Neven Maguire returns to RTÉ One this week with a two-part food-filled programme called Neven's Kilkenny Christmas. Watch our interview with the Cavan man in the video above.

We have no idea what the lead up to Christmas would look like without Neven Maguire; the famous foodie is a TV staple at this time of year as he inspires even the most amateur cook to pick up a ladle. 

This year, Neven is exploring Kilkenny, the winner of this year’s Foodie Destination Award, to dish up some mouth-watering meals.

"We chose Kilkenny because it was the 'Foodie Destination of Ireland' and I can see why. I've always loved that city, this year it was voted number one in Ireland for restaurants, producers and I think what they're doing there is exciting," he explained.

Neven-Maguire-with-Dr.-Michael-Conway-of-the-Hole-In-The-Wall
Neven Maguire with Dr.Michael Conway of the Hole in the Wall, Kilkenny

The Kilkenny Christmas recipes include traditional favourites such as roast turkey, braised red cabbage, cranberry and sausage meat stuffing and a butterflied leg of lamb along with some stylish starters including trout paté and duck confit with crispy veg.

Ultimately though, Neven maintains that we shouldn't put any pressure on ourselves when it comes to cooking Christmas dinner as December 25th is the perfect day to sit back and enjoy time with friends and family. His top tip for keeping things stress-free? Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

"I will freeze a lot of things. If you make red cabbage, that can be made three to four weeks ahead as your side garnish. Your ham glaze [can be frozen], we have our ham glaze made already. We haven't the ham cooked, I want to emphasise that, but we'll do that four or five days ahead.

"As for the turkey, treat it like a big chicken. It takes longer to cook so get some orange and lovely onion and vegetables into the cavity with some herbs, lots of butter, smoked bacon - keep it very simple."

Neven's Kilkenny Christmas
Neven's Kilkenny Christmas airs on Wednesday and Friday on RTÉ One

When it comes to Christmas in Cavan, Neven serves up an absolute feast. As a family man, he is determined to close the restaurant for the holidays each year in order to spend some time cooking in his own kitchen and spending time with his little ones.

"There's nine in my family. Our twins are nearly seven, in February, and they're all excited about Santy and it is so special. There is something magical about Christmas.

"You think of loved ones that aren't here - my parents are no longer alive - so when you will think about them, there is a touch of sadness but when it comes to your young children, it's just magical.

"Food is such an important part. Keep it simple. Don't complicate it. It's one meal of the year, just enjoy it," he advises.

As a master chef who cooked for a whopping thirty-seven people last Christmas, it's hard to image Neven choosing just one must-have dish for the dinner table. However, he insists that one recipe stands out every year, without fail.

"For me, I do a buttermilk brined turkey at home. It's an American recipe, so you get the turkey breast - or you can do it with chicken - marinade it for twenty-four hours with some buttermilk, sliced orange, a little bit of garlic and a little bit of rosemary. Remove it from the buttermilk, pat dry it with some kitchen paper, add a little bit of butter and smoked bacon."

He concluded: "It's the best recipe I've ever done."

Part 1 of Neven’s Kilkenny Christmas airs Wednesday 5th December 2018, 8.30pm, RTÉ One. 

Part 2 of Neven’s Kilkenny Christmas airs Friday 7th December 2018, 8.30pm, RTÉ ONE