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. It seems a long time since we were cooking together at the Botanic Cottage, but hopefully we’ll get back there later in the year. I’d love to know what you’re cooking in lockdown, and what you’d like to learn.

I finally learned how to make sourdough bread after I asked my chef sister for help, it was a helpful reminder that it’s always good to reach out and ask for help when we can’t figure things out by ourselves. I won’t be sharing the sourdough recipe here as it takes about a week to get ready and then three days to make the bread… It will be interesting to see how many new bakers like me keep it up once life is a little less slow-paced!

Today we’ve got a recipe for a refreshing Spanish summer soup which uses a lot of seasonal vegetables- gazpacho. There may not be foreign holidays this year but this should help you pretend on a warm day. We also have a family favourite and very useful sauce to learn to make- a classic spaghetti bolognaise (with both traditional and vegetarian options). There are two things to bake as well- some granola breakfast bars that are packed with protein, and chocolate and coconut macaroons that have become very popular in my house.

So please enjoy, keep cooking and let me know how I can help you in the kitchen.

Breakfast Granola bars

Granola bars

These granola bars are packed full of nuts and seeds so give a good protein boost. The first stage toasts the oats, nuts and seeds which really adds to the final flavour. This is also a great way of using up odds and ends of nuts and dried fruit. In my granola bars I used walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, prunes and sultanas- but you can use whatever you like! These are great for a speedy breakfast, but also lovely with a cup of tea any time of day.

Gazpacho soup

Gazpacho makes a healthy lunch and is great during hot weather

This is a great recipe for a hot day. In Summer I like to keep a jug of this Spanish soup in the fridge for an easy healthy lunch. The recipe is more of a guide, you can alter the quantities depending on what you have in the fridge. I like mine very garlicky, if you don’t then reduce the garlic cloves to one.  If you haven’t tried a cold soup before, give this a go!

Spaghetti bolognaise

A bowl full of bolognaise sauce
Bolognaise sauce is a great base for a filling meal

This sauce is great with spaghetti (or any pasta) and can also be used to make a lasagne. I’ve given options for a meat version, and a vegetarian version too. The vegetarian version uses green lentils. You can either use a tin of pre-cooked green lentils (around 400g) or start with 200g dried green lentils. If using dried lentils rinse well and then cover with about 600ml water and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 20-30 minutes until tender, the cooking time will depend on the age and size of the lentils so keep checking. This recipe is also lovely with Quorn mince, used the same way as beef mince- it’s fine to add it frozen as it defrosts quickly.   

This recipe is really nutritious and much nicer than a jarred sauce. Serve with a side salad for an extra serving of vegetables.

Chocolate and coconut macaroons

A plate full of coconut macaroon biscuits dipped in chocolate
We all deserve a sweet treat now and then!

These came about when I was craving something sweet, but didn’t want to use a whole packet of butter to satisfy my sweet tooth! You can skip the chocolate stage to make a simpler coconut macaroon. These macaroons are gluten free and can be made dairy free if you use a very dark chocolate (check the label).

Do let us know if you try these at home – we’d love to see you cooking along!