Back to School


All the little dotes are back at school by now. Parents are breathing a sigh of relief, relishing a few peaceful hours to relax or to get on with a job that has been put on the long finger for several months but now instead there’s the daily school lunch challenge.

How to fill that box with exciting yet nourishing wholesome food that will be ‘acceptable’ to the kids themselves and not be ridiculed by their peers. Such a minefield – how can food have reached this stage? One ‘catty’ remark from an opionated friend can banish the raw carrots or crunchy radishes from the lunch box for ever.
90 plus % of kids want sandwiches, easy to pack, easy to eat but the quality of the daily bread is crucially important. The quality of most shop bought sliced bread both brown and white is worrying, squishy, doughy, fermented and in some cases under cooked with an interesting list of ingredients that one will certainly not find in the cupboard of any home baker. Believe me, bread is easy to make and it’s so important that the lunch box staple is nourishing of course. It’s best if it’s wholemeal loaf and this one, the recipe I’ve included here is a simple mix, pour and bake job.

However some kids simply won’t eat brown bread so here’s a white yeast bread loaf that’s mixed in minutes, allowed to rise for another quarter hour or so in a loaf tin and then baked in your oven for ? .

It doesn’t rise as high or feel as fluffy as the well-known brands but the flavour and texture will ‘blow your socks off’. It’s real bread made with just four ingredients, flour, salt, yeast and water, rather than a possible 15 that can be included in a commercial sliced pan.

Which brings me to Derval O’Rourke, our very own Cork World Champion. Derval not only knows a thing or two about keeping fit but also knows that winning is all about food. Our energy, vitality, ability to concentrate and perform depends so much on the food we choose to eat. Derval believes that the secret to being your healthiest happiest self is to eat well and keep moving. Derval discovered the importance of nutrition as an elite athlete. After a poor performance in the 2004 Olympics she learned about food, fell in love with cooking – and then won a world title in her sport, hurdling. She believes eating well made all the difference to her form. Now that Derval is retired from athletics and is a busy young mum, her focus is on fitting exercise and healthy, pleasurable eating into a hectic schedule. Derval’s second book, The Fit Foodie, the sequel to her bestselling Food in the Fast Lane has recently been published by Penguin to more critical acclaim.

It’s packed with simple, family recipes, the sort of food you’ll really want to cook and share with your family and friends like Five Minute Muesli, Quinoa Salad with toasted walnuts and blue cheese, Laid back lamb tagine, Fit foodie noodle pots….Trish Deseine’s chocolate fondant cake…I also love Derval’s sweet and chatty style, little nuggets of info and sage advice about everything from how to make a brilliant cup of coffee to her favourite workout or cooking, play lists – well now there’s a new one for a cook book and why not.

The Fit Foodie’s fundamentals at the end of the book is worth the price of the book alone – check it out and thank you Derval – I suspect this book will become a favourite on many people’s kitchen shelf and there are many other great suggestions suitable for lunch boxes.


Entertaining with Darina and Rory, Monday 5th September
Darina and her brother Rory O’ Connell will teach a 2½ day cookery course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School starting on Monday 5th September. Their ‘Simply Delicious Christmas’ shows which aired on RTE 1 in 2014 and 2015 were a huge success, and are a flavour of what can be expected on this course. We guarantee plenty of fun and, of course, a little sibling rivalry for good measure!

Long Table Dinner 2016
Ballymaloe Cookery School’s ‘Dinner in the Glasshouse’ is now an annual event, held under the canopy of our extensive glasshouses. Our culinary team dream up an inspiring menu based on seasonal, local, organic ingredients. One of the main purposes of this annual event is to give recognition and exposure to our own growers and also the many Irish artisan food producers, suppliers and chefs who are striving to provide us with the finest quality organic food products. Proceeds from the Glasshouse Dinner goes to Slow Food which helps with the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.
Friday 9th September.

Feel Good Food, Let’s Cook with Debbie Shaw
Debbie Shaw is a nutritionist and teacher here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Debbie believes that whole, natural foods have the power to heal, boost energy, vitality, keep us youthful, healthy and happy….. In this 1½ day cookery course, Debbie will teach a wide range of recipes inspired from the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Irish and Asian influences for long term health including raw food, fermentation…
Midleton Food Festival, Summer Supper Club at Ballymaloe House
Louise Bannon, ex NOMA chef, will cook a pop up dinner at Ballymaloe House on Monday 5th September.
Cocktails in the Garden at 7pm followed by 3 course dinner with wine at 8pm. Tickets are €65.00, booking essential 021 4652 53.

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival
Foraging at Turk Head with Madeline McKeever and April Danann on Saturday 10th September at 2pm.
Meet the Producer: – Roaring Water Sea Vegetable Farm on Monday 12th September at 12pm. Peppermint Farm at 2pm.

Our Farms, Our Food, Our Future Forum …discussing the interdependence between modern farming, food production, practices and health…Monday 12th September 3pm at West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen

Mix and Bake Brown Loaf

Even if you never made a loaf in your life, you can make this , just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14ozs/2 1/2 cups) Macroom stone ground wholemeal flour or a wholemeal flour of your choice
75g (3ozs/3/4 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 egg, preferably free range
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
1 teaspoon honey or treacle
425ml (15fl ozs/scant 2 cups) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in)

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6.

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Seedy Bread
Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of kibbled wheat to the dry ingredients. Keep a mixture to scatter over the top.

The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).

Ballymaloe Simple White Yeast Bread (One Rising)

There is no kneading involved in this recipe and only one rising so it is a brilliant introduction to using yeast.

When making yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which expand in the heat oven the oven and rise the dough.

Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. Heat of over 50ËšC will kill yeast.

White or brown sugar, honey, golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle for Brown Yeast Bread and honey for this easy White Yeast Bread. The dough rises more rapidly with 15g (1/2oz) fresh yeast.

Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf

450g (1lb) strong white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
15g (1/2oz) fresh non-GM yeast
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) water at blood heat

sesame seeds – optional

1 x 2lb (900g) loaf tin – well brushed with sunflower oil

In a wide, roomy bowl, mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the honey with the water, and crumble in the yeast.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place, (kitchen temperature fine) to allow the yeast to start to work. Meanwhile check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 3-4 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be just too wet to knead.

Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tin with a good quality sunflower oil. Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Just as the bread comes almost to the top of the tin, about 15-20 minutes, (time varies depending on room temperature). Remove the tea towel and pop the loaves in the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises to the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put them back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.
Cool on a wire rack.

This bread doesn’t look like a pan-loaf, it will be relatively flat on top.

Derval O’ Rourke’s Five Minute Muesli

Shop bought muesli can be full of sugar and other additives, as well as being overpriced. Take five minutes to make a batch of this muesli instead. It’s delicious served with milk or as a topping for fruit and yoghurt. I love to eat it with whatever fresh berries are in season. When it’s winter, frozen berries are great – just remember to defrost from the night before. The chia seeds and goji berries are super foods that will help to support your immune system. And the oats will keep you full all morning. This muesli stores well in an airtight container for about a week.

Makes 7 big portions

350 g jumbo porridge oats
150 g chia seeds
150 g mixed seeds (pumpkin and sunflower work well)
90 g whole dried goji berries
90 g ground linseed

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer the muesli to an airtight container.

Derval O’ Rourke’s Quinoa Salad with Toasted Nuts and Blue Cheese

Since my fridge is never without a big batch of cooked quinoa, I tend to eat quinoa based salads. I usually have a good stash of toasted nuts in the cupboard too. This means that I always have the basics at hand for interesting and nutritious lunches. Don’t be put off by the blue cheese in this recipe. Even if you think you don’t like it, you might be surprised at how well it complements the other flavours in this superfood salad.

Serves 2

125 g cooked quinoa
Handful of baby spinach
2 tablespoons toasted nuts (almonds, pinenuts, cashews work well)
2 tablespoons seeds (pumpkin and sunflower work well)
25 g blue cheese, crumbled
Handful of blueberries
½ pomegranate, seed only
Handful of mint leaves, chopped

For the dressing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
Juice of ½ lime
Pinch of sea salt

Place the quinoa, spinach, nuts and seeds in a serving bowl and mix well.
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Pour this dressing over the quinoa salad and toss well. Crumble over the blue cheese. Scatter over the blueberries, pomegranate seeds and mint. The salad is ready to serve.

Derval O’ Rourke’s Posh Nuts

Posh Nuts are one of my favourite evening treats. Their fiery and delicious and it takes less than 20 minutes to make a batch. You can leave these nuts to cool completely – but if you eat them when they’re still warm from the oven, they really hit the spot!

Serves 2

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup
150 g mixed nuts (Brazil, hazelnuts and pecans work well)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1 teaspoon chili flakes
½ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Stir in the agave syrup. Take the pan off the heat and toss in the nuts. Stir well to coat the nuts evenly. Sprinkle over the rosemary, chilli, salt and stir well. Spread the nuts on a baking tray. Roast for about 12 minutes, turning once. Leave the nuts to cool on the tray or serve them hot straightaway.

Derval O’ Rourke’s Booster Bars

Whether you go for a brisk walk, a jog or full on session at the gym, there’s nothing as tasty as a post workout treat that you’ve made yourself. These bars are particularly good for giving you a boost. The oats are full of fibre rich complex carbohydrates and the nuts are full of protein. These elements combine to keep you fuller for longer. These bars are far more economical than shop bought energy bars and they keep for several days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you want to be really organised, you can bake a big batch and then wrap and freeze individual bars. Then just grab a bar from the freezer and bring it in your bag so that you have a health treat for later in the day.

Makes 12 bars

6 ripe bananas, mashed
120 ml agave syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
240 g porridge oats
100 g dried fruit (dates and apricots work well)
60 g ground flaxseed
60 g hazelnuts, chopped
60 g pecans, chopped
60 g pumpkin seeds
60 g sunflower seeds

Line a 33cm x 23 cm metal baking tin with parchment paper so that the paper overlaps the sides. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Use a food processor or whisk to mix the bananas, agave syrup and coconut oil. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly, pressing down with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and firm. Remove from the oven and leave to cook for about 30 minutes. To remove from the tin, take hold of the parchment paper and simply lift out the slab. Cut the slab into bars and store in the fridge or freezer.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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