Thursday, 22 July 2010

Neven's Food from the Sun

Neven's Food from the Sun
Neven Maguire
Softcover, 224 pages

I was immediately attracted to this book for two reasons - one being that Neven Maguire is a celebrated (indeed Michelin starred) chef from Ireland and I am intrigued by this country and its emerging foodie scene. Second - the entire book is based on foods from sun-kissed travel regions known for their delicious fare. A vacation in a cookbook, what could be better than that?
Neven divides the book into food-types:
Small Bites: Appetisers, Mezze, and Tapas
Vegetables and Salads
Dairy and Eggs
Pulses, Grains, and Pasta
Sweet Things

This is Neven's fifth book, and it is well laid-out with beautiful full-sized photos of many of the dishes plus ingredients and travel scenery.
You may see a theme in what I have cooked up this week, you see I have recently overcome my fear of the BBQ and have titled myself master of the grill. Thus I took every opportunity to try out his grilled fare - much to my family's delight.

We started with the Goat's Cheese Pâté with Apricot Relish. A beautifully sunny way to start the morning, all slathered on some homemade English muffins. The tangy goat cheese spread is tempered by the sweet relish that reminds me of some of the similar compotes that I have sampled in Niagara wine country. I am so happy that I can make it at home now!

And for my special meal for my daughter's once a week dinner at our house, I made Chicken Satay with Pickled Cucumber Salad. The chicken is marinated to ultimate deliciousness, grilled to perfection (thank you, thank you very much!) and served with delicious spicy Thai peanut sauce and delicate quick pickled cucumbers. Delicious!
I found I didn't need as much coconut milk in my dipping sauce as he states, but that might be more a matter of taste - texture-wise.
This dish was a big hit with the whole family.

And who can resist a burger at this time of year? We tried Neven's Inverted Cashel Blue Burger with Roasted Tomatoes and Red Onion Salad. A nugget of butter and blue cheese is nestled inside each patty, just waiting to ooze decadent deliciousness - this is the chicken Kiev of the burger world! The roasted tomatoes and red onion salad balanced the burger perfectly. We will definitely be making this again.

Oooh! And another fave was the Chargrilled Thai Beef Salad. Neven is certainly the master of the marinade - the meat is so flavourful and just tender and perfect layered with the crisp salad and herbs. My husband and I are huge fans of Thai flavours.

And last night we had the Vietnamese-style Grilled Five-spice Chicken Thigh Salad. Look at that perfect striping! I told you I was the master... ;-)
Since the Thai beef salad was such a hit and so perfect for summer, we were eager to try this salad. Just the smell of the perfectly marinated chicken hitting the grill was nirvana, you could definitely imagine yourself on vacation. (You know, if you block out the knowledge that you will be doing dishes later..)
This was a delicious salad, Neven actually has you slice the chicken thighs but mine had bones so I left them whole. One thing that I have learned - my baby (okay, he is 17) is much more excited to eat a salad that has meat on top. We served this with some steamed jasmine rice for a perfect summer meal.

What can we say? We loved all the dishes we tried. I love the concept of travel within a cookbook, I can't wait to taste more!
Other bookmarked recipes include:
Oven-roasted Dublin Bay Prawns with Tomato and Chilli
Crispy Fried Squid with Harissa and Crème Fraîche
Aubergine and Mozzarella Parcels with Pesto and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Turkey Moussaka
Harissa Roast Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Lamb Rogan Josh
Black Cod with a Sweet Basil Crust and Roasted Vine Tomatoes
Coconut Pearls in Coconut Milk with Caramelised Bananas
Lemon and Mango Cheesecake

Here's to having the world on your plate!