and the winner is.........

Wendy with her frost laden berries!

Well done Wendy, for submitting such a beautiful photo that is just so evocative of the season! As well as a badge for your blog, Santa has left a gift for you. The sleigh has been put away for the year, so it will be winging it's way to you courtesy of Royal Mail!

Make sure to visit Lisa's Kitchen, where Lisa will be announcing the first No Croutons Required challenge of 2009.

A Last Minute Dessert

If you are still searching around for an easy dessert to have on Christmas day or just something to have in the fridge, at the ready for any unexpected visitors, then try this James Martin dessert.

James has teamed up with Baileys this Christmas and has created some really delicious desserts. As you know, I have a bit of a soft spot for James and I like a glass or two of Baileys at Christmas, so I was easily persuaded!


5 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
260ml milk
260ml double cream
5 tsp instant coffee granules
100mls Baileys Original (or Baileys with a hint
of Coffee if you prefer an extra coffee hit)

Pre heat the oven to 150˚c.

Have 6 ramekins (moulds) in a roasting tin ready.

Whisk the egg yolks and half the sugar in a bowl.

Put the milk and cream into a thick based pan with the remaining sugar and coffee. Gently bring to the boil.

As soon as it reaches the boil, remove from the heat, stir in the Baileys and strain straight away, pour over the eggs and sugar. Strain.

Pour into the ramekins fill the tray with hot water so that it comes up to half way up the side of the moulds, and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should just set with a slight wobble.

Then allow to cool for a least 6 hours in the fridge (or pop them in the freezer for a little while)

Remove from the fridge and serve with the shortbread.

Serves 6

I tried out the new Bailey's with a hint of coffee for this recipe, but I decided to add cocoa powder instead of coffee granules to the dessert. I think this is quite an adaptable recipe. You could use the original Baileys and add chocolate chips or the Baileys with a hint of Mint Chocolate and serve them with After Eights or use the Baileys with a hint of Crème Caramel and add fudge pieces. Yum!

You can download more recipes, cocktails and drinks here.

Don't forget to pour yourself a glass too!

I wish James came free with the bottle! *sigh*

No Croutons Required - December Round-Up

No Croutons Required – Christmas 2008

To celebrate the festive season, I would like to present you with the December roundup of No Croutons Required - Festive Photos.

Everyone really got into the swing of this challenge and no one seemed to mind that we were indulging in visual instead of taste delights. We will resume our normal service next month, with a new soup or salad challenge and it will probably be a good thing too, to help us all recover from the excesses of Christmas. I am sure our waistbands will agree :)

So on with the roundup....


Our first entry is from Wendy over at A Wee Bit of Cooking who has submitted a gorgeous picture of some frost laden berries. Wendy is surrounded by some beautiful countryside, which she explores with her beloved and extremely cute dog, Marco.

(Inverness, Scotland)

Christmas Tree Biscuit

Next up is Antonia from Food Glorious Food. Antonia has taken a shot of her Spicy Christmas Tree Biscuits she baked and decorated to festoon her silver and red themed Christmas tree. If you would like to make these Nigella inspired Christmas decorations, then head over to Antonia’s blog for the recipe.

(London, UK)

Fireside Chats

We are visiting Lysy over at Munchkin Mail next. Picture the scene. It’s a cold winter’s night and you are cozied up in front of a log burning fire, chatting with a friend and sipping mulled wine. Perfect!

(Warwickshire, UK)

Christmas Pavlova

One of my dearest friends and my co host, Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen has whipped us up a decadent delight of a dessert. I have to leave the description of this masterpiece to Lisa, who could rival Nigella herself while extolling the virtues of this dish. Feel free to drool!

“Like an enormous roasted marshmallow with a thick crispy caramelized-sugar exterior surrounding a light and creamy meringue” with “a jaunty slathering of whipped cream and a reckless scattering of fruit on top”!
Mmmmmmm :P
(not in vote)

(London, Canada)

A Pocky Christmas Forest

We are flying to Sydney next, to visit Lorraine over at Not Quite Nigella. (much as I love Nigella, I am honour bound to point out that is girl is way better than Nigella when it comes to baking and should consider renaming her blog!) Anyway, back to business! Lorraine has introduced me, for the first time to Pocky. These delicious bites were something that Lorraine treated herself to while visiting Tokyo and they have stuck in her mind, as you can well imagine. After accidentally abandoning her batch at her sister’s, Lorraine decided to make her own and the results are quite wondrous!

(Sydney, Australia)

A Christmas Cat

Ivy from Kopiaste has sent us a photo of her cat Lisa, who has definitely got into the Christmas spirit! Ivy also made some rather gorgeous Chocolate and Pistachio Brownies which she served with a raspberry sauce. You may want to pop over there to see the recipe.

(Athens, Greece)

Festive Punch

Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe raises a glass of Festive Punch to us while she looks back on the year and thanks everyone who voted for her in previous challenges. Will this be third time lucky for Johanna, I wonder? The punch certainly looks delicious, as do the mince pies, she served with it. Johanna’s festive drink is a Spiced Redcurrant and Orange Punch with a splash of Cointreau. The Cointreau is purely optional and can be left out when served to those kindly souls who will be doing all the driving this Christmas.

(Melbourne, Australia)

Potato Salad and Tree

I now like to introduce you to a new contributor to No Croutons Required, S from Vegan About Town. S made us a Potato Salad, but not before she had made me green with envy by describing her 37 degree weather and a trip to the beach! So there will be no wintry scene from S. She did however taken the shot of her Potato Salad beside her Christmas Tree.

(Perth, Australia)


This one was not contributed as such, but sent as a tease by my friend Davimack over at Wish I Were Baking. You see, last year Davimack made this sumptuous Fruitcake and I drooled over the thought of it! Eventually, when Graham and I went to spend a day with Davimack and Tadmack in Glasgow, we were presented with a slice of this heavenly bake and boy was it worth the wait. This fruit cake is filled with dried mango, pineapple, cherries, apricots, crystallized ginger, raisins, cranberry juice and vodka, then spritzed every day for a few weeks with Port. You get the picture, don’t you? Well Davimack has been super-mean and added a link to a photo of this year’s cake in a comment to me, just before he jetted off to the States for Christmas. *huff*

(Glasgow, Scotland)


Next up be have the super talented Lucy from Nourish Me. Lucy always presents us with the most beautifully shot photographs, which puts the rest of us to shame and this entry is no different! Lucy has created a Reindeer collage especially for the challenge. Thanks Lucy :)

(Melbourne, Australia)

The Little Helpers

Next up we visit Soma from eCurry. Soma has taken a photo of her children decorating the Christmas Tree. Now isn’t that just a perfect photo? Soma also baked some Christopsomo (Christ’s Bread). Christopsomo is the traditional Greek Anise flavored Christmas Bread. You can find this recipe on the same post as the photo of her 2 little elves.

(Texas, US)

Christmas Shortbread

DK from DK’s Culinary Bazaar has made us some Christmas Shortbread. If you have never made shortbread before, then head over to DK’s post, to see a nice simple, step by step photo guide. DK used a basic recipe for shortbread, but added ground almonds for extra flavour. She was ably assisted in decorating her shortbread by her two little guests, but advises that you would be wise to make extra icing when children are helping you bake, as it seems to "dissolve in thin air".


Christmas Tree Cat

We are visiting Anne from Anne’s Kitchen next and a photograph of her favourite tree decoration, a cute little stripey cat. Anne bought her mum the same little cat, so it makes her smile every time she adds it to the tree. Oh, how I covet it!

(Middlesex, UK)

Photo With Santa

Aparna from Sumi’s Weblog has sent us a photo of her beautiful little 13 month old daughter. Aparna has decided that each year she will take a photo of her daughter with Santa. Isn’t that a lovely idea? You can see in this photo, her daughter is not so sure of Santa and isn’t quite certain if it is a good thing or not that he is holding her. Personally, I think I would have started screaming instantly, as soon as Mrs Claus started to get to close. Boy, is she scary! But, that is one cute toddler :)

(South Carolina, US)

Christmas Dry Fruits Frougasse

We are travelling to France next to visit Priya of Priya’s Easy N Tasty Recipes. Priya has made us a flat bread, which she has named Christmas Dry Fruits Fougasse. Fougasse is a flat bread typically associated with South Eastern part of France. There are sweet and savoury versions of this flatbread. The savoury version sometimes includes Roquefort and nuts or olives and goat cheese, which I hope Priya posts about another time, as they sound really good. This time, however, Priya has made this into a sweet Christmas bread with dry fruits soaked in Orange Flower Water. Can you imagine the smell off this as it bakes? Lovely!

(Paris, France)


Next up is my entry for the challenge. It is a photo I took on a recent walk through the snow with my friend Andrew. We had a great time, all wrapped up against the cold, crunching through the snow and watching children sledging and dogs gallopping about, then heading back home for some soup to warm us up.

Snow always reminds me of Christmas, even though the two coincide so infrequently.
(not in vote)

(Dundee, Scotland)

Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies

Our last and final entry comes from Ricki over at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. Ricki has made Marzipan-Topped Shortbread Cookies. The marzipan in question is Ritter Sport Marzipan chocolate, which is cut into triangles and pressed into the top of each cookie. Ricki is suggesting these handsome cookies as a gastronomic gift for Christmas. Oh what lucky friends Ricki has!

In a totally unrelated aside, while I was reading about Ricki’s entry, two young boys walked past my house and I could here them singing “Oh ye canny chuck your granny of the bus!”, it did make me laugh and now Ricki’s cookies will be indelibly linked with that song in my head!

(Toronto, Canada)

So, if you have a favourite photo out of this roundup, then please vote for it in the voting panel or send me an email. The voting poll will be up until the 30th, then the winner will be announced at Hogmanay.

I can’t resist showing you the lyrics to Ye Canny Shove Yer Granny aff the Bus
(To the tune of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain)

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus
Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus
Ye canny shove yer grannie
Cause she’s yer mammie’s mammie
Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH
Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH
Ye can shove yer other grannie
Cause she’s just yer daddie’s mammie
Shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

A Wintry Scene

This is the beautiful view, I looked out on, over Glen Doll, on my last big walk.

It was a really cold, icy day and the frost was thick and crunchy underfoot.

Glen Doll lies within the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. The views are stunning - steep cliffs, heather slopes, fast flowing streams and valley meadows. The streams were growing ice, like something from an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture and everything lay under a blanket of white. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings, as I trekked along the icy path. It is just a pity that I didn't have Legolas with me.

I am hoping that looking at some of these wintry photos, will inspire you to take a photo, post it and email it to me at, by the 20th December, for this month's edition of No Croutons Required.

This month I would like you to post a festive picture, something that will bring us a taste of Christmas. It could be a picture of food, Christmas decorations, a wintry scene which I have opted for or maybe a photo of your Christmas tree.

No recipes required this time.

Just have fun with it.

Have a sip of Apple Snow with Pomegranate

I had some leftover apples to use up and I wanted to make a drink. I also had a few pomegranates. "Yes" I thought, "that could work", so I got together a few ingredients and whipped up this frothy drink.

When it was poured into a glass, it made me think of all the snowy walks I have been on recently, so I decided to call it apple snow.

Apple Snow with Pomegranates

1 cup milk
2 apples
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp honey

Whizz all of the ingredients, except from the pomegranate seeds. Save these to sprinkle on top.

You are on your way to a milk moustache!



Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese Soup

This is a really green tasting soup, if you know what I mean. It must be the vast quantities of spinach I added to it.

Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large bag of spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped
1 pear, chopped
1 pint vegetable stock
100g danish blue cheese
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
a grating of fresh nutmeg
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper and fresh herbs to serve (I added basil, as it is my favourite)

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, until tender. Add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes, then add the spinach and leave to wilt, before adding the pear.

Pour in the stock and cook, covered for 30 minutes.

Crumble in the blue cheese and stir until melted.

Flavour the soup with the worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Adjust the seasoning until the soup tastes just right for you, then blend until smooth.

Serve topped with some fresh herbs and a sprinkling on cayenne pepper.

Serves 4-6

No Croutons Required - December

I am breaking all the rules for this month's challenge! It is holiday season and I wanted to have a bit of fun, so this month I am asking for a visual delight, instead of a taste sensation.

I would like you to post a festive picture, something that will bring us a taste of Christmas. It could be a picture of food, Christmas decorations, a wintery scene or maybe even your christmas tree.

Just have fun!

As usual the posts have to be submitted to me at by the 20th of December. The line-up and voting poll will be posted the next day and then the winner will be announced on the 31st of December.

There will be a Christmas present ready and waiting for the winner.

No Croutons Required - November Winner

And the winner of No Croutons Required is .......... Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe.

Johanna made us a Pumpkin and Tofu Laksa. Doesn't it look gorgeous? Pumpkin, mushrooms, asparagus and noodles, in a spicy coconut flavoured soup.

This is a record breaking, second win for Johanna, who won our very first challenge, with her Wanton Dumplings in Ginger Broth.

Well done Johanna!


I will be doing a double whammy and announcing something a little different for next month's challenge. A visual delight instead of a taste sensation. A taste of Christmas!

Stay tuned!

Caramel Coated Popcorn

My mum gave Graham a popcorn maker for Christmas, the year before last. It is one of those gadgets that are put in a cupboard and forgotten. We always meant to get around to using it, but needless to say, we never did.

Last week, I bought a bag of popcorn kernels, thinking they would be good as a low fat snack and they would, but Friday night was movie night and I had some cream sitting in the fridge, which needed to be used up. Caramel coated popcorn sounded just the thing, so the popcorn maker was dragged out of it's hiding place in the cupboard. After a swift reading of the instructions, I quickly made some caramel sauce and then added some kernels to the machine and switched it on. Armed with a bowl underneath the spout I stood and waited in rapt anticipation and it didn't disappoint! It was great! Popcorn started shooting out. Most of it made it into the bowl, but some of it pinged around the kitchen. I was killing myself laughing at this point, but had enough sense to change bowls when the first one was near to overflowing!

We drizzled some of the warm caramel sauce over our popcorn and sat down to watch the French film Le Picard/The Closet, a very funny film starring Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup caster sugar
3 tbsp water
½ cup double cream
50g/½ stick/8 tbsp butter

Add the sugar and water to a pan and warm up over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat until the syrup starts to bubble and leave bubbling for 5 minutes or so until it has thickened. Take the syrup off the heat and add the butter. Allow to melt, then stir in the cream. Leave the caramel to cool a little before pouring into a clean jam jar. Once cool, store in the fridge, until required.

Snow in Scotland

I woke up this morning and looked out of the window onto a winter wonderland. It must have snowed all night. The snow was lying thick and looked quited beautiful, so I just had to go out for a walk. I sent a text to my friend Andrew, to see if he wanted to tag along and an hour later we were crunching through the crisp, white snow.

I just love how everything looks in the snow and the beautiful blue light the glints of everything, so I took my camera with me.

I have a sorry tale to tell of poor Mr Snowman. We finished our walk and looked for him on the way back. He was nowhere to seen, there was just some chunks of snow, where he was standing before. I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the mutilation! Poor thing :(
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