Back to School Healthy Lunches

Hi everyone,

It’s been a busy day for me, firstly I was delighted to go on Newstalk this morning to chat to the lovely Pat Kenny about healthy school lunches. For those of you that missed it, I had a number of suggestions that I believe work very well and with my own two children I have tried and tested many methods to get them to include some goodness into those lunchboxes.

Here are my top tips.

  • Watch portion size with children, the smaller the child the smaller the portion
  • Include finger friendly food and try to pre-peel the fruit etc and chop it up into bite size pieces
  • Substitute sugar for dried fruit snacks that are tasty and healthy
  • Have a designated shelf in the fridge for school lunches making it easy to prepare in a hurry
  • Always have shredded chicken, ham or cooked meat for sandwiches available as it’s s lot easier to manage
  • Get the children involved in the decision making process by including them in preparation
  • Use brightly coloured food with nice texture that looks appealing
  • Most schools are strict on treats anyway but ensure they are getting their nutrition balance correct
  • Watch for the sugar content in processed foods and avoid this by making homemade soups or sauce for pasta to use in a thermo lunchbox

So with that mind I will leave you with the link to the recipes I covered today with Pat that can be found on Newstalk along with the video that I appeared in that aired to many millions of Chinese earlier this week that was put together to highlight Ireland and all it’s fantastic tourist attractions and beauty spots, food and culture. I was proud and happy to showcase Irish food and chat to the fabulous film crew that visited us here at Ballyknocken Cookery School.

So have a lovely weekend and I will leave you with a photo of myself and the lovely Pat Kenny, thanks for having me on the show Pat.

Catherine & pat kenny


Feeling the Love with Limoncello & Raspberry Loaf Cake

Well here at Ballyknocken House and Cookery School it’s all about ‘Feeling the Love’ at the moment in preparation for Valentines Day. It started off with some fantastic news early in the week that The Irish Independent named us as on of the THE top TEN destinations to visit with your loved one for Valentines Day. I was of course delighted and so proud to be included in the list. Here at Ballyknocken we really pull out all the stops for our guests, our groups and corporate clients and I take great pride in creating memories that will last a lifetime for anyone who visits us here.

We know that good strong relationships with friends, family and colleagues matters to people so, for the entire month of February we are promoting ‘feeling the love‘ with our wonderful Valentine Packages and Team Bonding Corporate Classes.  The cookery classes are such a fantastic way to inspire creativity, encourage team spirit and of course that all important sense of fun and laughter. I am so passionate about good food  so when you combine the love of cooking with the love of making people happy and bringing team spirit to the workplace  I know it’s a match made in culinary heaven.

Come and take a  look at  for more information on fun team days out.

This week, I also hit the road and to a room of over six hundred in the fabulous Athlone Springs Hotel I entertained the crowd with one of my popular cookery demonstrations. The atmosphere was amazing and it was a real privilege to be asked to do it. There really was a whole lot of love in the room that night too.:-)

Catherine Athlone

So have a really lovely weekend and  please keep an eye out on my website and my Facebook because I will be giving one lucky person a chance to win a signed copy of my latest cookbook ‘ Bake Like An Italian’ .

Here for your enjoyment is a much-loved recipe from the book, my delicious Limoncello & Raspberry Loaf Cake  …this is sure to get the mouth-watering.




Limoncello and raspberry tea loaf

Limoncello and Raspberry Loaf Cake


I’m a big fan of limoncello, though I tend to use it mostly in cakes, creams and desserts rather

than have it in a glass! It adds a zing that livens up everything. This loaf is lovely with a good

cuppa – try fennel tea for a change.

For the cake:

150g golden caster sugar

50ml extra virgin olive oil

4 eggs

200g plain flour, sifted

4 tbsp rice flour

125g raspberries

zest of 1 lemon

3 tbsp limoncello

11/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping:

100g icing sugar, sifted

60g butter, softened

100g mascarpone

zest of 1/2 lemon

10 raspberries, to decorate

edible flowers, to decorate

1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 3. Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking


2 Using an electric beater, whisk the sugar, olive oil and eggs together until light and fluffy.

Fold in the flours, raspberries, lemon zest, limoncello and baking powder.

3 Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 30–35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into

the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and remove from the loaf tin after

20 minutes to cool completely before decorating with the frosting.

4 To make the topping, use an electric mixer to beat together the icing sugar and butter

until pale and fluffy. Fold in the mascarpone and lemon zest.

5 When the cake is completely cool, spread over the topping. Arrange the raspberries and

edible flowers on top to decorate.

Edible (and drinkable) Christmas Treats

Homemade Ballyknocken Almond Liquer

Homemade Ballyknocken Almond Liquer

cooking pic_1

They always say ‘it’s the thought that counts’ when gifting and there’s nothing more thoughtful than a homemade gift. Here are two of my favourite Italian influenced Edible and Drinkable gifts… and surprise, surprise one of them contains chocolate!

Buon natale


Ballyknocken house and cookery school

ps. Checkout for our cookery school gift vouchers and signed copies of my book.

Almond Liqueur (similar to Amaretto)

Makes 1 ½ litres

400g sugar

375ml boiling water

500ml vodka

500ml brandy

2 tbsp almond extract

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large pot.  Boil uncovered for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, and let cool for 30 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and pour into bottles.  Store at room temperature for at least 1 week before taking a tipple.


Makes 16 brownies

180g dark chocolate

150g butter

125g caster sugar

2 eggs

50g plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

30g plain chocolate, chopped into small chunks

To decorate

Icing sugar glaze (icing sugar and a drop of water) or melted dark or white chocolate

And further decorate with any of the following: chocolate flakes; hundreds & thousands; Christmas cake decorations; oven dried orange slice segments dipped in chocolate; chopped nuts; chopped pistachios; toasted flaked almonds; pecans dipped in melted chocolate; mixed peel; edible flowers; strawberries dipped in chocolate… just a few ideas

Preheat the oven to 180°/Gas 4. Line a brownie tray with baking parchment.

Break the 180g of dark chocolate into squares and place in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. Melt the butter in a saucepan and pout the hot butter over the chocolate, stirring until all of the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Beat the eggs. Stir the beaten eggs into the melted chocolate mixture, mixing well. In a separate mixing bowl sieve the flour and baking powder. Slowly fold in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the 30g of chocolate chunks. Transfer the mixture into the baking tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is just firm to the touch in the centre. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, turn out and cool on a wire rack. Slice into 16 squares.

Decorate each square with melted chocolate or an icing sugar glaze and then make then even prettier with some of the decorations as suggested above.

Catherine’s Chicken Pasta Bake

Hi Everybody

Great fun at Newstalk yesterday October 28th with Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue. Talking about all ways to keep the kids fed and entertained at Halloween.

Remember Halloween is just one day and when it comes to children’s diets it is not about what they do or eat on one day; it’s what they do every day of the year.

Teaching children how to cook is a fun way to change their attitude to food. Check out my calendar of cookery classes here for details on our Head Chef Junior Chef classes, perfect for your budding little chef!

Here is my Chicken Pasta Bake recipe to help you fill those kiddies up before trick or treating and all that junk food ! For more recipes like this, my latest cookbook Bake Like An Italian has all you need!

Catherine’s Chicken Pasta Bake

Il pasticcio al pollo di Catherine / Serves 4 hungry adults or 6 children

I ask what would you like for dinner and the reply is chicken pasta bake all the time, so I hope that your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine. It’s so easy to whizz it up, especially during term time, when everything is very hectic.

extra virgin olive oil

400g penne

3 chicken fillets, poached and roughly diced or shredded

120g frozen peas

100g tinned or frozen sweetcorn

5 tbsp breadcrumbs

4 tbsp grated Parmesan

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the sauce:

75g butter

75g plain flour

1 litre milk

75g grated mature white Cheddar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease a medium gratin or lasagne dish with a little olive oil.

2 Cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, retain 100ml of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

3 To make the sauce, combine the butter, flour and milk in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and just bring to the boil while whisking all the time to form a loose sauce.

Stir in the cheese and add some of the pasta cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4 Place the cooked pasta, cooked chicken, peas and sweetcorn in a large bowl. Pour over the sauce and mix well. Spoon the pasta into the gratin dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden.

I add 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard for a little extra zing, but I don’t tell the children!