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get it in you

6 fast dinners you can make tonight

Neven Maguire has come up with time-efficient recipes for some of the nation’s favourite dishes.

IT’S NOT EASY to squeeze in a bit of home cooking – especially when the weekend is beckoning.

Irish chef Neven Maguire has built a reputation for his no-nonsense, family- and time-friendly approach to good, tasty meals. He’s shared a few of his favourite recipes with from his latest book, The National’s Favourite Food Fast.

The book is nominated for the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year in the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. (See the full shortlist at the end of the article.)

Try one of these out and let us know how you get on…

Penne with Pumpkin, Crispy Pancetta, Sage and Parmesan

Neven Maguire / The Nationa's Favourite Food Fast Neven Maguire / The Nationa's Favourite Food Fast / The Nationa's Favourite Food Fast

Look for small organic pumpkins called Jack O Lantern, now grown all over Ireland. They are a vibrant orange and they are the ideal size for this recipe. Once the pumpkin is peeled and seeded you should end up with just over 450g (1lb) of diced flesh, the perfect amount to feed a family.

Serves 4–6

  • 500g (1lb 2oz) penne or rigatoni
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 175g (6oz) pancetta or smoked streaky bacon lardons
  • 800g (1lb 12oz) small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 tbsp finely shredded fresh sage
  • 250g (9oz) carton mascarpone cheese (Kilbeg if possible)
  • 50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to garnish
  • 25g (1oz) toasted pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the penne or rigatoni and cook for 10–12 minutes or according to the packet instructions, until al dente.

Heat a large heavy-based pan with the olive oil, then add the pancetta or smoked streaky bacon lardons. Cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to go crispy.

Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside until needed.

Add the pumpkin to the pan with the sage and mix well to combine.

Season to taste and cook for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is cooked through but still holding its shape. Stir in the mascarpone and simmer for 1–2 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add to the pumpkin with the reserved crispy pancetta. Stir in the Parmesan and season to taste. Divide among warmed wide-rimmed bowls and finish each one with a sprinkling of Parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper. Sprinkle over the pine nuts to serve.

Stir-fried Ginger Pork with Aromatic Green Vegetables

Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee / Thomas Gee

This is a great way to prepare green vegetables. Stir-frying keeps their crunch while the hot sauce gives them a rich, almost nutty flavour.

Choose one or a selection of the wide range of greens now readily available, such as tender stem broccoli, sugar snap peas, French beans, mangetout, spinach, Swiss chard, Chinese pak choy or choi sum, or even finely shredded cabbage works well.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or rice wine
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 450g (1lb) pork stir-fry strips
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 120ml (4fl oz) chicken stock
  • 5cm (2in) piece root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 275g (10oz) mixed prepared greens (see intro)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, cut into thin rings
  • steamed fragrant Thai jasmine rice, to serve

Place 1 tablespoon of the sherry or rice wine and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce in a shallow non-metallic dish and add the cornflour and sesame oil. Stir in the pork and set aside for 5 minutes.

Heat a wok until smoking hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil and swirl it up the sides of the wok. Tip in the pork and stirfry for 3–4 minutes, until sealed and lightly golden. Transfer to a plate.

Meanwhile, place the remaining tablespoon of sherry and soy sauce in a small pan with the stock, then bring to a simmer.

Add the remaining tablespoon of sunflower oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Tip in the mixed prepared greens and continue to stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, until heated through and any leaves are just beginning to wilt, splashing over a little water occasionally to help the greens cook.

Return the pork to the wok, then stir in the hot stock mixture.

Cook for a minute or so until bubbling, stirring all the time. Spoon the steamed rice into warmed large Oriental-style bowls and spoon the ginger pork and greens on top. Scatter over the spring onions and chilli to serve.

Roasted Hake with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee / Thomas Gee

Hake has a lovely soft texture and slight sweetness when it is very fresh.

It is highly regarded by chefs as it offers great value for money. Ask your fishmonger for the hake fillets from the centre cut so that they are nice and chunky. This will also help them cook more evenly.

Serves 4

  • 4 x 175g (6oz) hake fillets, skin on and pin bones removed
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • small handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 120g (41⁄2oz) ball of buffalo mozzarella, sliced
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto (shop-bought or homemade)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • lightly dressed green salad

to serve

  • buttered baby boiled potatoes
  • tossed in snipped fresh chives

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). Place the hake on a baking sheet, skin side down, and season the flesh. Arrange the tomato slices on top and tuck in the basil leaves. Cover with the mozzarella and drizzle over the pesto.

Place the hake in the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes, until the hake is cooked through and the mozzarella is bubbling and lightly golden. Transfer the hake with cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to warmed plates and have bowls of green salad and buttered baby boiled potatoes to hand around separately.

Sizzling Beef with Black Beans and Broccoli

Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee / Thomas Gee

If you don’t want to use purple sprouting broccoli, try long-stemmed broccoli, or even asparagus would work well. All will give an excellent crunch to this dish, which is far superior to anything you would order from a takeaway.

Serves 4

  • 450g (1lb) beef fillet
  • 350g (12oz) purple sprouting broccoli
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Chinese black beans coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped root ginger
  • 3 tbsp chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • steamed rice, to serve


  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Chinese rice wine
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

Cut the beef into thin slices, then place in a bowl. Make the marinade with the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour. Season to taste and mix well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to combine.

Meanwhile, trim down the broccoli and cut into 7.5cm (3in) pieces on the diagonal and set aside until needed.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot. Add the oil and swirl it around until it’s very hot and slightly smoking. Tip in the beef from the marinade and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.

Tip the onion into the wok with the garlic, black beans and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for another minute. Add the stock, rice wine and sugar and season to taste.

Continue to stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until the broccoli is slightly tender.

Quickly return the beef to the wok, add the oyster sauce and stir well to combine. Place on warmed plates with some steamed rice to serve.

Grilled Pork Sausages with Smoked Baked Beans

Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee / Thomas Gee

This is not a cassoulet in the true sense of the word, but the end result tastes nearly as good with very little effort. McGettigan Butchers in Donegal town are renowned for their award-winning sausages and were crowned European champions for their hickory and maple sausages, which are perfect in this cassoulet.

For those of us in the rest of the country though, choose the sausages from the wide selection of good-quality sausages that are now widely available in major supermarkets and good butchers.

Serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g (14oz) cans haricot beans, drained and rinsed
  • 225g (8oz) Gubbeen cheese, cut into small dice
  • 8 large hickory pork sausages (preferably McGettigan’s)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • crusty bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and preheat the grill to medium.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan or dish over a medium heat. Tip in the onion, celery, garlic, chilli and sage and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally.

Stir the smoked paprika into the onion mixture and then add the tomatoes and the tomato purée. Bring to a simmer, then cook for another 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Stir in the haricot beans and sprinkle the Gubbeen cheese on top. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until the smoked baked beans are bubbling.

Meanwhile, arrange the hickory sausages on the grill rack and cook under a medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until cooked through and golden brown.

Scatter the parsley over the smoked baked beans and arrange the cooked sausages on top. Serve straight to the table with a bowl of crusty bread so that everyone can help themselves.

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine with Honey and Ginger

Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee Gill and Macmillan / Thomas Gee / Thomas Gee

The combination of spicy chicken, tomatoes and chickpeas here is really successful, and the best thing about it is that it all gets cooked in the one pot, so there’s very little washing up. I’ve suggested serving it with steamed couscous, but bulghur wheat, or if you want to be really trendy, quinoa, would be equally delicious.

And don’t just dress the couscous with lemon. In Morocco they use everything from sultanas to bananas and/or toasted nuts, as the essence of their cooking is the exquisite combination of fruit and nuts.

Serves 4

  • large skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 4 skinless, boneless breasts
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp paprika
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 400g (14oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into strips
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450ml (3⁄4 pint) chicken stock
  • juice of 1⁄2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, plus extra leaves to garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • steamed green herby couscous, to serve (optional)

Trim down the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the honey, spices and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season generously, then stir well to combine and set aside for at least 5 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium heat in a large sauté pan with a lid, then sauté the onion and garlic for 4–5 minutes, until softened and just beginning to brown. Add the marinated chicken and sauté for 1–2 minutes, until just sealed and lightly browned.

Add the chickpeas to the pan with half of the tomatoes and the red pepper, tomato purée and stock, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes, until the chicken is completely tender and the sauce has slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

Stir the remaining tomatoes into the pan and season to taste again, then add the lemon juice, coriander and mint. Stir to combine and arrange on warmed plates with the herby green couscous and scatter over the mint leaves to garnish.

Avonmore Cookbook of the Year shortlist:

  • The Happy Pear by David and Stephen Flynn (Penguin Ireland)
  • All Things Sweet by Rachel Allen (Harper Collins)
  • The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast by Neven Maguire (Gill &Macmillan)
  • From Lynda’s Table by Lynda Booth (DCS Publishing)
  • Back To Basics by Kevin Dundon (Hachette Books Ireland)
  • The Extra Virgin Kitchen by Susan Jane White (Gill and Macmillan)

What’s been your favourite Irish book this year?>

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