fran Veale
Lobster Bisque
Christmas Herb & Onion Stuffing
Golden Crunch Roast Potatoes
Braised Peas with Bacon
MacNean Frangipane Mince Pies with Brandy Butter
Salmon terrine with prawns

Cooking the biggest meal of the year can be a challenge, so ensure your Christmas dinner is a stress-free experience by using Neven's expert timings and tips

Salmon terrine with prawns

Salmon terrine with prawns

This salmon terrine will not only look impressive but will taste far superior to anything you can buy. It can be made well in advance - up to two days is fine - and can be kept in the fridge until you're ready to slice it. The filling itself is so delicious that it could also be eaten as a dip. If you really want to push the boat out and showcase Irish shellfish, use Dublin Bay prawns.

This salmon terrine will not only look impressive but will taste far superior to anything you can buy. It can be made well in advance - up to two days is fine - and can be kept in the fridge until you're ready to slice it. The filling itself is so delicious that it could also be eaten as a dip. If you really want to push the boat out and showcase Irish shellfish, use Dublin Bay prawns.

Serves 10-12


2 tbsp white wine or rice vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

4 celery sticks, trimmed and very finely diced

675g (1 ½ lb) smoked salmon, sliced

2 x 275g (10oz) cartons of soft cream cheese

1 x 200g (7oz) tub of crème fraîche

Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges to garnish

2 tbsp creamed horseradish

225g (8oz) hot smoked salmon fillets

100g (4oz) cooked peeled prawns

4 tbsp snipped fresh chives

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus extra sprigs to garnish

2 tbsp cracked pink peppercorns

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Light brown soda bread, to serve


1 To prepare the pickled celery, put the vinegar and sugar in a bowl and add 2 good pinches of salt. Mix in the celery and set aside for an hour, then drain and chill until needed.

2 Oil a 1.2 litre (2 pint) loaf tin, then line with a double layer of cling film, leaving plenty hanging over the sides. Neatly cover the base and sides of the tin with most of the smoked salmon in a slightly overlapping layer with some overhanging the sides, reserving the rest for the bottom of the finished terrine.

3 Put the cream cheese and crème fraîche in a food processor with the lemon rind and juice, horseradish and half of the hot smoked salmon fillets. Whizz until well blended, then turn out into a bowl. Fold in the prawns, herbs and pink peppercorns.

Flake in the rest of the hot smoked salmon and season with salt and pepper.

4 Spoon a third of the cream cheese mixture into the terrine and gently smooth it out into an even layer. Sprinkle over half of the pickled celery, then cover with another third of the cream cheese mixture. Add the rest of the pickled celery and spread the remaining cream cheese on top. Lay the reserved smoked salmon on top, then neatly fold over the overhanging salmon. Cover with the cling film to enclose completely. Chill overnight or for up to two days.

5 To serve, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes before you want to cut it, as this will make sure that you get nice smooth slices. Carefully invert onto a platter, then cut using a sharp knife that has had its blade dipped into a jug of hot water. Put a slice on each plate with a lemon wedge and dill sprigs to garnish. Have a separate basket of the soda bread to hand around.

Lobster bisque

Lobster Bisque

This is an extremely rich soup, so only serve it in small amounts

if you want your guests to have any room left for other courses.

You can substitute the lobster for crab for a less intense flavour.

Serves 4-6


350g (12oz) frozen cooked lobster, thawed

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

50g (2oz) butter

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stick, diced

½ small fennel bulb, diced

1 fresh bouquet garni

4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

4 tbsp brandy (Cognac if possible)

2 tsp tomato purée

900ml (1 ½ pints) fish stock

150ml (¼ pint) dry white wine

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lightly whipped cream, to garnish

Fresh micro herbs, to garnish


1 Cut the lobster in half lengthways, then open it up and remove the tail meat, removing and discarding the intestinal tract and stomach. Twist and remove the claws, then using the back of a knife, crack the claws and remove the meat. Chop the tail and claw meat and reserve. Put the shell in a polythene bag and smash into small pieces.

2 Heat the oil and half of the butter in a large pan and stir in the onion, carrot, celery and fennel. Add the lobster shell and bouquet garni, then cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

3 Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, then increase the heat and pour in the brandy - it should reduce immediately. Add the tomato purée, stock and wine and bring to a simmer, then cook gently for 30 minutes, until slightly reduced. Season to taste.

4 Pass the soup through a fine sieve into a bowl, then ladle into a food processor. Add the remaining butter and the reserved lobster meat, reserving some to garnish. Whizz until blended, then return to a clean pan. Reheat gently, then ladle into bowls and add a quenelle of the whipped cream to each one. Finish with a small mound of the reserved lobster meat and a sprinkling of the micro herbs to serve.

Sausage Stuffing Roll with Dried Cranberries

Everyone has their favourite part of the Christmas meal, but for many it's the stuffing. The practical shape of this clever roll means it takes up very little space in the oven, as it can be slid in alongside a larger roasting tin. However, it can also be used to stuff the bird. Whatever you decide to do with it, it can be prepared up to three days in advance as long as the sausages are nice and fresh, meaning all you need to do on the big day is remember to pop it into the oven.


100g (4oz) butter

1 onion, finely chopped

300g (11oz) good quality sausagemeat

175g (6oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

50g (2oz) dried cranberries

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tsp chopped fresh mixed herbs (use a mixture of sage, rosemary and thyme)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).

2 Melt the butter in a sauté pan set over a medium heat, then add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the sausagemeat, breadcrumbs, dried cranberries and herbs, then season generously.

3 Shape into a large roll, then wrap in a layer of parchment paper and tin foil, twisting the ends securely to seal. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes, until cooked through and tender. Unwrap just before cutting into slices to serve.

Christmas Herb & Onion Stuffing

This is a really good recipe for the buttery, fresh herb stuffing that everyone seems to love. I have been making it for years, having as a young child watched my mother Vera prepare it. If you prefer, it can be cooked and served in a separate dish (rather than inside the bird itself), which makes it crispier and more golden. However, I tend to use it to stuff the cavity and neck of the bird so that it soaks up all the delicious juices while cooking.

Makes enough to stuff 1 x 4.5-5.4kg (10-12lb) turkey


175g (6oz) butter

2 onions, finely chopped

500g (18oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

25g (1oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves finely chopped

15g (½ oz) fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only

15g (½ oz) fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Melt the butter in a frying pan set over a low heat, then add the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Tip into a bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs and herbs, then season generously. Leave to cool completely.

2 Use the stuffing to three-quarters fill the cavity of the bird, then secure the flaps of skin over the cavity with a metal skewer. Use the rest of the stuffing to fill the crop of the neck end. Start at the neck end, where you'll find a flap of loose skin. Gently loosen this away from the breast and you'll be able to make a triangular pocket. Pack the stuffing inside as far as you can go and make a neat round shape on the outside, then tuck the neck flap underneath the bird and secure it with a small skewer. Cook as per the instructions for roasting the turkey (see above).

Roast Turkey with Streaky Bacon

This is the easiest way to roast a turkey, and fortunately, for many people it's also the best. Forget about having the time to brine it or trying to turn it over while it cooks - this method is absolutely foolproof.

Serves 10-12


1 x 4.5-5.4kg (10-12lb) oven-ready turkey (preferably free-range), at room temperature

1 quantity stuffing (see page 29, optional)

100g (4oz) butter, softened

15-18 rindless streaky bacon rashers

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Small bunch of fresh herbs (to include parsley, sage and bay leaves), to garnish


1 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).

2 Turn the turkey breast side up and pack the neck cavity loosely with stuffing (if using), then tie the top of the drumsticks together with string. Smear with most of the butter and season generously, then place the bacon over the breasts to cover them completely. Weigh the turkey to calculate the required cooking time, allowing 20 minutes per 450g (1lb) plus 20 minutes extra.

3 Lay a large sheet of foil lengthways over a large roasting tin, leaving enough at each end to wrap over the turkey, then lightly butter the foil. Repeat with another sheet of foil, but this time laying it across the tin. Place the stuffed turkey in the centre of the foil, breast side up, then wrap loosely to enclose but still allowing air to circulate around the turkey.

4 Put in the oven and cook according to your calculated cooking time, carefully unwrapping and basting the turkey every 40 minutes. For the final hour, fold back and remove the foil, keeping the ends of the drumsticks still covered in foil to prevent them from burning. Baste well and return to the oven. The turkey should be a rich, dark brown colour. To make sure it's cooked, insert a fine skewer into the thickest part of the thigh - the juices should run clear, but if they are still pink, return the turkey to the oven and check again every 10 minutes, until you are happy that the turkey is cooked right through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes (up to 30 minutes is fine).

5 To serve, garnish the turkey with the bunch of herbs in the neck cavity and bring to the table. Carve into slices and arrange on warmed plates with all the trimmings.

Braised Peas with Bacon

This is a great way of making frozen peas or petits pois more interesting. Keep a bag in the freezer for emergencies and you'll have a lovely vegetable side dish in no time at all. It does reheat well, but as it takes so little time to make, it's possibly worth doing just before serving, as the mint will discolour a little otherwise.

Serves 8-10


1 tbsp rapeseed oil

4 rindless streaky bacon rashers, diced

2 leeks, trimmed and finely chopped

2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

100ml (3 ½ fl oz) dry white wine

150ml (¼ pint) chicken or vegetable stock

450g (1lb) frozen garden peas or petits pois

25g (1oz) butter

1 tbsp roughly torn fresh mint leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Heat the oil in a large pan set over a medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté for about 5 minutes, until crisp. Scoop out onto a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside.

2 Tip the leeks into the pan along with the spring onions and garlic. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, until softened, tossing occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly. Pour in the wine and bring to a simmer.

3 Add the stock and peas or petit pois and simmer for 3 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan with the butter and mint and season to taste. Allow to just heat through, then serve immediately in a warmed dish.

Golden Crunch Roast Potatoes

While turkey may be the star of the Christmas table, if you get your roast potatoes right, then frankly you could serve chicken nuggets and most people would still be happy as Larry. Let's face it, we are all about the potatoes as a nation! This recipe also works for 900g (2lb) of parsnips - simply blanch for 3 minutes instead and cook for about 45 minutes. Try to use beef dripping for the best flavour. Check out James Whelan Butchers online for an award-winning dripping that can be delivered straight to your door.

Serves 8-10


1.5kg (3, ¼lb) floury potatoes, such as Rooster, Desiree, King Edward or Maris Piper

4 tbsp beef dripping, goose or duck

fat (from a jar or left over from a roast)

Sea salt

Handful of fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)


1 Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5).

2 Wash and peel the potatoes, reserving the peel. Cut the potatoes in half or into quarters, depending on their size. Put them in a large pan of salted boiling water along with the peel - it's easiest if you can put this in a muslin infusing bag. Parboil for 8 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, put the beef dripping, goose or duck fat in a large roasting tin and put it into the oven to heat. Drain the potatoes and discard the peel, then put them back in the pan and shake gently to rough up the edges. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and put on the hob over a gentle heat. Put the potatoes in one by one - they should sizzle as they hit the pan - and baste all over. Season with salt.

4 Roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until golden and crunchy, keeping an eye on them and basting with a little more fat if they begin to look dry. Add some fresh rosemary sprigs (if using) about 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Serve immediately, as these do not appreciate hanging around.

Ham with Sticky Apricot & Ginger Glaze

This ham is a firm favourite in our house over the festive season, whether served hot or cold. It can be cooked and left in the fridge for up to a week, making it extremely handy.

Serves 10-12


5.25kg (11 ½lb) leg of gammon, on the bone

4 celery sticks, roughly chopped

2 onions, sliced

5cm (2in) piece of fresh ginger, sliced

1 small bunch of fresh thyme

1 tbsp black peppercorns

4 whole cloves

2 star anise

1.5 litres (2 ½ pints) dry cider

1 tsp ground ginger

For the glaze: 175g (6oz) good-quality apricot jam or conserve

100g (4oz) light brown sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

4 star anise

4 pieces of preserved stem ginger, cut into small matchstick-sized strips


1 Soak the gammon in cold water for at least 6 hours (or overnight is best), then drain.

2 Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F/gas mark ½). Use a large deep roasting tin with a rack that's big enough to hold the ham. Put the celery, onions, fresh ginger, thyme, peppercorns, cloves and star anise in the tin and pour over the cider, then put the rack on top. Sit the ham on the rack and cover with a large tent of foil, sealing it well. Put on the hob over a high heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Cook for 12 hours or overnight - you can now leave it for one or two days before finishing the recipe. Alternatively, leave to rest and cool down for at least 30 minutes.

3 Raise the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4).

4 Now make the glaze. Put the apricot jam or conserve in a small pan with the brown sugar, lemon juice and star anise. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then add the stem ginger and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until reduced to a thick glaze, stirring to ensure it doesn't catch at the bottom.

5 Carefully peel away the skin on the ham, leaving the layer of white fat intact. Using a sharp knife, score the fat diagonally into a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut into the meat. Put into a clean roasting tin and rub with the ground ginger, then brush the glaze on top. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, until golden and sticky. Transfer to a platter and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes. Carve slices from the ham and use as required, warm or cold.

Cranberry relish

Once made, this will keep covered in the fridge for up to one week. If you want to make it in advance, leave it to cool and freeze in a food bag for up to one month.

Makes about 600ml (1 pint)


25g (1oz) butter

1 small onion, finely sliced

½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary

120ml (4fl oz) ruby red port

500g (18oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

200g (7oz) light brown sugar


Melt the butter in a pan set over a medium heat. Add the onion and rosemary and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Pour in the port and allow it to bubble down. Add the cranberries and simmer for 8–10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened. Stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at room temperature.

MacNean Frangipane Mince Pies with Brandy Butter

These can be made up to three days in advance or frozen and refreshed in a moderate oven set at 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) for 8-10 minutes before glazing.

Makes 18


For the brandy butter:

150g (5oz) icing sugar, sifted

100g (4oz) butter, softened

3 tbsp brandy (preferably Cognac)

For the pastry:

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

100g (4oz) cold butter, diced

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1 egg yolk, plus beaten egg to glaze

½ tbsp cream

½ tsp lemon juice

For the frangipane: 100g (4oz) butter

100g (4oz) caster sugar

2 large eggs

100g (4oz) ground almonds

1 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp dark rum

1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

For the filling and topping: 1 x 400g (14oz) jar of mincemeat

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

Apricot jam, to glaze

Icing sugar, for dusting


1 To make the brandy butter, cream together the icing sugar and butter. Beat in 1 tbsp of boiling water and the brandy until smooth. Put in a dish, cover and chill until needed.

2 To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds. Add the egg yolk, cream and lemon juice and blend just until the pastry comes together. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.

3 Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6).

4 To make the frangipane, put the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl. Using a hand-held mixer, beat until soft and creamy. Scrape down the sides, then add the eggs and continue to beat. Add the ground almonds, flour, rum and vanilla seeds and mix briefly.

5 Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured work surface and cut into 18 x 6.5cm (2½in) circles and use these to line the bun tins. Spoon a teaspoon of mincemeat into each tartlet and top with the frangipane. There is no need to spread the mixture flat, as it will level out in the oven (but don't overfill the tins). Sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top of each one. Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes, until cooked through and light golden, watching carefully. Remove the mince pies from the tins and allow to cool a little on a wire rack.

6 Dilute the apricot jam with a little water and bring to the boil, then brush the top of each warm tartlet with this glaze. These are best served warm with a light dusting of icing sugar.

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