School-lunch treats that pack a punch

School-lunch treats that pack a punch

I’ve suddenly realised that the summer is almost over and like many of you, I have scarcely seen it.

It’s just somehow passed me by in a blurry maze and now it’s back to school. 

A time of mixed feelings, although if the truth be told, many children were really looking forward to meeting with their friends again and getting back into a comforting routine after so many disappointments, false starts and abandoned plans whilst fleeing from yet another downpour.

And now, the tyranny of school lunches!

Mums and Dads are racking their brains for some new ideas. Don’t forget the ‘forever favourites’ like simple Cheddar cheese and ham sandwiches with good bread and lots of butter.

If you can get your kids to tuck into a really good breakfast, that’s half the battle.

A grand big bowl of organic porridge with any drizzle they fancy, runny honey, peanut butter, a blob of runny jam or stewed fruit… inexpensive and super nutritious.

Homemade granolas and muesli are easy to make in bulk, ready to shake into a bowl with a good blob of yoghurt, sliced banana, some berries or grated apple.

Apples are in season now; this is a great way to use up your windfalls or a present from a neighbour.

Pancakes or waffles with a few slices of crisp bacon always get a positive response.

Here’s a recipe made with cornmeal that’s absolutely irresistible for all ages.

Get the children involved in making their school lunch. They’re much more likely to eat every morsel when they themselves have made the choices.

Savoury Muffins

Have a look in your fridge, this basic recipe can be embellished with all kinds of tasty little leftover morsels.

Savoury Muffins

Preparation Time

20 mins


  • 225g plain white flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 10g caster sugar

  • pinch of cayenne (optional)

  • 1 tbsp chives

  • 2 organic eggs

  • 225ml milk, buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream

  • 75ml sunflower oil

  • 100g grated cheese (a mixture is good e.g., Gruyére, Cheddar event a little leftover camembert or blue cheese) – hold back a little to sprinkle over the top


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cayenne and chives in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the eggs with the buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream and sunflower oil. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir to barely combine (don’t overmix or the muffin will be heavy and tough). Gently fold in the tasty bits. Spoon into muffin cases, scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 20 minutes or until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm.

  3. Variations:

  4. Swap the grated cheese in the above recipe for the same quantity of any of the following (or create your own!).

  5. Chopped spring onions and crispy bacon

  6. Chopped chorizo, Kabanos sausage, cooked ham or streaky bacon lardons

  7. Roasted peppers, basil, a little goat’s cheese and marjoram

  8. Chopped rosemary and raisin

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple Syrup

These pancakes inspired by Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, New York, are the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, so I wanted to share them with you. This recipe uses coarse polenta, also known as polenta bramata, really good and nourishing.

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple Syrup

Preparation Time

15 mins


  • 175g plain flour

  • 175g coarse polenta (cornmeal)

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

  • 1 organic, free-range egg, plus 1 egg yolk

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 ½ tbsp baking powder

  • 2 tbsp melted butter

  • 300ml whole milk

  • 225g clarified butter (see recipe)

  • butter and maple syrup, to serve


  1. Put the flour, polenta and sugar into a bowl. Whisk the egg and egg yolk together and add the salt and baking powder. Stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, along with the melted butter. Don’t beat the mixture – it can still be slightly lumpy.

  2. Heat a heavy cast-iron pan over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Pour in a generous 3mm of clarified butter and allow to heat through. Pour about 60ml batter into the pan for each pancake and allow some space between each one. Cook for 3-4 minutes until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp. Flip over carefully and continue to cook on the other side for about 2-3 minutes until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges. You will probably get about two pancakes in the pan at a time, so you will need to cook them in batches until you have used all of the batter.

  3. Serve immediately on warm plates allowing two pancakes per person. Slather some butter on each one and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. Quite simply sublime!

  4. Clarified Butter:

  5. Melt 225g butter gently in a saucepan on the hob or in a Pyrex jug in the oven at 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Leave it to stand for a few minutes, then with a spoon, scrape the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a bechamel sauce. Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in the fridge for several weeks.

Darina’s Flapjacks

Here it is, these super nutritious biscuits keep really well in an airtight tin. Kids of all ages love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Darina's Flapjacks

Preparation Time

20 mins


  • 450g rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

  • 350g butter

  • 1 tbsp golden syrup

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 175g caster sugar

  • Swiss roll tin, 25.5cm x 38cm lined with a strip of parchment with overhang at each end


  1. Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla extract, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well.

  2. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven (on low shelf), 180°C/Gas Mark 4, until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

  3. Note: Make half the recipe if a 23cm x 33cm Swiss roll tin is used.

  4. Variations:

  5. Chocolate Briskies: Cut the oatmeal biscuits into squares. When cool, dip diagonally into melted chocolate.
  6. Coconut and Oatmeal Biscuits: Substitute 20g of unsweetened desiccated coconut for 25g of oatmeal in the above recipe

Hot Tips

Pop-Up Event with Chef Tomas Scarpetti at Vinilo Bakery, Main Street in Lismore, Co. Waterford

Guess what…Argentinian chef, Tomas Scarpetti, executive chef in Francis Mallmann’s restaurants in Uruguay, Miami and France is coming to Ireland. 

He’s doing a series of Pop-Up dinners at Vinilo in Lismore on September 22 and 23 with sittings at 6pm and 9pm (5 courses plus 1 dessert). €55 per person. Not to be missed.

Learn how to save your own seeds with Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds

The first seed-saving course sold out completely so in response to the demand, Madeline has agreed to do another day-long course on Monday, September 25 at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Organic Farm and Gardens.

Madeline is passionate about the importance of saving seeds, she’s known and respected the world over for her deep, practical knowledge and expertise.

She will take the mystery out of seed saving and equip you with the basic skills needed so you too can pass on the knowledge which becomes ever more important in these extraordinary times.

Seeds are freedom, a vital resource for the future, spread the word.

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