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…

Hello everyone,

I hope that you’re keeping well and that the warmer weather has made these difficult times a little easier to bear. I’ve been loving getting out for my daily walk and spotting all the blossom on the trees. The warmer weather has been reflected in my kitchen too. On warmer days I crave lighter, fresher flavours in my food. Fewer baked dishes and more salads, but I still want a balanced, satisfying meal. Today’s recipes are perfect for spring – a bright smoothie to start your day off well, a zesty tabbouleh salad and spicy Thai fishcakes. Treats are still on the menu too, so I’ve included a recipe for chewy chocolate cookies that I really hope you’ll love. Stay safe and keep having fun in the kitchen!

A healthy breakfast

Banana and berry smoothie

Banana and berry smoothies

Like many people at the moment I’m trying to shop less frequently, and with two kids at home the first thing to disappear is all the fruit! This recipe makes good use of the freezer. Did you know that you can freeze bananas? It doesn’t matter how spotty or over-ripe they are, simply peel them and pop them in a bag in the freezer. You can then put them straight in a smoothie for a refreshing start to the day. (Don’t freeze them with the peel on, they become really hard to open even when defrosted, I don’t know why!). For this recipe I also use frozen berries as they are really affordable and last for ages. As we start seeing locally-grown berries you can of course use them instead. I also add oats to this smoothie to keep you full for longer, they whizz up really well so don’t worry, you won’t feel like you’re drinking porridge!

A healthy lunch

Halloumi and kale tabbouleh

Halloumi and kale tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is traditional dish from Lebanon and is usually made with bulgar wheat. I use couscous instead as it’s so quick and easy. If you’d prefer to use bulgar wheat then cook 125g according to the packet instructions.

In this recipe we use raw kale and we’re going to scrunch it. To do this wash your kale and discard any large stalks and then chop it roughly. Put the kale in a large bowl with a pinch of salt and then scrunch it with your hands. Keep scrunching for a few minutes and you’ll see the kale leaves start to ‘relax’ and reduce in size as they release water. Discard the water. This kale is then a great base for a range of salads.

This salad recipe is lovely by itself but would also be a great accompaniment to some simply grilled meat or fish. I often make it for barbecues too.

A satisfying Spring supper

Thai-style fishcakes

Time for something a bit spicier in the kitchen! I use frozen fish to make these which makes them more economical and easier to make from your store cupboard. There are quite a few aromatic ingredients here, but if you don’t have them all please don’t worry. I serve them with an Asian style slaw (recipe below), a wedge of lime and some toasted peanuts. They will go equally well with a big salad or some garlicky green vegetables plus some noodles, rice or potatoes. I also like these fishcakes in a roll with some salad too. Use what you have!

Something sweet

Chocolate chip cookies

This is a great easy recipe for making large chewy cookies. My children are crazy about them, and to be honest I am too. You can use any kind of chocolate, or replace the chocolate with nuts or dried fruit. They keep well in a tin for 4-5 days (though not in my house).

Happy cooking!