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 you’re keeping well and staying cheerful. I really enjoyed my first visit back to the Botanics last week, the online booking system was easy and the gardens are looking so beautiful. I also had a peek at the kitchen garden which got me dreaming about what we might be able to cook when we can safely return to the Botanic Cottage.

Until then here are some more recipes that I hope you’ll enjoy making at home. We’ve got a homemade muesli which is ever so simple. I like to make a batch when I have space in the oven to save on energy use. There’s a simple soup and a warming Indian style dahl – both of which freeze well if you like to have a few ‘ready meals’ on hand (so welcome on busy days). We’ve also got some sweet and simple fairy cakes. I’ll hopefully be bringing these to picnics this summer and they’re so much nicer than shop-bought cakes. Now all we need is some sunshine!

Take care, Ailsa

Start the day well

Homemade muesli

Photo of a glass jar full of muesli on the kitchen table
Muesli makes a filling breakfast that is healthy too

If you’ve ever stood in the supermarket trying to choose between muesli brands and wondering why the good ones can be so expensive- well this recipe is for you. Once you know how easy it is to make your own muesli  you may never go back.

I’ll give you a simple recipe here but it is so adaptable, you can change the nuts, seeds and dried fruit to any that you like!

An easy lunch

Pea and pesto soup

Photo shows a bowl of bright green pea soup topped with pesto. Also shown is the pestle and mortar which has been used for making the pesto.
Homemade soup is quick and easy to achieve

I always keep a bag of peas in the freezer so I can make this soup for a speedy lunch. I tend to buy the smaller petit pois but any frozen peas will work beautifully.  It’s a brilliant bright green colour. This soup is topped with a quick pesto made as the soup is cooking, if you don’t fancy it then leave it out (a spoonful of jarred pesto will also work). When the schools go back my boys will be taking a flask of this soup for their lunch.

A healthy supper

Coconut, courgette and spinach dahl

Photo shows a pot of dahl made with coconut, courgette and spinach - the dahl is a green colour.
Dahl is a great way to use up veg that may be past its best

I’ve never been to India, though it’s always been a dream of mine- partly because I just love the food. This dahl recipe is very adaptable and I make some version of this all year round. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends of veg. Try replacing the courgette with grated sweet potato or carrot. This recipe uses both red lentils and chickpeas providing two sources of protein, and plenty of fibre.  I serve this with brown or white rice, and sometimes poppadoms too. If you like a spicier dahl, increase the chilli flakes to 1 tsp, or hedge your bets and put them on the table for people to add their own.

Something sweet

Fairy cakes

Photo shows a plate of heart- and star-shaped fairy cakes topped with jam and coconut.
Fairy cakes are fun to make with the whole family

Whether you call them cupcakes or fairy cakes, these cute little buns will make everyone smile. Perfect for parties or just as a sweet treat to share.

Our local shop was out of icing sugar so we topped ours with raspberry jam and coconut instead, which was just lovely. As an alternative, make chocolate fairy cakes by replacing a tablespoon of flour with cocoa powder and skipping the vanilla extract.

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