Botanic Cottage Cook Club March 2020

Once a fortnight we hold a cook club at the Botanic Cottage. Anyone is welcome to join us to learn new cooking skills and to enjoy a healthy meal that’s been freshly prepared by the group. Sadly, the garden is now closed to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic, but we won’t let that stop us! Cottage Cook Club tutor Ailsa has prepared some great recipes from store cupboard ingredients to encourage us to keep home cooking and keep eating right. Over to Ailsa…

In these tricky times it’s so important that we continue to eat well. Even while we are all at home it’s a good idea to try to keep to your normal mealtimes if you can. It will help you give your day some structure and give you something to look forward to. You might also like to use this time to improve your cooking skills or learn a few new dishes.  We’re all shopping less and relying on our store cupboards more- so these recipes are pretty flexible and use a lot of ingredients you might have at home already. I’ll make suggestions for substitutions and let you know what can be missed out. Don’t be afraid to experiment too! Enjoy and stay well.

A healthy breakfast

Apple and cinnamon porridge

A warm bowl of porridge is a great start to the day. Oats are rich in fibre and release their energy slowly which will help keep you full until lunchtime. This version has fruit added which will give your morning a healthy boost. It tastes delicious too.

Serves one, double everything for two.

½ mug porridge oats

½ mug milk

½ mug water

1 small apple, grated

Small handful raisins or sultanas

½ teaspoon cinnamon

small pinch salt

You’ll need one pot and a wooden spoon.

Combine all the ingredients in a pan and heat up, stirring regularly. After about five minutes you should have a lovely creamy porridge. You can use any combination of fruit that you like, or replace the water with more milk for a richer porridge. Add a little honey to taste if needed.

A hearty lunch

Minestrone soup with cheese scones

Minestrone soup

Serves 4, generously

2 tablespoons oil

1 or 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 sticks of celery, chopped

2 courgettes, diced

6 tomatoes or 1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 litre stock (made with a vegetable stock cube)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried herbs- oregano, basil or thyme all work well- or 1 sprig fresh herbs

150g pasta- small shapes or larger ones broken up- any type.

1 small tin cannellini beans- or use borlotti, haricot or black-eyed beans

Salt and pepper to taste

You’ll need one big pot, a chopping board, a sharp knife and a big spoon or spatula. 

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot and gently cook the onion until it starts to soften, add the garlic, celery and carrot and continue to cook slowly for around ten minutes.
  2. Add the herbs, the tomatoes and the stock. Simmer for five minutes or so.
  3. Bash your pasta into smaller pieces if needed (hitting the sealed bag with a rolling pin works well) then add to the pot. Add the beans and any softer vegetables at this point too, like courgette.
  4. Simmer for ten minutes stirring occasionally to stop any pasta sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Check that the pasta is cooked and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. If you can, leave to sit with a lid on for 5 minutes before eating. This helps the pasta swell further.
  7. Eat in deep bowls with some grated cheese on the top if you like.

Cheese scones

Makes 6-8

225g self-raising flour

50 g cheddar cheese, grated

150ml milk

pinch of salt

55g cold butter

You will need a big bowl, a grater, a baking tray, a spoon, a scone cutter or glass, baking paper.

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ Gas 7.
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  3. Grate in the cold butter or add small cubes. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Stir in the cheese
  5. Add the milk and mix to make a soft dough.
  6. Knead lightly on a floured surface. Pat or gently roll to about 2cm thick.
  7. Use a scone cutter or small glass to cut out rounds. Place on a baking tray
  8. Brush the tops with a little milk.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well-risen and golden.

A simple supper

Baked sweet potatoes with vegetable chilli

This is a really healthy supper and hopefully one that you’ll enjoy experimenting with. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fibre and contain vitamins A, B and C as well as iron and calcium. Unlike normal potatoes, they count towards your 5 a day. This chilli also goes very nicely with a regular baked potato too- the same recipe will work but you’ll have to cook your potatoes for longer.  The chilli freezes well too.

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes per person

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 peppers, any colour, diced

½ tsp chilli powder or flakes (use more if you like your chilli spicier)

1 tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground coriander

4-5 tomatoes or 1 tin chopped tomatoes

Small tin sweetcorn (optional)

1 tin cooked beans- try aduki, kidney, black-eyed or black beans.

Salt and pepper to taste.

You will need a lined baking tray, a large pot, a chopping board, a knife and a spoon or spatula

  1. Heat oven to 220°C, put sweet potatoes on a baking tray lined with baking paper and put in the oven (don’t skip the paper- sweet potatoes release sugar which will caramelise and stick to your tray). They should take around 45 minutes, test with a skewer that they are soft and cooked throughout.
  2. Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot or pan. Add the onion, peppers and garlic to the pan and cook gently for around ten minutes.
  3. Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes until you can smell them.
  4. Add the tomatoes, the beans and the sweetcorn if using.
  5. Gently simmer for around 20 minutes.
  6. Season to taste.

Serve the sweet potatoes with a generous helping of chilli, add a little yogurt or cheese if you like. Salad is a great accompaniment too.

Something sweet

Easy banana bread

I’m certainly missing coffee and cake in a café, if you are too, then why not recreate a café at home with this easy bake. This banana cake is the simplest cake recipe I know, so it’s a great one to try if you aren’t a confident baker yet. It makes a great snack to take on a walk or enjoy at home with a cup of tea. It also freezes really well.

100g soft butter

175g sugar + 1 tablespoon

2 eggs

2 bananas, mashed

225g self-raising flour (or use plain but add an extra ½  tsp baking powder)

Handful of raisins or walnuts (optional)

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

You will need two bowls, scales, a loaf tin lined with baking paper, a spoon

  1. Line your cake tin with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Measure each ingredient into a small bowl and then add everything to the large bowl, except for the 1 tbsp of sugar.
  3. Spoon into your lined loaf tin.
  4. Sprinkle the last tablespoon of sugar on top.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Rest in the tin for ten minutes and then cool on a rack.
  7. Enjoy!

Our Community Cook Clubs at the Botanic Cottage are kindly supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

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  1. Looks amazing, what a feast, I will definitely be giving these a try! Thanks Ailsa.

  2. Great combination of recipes. You canny beat a good minestrone. Hope everyone is well and safe

    • Laura Gallagher

      Thanks Lynne, we are all good so far and adapting to the new way of working but we can’t wait to get back to the garden and welcome the community back! Hope all your cooking goes well!