Showing posts with label Cavan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cavan. Show all posts

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Staying at MacNean House. At ease from start to finish.

Staying at MacNean House.

At ease from start to finish.

We got a lovely soft-voiced gentle welcome on arrival at MacNean House, the base of Neven Maguire, Ireland's best known chef. We were at ease immediately and that feeling continued right through our pre-Christmas stay.

The house, along with the restaurant and adjoining cooking school, is situated in the small border town of Blacklion, County Cavan, just across the road from the Garda station and the tourist office.

Blacklion is also just across the bridge from its Fermanagh neighbour Belcoo. There was snow on the hills as we walked between the two small towns, crossing the border on the way. Lights were coming on in Belcoo, welcoming visitors from the republic with an 80 pence for one euro offer.
Granola with honey
It was fairly cold so we didn't stay out and about for too long and were soon back in our comfortable well equipped room preparing for that evening's dinner, a fabulous meal indeed. But breakfast is also quite an event and it is also served in the main dining room.

There is a very impressive display on the serve-yourself table and then you can also choose from the two page menu. There is a tempting selection of juices. Not just any old juices. The apple juice, for instance, comes from Con Traas in Tipperary, his Karmine apples featured.

A big choice of granola and muesli and breads of course plus fruit salads and a selection of McGeough’s cold meats along with cheeses. I started with juice and a Honey Granola.

Ireland's most famous porridge!
Then our order was taken at the table, for starter and mains! My starter was, had to be really, the famous MacNean Porridge with honey, cream and a wee drop of Irish Mist! That meant I missed out on the Poached Apricots and also the Warm Prunes.

On then to a magnificent mains menu that included MacNean Traditional breakfast and the MacNean Special breakfast, fairly similar to one another but with the the Special containing a few extras including boxty.  Lots of choices too with the Scrambled Eggs, including plaice, smoked salmon and kippers. And they also had House-made Waffles.

Eggs Benedict

My pick though was the Eggs Benedict, served on a gorgeous toasted brioche, spinach, light butter sauce, with honey glazed ham (could also have had the eggs with smoked salmon). Hadn't finished dinner that long before but still managed to clean the plate. Eggs were perfectly executed and went well with the flavours and texture of the ham. That really set me up for the day at the cooking school!

Later, as part of our Cookery Course, we got a tour of the kitchen. A big pot of mulled wine was bubbling away and we also got a look at a very impressive, very large, stock pot. It was quiet enough about the two o'clock mark but would be much busier when the evening came and some fourteen chefs crowded in. Still, it all looks very well organised and that shows in the high standard of food that emerges. Chef Neven has some team there!

See also: Neven's Cookery School

Dinner from Neven's kitchen.

A big stock pot is shown on the right hand pic. In the other photo, the pastry chefs are hard at it,
while pots of mulled wine bubble on the left.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Neven’s Cookery School. Step by Step with the Maestro

Neven’s Cookery School
Step by Step with the Maestro
One Happy Chef!
It might sound strange but Neven Maguire reminds me of Christy Ring. At least in his approach to his cookery school students. He takes it step by step, building confidence from the start and lots of discreet back-up along the way.

I remember “Ringy”, back in the day, teaching a few of us to take a sideline cut. He just didn't throw the sliotar down and order you to strike. No, he found a high sod and placed it there and, if you made a half decent connection, you hit a good sideline ball. “Hey, I can do it!” After that confidence boost, the rest came with practice.

Christy displayed the technique and dispensed good advice as did Neven in MacNean House last Saturday.

Presentation is important but getting the flavours right is even more so.

That was an early nugget from Ireland's favourite chef during our one day Christmas Cookery Course with him, in his own Cookery School in Blacklion (County Cavan). It used to be a hairdressers but there’s a different kind of style now on display here, right next door to Neven's restaurant MacNean House.
Prawn starter

The school has been open for twelve months. “It has been a great year,” said Neven. “A great year for me and a great year for my team. We are booked up every week from now until next June. But the Chef’s Table, a new venture of ours, is not too well known yet and that is not booked up.” The Chef’s Table (for 12 to 20 people) is situated here in the school and you’ll have Neven and his chefs cooking in front of you and serving you as well.

Neven always has great praise for his staff and many of them have been with him for years. His right hand people in the school are Olivia and Clare. “They keep it immaculate.”  Looking back at the year, Neven said it was a great one for him personally as he was voted Best Chef in Ireland and his new book Fast was voted best cookbook in Ireland.
As he took the varied group of students through the course, he was free with advice. He “ordered” everyone to buy a “plastic” wooden spoon, revealed that local Asian markets are “best for spices” and said that “broken walnuts are half the price of whole nuts”.  Looking for vanilla, then try Vanilla Bazaar. For Thai products look up Thai Gold in Wexford.

But Christmas Made Easy was mostly about the cooking. Everything from Mulled Wine to the Turkey was covered. The full title of the turkey lesson was: Buttermilk Brined Roast Butterfly of Turkey with Orange and Rosemary.

Cheese board

We got to make a Citrus Harissa Butter for the Turkey Crown. You can get the Harissa paste in most areas nowadays but if not available try sun-dried tomato paste instead. The Butter can also be used on grilled steak, pork chop, roast chicken and grilled fish (like hake).

We did a Pine Nut, Cranberry and Apricot Stuffing. By the way, dried cranberries are “very good in soda bread”. The other big item during the busy morning was the ham. Neven and his team were taking care of the ham itself but we got to do the Glaze and the Pineapple Salsa. Again, the glaze can also be used with Pork Chops while the Salsa goes well with grilled prawns.
Speaking of prawns, we got to make our own starter for lunch, a Prawn Cocktail with the traditional Marie Rose Sauce. To tell the truth most of it was done for us but we certainly picked up tips and hints galore. Besides, it was quite a nice starter.

But the Turkey and Ham were just fantastic, so full of flavour and the turkey so moist. Lunch was followed by a Wine and Cheese Tasting conducted by Blaithin McCabe who has been here since 2007. 

We started with La Contesse Spumante Prosecco and then a lightly oaked Potel Aviron Macon Villages 2011. The red was a Cotes du Rhone by Domaine Coste Chaude (2011) and then we enjoyed the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port before sipping a MacNean Mulled Wine.

Perhaps the best match of the tasting for me was the Port and Cashel Blue cheese, made from cows milk. Also on the plate were Corleggy, a hard goats cheese from Cavan, Tipperary’s Cooleeney made from raw cows milk and Coolea (Cork) made from fresh cow milk.

Following an interesting tour of the kitchen, there were more lessons, including Chestnut, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Soup with Smoked Duck, Mulled Fruit Truffle, a Fruit Cocktail and Mulled Wine. Sadly though we had to hit the road earlier than most and missed the final session! Will have to go again in the future.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dinner from Neven Maguire’s Kitchen

Dinner from Neven Maguire’s Kitchen
Prestige Menu at MacNean House
Thornhill duck (medium); full menu at bottom of this post.

It’s about four hours and twenty minutes from our house in Cork to Neven Maguire’s MacNean House and restaurant in Blacklion. But it’s well worth the trip as we found out when we had dinner at the famous County Cavan venue last Friday night. And, yes, Neven was in the kitchen, as he regularly is!

Neven and his wife, Amelda, took inspiration for the new d├ęcor and recipes from extensive travel and research in London, Paris, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. The restaurant's menu reflects his continued advocacy of local and artisan producers and insistence on high quality, seasonal and traceable produce.

The dining room is bright, spacious and beautifully decorated. Colours are muted and you soon feel at ease in the comfortable chairs. Of course, the bar area is very comfortable as well and here you can have your aperitif, listen to the live music (a local trio last Friday) and study the menu. Not too much studying required though if you go for the Prestige Menu as this requires the participation of the whole table (there were six of us). And the only choice you need to make is between the beef and the local duck.

Needless to say, service was friendly and immaculate. The various dishes were well sized, the intervals between well judged and the wine pairings (optional) were excellent. These latter were chosen by Blaithin McCabe. Wouldn’t normally pick a Gamay but the one here could change that. Similarly, the Picpoul de Pinet is one of the best I’ve come across. And I was toasting Yalumba’s Jane Ferrari as I sipped the dessert wine.
Seared breast of Partridge

Don't want to bother you with too much detail about the meal. You can see the menu below for yourself. The Partridge was perhaps the highlight for me of the early dishes, perfection itself. CL was delighted with the Crab Cocktail and the Scallop.

Our hosts had very strongly recommended the Thornhill Duck Breast and it is a superb product and, after the intervention of Neven and his team in the kitchen, it becomes a superb dish. Yes indeed, very highly recommended with both of us in full and enthusiastic agreement!

Ryefield cheese

Neven’s commitment to local producers is underlined throughout his menus. Ryefield Goat Cheese, from County Cavan,  was featured on the cheese course. The highlight towards the end is, of course, the Chocolate Sensation. This has quite a visual impact as the perfect sphere of dark chocolate collapses seconds after the sauce is poured on from a wee jug! Tastes good though, very good indeed!


Aside from the Prestige Menu (€87), MacNean’s also serve a Dinner Menu (72) and Sunday Lunch (39). A relatively new addition that you may not know about is the The Chef’s Table. This is next door in the Cookery School and will accommodate between 10 and 20 guests. Neven and his dedicated team will cook and serve your meal in full view of your guests.

Dining room

You know of course that Neven has quite a few cookbooks to his name, including the most recent called Fast. But you can also see some of his recipes online here.

Check Chocolate Sensation video!
Danger: You may find yourself licking the screen.

The Prestige Menu
Neven’s 9 course signature Tasting Menu.


Crab Cocktail (Oriental tuna, Poached oysters and Celeriac Mousse)

Partridge (Seared breast and, not in picture, Confit leg, creamed spinach and potato Rostis)

Seared Sea Scallops (Carmelised pork cheek and textures of pumpkin)

Salt and Aged Beef Fillet (Braised short rib and creamed celeriac)


Thornhill Duck Breast (seared Foie Gras, Wild mushroom polenta and butternut squash puree)

Ryefield Cheese (Fritter and cannelloni with textures of beetroot)


Chocolate Sensation
(chocolate sphere, brownie, caramel mousse and ice cream).

Tea or Coffee and Petit Fours

The wines

Champagne Charpentier Brut Prestige NV

Lucien Ladry Moulin-a-Vent, Vielle Vignes, Beaujolais 2012

Domaine Felines Jourdan, Picpoul de Pinet, 2013

Cannonau Costera, Argiolas, Sardina 2011.

Yalumba Botrytis Viognier, Australia