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 staying cosy as the evenings grow darker. Today I’ll give you a simple recipe for granola that you can adapt as you please. Granola is a bit sweeter and crunchier than muesli but is still packed with oats, nuts and fruit so a good way to start your day with lots of energy.

Many of us will be at home during the day so much more than we used to be. I’m looking for a positive here and it’s the chance to have a hot lunch! No need for cold sandwiches. Soup is always good, and there are quite a few soup recipes in the blog archive now. Today I’ll show you another easy lunch- baked gnocchi with sausages and peppers. It’s quick to prepare and makes a lovely warm lunch, or supper. I’ll also introduce you to one of my favourite curry recipes, it’s a great one to make if you have a bit more time at the weekend.

As the weather turns I also like to have something delicious in the cake tin. This is my new gingerbread recipe, it’s lighter than some gingerbreads with a bit of a bounce to the sponge- I think it’s totally addictive. If you’re feeling organised you can make the gingerbread and a batch of granola at the same time as they require the same oven temperature.

I hope that whatever you choose to cook, you can learn some new recipes and have fun in the kitchen this winter.

Take care, Ailsa

An Energizing breakfast.

Crunchy Granola

A pine breakfast table set with a clear storage jar full of granola, silver spoons and bowls.
An energizing breakfast

This granola recipe is endlessly adaptable and can be eaten in lots of ways too. I used pumpkin seeds, walnuts, raisins and cranberries this time but use whatever combination you like (or have in the cupboard!). You can enjoy this granola with milk or yogurt. It’s also lovely with some poached fruit or just as a snack to graze on.

A couple of hearty, filling dishes.

Sausage, Pepper and Crispy Gnocchi Bake

A large black baking tray on a table filled with a mix of vetetables, gnocchi and sausages
A great easy hot lunch

This is a great easy hot lunch given that many of us are now at home much more during the day. Five minutes of chopping, 30 minutes in the oven and you have a delicious lunch. You can also adapt the vegetables and herbs that you use, it’s a very forgiving recipe. I make this with vegetarian sausages. Usually they can be cooked from frozen so I just put them straight in the oven with the other ingredients. If you prefer to use meat sausages then you can, just make sure they are cooked through.

Halloumi, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

A dinner place setting on a table featuring a white plate serving the Hulloumi curry on a bed of white rice.
A vegetarian option

This is a special one. It would be more traditional to use paneer in this recipe -and by all means do, you can cook it in exactly the same way- but I love the squeak of salty greek halloumi cheese here.  Apart from the spinach all of the ingredients here will last a long time, even the halloumi should have a long shelf life in the fridge, so it’s a good store cupboard supper. The halloumi and the chickpeas give you two sources of protein too.

Serve this curry with rice or naan bread.

Something sweet for a treat.

Gingerbread Sponge Cake

A wooden board on a pine table with cut ginger cake squares iced with white icing.
Sweet, spicey ginger cake

This is almost worth making just for how good it makes your kitchen smell. Almost. Happily it tastes amazing too. For an extra treat have it warm with custard. I like mine mid-afternoon after a chilly walk with a huge mug of tea. This is quite a liquid batter so don’t be alarmed – but do remember the baking paper in your tin.

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