When Neven Maguire wrote his first food column for Irish Country Living in June of 2008, his goal was the same as it is today: to promote the great farmers and food producers we are lucky to have here in Ireland.

“It’s been a privilege and a lot of fun over the past 15 years,” he says, smiling. “I still remember meeting Mairead [Lavery, then editor of Irish Country Living] for the first time. We just connected; we had great banter and she was just full of charisma - what a communicator she has been for the farming way of life over the years. Her, Katherine O’Leary, Matt Dempsey - there have been a core group of people with the Irish Farmers Journal who I have greatly admired, and then seeing the younger generations come in and step up - this is what makes the publication so special; it’s the real Ireland.”

Farmers need support

Having spent the past 15 years not only writing for Irish Country Living but also travelling the length and breadth of the island of Ireland – and beyond – for his many books and television productions, Neven has never taken Irish farming or produce for granted.

Neven Maguire on the cover of Irish Country Living.

“Now more than ever, farmers need our support,” he says. “It’s a fragile time and we produce some of the best food in the world. I see this first-hand with every new country I visit – we have something very special here. When I visit farms and see how hard farmers work; they are really passionate about what they do. I also have to mention all the people and families I meet each year at the Ploughing and the Tullamore Show. It’s been 15 years but our core values have never changed; we produce delicious and safe food - and we need to celebrate and protect that.”

Sweet nostalgia

In honour of the 75th anniversary of the Irish Farmers Journal, we asked Neven to provide us with some nostalgic recipes. “This Baked Alaska was my mother’s recipe – we have it every Christmas,” he says. “And roast beef is such a treat for a Sunday lunch, and especially a New Year’s Day celebration – you can’t go wrong with a great quality rib roast; it’s one of the best cuts you can get – and, of course, our beef is some of the best in the world.”

Roast rib of beef on the bone with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish cream \ Photo by Philip Doyle. Food styling by Janine Kennedy.

Roast rib of beef on the bone With Yorkshire Puddings And Horseradish Cream

Serves 6-8

  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2.25kg (5lb) piece of beef fore-rib (rib-eye), on the bone
  • 2 tbsp English mustard
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp dripping (such as from a previous roast) or olive oil
  • 150ml (1/4 pint) red wine
  • 600ml (1 pint) beef stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Yorkshire puddings:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100g (4oz) plain flour
  • 250ml (9floz) milk
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Rapeseed oil, for cooking
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • To serve:

    Mashed potatoes, to serve

    Horseradish cream, to serve

    Yorkshire puddings, to serve

    1 Place the thyme, basil, paprika, garlic salt, cayenne and mustard powder in a bowl and mix to combine. Wipe the meat with damp kitchen paper, then spread a thin layer of the English mustard all over the fat side of the joint. Sprinkle the spice powder on top, patting it down gently to help it stick. If you have time, wrap loosely in cling film and allow the beef to marinate overnight.

    2 Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6) and allow the beef to come back to room temperature.

    3 Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin and allow to heat in the oven for five minutes. Add the onion, carrot and leek, tossing to coat them in the oil. Season to taste and roast for 20 minutes, until lightly caramelised.

    4 Increase the oven temperature to 220°C (450°F/Gas Mark 8). Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the dripping or olive oil, and when it’s hot, quickly sear the beef for about 30 seconds on each side – be careful, as the spices will give off a strong aroma and can make your eyes water. Transfer the beef to the roasting tin, placing it on the bed of vegetables.

    5 Add the red wine to the frying pan and allow it to bubble down to burn off the alcohol, then pour into the roasting tin with half of the stock. Roast the beef for 15 minutes, until well sealed, then reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6) once again and roast for 10 minutes per 450g (1lb) for rare, 12 minutes per 450g (1lb) for medium rare or 20–25 minutes per 450g (1lb) for well done. Baste the roast with the red wine and stock every 10 minutes or so during cooking.

    6 When it’s done, remove the beef from the tin and place on a large dish. Allow to rest in a warm place for at least 10–15 minutes before carving.

    7 Make the Yorkshire puddings: whisk the eggs, flour, milk and salt together in a bowl until well combined. Pour the batter into a Pyrex jug and let it rest for 30 minutes before you use it – this will help to make it smoother, giving you fantastic light and crispy puddings.

    8 Increase the oven temperature to its highest setting and put a muffin tin in a baking tin on the top shelf. When the oven is up to temperature, carefully remove the tins, close the oven door and add a tablespoon of oil to each hole in the muffin tin. Pop the tins back in the oven for a couple of minutes, until the oil is smoking hot.

    9 Open the oven door and slide the shelf with the tins halfway out. Quickly fill each muffin hole with batter, then carefully slide the shelf back into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes without opening the oven door, until the Yorkshire puddings are crisp and golden with a soft, fluffy centre.

    10 To make the gravy, pour the remaining stock into the roasting tin and place directly on the hob to heat. Simmer for five minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any sediment. Season and pour through a sieve into a gravy boat.

    11 To serve, carve the beef into slices and arrange on warmed plates with a dollop of horseradish cream, mashed potatoes and the Yorkshire puddings. Hand round the gravy boat separately.

    Chocolate Baked Alaska

    Serves 6-8

    For the chocolate sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 90g self-raising flour
  • 30g good quality cocoa powder
  • For the Italian meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 135g water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • To assemble and serve:

  • 900ml tub vanilla ice cream
  • 200ml cream, whipped
  • Fresh fruit or berries
  • 1 First, make the chocolate sponge. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray (13.6 x 9.5in) with parchment paper.

    2 In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together with a hand mixer. Whisk for three minutes on full power until light and fluffy.

    3 Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and gently fold in using a spatula. Transfer the mixture to the baking tray.

    4 Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

    5 Make the Italian meringue: place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat, swirling the pot until the sugar has dissolved

    6 Once the sugar has dissolved allow to boil. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowls and whisk until soft peaks form.

    7 Boil the sugar until it has reached 120°C (use a sugar thermometer to check). Carefully stream the syrup into the egg white while whisking on high speed.

    8 Keep whisking for around five minutes until the meringue is thick, glossy and has completely cooled down.

    9 Keep covered in a bowl or transfer to a piping bag until needed.

    10 Now, it’s time to assemble: line a 2lb loaf tin with a double layer of cling film, ensuring an overhang on each side.

    11 Cut the prepared chocolate sponge in three even sized rectangular pieces.

    12 Place one third of the sponge in the base of the tin. Using half of the tub of vanilla ice cream, spread an even layer over the sponge. Use the back of a tablespoon to help.

    13 Place another piece of the sponge on top followed by the remaining ice-cream, ensuring to spread it evenly. Add the final piece of sponge, gently pressing down, and fold the overhang of cling film over the top.

    14 Place in the freezer to firm up for a minimum of three to four hours, or overnight is best.

    15 To serve, remove the Baked Alaska from the freezer, open and turn out onto a long serving plate.

    16 Pipe the prepared Italian meringue around the loaf; ensuring it is completely covered (at this point, it can be returned to the freezer until needed).

    17 Use a kitchen blow torch to evenly brown the outside of the meringue all over. Enjoy with fresh fruit or berries, like cherries, and whipped cream.

    Read more

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