Sweet Cicely

Many, many years ago, before Courses For Cooks was a twinkle in my eye, I watched a cookery demonstration from a lady who grew herbs for a living.  One of the herbs she used was Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) as a sugar substitute.  I have kept my eye out for it in garden centres ever since but it wasn’t until last year that I actually managed find a plant!P1030288

Hubble, Bubble ....

Hubble, Bubble ….

Mmmm, delicious!

Mmmm, delicious!

Sweet cicley is also known as sweet chervil, sweet fern, British Myrrh or the Roman plant.  It is part of the umbelliferae family, so looks a bit like cow parsley, with fern like leaves and small, white flowers clustered together on a tall stalk.  The leaves have a sweetish, aniseed flavour and almost a slight saccharine taste, just chop the leaves up like parsley and mix them into compotes and cakes, the seeds can be used too.

I used the fresh herb – approx 1 tablespoonful per 250ml, or dried herb would be 1 teaspoon per 250ml.  It’s a subtle sweetness, so experiment!

Red Fruit Compote

Serves about 8

400g Blackcurrants

400g Raspberries

400g Strawberries

4 tbsp chopped sweet cicely

1 tbsp honey or to taste

  1. Put the blackcurrants in a pan over a medium heat with the sweet cicely and cook gently until the juices are released.
  2. Add the raspberries & strawberries, stir gently and cook until the juices run but the fruit is still in chunks.
  3. Add honey to taste and serve.
  4. Delicious with ice cream, a dollop of creme fraiche or as a topping on muesli or porridge.


Green Pea & Mint Salad

The humble pea is probably one of my favourite vegetables.  I grow both sugar snap and pea pods in my garden and they are just ripening now.  Frozen peas are just as good as fresh, but watch out when cooking them, just bring them to the boil and pour.  Any longer and they will start to lose flavour and colour.

When I made this recipe I added a bit of red onion to it.  My family decided it was a great salad, but it didn’t need the onion, so I have left it out of the recipe!pea-salad2


Serves 4

2 mugfuls of fresh or frozen peas

150g mangetout or sugar snap peas – sliced

8 mint leaves – finely shredded

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustardpea-salad1

1 tsp honey

black pepper


  1. Heat a small pot with 2 cm water in the bottom over a high heat.  Add the peas and put the sliced mangetout over the top.  Cover with a lid and  once the water boils up, remove the pan from the heat, drain the peas and refresh under cold water.  Allow to drain.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients together to make a dressing.
  3. Pour the peas into a bowl, stir through the dressing and serve.


Monkfish Antipasto Skewers

I have used monkfish for these skewers because it doesn’t flake into pieces and fall off the skewers.  The antipasto keeps the fish moist and because there are different types, gives a wider variety of flavour.  I cooked mine under the grill, but they could also be barbecued.Monkfish-skewers


Serves 4

400g monkfish tails – cut into 12 pieces

120g pack of antipasto – mine contained Parma ham, Salami & coppa emiliana.

1 medium aubergine – cut into 6 slices

1 red onion thinly sliced

2 tbsp tapenade

2 tbsp green pesto

10 cherry tomatoes – halved

  1. Turn the grill on to high, drizzle the aubergine slices with a little oil and grill on both sides until soft and golden brown.  Leave aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Soak 4 bamboo kebab skewers in cold water.
  3. Gently fry the onion in a little oil until softened and beginning to colour
  4. Wrap the antipasto around the chunks of monkfish.
  5. Cut the two largest aubergine slices in half, length ways – you will now have 8 strips of aubergine.  Spread 4 strips with a thin layer of pesto and 4 with tapenade.  Divide the cooked onion between all of the slices, then roll up the aubergine slices.
  6. Skewer a piece of monkfish, followed by 1/2 a tomato, followed by an aubergine roll and another tomato.  The finished skewers will each have 3 pieces of fish, 2 aubergine rolls and 5 tomato halves.
  7. Grill on a high heat for 5 – 7 min, turn over and grill for a further 5 – 7 min.
  8. Serve with a crisp green salad.

Baked Potato Wedges

Ever need a bit of inspiration with potatoes??

Sometimes in my house they are one of the few things left in the fridge!  Baking takes too long in the oven, boiled are a bit boring, mash is for winter.  Fried potatoes are one of my favourite ways to have new potatoes, and I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I don’t make chips.  Here’s a recipe for baked potato wedges – cheap, quick to cook and delicious with savoury, herby flavours.Baked Potato Wedges

Serves 4

4 large floury potatoes – Desiree or Rooster are good

1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

1 tbsp cooking oil

Baked Potato Wedges

Soft potato with cripy edges – yum!

1/2 tsp each chopped thyme & rosemary.

  1. Cut each potato into 8 wedges & place in a roasting tin.  Turn the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
  2. Sprinkle over the vegetable powder, herbs and drizzle with oil.  Give everything a good mix together with your hands to make sure the wedges are evenly covered.
  3. Put the potatoes into the oven and roast for 30 min or until cooked and crispy round the edges, turning half way through.
  4. Serve hot.



Gooseberry & Orange Upside Down Cake

I have a bush of red eating gooseberries in my garden.  It has been absolutely laden with fruit this year and although the berries are quite small they taste delicious.  Because the fruit is sweet already, I have used less sugar in this sponge and cooked the gooseberries lightly to ensure they are soft once the topping on the cake is cooked. If you’re using green cooking gooseberries, double up the sugar.

Sweet red gooseberries growing in my garden

Sweet red gooseberries growing in my garden

1 tbsp honey

300g red gooseberries

zest of 1 small orange

60g softened butter

30g soft dark brown sugar

60g self raising flour

2 large eggs

Delicious with creme fraiche!

  1. Set the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4 and use a 20cm oven proof frying pan.
  2. Gently melt the honey in the frying pan, add the gooseberries and heat gently, until their juices start to run, tossing now and again to coat them in honey.  Add 1/2 of the orange zest and toss to mix through.  Remove from the heat.
  3. Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and the remaining orange zest.
  4. Spread over the gooseberries and bake in the oven for about 20 min.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 min before turning out and serving with creme fraiche.

Vegetable Couscous & Rice

There is a real trend just now for vegetable spaghetti, rice and couscous.  Go along the supermarket prepared veg isle and you will see products like these.  They are cheap and easy to make, here is my favourite recipe for cauliflower rice.

This is absolutely delicious – a great low carbohydrate alternative to ordinary rice and it takes a fraction of the time to cook.

Another alternative is to blitz the cauliflower completely in the food processor and you have a couscous alternative.  Perfect for people with gluten intolerances.  Try mixing vegetables for a more colourful dish – broccoli, carrots, beetroot and butternut squash work well.  Vegetables to avoid are mushrooms, and courgettes – they tend to go too juicy.

Vegetable ribbons and spaghetti are also delicious – make ribbons with a potato peeler, carrots and courgettes work best for this.  All you have to do is keep peeling on one side of the vegetable, then steam, stir fry or simply pour boiling water over the ribbons in a collander.  They are also delicious raw in salads.

For spaghetti, again they can be steamed, stir fried or blanched with boiling water as above, but try them marinated in lime or lemon juice for an hour to soften the fibers.  Sweet potato is great done this way and if you don’t have a spiraliser, use a food processor and coarsely grate on the long side of the vegetable – not as attractive as spirals, but just as good.

Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients for vegetable rice

Ingredients for vegetable rice

Serves 4

400g coarsely grated cauliflower

1 handful of raisins

1 handful of toasted flaked almonds

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1 small clove garlic – chopped

1 small red chilli – mild or hot to taste, optional

1/2 tsp ground cumin seed

Vegetable rice served with soy, maple glazed chicken

Vegetable rice served with soy, maple glazed chicken

1/2 tsp ground coriander seed

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

juice of 1/2 lemon

4 tbsp coriander leaves

salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a large frying pan, stir fry the onion over medium heat until softened, add the garlic, chilli, cauliflower, raisins, almonds and spices.
  2. Stir fry with a splash of water to heat through.  When hot, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and coriander leaves.  Season to taste before serving.


Travel Scotland, Take and Outlander Inspired Tour

I’m so excited to be a part of this tour.  Really looking forward to welcoming clients for an Outlander insprired meal and cookery course.


2, 3 or 4 night exclusive experiences, for up to 6 people. Each of which are designed to provide excellent value including accommodation, tours and most importantly, your peace of mind and include:

Crimping Petticoat Tails


* Pick up and drop off at arrival/departure point in the Edinburgh/Fife area*

* 2 nights Bed and Full Scottish Breakfast at Northcraig Cottage or other chosen accommodation

* Full day tour of Fife/West Lothian/Outlander filming locations, including Doune Castle and other historical sites

* Traditional 18th Century Scottish meal with Courses for Cooks at “The Gables” on one evening

* Visit to Outlander inspired and Celtic jeweller and an evening in Edinburgh (optional meal can be booked)**

* All transport and tours are provided by Clan MacKenzie Routes



* 3 nights Bed and Full Scottish Breakfast

* 2 relaxed full days touring the locations, giving time to stop, explore and investigate

* One evening in Dunfermline, the burial place of Robert the Bruce and other Kings and Queens of Medieval Scotland and the Birthplace of Andrew Carnegie. (optional meal can be booked)**

*How to make.....


* 4 nights Bed and Full Scottish Breakfast

* 3 relaxed full days touring locations or selecting our optional extra: a Scottish Cookery Course @ £75 per person***

* One evening in North Queensferry. (optional meal can be booked)**

*pick-ups/drop offs at other locations may incur a slight surcharge

**meals on evenings out can be booked on request. There is no charge for this service. There are many eating places available in each venue catering to all dietary requirements.

***The optional Scottish Cookery Course would take place on one of the days of your stay.


2 NIGHT STAY: from £270 per person

3 NIGHT STAY: from £395 per person

4 NIGHT STAY: from £495 per person


The Outlander inspired 6 course evening meal IS included in the quoted fee. Please inform us of ANY dietary requirements/allergies at the time of booking.

1. NO meals are provided on the day tours (water is available) but we will stop for refreshments.

2. NO entry fees are included in the quoted cost.

AVAILABLE DATES FOR 2,3 or 4 night stays in 2016

APRIL: Monday 18th- Friday 22nd inclusive

MAY: Tuesday 17th- Friday 20th inclusive

JUNE: Tuesday 14th- Friday 17th inclusive

JULY: Monday 25th- Friday 29th inclusive

AUGUST: Monday 8th – Friday 12th inclusive

SEPTEMBER: Monday 19th – Friday 23rd inclusive

OCTOBER: Monday 3rd – Friday 7th inclusive

Bookings or enquiries can be made at: enquiries@clanmackenzieroutes.com

Three Mushroom Pasty

This recipe came about because one of my clients wanted to come on my pie making course but she was allergic to meat.  I devised this recipe for her and it is incredibly meaty for a meat-free pie as well as being delicious.  You can also try putting the filling into an oven proof dish and top with mashed potato for a warming supper dish, or use as a canape filling for vol-au-vents.


Makes 2P1030036


225g plain flour

110g butter

1 large egg

Ground black pepper

  1. Place the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine.  Add the egg and blitz again until the pastry just forms a ball.  Remove from the food processor, shape into a flat disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 – 30min.



75g Chestnut mushrooms – sliced

75g oyster mushrooms – sliced

15g dried porchini or shitake mushrooms

1 red onion – chopped

1 clove garlic – chopped

drizzle of rapeseed oil

50ml Marsala or dry sherry

1/2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 desert spoon rice flour

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in enough boiling water to just cover.  Allow to sit for 30min.  Reserve the soaking liquid.  Chop the mushrooms if they are whole.
  2. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat and sweat the onion and garlic with a drizzle of oil.  Once the onions are soft, add the chopped fresh mushrooms, turn the heat up a bit and cook until the juices have run out of the mushrooms and has evaporated.
  3. Add the Marsala or sherry to the pot and bubble to reduce to almost nothing, add the vegetable bouillon powder and strain in the mushroom soaking water.  Bubble the sauce until it is slightly less than the level of the mushrooms in the pan.  Remove from the heat, add the nutmeg and season to taste.  Stir in the rice flour, allow to cool, then chill in the fridge.
  4. Pre heat the oven to 200C/Gas4.
  5. Divide the pastry into 2 pieces, roll out to about the thickness of a £1 coin.  Cut each into a circle approx 19cm in diameter.
  6. Place half the mushroom mixture in the middle of each pastry circle.  Brush egg wash around the edges, fold over and crimp the edges.  Glaze the pastry with more egg wash, place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 – 30 min.

Winter Cranberry Streusel

This cake originates in Germany, it’s a baked light cake topped with seasonal fruit and topped with a crumble topping.  I tend to make this with strong tasting fruits like blackcurrants, but had cranberries left over from Christmas and they work very well.  If you use a milder fruit like apples, put plenty cinnamon in them for flavour and use a tart apple like Granny Smith which will hold its shape.
450g fresh cranberries

Cranberry Streusel

50g soft light brown sugar

80g ground almonds

170g self raising flour

80g soft light brown sugar

110g butter

Just ready and about to come out of the oven.

Just ready and about to come out of the oven.

1 large egg

2 heaped tbsp rolled oats

2 tbsp plain flour

3 tbsp soft light brown sugar

1 heaped tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

  1. Place the cranberries and 50g sugar into a heavy based pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit juices are just beginning to flow.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 180C/Gas4.
  3. Line a 20cm square cake tin with non stick baking parchment.
  4. Put the self raising flour, 80g sugar, ground almonds, and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until combined.  Add the egg and pulse until blended.
  5. Tip into the prepared tin and level with the back of a spoon (the mixture is quite sticky, dipping the spoon into cold water helps to spread the mixture)
  6. Stir the oats, plain flour, remaining sugar, ginger and oil together.
  7. Level the fruit over the top of the sponge mixture, then sprinkle over the topping.
  8. Bake for about 50min, or until the top is a good golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting into squares.  Best served warm.

Evening Indian Cookery Supper Club

A new event at Courses For Cooks 
An evening of cookery, food and conversation!
Wednesday 16th September 6pm to 10pm.
India is a vast country with a great diversity of climates, cultures, peoples and geography.  It is the rich tapestry woven by Indian culture which gives its cuisine its unique place in culinary history.

Indian cuisine has been shaped over the centuries by many forces.  Religion – of which there are many practiced in India, has had a profound influence often giving instruction as to the food to be eaten by followers.  Devout Hindus, for example, will not eat beef because Indian mythology depicts the cow as a sacred animal.  Muslims will not eat pork and their religion defines exactly the manner in which animals must be killed for food.  the different races which at one time and another have invaded the country also brought their influence to bear on the cuisine.  The Mughals from Afghanistan brought exotic spices and dried fruit and nuts, the Persians brought Dhansak style, and the Kashmiris contributed numerous vegetarian dishes.
An Indian themed evening, starting at 6pm.  Come along and work as a team to make a delicious Indian meal from scratch.Vegetable Samosas

Suitable for all abilities, this is an evening of short demonstrations and hands on cookery.  We’ll start with mixed vegetable samosas and spinach raita, making our own gram flour samosa pastry.
Moving on to chicken and papaya curry, a lighter, fresher curry from northeast India and Kofta curry, popular all over India, made with lamb.  Both of these dishes can be made either mild or spicy. 

Cauliflower Curry
Along side the main dishes we will make our own naan, a mixed vegetable undhiyo originating from Gujarat in western India and fragrant rice

Finishing off in the traditional Indian style with a platter of fresh fruit to cleanse the palate

veg curry

You’ll be able to take home the recipes to make all the dishes again.

To book a place 16th September CLICK HERE

I look forward to seeing you!