Super Foods for Super People

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Happy New Year from all of us here at Ballyknocken House & Cookery School and I hope you enjoyed a fantastic Christmas and a well deserved break.  I am excited for the year ahead and all the plans we are ‘cooking up’……. pardon the pun !. The Cookery School opens its doors again on the 16th of Jan with Super Foods for Super People. I am sure that one will be a hit considering its the right time for a new year and new you.

It really is a great class as our budding chefs learn all about how to use these power packed super ingredients in everyday cooking for all the family.

We are going Italian then on Sunday the 17th with our always popular Southern Italian class, with  such Italian gems like Caponata, Fresh Pasta and Open Ravioli with wild Mushroom & Chicken Sauce, Polpette de Melanzane, Char Grilled Squid and our delicious Amaretto Truffle Torte to name but a few.

This class comes complete with tasting plate/ light lunch. If you would like a full list of all our classes you can find them here on our cookery calendar. 

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In the spirit of Super Foods, I am including this week a recipe for a gorgeous salad that is so feel good it’s amazing !

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Cabbage Salad

Serves 4

A warm “feel good “ salad that is so simple to prepare. The butternut squash is a good source of Vitamin A as well as fibre and potassium.  By adding the orange zest to the dressing one does not need any salt.

1 small butternut squash, cut into wedges

1 red apple, sliced into wedges

1 tsp honey

½ tsp cumin

1 tbsp olive

½ red cabbage, thinly sliced and blanched

Pepper for seasoning

For the dressing

1 orange, juice and zest

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

A little black pepper for seasoning

2 tbsp hazelnuts, chopped and toasted

Basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 180°C / Fan 160°C / Gas 4.

  1. Sprinkle the cumin and honey over the butternut squash and roast for about 30 minutes until lightly golden and cooked. Add the apple wedges about 10 minutes before the end of the roasting time.
  2. Heat a frying pan with a little oil, sauté the red cabbage.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the orange juice, vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl.
  4. Place the roasted butternut squash, and red cabbage in a large bowl, drizzle with some of the dressing.
  5. Spoon on a serving platter, arrange the apple wedges, drizzle over a little more dressing.
  6. Sprinkle over the hazelnuts and the basil leaves.
  7. Serve immediately

Tip: Try adding crispy pancetta or even pumpkin seeds.



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


Parmesan Breadcrumb Chicken


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Parmesan Breadcrumb Chicken with Creamy Lemon Orecchiette  Serves 4

They can be used straight from the freezer over lasagne or for a crispy topping for any vegetable bake.  I usually flavour them up with herbs, grated cheese and even spices such as paprika.

For the filling
4 tbsp ricotta
10 baby spinach leaves, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 4 supremes of chicken
 For the topping for the chicken
6 heaped tbsp. brown or white breadcrumbs
2 very finely chopped garlic cloves
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 tsp mixed fresh herbs such as chives, rosemary and dill
¼ tsp paprika
4 tbsp. grated parmesan
Freshly grated black pepper
For the sauce
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
½ leek, finely sliced
1 finely chopped garlic clove
100ml crème fraiche
100ml vegetable stock
100ml cream
1 lemon, zest only
4 tbsp. grated parmesan
300g orecchiette or pasta of choice e.g. penne, farfalle, spaghetti
Sprig of dill, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Line a roasting tray with parchment.  Combine the ricotta and spinach with a little salt and pepper.  Slice a “pocket” into the breast of the chicken and spoon in the stuffing.

Combine all the ingredients for the topping and mix well.

Move the supreme of chicken onto the roasting tray and generously sprinkle over the seasoned breadcrumbs, carefully patting down and drizzle over some rapeseed oil.

Roast for about 25 minutes depending on the size of the supreme of chicken. Check that the chicken is cooked, the juices should run clear.

In the meantime, cook the orecchiette or pasta of your choice according to the packet’s instructions. Drain and keep warm.

To make the sauce, heat a medium saucepan with oil, add the leeks and sauté until softened but not brown. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Stir in the crème fraiche, vegetable stock and cream and simmer for 1 minute.

Add the lemon zest and grated parmesan. Check the seasoning adding more parmesan to taste.

Combine the pasta with the sauce and serve with the chicken. Garnish with sprigs of dill and serve immediately.

Tip: if you prefer to fully coat the chicken in breadcrumbs, then flour the chicken, dip in beaten egg to milk and then into breadcrumbs.  This method works very well for frying of deep frying the breaded chicken.  

Food waste Chicken

I would like to share some tips that I prepared for the Southern Region Waste Management Office as part of the wonderful prevent food waste campaign

you can Follow on Twitter  @preventwaste

And use the hashtag #Do1morething

My TIPS for using up your not so fresh bread…

  •  I process all stale or leftover bread into breadcrumbs, spoon them into a sealed bag and freeze – it’s the easiest and simplest trick of all!
  • Herby Crumbs – again this may seem obvious but why not add herbs to your breadcrumbs before you freeze them. Simply choose your herb seasoning, I like Italian, and a sprinkle of sea-salt and you have the perfect crunchy topping for your next lasagne or pasta bake.
  • French Toast, in fact it is recommended to use bread that is a few days old for best results. It’s original name “pain perdu” means lost bread! Whisk together egg and milk and sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and dip the bread in to soak up the mixture before frying in pan with a little butter till golden on both sides.  Serve with fruit for a perfect after-school snack or weekend brunch.
  • Summer Pudding – a traditional summer pudding can be made all year round. Just line your pudding bowl with stale bread fill with fruit cover the top with a last slice of bread and cling-film overnight in the fridge. Serve with crème fraiche.  This could be a light alternative to Christmas pudding too!
  • Add breadcrumbs to meatballs and home-made burgers and for a softer lighter texture soak your breadcrumbs in milk first for the best results.
  • French onion soup or indeed most soups benefit from a delicious crispy crouton topping. They can be any size and there’s no doubt home-made croutons taste so much better than the shop bought alternative. Simply bake in oven with a drizzle of olive oil, for garlic croutons finely grate garlic into the oil before drizzling, you can also add herbs and even a little parmesan for extra flavour.  Croutons can be kept in air tight container for a few days before using
  • To use up stale Brown Bread why not try a Brown Bread Ice Cream for something a little different.
  • For a through back to the 80s try making Melba Toast, a thin dry toast which makes a delicious base for canapes. Again stale bread is recommended for this, simply dry out in oven and your toasts can be kept in air tight container for up to a week before using.  Divine with hummus, pate or simply spread with cream cheese.
  • An all-time favourite growing up was Bread and Butter pudding another great way to use up stale bread. This is delicious at Christmas with Cranberries and mixed spice for a seasonal twist.
  • And finally I leave you with something Italian which I feature in my first cookbook, Panzanella, an Italian Bread Salad where the bread and good quality ripe tomatoes are the star ingredients. You can also use whatever veg is left in the fridge from peppers to red onion and cucumber.  The more colour the better drizzle in light vinaigrette and let sit for at about 30 minutes to let flavours infuse. Great for using up the end of sourdough or other artisan bread.


Healthy Butternut Squash & Beef Casserole One Pot Wonder

This is just gorgeous for those cold winter nights to enjoy with the family and its packed full of goodness too




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Butternut Squash and Beef Casserole

This is from my Family Kitchen Cookbook (G&M) and although Butternut squash and beef might not be the first combination that springs to mind, but they do work very well together and are very colourful for presentation. Add more veg such as red pepper or carrots if you wish…


Serves 4

700g round steak, trimmed and diced

100g seasoned flour

Extra virgin olive oil

3 red onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

650ml beef stock

3 tbsp tomato purée

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed rice or garlic Mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.
  2. Toss the beef in the seasoned flour in a Ziploc bag and shake the beef until coated. Remove the beef from the bag and shake off the excess flour.
  3. Heat some oil in a casserole over a medium heat and add the beef in batches. Brown well on both sides and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil to the casserole. Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and sauté for 8–10 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the diced butternut squash, peppers, thyme, stock, tomato purée and balsamic vinegar and return the beef to the casserole.
  5. Cook in the oven for 1 1⁄2 hours or until the beef is tender, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as required, and serve.

Prepare this a day or two ahead. As with all casseroles, the flavours improve over time

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.