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 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 keeping well and enjoying the change of the seasons. Autumnal cooking has definitely taken centre-stage in my kitchen now- cosy soups and baked dishes to warm everybody up on cold days. Vegetables in season at the moment include carrots, cauliflower, leeks and onions – all of which we’ll use in this week’s recipes. We’re making a healthier twist on macaroni cheese that the whole family will love, and a store-cupboard classic soup- split green pea- that also uses a good variety of vegetables and tastes delicious. 

Seasonal fruit includes the last of the stone fruits and the glorious apples and pears we’ve been waiting for all year. The breakfast recipe is a great way to start the day with fruit- poached plums for porridge.

I had the opportunity to get back in the kitchen at the Botanic Cottage to cook with some lovely garden produce for the Harvest festival. It was strange cooking there by myself, but nice to think about all the good things we can cook there together again one day. To share this with you a little I’ve included the apple crumble recipe that I cooked for the garden visitors. For what is autumn without a crumble?!

I hope these recipes inspire you to get into the kitchen.

Take care,


A healthy breakfast

Perfect porridge with poached plums

A photo of a bowl of porridge topped with purple poached plums.
The perfect way to start the day

We love porridge in my house, particularly as it gets colder. I’ve given the recipe below as per person but it’s really about proportions- one third oats, one third milk, one third water. Make more or less depending on appetite! Traditional porridge uses only water, personally I prefer to include milk too as it makes it creamier and is higher in calcium and protein.

The poached plums recipe is a really great way to prepare any stone fruit, it’s also a good way to save any that get a bit bruised, it won’t matter here. The poached plums will keep for a few days in the fridge and are also lovely cold with yogurt.

A cosy lunch

Green split pea soup

A photo of a steaming bowl of green split pea soup.
As Autumn is here we turn to soup for a warming lunch

I had a memory of eating a soup like this as a child and wanted to recreate it. It was just as comforting as I remembered. This recipe uses dried split peas so you do need to cook them for quite a long time- around 45 minutes to an hour. I recommend making a double batch and keeping some in the freezer for another day. It’s fine to vary the vegetables that go in.

A simple supper

Triple-veg macaroni cheese

Photo is a plate of macaroni cheese with three veg and a crispy topping.
Full of the carbs we crave as it gets colder, this recipe also packs in the veg!

My children are crazy about macaroni cheese, personally I always find it a bit dull unless combined with a huge salad. On a cold day I don’t always feel like salad and as we move into winter, salad leaves won’t be in season. So this recipe is my solution- plenty of tasty vegetables plus a great cheese sauce and a crunchy top. Thankfully everyone in the family loves it, and I hope you will too.

The broccoli and cauliflower are briefly cooked with the pasta water so make sure you choose a pan with enough room to do this. If not possible then cook the vegetables separately for two minutes before adding them to the other components.

Something sweet

Botanic Cottage Apple Crumble

Image shows little round vegware pots with individual portions of apple crumble
This crumble went down a treat at our harvest activities

I made this crumble in the Botanic Cottage for the Harvest Festival and it was very popular. Although you can’t scrump your apples from the Botanic garden, you can easily make this crumble in your own kitchen. It’s lovely with custard or a little cream, but also delicious by itself hot or cold. My pictures are from the cottage so with a bigger batch of the recipe, this recipe will fill a baking dish with around a litre capacity.

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