Edible Christmas Gifts & Stress Tips

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Hi everyone and I hope you are all set now on the home stretch before the festive holidays. We have had a such a fantastic last week here at Ballyknocken House & Cookery School .  Our 12 days of Christmas recipes are still going out every day in the lead up to the main event and are packed full of great recipes gadget ideas and top tips such as edible gift ideas, turkey roasting tips and how to spice up those sprouts.

The phone has been buzzing with all our lovely customers picking up Ballyknocken Christmas Vouchers thank you so much for choosing Ballyknocken for the special gift for your loved ones. You can  still pick up a last minute voucher here or call the office on 0404 44627 and Sharon will take care of you.

This week I would like to share this idea for edible gifts that really shows thought and they are loved by all. They can be put in a lovely jar and look really fab under the tree.

Amaretti Biscuits

Amaretti gift Jar

Tip : Edible gifts show you’ve taken the time and effort to make them for the lucky recipient! It can be a great way of spending time with the kids at this busy time of year. We know they’re popular because our edible gift class always sells out!

Amaretti Biscuits

Makes 40

350g ground almonds

350g caster sugar

4 egg whites

1 ½ tbsp amaretto

Butter, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently mix in the sugar, amaretto and almonds.Place some baking parchment on a baking tray and butter lightly. Using a teaspoon place small dollops (about 2cm) onto the sheet. Bake for 12–15 minutes until a pale golden brown. Leave to set on the baking tray, as they are quite soft at this stage. The will harden as they cool. Tip: Add 2 tbsp of dried cranberries to the mixture.

Here are my six stress busters for Christmas that I would like to share with you all

  1. Take a walk on the wild side – get fresh air and down time, five mins meditation can go a long way
  2. It’s not a competition – it’s about family time
  3. Plan – write lists, call it old-school but I am a great believer in writing lists
  4. Delegate – usually people want to help so share the load
  5. Prepare what you can ahead of time
  6. Less is more – alternate your alcoholic drinks so you’re not over-doing it.

Finally my  Christmas dinner gadget of the week I love is this gorgeous flour sifter from Brown Thomas   Flour Sifter

Have a wonderful time with family and friends this Christmas and I will be back in the New Year with more recipes, tips and news



Inspiring Good Health

Hi everyone,this week I intend to continue on with some gorgeous recipes for healthy mind, body and soul. Lately I have been spending a lot of time in the gardens here at Ballyknocken House & Cookery School.  I just get so excited when I see all the wonderful, herbs, vegetables and soft fruits begin to flourish.  Here in the picture you can see some beautiful Alpine Strawberries in bloom. I just love them. There is nothing like the feeling of plucking some gorgeous fresh berries from the ground and getting them into my kitchen to include in some tasty new recipe I am trying.

On this note for all things berry………….


If you would like to make some gorgeous Berry recipes I have written them in the RTE Guide this week and if you pick up a copy you can make them at home yourself. I included Chilled out Strawberry Lollies, and Berry Parfaits below, YUM.


For a beautiful healthy dinner to accompany these fab berry desserts I have here a recipe for a healthy power packed Butternut Squash, Leek and Spinach Bake. Yes I know I have included cream but a little bit of what we love never hurt anyone 🙂

In other news I am just loving watching the new RTE1 series I filmed this year with Derry Clarke and Paul Flynn two amazing fellow chefs and good friends. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to do this fantastic series with them and a huge thanks to all the team who made it the great show it is. I hope you are all enjoying it

Have a fab weekend and enjoy the recipes



Butternut Squash, Leek and Spinach Bakes

Bake these the day before and just heat them 20 minutes before you’re about to serve. Keep the parchment wrappers on when you serve them – the children will love them as well as grandparents! If you have any left, pack these for your lunch at the office with a refreshing rocket and pink grapefruit salad.

Makes 12

extra virgin olive oil

1 leek, finely sliced

30g baby spinach

1 small butternut squash, peeled, very thinly

sliced and cut to fit a muffin tin

3 eggs, beaten

100ml cream

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

12 small sprigs of thyme

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with square pieces of parchment paper.

2 Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the leek for 5–6 minutes, until cooked. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for 1 minute more.

3 Spoon the leek and spinach mixture into the muffin tray and layer the finely sliced butternut squash on top.

4 Whisk the eggs, cream, thyme and some salt and pepper in a jug, then carefully pour it over the butternut squash and leek layers. Sprinkle with the parsley and bake for 15–18 minutes, checking that they’re cooked and set by inserting a skewer. Do not overcook.

5 Remove from the muffin tray and serve warm with sprigs of thyme on top.

Bank Holiday Breakfast Bake & The Taste of Success

Well I am really excited to be once again taking part in RTÉ Ones ‘The Taste of Success’….and you can read all about here taken from the RTE website with all the information you need.

‘The Taste of Success is back and we are now looking for YOUR amazing food product ideas. Are you an amateur chef with a twist on a classic? Are you a professional chef with a signature dish? Are you a baker with the best buns? – Is your idea worth €100,000? If so, and you fancy seeing YOUR product on supermarket shelves nationwide – we want you!

RTÉ One is searching the country for the next winner of ‘The Taste of Success’. This person will walk away with a guaranteed contract with Lidl Ireland which will see their product on shelves in 140 supermarkets nationwide.

This competition is open to anyone who has a wonderful food product. So it might be your granny’s delicious bread recipe, a tasty new jam or sauce combination you’ve concocted or your special occasion desert. You might have dreamed up an innovative new health food product or it could even be your own home brew! Have a look around your Lidl store and find out if you’ve got what it takes to discover what they’re looking for. The most important thing is that entrants must submit their own unique product.

Closing date is Thursday 7th MAY 2015 @ 5pm.

So if you have an idea for the next great food product that you know Lidl shoppers then it’s not too late to apply.’

Hope you are all set for the Bank Holiday weekend and you have a super time with friends and family, and nothing is better on a Bank Holiday than a beautiful breakfast bake so here is a recipe for one of mine from Ballyknocken Cookery School 



If you aren’t making this for brunch, it also works really well for match food or late night suppers and it’s much easier than making the usual fry-up. Choose good-quality sausages from your local butcher. It’s the easy way out, a one-pot breakfast that saves on the washing up, a definite crowd pleaser and it’s delicious – can it get any better?
Serves 4

rapeseed oil

2 medium potatoes, sliced into wedges

8 good-quality breakfast sausages

10–12 cherry tomatoes

8 large mushrooms, wiped clean

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs

chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

toast, to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Brush an ovenproof shallow casserole or roasting skillet with oil.

2 Place the potato wedges into the casserole dish or skillet and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes.

3 Add the sausages and cook for a further 10 minutes, turning them over once or twice during the cooking time.

4 Add the cherry tomatoes and mushrooms to the casserole dish or skillet. Drizzle a little more oil over the vegetables and season. Cook until the potato wedges are crispy and the tomatoes are roasted.

5 Make 4 gaps in between the vegetables and carefully break an egg into each. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5–6 minutes, until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately with toast.

Padraig McCarty from Co Limerick was the 2014 Taste of Success winner click here to hear his story…