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Celebrity Diary with TV chef Catherine Fulvio: My cooking school and a spoonful of TV work makes a great recipe




Gerald Kean and Catherine Fulvio danced the American Smooth at Strictly Against Breast Cancer

Gerald Kean and Catherine Fulvio danced the American Smooth at Strictly Against Breast Cancer



How time flies. My cookery school at Ballyknocken has celebrated its first decade.

I am warning my friends and family now that with all that has been going on between TV series and my day job here at Ballyknocken Cookery School that there has been no time for Christmas shopping this year.

So I've jokingly told them they can expect signed copies of my books and gift vouchers under the tree.

All joking aside, it has been a whirlwind of a year with lots of excitement with celebrating 10 years at Ballyknocken in Wicklow. It's been a dream come true.

In the past decade we have welcomed over 20,000 keen cooks from all over the world into the kitchen.

In the second half of the year there was the launch of my fifth cookbook, Bake Like an Italian, which involved lots of research in the kitchen, tasting and testing recipes - not to mention a field trip to Sorrento in Italy which was a great insight into another side of Italian food and food culture.

Then there has also been lots of fun with TV, if I wasn't on the road to Cork for the Today Show I was working with RTE on the Taste of Success series with Paul Flynn, in which I am one of the judges.

The series has proved to be hugely popular, it's all about local food champions and members of the public who enter the challenge to see whose product will make it to the supermarket shelf. I've been really enjoying watching it even though I know what happens next.

It was a thoroughly inspirational experience meeting Ireland's budding foodies, just getting out there and talking to all the wonderful producers around the country. The series was right up my street.

As soon as I was I finished on that then I started production on a new TV series with Derry Clarke and Paul Flynn called Lords & Ladles, which is due to air on RTE in late spring.

The new series will see the three of us visit a variety of grand manors around the country and whipping up a smorgasbord of gastronomical treats from way back when. But it's not quite as refined as it may sound.

I have been schlepping through forests, skinning rabbits and gutting pheasants - which is way outside of my comfort zone.

Each week, the three of us take on a different role. We're the host, the cook or the gatherer. The gatherer is the one skinning and gutting by the way.

The three of us have dashed around the grounds of Ballywalter Estate, Tullynally Gardens and Westport House.

We're in the middle of filming and it's an absolute riot. But if I never see pheasant guts again it'll be a day too soon.

Strictly dancing in the name of a good cause

I strapped on my dancing shoes in the name of a good cause this week.

Christmas can at times feel like it is all about buying presents, but I always like to give a little back and for me charity starts at home.

So when I was approached by Wicklow friend and neighbour, Emma Hannigan, and asked to join in this year's Strictly Against Breast Cancer, I just couldn't refuse and boy was I glad - it was a great experience and all in a good cause.

What was different about this event for me is that they support Breast Cancer Ireland in their mission to research a cure for breast cancer. Now wouldn't that be a better world for everyone?

With this vision in mind I gave up my time willingly over the past eight weeks to practice my dance moves with my wonderfully talented dance partner, Gerald Kean, to support this great cause. Not only did we have great fun along the way, I also met some great people and made some new friends all the while raising much needed funds for this worthwhile cause.

I also caught up with fellow foodie Roz Purcell over the last few days at my annual engagement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation event with Amelia Deane, who had her dreams realised.


I was joined by the beautiful Roz who shares my love of food and we had great fun baking up a storm together with our lovely little helper Amelia.

This is the fourth year that I have worked with this charity and their partner Fairy to help children with life-threatening illnesses.

Edible gifts make for a sweet day

Christmas is a great time to show off your baking talents and what better way than with some edible gifts to wow your family and friends.

I've been doing it since I was a child. It started with simple peppermint sweets but I am glad to say I have progressed to some really tasty Italian treats.

My latest cookbook Bake Like an Italian has a dedicated chapter on Christmas.

For the sweet tooth I bake my Italian snowballs, these little biscuits are usually made with almonds, but I have made them with pecans. It shows 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.

As for the big day, don't bite off more than you can chew and don't be scared to delegate - especially if you are having a big crowd. Ask guests or members of the family to bring a dish.

Remember if you are cooking Christmas dinner, nominate cleaner uppers and washer uppers ahead of time, it's your Christmas too.