That said, Christmas dinner is the most anticipated meal of the year, so it is worth spending some time, planning for the festive season not only for the dinner, leaving you time to relax and enjoy the festivities which shouldn’t be an enormous challenge.
It is always a plus to choose favourite dishes that your family and friends love and that you feel confident making. At the same time, there are many items that can be made ahead of time. So here’s a list to “get ahead”:

  • The brandy butter and the cranberry sauce keep well in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Salad dressings are another and can be made 4 to 5 days in advance.
  • Salad leaves and herbs can be washed and kept for up to 3 days.
  • If you’re serving a soup this can be made and frozen weeks ahead.
  • Soak your ham for up to 24hours before cooking and I cook mine on Christmas Eve so it has soaked all day and saves me time on Christmas day and that means I can have a sneak tasting as well!
  • Peel and steam the potatoes the day before, keep in the fridge – on the day, dust with seasoned flour or polenta and roast in goose fat – yum! If you prefer, simply peel and leave in cold water in the fridge overnight.
  • Blanch the Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli the day before and keep them in a little water, covered in the fridge ready for you to use.
  • Lastly, have the garnishes ready, toasted nuts and lemon zest, the rosemary, bay leaves and fennel in water in the kitchen and slices of citrus for the drinks.
  • For sweet garnishes, making little homemade chocolate trees and swirls is a simple and those can be kept in a sealed cake tin in a cool place for up to a week
  • Sugared cranberries and rosemary will keep for a day or two.
  • Oven dry orange slices keep for 2 days

And finally, take the time to enjoy the moments with your family and friends, a glass of wine and happy memories with loved ones is more important than anything else!

Wishing you all a very happy and relaxing Christmas!

Covid-19 Action Plan – Ballyknocken Cookery School

We would like to reassure you that we have a detailed plan to ensure maximum safety and maximum fun for you when you visit us for your next cookery class.

Your safety and wellbeing and that of our staff is of utmost importance, so we have drafted the following in order to let you know what to expect.

We would appreciate it if you would please bring your Digital Cert to confirm you are vaccinated.  

Physical Distancing/ Masks
• All attendees are required to wear a face mask for the full duration of the class, except when dining. Staff will also be wearing face masks at all times.
• Windows will be open for fresh air to circulate throughout the class
• Attendees are encouraged to take breaks in the herb and vegetable gardens throughout the class
• Social distancing signs are erected in the school.
• Staff in the school will be kept to the absolute minimum per class.

Handwashing, Hygiene and Cleaning
• Hand sanitiser is available at the entry/exit point and at each workstation.
• Guests are advised to bring the minimum of personal belongings onto the premises (do bring your own pen to take notes)
• Guests will be directed to the hand wash area before the commencement of each class. There is also hand washing signage erected
• Each workstation will be equipped with individual cooking equipment, utensils and crockery.
• There is minimum requirement for movement throughout the room – only to access ovens and hobs as everything is prepared at the workstation. Our chef will happily bring anything else required to the workstation.
• When at ovens / hobs, our guests are requested to be mindful of social distancing
• Food grade disposable gloves are available upon request.
• Guests will dine at their stations.
• Our already stringent hygiene and cleaning protocols will be even more frequent.
• The facilities, including all surfaces frequently touched, are thoroughly cleaned with detergent and disinfectant following each class and beforehand when setting up for each class.
• Staff will wash and sanitise their hands thoroughly before setting up for each class.
• Bins are emptied after each class.

To summarise, what you as a guest should do when at Ballyknocken Cookery School
• Advise us immediately if you are unwell or have been in contact with someone who had been diagnosed with Covid-19
• Follow all hygiene procedures
• Social distance
• Bring your mask and wear it for the full duration of the class
• Bring the minimum of belongings into the classroom – but do bring your pen for notetaking
• Enjoy the experience – let’s cook and have fun!

Covid 19 Action Plan – Ballyknocken House

Important Covid Guidelines

In order to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and our team we have created the below Covid 19 policy /action plan in line with the HSE & HSA recommendations and government regulations. To ensure the comfort and safety of all our guests and staff, we must work together by adhering to these new measures.

Outlined below are our procedures which underpin our commitment to you and what you can expect of us, and us of you during your time here.

Covid Vaccination Certificate appreciated.


  • Please use the hand sanitiser that is provided as you enter and leave the buildings
  • A face mask must be worn in all indoor communal areas of Ballyknocken House and Cookery school
  • We will have your keys sanitised and will be in your room door ready for use
  • The reception area is covered by a screen
  • Our colleagues will observe social distancing whilst checking you in and out and we will try to facilitate self-check in as much as possible
  • Contactless payment options will be available

Communal Areas

  • A face mask must be worn in all indoor communal areas of Ballyknocken House and Cookery school
  • Vigorous and frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces and touch points is being carried out throughout the Ballyknocken House governed by strict cleaning schedules.
  • We have clearly noted the max capacity of each communal rooms of Ballyknocken House we ask that you exercise personal responsibility to ensure social distancing is upheld.
  • Doorways will be left open where allowed to reduce contact.
  • We ask that you respect the guidance or advice issued by management & team members whilst with us


  • A thorough and comprehensive cleaning and disinfection program is in place for all guest bedrooms and bathrooms in preparation for your arrival with further additional attention being given to all touch points throughout.
  • All additional collateral, furnishings and non-essential items will be removed from our bedrooms; so we can focus on the highest levels of cleanliness.
  • Linens will be handled with extreme care to prevent raising dust and potential contamination; used linen will be washed at a minimum of 70°C for at least 25 mins to kill potential bacteria.
  • Newspapers, magazines and collateral will be removed from guestrooms and public areas, in preference to complimentary Wi-Fi in public areas to allow our guest access these facilities through mobile devices.
  • It is respectfully requested that guests do not enter bedrooms or apartments of fellow guests, and enter only those to which they are assigned.


  • The wearing of face coverings by guests has become mandatory in all indoor areas, please do not remove your mask until you are seated at your dining table, masks must be worn on leaving your seat.
  • In room dining services will not be available.
  • Dinner menus will be removed from tables and disposed of after each meal.
  • Tableware including all used and unused wares, condiments and linens will be removed and disinfected after each party has left.
  • Table tops and chair arms will be disinfected after each seating.

 Thank you and have a great stay.



St Patrick’s Day at Ballyknocken House & Cookery School

As the feeling of spring begins to lift our hearts and everything is coming alive again after the big snow, the true Irish colour of green is beginning to show all around. This weekend at Ballyknocken House & Cookery School we are really looking forward to celebrating St Patrick’s Day and we are celebrating with our much-loved cookery class “A Taste of Home” enjoying all things Irish.

Catherine, who is 3rd generation here at Ballyknocken remembers from a young age going out to the fields with a fork to dig up the shamrock. She tells us that her Gran used to wear so much shamrock on her lapel that it looked like she was wearing half the field!!!

On St Patrick’s Day, everyone loves being able to enjoy a traditional Irish dinner, especially after the parade when the whole family gathers together for dinner. This year we packed Catherine off to New York to make a traditional Beef and Guinness Stew with Champ for NBCs Today Show. So for a little inspiration, here’s the TV clip and we’ve detailed the recipe below.


St Patrick’s Day Recipes

Beef and Guinness Stew

Serves 6-8


1125g stewing beef, trimmed of fat

Flour with salt & pepper added

3 large onions, thinly sliced

275g mushrooms

1 dessertspoon sugar

1 tsp powder English Mustard

1 ½ tbsp tomato puree

A bouquet garni (4 parsley sprigs, 1 fresh thyme sprig and 1 bay leaf, tied together)

1 pint Guinness

Salt & Pepper to taste

Olive oil



Cut the meat into 1 ½ inch cubes and toss in the flour.  Heat some of the olive oil and fry the beef until nicely browned on all sides.  Put the meat into a deep, heavy bottom saucepan.  Add some more oil to the frying pan and gently fry the onions.  Deglaze the pan with some of the Guinness.  Add the fried onions, the Guinness and juices from the pan, the sugar, mustard, tomato puree and bouquet garni to the saucepan.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a low heat for 2 hours approximately or until the meat is tender.  Be careful during this time not to stir the dish too much as it can break up the meat.

In the meantime, wash and quarter the mushrooms.  Fry in a little melted butter and season with salt and pepper.  When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt & pepper if required.

Garnish with chopped parsley when serving.

Top Tip: Use a bouquet garni as it is so simple but gives so much flavour to the stew (A few sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, orange peel and parsley, tied together with a thin string) in any casserole or stew will amaze your taste buds.



Ballyknocken Irish Stew

Serves 4

Catherine has included a roux, a mix of flour and butter, in this recipe but if you like your Irish stew with a lot of liquid, then don’t stir in the roux. There is nothing better than a comforting home cooked lamb casserole. It freezes well so prepare ahead so you can enjoy the day. 


  • 6 gigot lamb chops (about 2cm thick), trimmed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1.5 litre lamb or vegetable stock
  • 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 – 2 bay leaves
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thickly
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning


For a roux

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley for garnishing
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil



  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4
  2. Trim off the excess fat from the chops and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chops and lightly brown on both sides and transfer to a casserole.
  4. Add the carrots and onions to the frying pan and gently cook for about 6 minutes.
  5. Add the thyme and potatoes, season well and pour in the stock.  Bring to the boil and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Pour the carrots and potatoes, stock and herbs over the lamb in the casserole and place to the oven.
  7. Cook for about 1 and ½ hours depending on the size of the chops. If you require a thicker sauce, add the roux and stir well until it begins to thicken. Remove the bay leaves and serve with broccoli.

Tip: Catherine knows that this is not traditional but add some small shallots and a few rosemary croutons on the top for a garnish would add a little extra crunch.


 Saint Patrick’s Soup


  • 4 Tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 1 Cup of diced raw potatoes
  • Half cup of sliced onions
  • 1 Cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 pound of spinach
  • 4 cups of Chicken Stock
  • Quarter Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
  • Half Cup of Irish oatmeal
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Whipped cream



  1. Melt the butter over a low heat in a skillet or pan. Add diced potatoes,
  2. Mushrooms and sliced onions and fry until soft.
  3. Wash spinach. Remove stalks and tough stems and chop finely.
  4. Transfer carrots and onions, mushrooms and spinach to a saucepan and add the stock, salt and pepper (to taste), cloves and diced potatoes.
  5. Stir in a ½ cup of Irish Oatmeal and Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Puree in blender or food processor.
  7. Serve into open soup dishes with a teaspoon of whipped cream floating in center.