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 that you’ve been able to get out and about a little more recently. Somehow we’re into the last week of the school year, after what has been the strangest term. If any of your family members are celebrating the end of a school year, children or teachers- then I have the perfect chocolate brownie recipe for you today. We’ve also got one of my favourite brunch dishes- sweetcorn fritters with poached eggs, which I know I’ll be making on repeat all summer. There’s a quick and healthy lunch using smoked mackerel that I really hope you’ll like. I’ve also included a frittata recipe which makes a great lunch or supper, or can be taken cold to a picnic. Let’s just hope we get some more warm weather! Keep safe, keep cooking and hope to see you back in the kitchen before too long.

Ailsa

A summery brunch

Sweetcorn fritters with poached eggs and tomato salsa

A plate of food. Fritters made of sweetcorn served with two poached eggs and tomato salsa on the side, garnished with coriander and a slice of lime.
A great brunch for warm weather

This is a lovely summery dish to have for breakfast or brunch, though to be honest in my house I eat eggs at any meal I can. The fritter recipe uses gram flour that’s made with chickpeas. This means they’re gluten free and also a good source of protein. If you have them with eggs then that’s double protein- which is a brilliant way to start the day. You’ll find gram flour in the world foods section of larger supermarkets or in an Indian supermarket (sometimes also called besan).  The recipe will also work with plain flour if need be. With the sweetcorn and the tomato salsa, you’ll also get two of your five a day in this dish. British grown tomatoes taste so good at this time of year so I take any opportunity to add them to a meal. I’ve included how I poach eggs here, but if you have your own trusted method- please use that! Or indeed cook your eggs however you like them best.

A simple healthy lunch

Smoked mackerel pâté , beetroot and oatcakes

A plate of oatcakes topped with smoked mackerel pate and beetroot.
Mackerel pate is a tasty lunch which provides a good source of Vitamin D

A healthy diet should include fish twice a week, including at least one serving of oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Oily fish are a good source of vitamin D, particularly important if you’ve been spending a lot of time inside. This recipe uses a packet of pre-cooked vacuum packed smoked mackerel which you can find in any supermarket. I like the peppered fillets best. I serve this pâté with beetroot as I love how it’s sweet earthiness pairs with the oiliness of the mackerel. It’s also really good for you. Cucumber slices go very well too.

Leek, chard and feta frittata

A pan of fritatta topped with feta cheese sitting on a kitchen surface.
Frittata is a quick and easy weekday meal

I love a frittata. Once, going to a concert in Glasgow with my sister, we had our bags checked. We had to unwrap and then explain to the laughing security guards why we needed generous slices of frittata… It might be a while before we get to watch live music again, but I think a frittata is perfect for any hunger emergency!

A frittata is similar to a Spanish omelette but the fillings are a lot more flexible. It’s cooked on the stove and then finished under the grill so there’s no tricky flipping to do. I cook one at least once a week, usually using odds and ends of vegetables in the fridge. This frittata is lovely warm or cold and goes well with a salad.

Use this recipe as a guide to trying out your own flavour combinations, let me know how you get on! I’ve used Greek feta here, but other cheeses work just as well.

Chocolate and walnut brownies

A plate stacked full of chocolate brownie cakes.
Chocolate brownies are a family favourite

I have to give a little warning about these brownies- they are dangerously easy to make. Apart from buying some chocolate, they are made with mostly store cupboard ingredients. I include walnuts here which are a good source of omega-3. Perfect for the next time you want to celebrate a birthday, share with a friend on a socially distanced picnic, or perhaps just because it’s Tuesday. No judgement here. They are also delicious slightly warm with ice cream.

Going forwards, we’re looking at how we can adapt the cook club so that it can take place in the Botanic Cottage again, whilst keeping everyone safe. To start off with, we’re hoping to do some ‘cook along’ videos where Ailsa shows you step-by-step how to make a recipe (hopefully from inside the wonderful cottage!) which you follow at home. We’d love to hear from you: of the four recipes featured today, which one would you most like to try as a cook along video? Please get in touch via the comments below!