Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

Four of the country’s top chefs share their favourite summer recipes with Joe McNamee.

Neven Maguire Chef/Proprietor, MacNean House & Restaurant, Co Cavan. TV Chef & Cookbook author

What was the first dish(es) you ever cooked (domestic and professional)?

With my mum, apple tarts, shortbreads, flapjacks.

Pro, I think it might have been a steak Diane in the restaurant, I’ve been doing it so long I kind of forget.

What was your most memorable meal?

Christmas is always memorable when all my family were together, brothers, sisters, Imelda’s family and my Mum and Dad when they were alive. Or Vila Joya (2 Star Michelin restaurant) in Algarve with Imelda and the twins, we’ve had some memorable meals there.

Chicken – cheap or free range or organic?

We’d always love to be using organic chicken but there are people struggling every day to put food on the table.

A good free range, especially corn fed is very hard to beat.

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it?

Of course there is a food crisis, people who are starving, but we can only control what we do in our own country, our own locality. We need to educate families about food and what’s good. We all have responsibility with food waste and the secret for me is to eat seasonal local food, which is a bit lost, that’s when you get the best flavours and the best value.

How do you eat well on a low income?

You have to be a bit of a frugal cook, at home I eat very simply.

For example, for the family I would cook good wholesome food from scratch and use leftovers. People just need the inspiration, the guidance, the help, the encouragement, that’s what we try to do in the cookery school.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine?

It’s modern Irish cuisine more than anything because there are a lot of young chefs using local, seasonal produce and putting their own twists on it, whether its Nordic cooking, or Asian.

What is your favourite Irish dish?

Quite a few of them, bacon and cabbage is hard to beat if done well.

There’s apple tart, apple crumble for my sweet tooth. Even the Irish stew my mam used to make, the lamb neck, the barley, it’s gorgeous.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)?

There are so many, good restaurants in Ireland from the cheap and cheerful to a wonderful dining experience like Ross Lewis, Chapter One, Derry Clarke, L’Écrivain.

We recently brought our team to Patrick Guilbaud’s. It was fantastic.

Locally, there’s The Lough Erne, in Enniskillen, Castlemurray and Harvey’s Point, in Donegal.

Worldwide, I love to go to London, to Gordon Ramsey, Royal Hospital Road.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

Probably the stews, a lovely ragu with pork mince and beef mince or a very simple roast chicken with lemon and thyme and roast potatoes and glazed carrots, very hard to beat, yum yum.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends?

Alex Ferguson, Basil Fawlty, Del Boy, Mary Kennedy, a good friend of mine, and [Michelin-starred chef in Luxembourg] Léa Linster [with whom Neven trained].

What would you choose as your final meal?

A tasting menu with matching wines and champagne to start because if I die it will have to be with a full belly: wild mushroom, chestnut and truffle soup; a foie gras and duck terrine; scallops dish we have on the menu with the pork cheeks and different textures of cauliflower; a passionfruit palate cleanser; main course, nice crispy duck with a sweet and sour sauce maybe apple balsamic; a pre-dessert of rhubarb, rosewater and strawberries; nice warm chocolate fondant with peanut parfait; and good coffee truffles.

Neven Maguire’s Vietnamese-Style Grilled Five Spice Chicken Thigh Salad 

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

Serves 4 

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced 
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped 
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh root ginger 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce 
  • 4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla) 
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder 
  • 8 quality assured boneless chicken thighs 

Salad:

  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, core removed and shredded 
  • 1 firm ripe mango, peeled, stone removed and cut into julienne 
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced 
  • 50g (2oz) roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped good handful fresh coriander leaves

Dressing:

  • 4 tbsp Donegal rapeseed oil 
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp finely minced ginger root 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed 
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the marinade, place the garlic in a mini food processor or blender with the shallot, ginger and sugar, then blend to form a paste.

Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the soy sauce, Thai fish sauce, five-spice powder and several grinds of pepper.

Arrange the chicken thighs in a shallow dish and pour over the marinade, turning until well coated.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours is best, turning the chicken thighs several times in the marinade.

Bring back to room temperature before cooking and wipe off any excess marinade with kitchen roll.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat.

Add the oil to the pan, then place the chicken thighs in it skin-side down.

Cook for 20-25 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy.

When you can see the thighs are nicely browned and that the flesh is almost, but not quite cooked through, turn them over and cook for another 5-6 minutes until completely cooked through.

Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Place in a large bowl with the lettuce, mango, spring onions, cashew nuts and coriander.

To make the dressing, place the rapeseed oil in a small bowl with the vinegar. Whisk until blended, then stir in the soy, ginger, garlic and oil. Season to taste. 

Use the dressing to lightly dress the salad, tossing gently until evenly combined. Arrange on plates and serve the remaining dressing in a jug so guests can help themselves.

Danni Barry Chef, Eipic, Belfast, Ireland’s only female Michelin-starred chef

What was the first dish(es) you ever cooked (domestic and professional)?

I come from a big farm in Mayobridge, Co Down, and Mum would have always cooked for the men and I would have helped but Lasagna from scratch was the first I did all by myself. I learned to make it at school and tried to replicate it, I was 13 or 14.

My first job was as KP, in a local restaurant, and they let me help out on pastry first. I made crème brulee and I used salt instead of sugar, for the top and it wouldn’t burn at all.

I couldn’t work out what was going on, it was a good lesson for life.

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

What was your most memorable meal?

In Nuremore Hotel restaurant, when I went to catering college first, at 16 or 17. The chef was Ray McArdle.

I think it was the first time I’d experienced very fancy tablecloths, seven different waiters, first proper restaurant.

I had apple crumble ice cream and was very impressed!

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic?

Definitely at the very least free range, we know organic is better but difficult to afford for a lot of people.

If your chicken is cheap, it can’t be good for you. I think Ireland struggles with chicken generally, because it’s so cheap.

We had organic chicken on the menu last year and the difference in flavour is unreal — chicken on the main course is a bold step for a Michelin star restaurant.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it?

It does concern me, obviously I think you can make a difference if we make small changes ourselves on a local level, even small changes in the home can make a difference.

How do you eat well on a low income?

Planning is probably most important, budgeting — if you don’t, you’ll just buy when you’re hungry and spend more than you would.

A chicken for two meals and the bones for soup, invest time in your cooking.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine?

I don’t think so, not yet.

What is your favourite Irish dish?

Oysters and Guinness, that’s a bit ‘tourist board, welcome to Ireland’ and we know there’s lot more but I love it.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)?

Chapter One is my favourite: the welcome is very Irish but they cook to an international standard and we would certainly strive for that in Eipic.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

New potatoes, mint and chives.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends?

Tommy Tiernan, to tell the jokes. Elvis, really good stories and he’d sing, and I’d have to phone my dad to tell him who I’m having dinner with. Tom Hardy, for obvious and selfish reasons. 

Darina Allen, because she is just so wise and would have great things to say. Jim Gavin, Dublin football manager, because we need him up in Co Down to bring us back to the 90s, and Marilyn Monroe for really good stories about presidents and all.

What would you choose as your final meal?

A Sunday roast at home in Mayobridge with family and friends.

Danni Barry’s Courgette Chutney

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

We use different growers at Eipic and you can tell we are well into summer when they arrive laden with courgettes.

This is a great way to use them up and also have some for the autumn or winter seasons.

  • 6 large courgettes, slice finely and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 1-2 hours Rinse in cold water and pat dry 
  • 1 small onion 
  • 1 red chilli (more if you prefer heat) 
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • 20g fresh ginger 

Blend the above ingredients to a paste In a saucepan. Heat 2 tbsp rapeseed oil.

Add 1 tbsp mustard seeds and 1 tbsp coriander seeds.

When the seeds begin to pop add 2 tsp ground cumim and 1 tsp tumeric. Stir for 1 minute.

Add the onion paste, the courgettes, 200ml cider vinegar and 125g Demerara sugar.

Bring all ingredients to a simmer and cook until courgettes are soft.

Allow to cool completely before storing in airtight jars.

The chutney will keep up to 6 months. 

For a quick and easy summer lunch, line a tart case with filo pastry brushed with butter, bake in a hot oven 180’ for 10 mins until lightly golden brown In the bottom.

Add generous spoons of the chutney, some sliced courgettes, asparagus spears and spring onions.

Crack 3 large duck eggs into the case and bake in the oven for another 10 - 12 mins.

Sprinkle chopped herbs on top and a little sea salt.

Graham Neville, Head Chef, Dax Restaurant, Dublin. Former Commissioner General, Euro-Toques Ireland. Food & Wine Magazine Best Chef in Ireland 2014

What was the first dish(es) you ever cooked (domestic and professional)?

As a kid, beans on toast, if that’s even cooking. I did Home Economics for my Leaving Cert, so from about fifth year, I would have started to cook and bake a little bit. 

I was working in a Chinese restaurant and one of the first dishes that I tried to copy was spare ribs or chicken satay. The teacher had me do a demo in the class.

Pro, very simple Dublin Bay prawn dish with butter and cream and timbale of rice.

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

What was your most memorable meal?

I meal I had in [3 Michelin-starred] Brooklyn Fare, in NYC. I’d worked with the chef, Cesar Ramirez, in Chicago 15 years prior. There was no smoke and mirrors, a kind of a bar, like you were eating in a kitchen, just purely based on flavour and taste, very simply presented.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic?

It’s something that is registering more as I get older. My wife recently bought a big 2.5 kilo bird, you had to use your teeth to eat it, it wasn’t tough, it was just proper free range and probably one of the first times I really noticed the texture of the legs. 

I understand the muscle structure, the eatability in the mouth, all these things but the penny really dropped after eating loads of chicken over the years, so, always organic and free range.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it?

I think that if everybody does a small bit, it has to help, don’t excessively buy food, don’t excessively prepare food, if everyone adopted that principle it would help, a lot of waste in the first world.

I disagree with the supermarket focus on perfection. If we eat what our grandparents ate, we won’t go too far wrong, good, hearty honest cooking.

How do you eat well on a low income?

I suppose, to be honest, education helps so much, for example, using off cuts, beef cheeks, oxtail, if you notice, in Dublin especially, a lot of butchers around Moore St are stocking offcuts, way more than they ever did in the Celtic Tiger.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine?

I do believe that there is, our produce and fish and meat is the best in the world, I’ve been around the world, and worked in a lot of places and believe that Irish produce is the best. I certainly believe that we are developing that we could call an Irish wave, like the Nordic wave, the Spanish wave.

What is your favourite Irish dish?

Shellfish crab or Dublin bay prawns finished with

lemon, to me that’s Irish, cooked very simply. Smoked salmon and crab, brown bread — to die for, really!

What’s your favourite comfort food?

I love a fresh fruit salad and the kids love it too, or a simple mushroom soup.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends?

Alex Ferguson, [French chef] Michel Bras, [French chef] Pierre Gagnaire, PJ Mara for a funny story or two, Myrtle Allen.

What would you choose as your final meal?

Crab and prawn mayonnaise with a nice glass of water — nothing better than a glass of water when you’re thirsty.

Graham Neville’s Organic Smoked Salmon, Clogherhead Crab, Granny Smith Apple 

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

Per person 

  • 50g picked crab meat 
  • 10g mayonnaise 
  • 5g finely chopped pickled ginger 
  • 5g pickled ginger juice 
  • A squeeze of lemon 
  • 1 large slice of smoked salmon (about 40g) 
  • Garnish 1 granny smith apple — cut into thick stripsand dress with a squeeze of lemon and a spoon of olive oil 
  • 1 egg, hard boiled — 8 min, cool, peel and sieve yolk and white separately 
  • Finely diced onion — 1 spoon 
  • 1 teaspoon salmon eggs goatsbridge trout roe etc 
  • Large caper berries 

Lay the hardboiled egg (white and yellow), salmon eggs, diced onion, and caper/berry in sequence around the perimeter of the plate.

Lay the salmon flat in the centre of the plate, positioning the crab on top of the salmon.

Lay thick strips of apple neatly on top of the crab.

This dish can be accompanied with brown bread or brioche

Sunil Ghai, Chef/Proprietor, Pickle, Dublin. Chef of the Year, Food & Wine Mag, 2009. RAI Best Chef in Ireland 2013

What was the first dish(es) you ever cooked (domestic and professional)?

I used to help my mother in particular making chapatis, so I would make the last one with her, she would keep one small ball of dough,

Tthen when I was 14 or 15 making pilau rice, lentils, simple comfort food.

Or a whole chicken stuffed with rice when I was working in the Sheraton group of hotels in India, back in 1993.

My mother was the one who inspired me.

There were around 16 or 17 in the house, a joint family.

She used to cook for everyone and I used to help her out, doing mortar and pestle, peeling onions, taking out garlic cloves. When she used to go to market I’d go with her.

I’d say, ‘don’t you get tired?’ She’d say, ‘no I get a lot of happiness cooking for the family’.

I thought that’s what I want to do with my life, that’s my inspiration.

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

What was your most memorable meal?

Sarson da saag [pureed spinach and mustard leaves] and makki roti, cornmeal bread, that my mother cooked.

Unfortunately it’s always a winter dish and we go in the summer.

My brother’s wedding in October a few years ago was the last time I had it.

Chicken — cheap or free-range or organic?

It does make a difference, but I think meat has to be fresh and local. Always buy from a local butcher and if you can afford free range organic, why not? If you treat the meat well, you will get the results.

Does the global food crisis concern you — why and is there anything we can do about it?

Big time, definitely, people are not doing much about it.

If we keep promoting local food, grow what you can grow, it will help everybody — and the government need to support farming.

How do you eat well on a low income?

Cook your own food, first thing, and make sure you buy from local markets. Use the tough cuts that people avoid, cuts on the bone and shoulder.

Is there such a thing as an Irish cuisine?

Chapter one is exploring an Irish cuisine and is Michelin starred and the best restaurant, I’m sure there is.

What is your favourite Irish dish?

When I was working in a hotel in India in the French kitchen, we used to have a dish called Irish stew, that was one of the best dishes I could eat at the time and when I came here it was totally different.

We used to have chicken, lamb, and a lot of red wine in ours and it used to sell like anything.

What is your favourite Irish restaurant (or world restaurant, if you like)?

Chapter One

What’s your favourite comfort food?

Shimla raj mah chawal, lovely red kidney beans, cooked by my wife, Leena.

Which five guests would you invite to your ideal dinner party, excluding family or friends?

If I’m cooking, I always wanted to cook for Mother Theresa, [chef] Alain Ducasse, Myrtle Allen, [London food critic] Fay Maschler, [food critic] Catherine Cleary, [Indian celebrity chef] Sanjeev Kapoor, Ross Lewis.

What would you choose as your final meal?

Sarson da saag and makki roti and a big glass of Lassi [Indian buttermilk-based drink].

Sunil Chai’s Curried scallops with crispy gram flour vermicelli and peanut chat 

Ireland's top chefs reveal their favourite summer recipe

For scallops 

  • 12 large scallops 
  • Turmeric 
  • ½ Kashmiri chilli 
  • Coriander chopped 
  • 1 tbs Gram flour  ½ tbs 

For the base of scallops 

  • Crispy mix 100g 
  • Puffed rice 80g 
  • Red skin toasted peanuts 100g 
  • Gram flour vemechilli or 200g Bombay mix 
  • 1 large chopped tomato 
  • Two medium size red onion chopped 
  • Coriander leaves chopped 
  • Two chopped green chillies 
  • 1 tblsp chopped ginger 
  • 1 tblsp Garam Masala 
  • 3 tblsp Tamarind water 
  • 3 tblsp mint chutney 
  • Fresh pomegranate 1tbs 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Sugar 1 tsp 

Butter for scallops 

  • 80 gms Oil 
  • 1 tbs juice of Lime 
  • Zest of 1 lime 

Clean and pat dry the scallops and marinate them with trumeric chili powder and fresh chopped coriander. Keep aside.

For the base - mix all the ingredients in the mixing bowl and add tamarind water, mint chutney and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Heat the oil, dust the scallops with gram flour and pan fry them for around 90 seconds each side. Then add butter.

Glaze the scallops and serve hot with the crispy puffed rice.


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