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 Botanic Cottage is still closed due to 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 all well and enjoying the summer. Despite the strangeness of this year I feel like the summer is flying by. I spent a few days in Perthshire and the whole family took great delight in picking wild raspberries everywhere we went. I have to buy my raspberries in Edinburgh but we should definitely be enjoying this delicious Scottish fruit while it’s in season. The breakfast recipe today is a lovely way to eat raspberries, or any berries that you can find. Both the lunch and the supper recipe are really flexible, useful recipes to learn. The falafel can be used in so many ways, and the ratatouille is an easy way to master a French classic- and a very delicious base for a number of different meals. The sweet treat to bake today has many names- tiffin, chocolate biscuit cake, fridge cake- whatever you call it, it’s indulgent and delicious. I’ll be using a slice to motivate my children up a hill today. I hope it sweetens up your week whatever you’re up to. Take care, and hopefully see you soon.

A healthy breakfast

Overnight Breakfast Cranachan

Image shows four jars full of cranachan - yoghurt, raspberries and oats.
Jars of cranachan make for a brilliant breakfast picnic!

Traditionally cranachan is made with double cream and a little whisky- delicious- but not a healthy breakfast! This version uses greek yogurt which is a great source of protein and calcium, and oats for carbohydrate and fiber (and a great slow-release energy source). When making this I often toast my oats on a baking tray in the oven for around 15 minutes but this is optional. If you have your oven on already for something else,  then do it but if not then skip this step. This recipe is made the night before to enjoy the next morning. You could make it and eat it straight away and the oats will be crunchy- but still so tasty.

In the picture I’ve put mine in jars – I thought a breakfast picnic would be fun (and I was right!).

A delicious lunch

Sweet potato falafel

Image shows a plate of falafel balls made from sweet potato and topped with sesame seeds
These falafel are a delicious, healthy, meat-free lunch

These falafel are great, I’ve been making them for at least ten years and they’re always popular. I even made them for Prue Leith when she visited my class at Queen Margaret University! Most falafel are fried but these are baked making them a healthier option. They use gram flour which is made from chickpeas, you can find it in the world foods section of any big supermarket.

The falafel can be served in many different ways – they’re lovely with couscous, hummus and salad. Alternatively stuff them in a pitta with some garlicky mayonnaise or yogurt and some crunchy veg. My kids also love them in a packed lunch box just as they are- so feel free to find what works for you!

A simple supper


Image shows a pan of ratatouille, made vegetables and tomatoes, cooking on the hob
Ratatouille can be packed with your favourite veggies

I confess, this is not an authentic ratatouille- in the French classic the vegetables are individually cooked before being added to the main pan. I’m no Cordon Bleu chef, but I’m unconvinced that it makes much of a difference- except to the washing up! I would say try to give your vegetables space if you can, use your biggest saucepan or frying pan, and wait until the aubergine and courgette are tender before adding the tomatoes- I think this way they retain more of their flavour. Feel free to substitute the vegetables a little, peppers work really well here too.

Ratatouille is such a versatile summery dish that really makes the best of the seasonal courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes. You can serve it in many different ways – I love it in a baked potato but it’s also great with pasta or rice.

A sweet treat

Chocolate tiffin

Image shows a tin of tiffin squares on the dining table
Tiffin is a family favourite in our household

I can not pretend these are healthy… Even with a good amount of dried fruit they are definitely still a treat, and that’s okay! This recipe makes about 16 tiffin squares, though you can easily half the recipe for a smaller household. Sometimes I serve tiny ones with coffee and they are always very popular!

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