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 GĂ©rard 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 :(

No Croutons Required - November Round-Up

This month’s challenge was to make a soup or salad containing pasta. Any pasta - bows, spaghetti, penne, tortellini, ravioli, noodles…………

Here are the entries.

Please vote for your favourite.

The first entry is Kasha Variskes Soup. You may be wondering at this point what type of soup this is, I certainly did! When you go to Andrea’s blog, Andrea’s Easy Vegan Cooking it all becomes clear.

“Traditionally, in Russia, kasha means porridge and can be made from any whole grain or combination of grains. To me, it means buckwheat groats, and kasha varnishkes is buckwheat and noodles, specifically bowtie noodles”.

(Wisconsin, US)

Next up is Arundathi over at My Food Blog, who brings us a Udon Noodle Soup.

Mushrooms, spring onions and carrots, all floating beautifully alongside noodles and egg strips in a vegetable broth. I think you will agree this is a very pretty dish to serve up.

(Chennai, India)

Ashley from Method has made us a mix between a warm salad and a stew, she calls it her Veggie Stew. It looks very tempting! Who could resist it?

Pinto beans, sweetcorn, spinach, tomatoes, garlic and elbow pasta. Mmmmmm :P

(Binghamton, US)

We are travelling to Georgia next to visit Astra over at Food For Laughter. Astra has made us a Tofu Noodle Stew, her veggie version of a Chicken Noodle Soup, just the thing to perk you up when you are feeling low.

I hope you are feeling better Astra, I think I could safely say on everyone’s behalf, that we are very impressed that you made a dish like this, even though you were ill!

(Georgia, US)

Next up is my entry.

I am loving butternut squash just now! It is that time of year isn’t it? It will be the same as last year and the year before. I will eat loads of squash until I scunner myself of it and that will be it, the love affair will be finished for another year, leaving me to get all excited about it all over again next year!

I opted to make a Squash, Carrot & Noodle Soup, flavoured with chilli, garlic, ginger and peanut butter and topped with a sprinkling of roasted peanuts. Boy was it good!
(not in vote)

(Dundee, Scotland)

We are moving on to a shell pasta next.

Bean and Pasta Soup created by Sweatha over at Tasty Curry Leaf. This is a Tuscan style soup, filled with spinach, navy beans, tomatoes, red bell pepper and pasta shells, then flavoured with chilli and thyme. Lovely!

(New Jersey, US)

I started to drool as I looked at the photo of this next dish.

It is an Easy Breezy Pasta Salad made by Neema over at Recipe Swap. Neema made this dish for her vegetarian friends at a casual dinner party. It does sound very delicious, just like a spiced up macaroni cheese. To this cheesey dish Neema added cucumber, onions, tomatoes, spring onions, celery and oregano.

(North Carolina, US)

We have something a bit different next.

Ramki over at One Page Cookbooks, provides a page, full of recipes in each post. Ramki’s mission is to bring simple recipes to the first time cook. Each post has the thumbnail of an A4 recipe page, which can be opened to view the recipes and print.

Ramki has contributed 10 No Cook Pasta Soups. The soups themselves are not cooked, they are blended, but the pasta that is added is cooked as normal. Macaroni Gazpacho, Oriental Spaghetti Gazpacho, Watermelon Conchiclie Soup and Coconut Tripolni Soup are a few of the soups in this post.

We don’t usually accept more than one recipe as a submission, but we are making an exception this time, as this is the format of Ramki’s blog.

(Tamilnadu, India)

Lysy over at Munchkin Mail has made us a Tomato Soup with Israeli Couscous.

Wiki tells us that Israeli couscous (in Hebrew ='baked flakes'), also known as maftoul or pearl couscous, is a pasta product, similar to the Italian Orzo, which is made from semolina, shaped and toasted.

Lysy describes her soup as tasty, brothy, spicy and chewy. Sounds good to me.

(Warwickshire, UK)

Next up is my fellow host of No Croutons Required, Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen.

Lisa has made us a delicious Hearty Italian Bean and Pasta Soup. Doesn’t it look good?

Carrots, celery, chillies, tomatoes, spinach, navy beans and herbs are a few of the ingredients in this beautiful winter soup, which features rigatoni pasta. Lisa serve this soup sprinkled with parmesan and eaten with pumkin scones.

Lisa’s Kitchen is definitely the place to hang out this winter.
(not in vote)

(London, Canada)

We are visiting Melbourne, Australia next, to pay a visit to Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe.

Johanna has made us a Pumpkin and Tofu Laksa.

Johanna made her own spice paste, as the commercially sold pastes often contain shrimp. Johanna’s paste is made with garlic cloves, red chillis, fresh ginger, onion, ground turmeric, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

I think this ingredient list is a good indication of how tasty this soup must be and that is before you add the tofu, mushrooms, asparagus, squash, coconut milk and noodles. Delicious!

(Melbourne, Australia)

Apu over at Annarasa - Essence of Food has whipped us up a gorgeous Broccoli-Spinach Pesto which she has smothered over some penne pasta, in her Warm Broccoli-Spinach Pesto Salad.

Such an inspired idea for a pesto sauce and what a sumptuous green dressing it is for pasta. I will be trying out a bowl of this, soon!


They say 13 is an unlucky number and Susan The Well Seasoned Cook was certainly feeling this way the first time she made her Hungarian Mushroom Tarhonya Soup.

Susan just couldn’t get a good shot of the soup, no matter what she tried, but she stuck with it and this month she has presented us with this beautiful looking mushroom soup.

Susan says it was too good not to share and describes this pasta filled soup as “stick-to-your-ribs tiny egg dumplings anchored in a tawny mushroom broth, dense with paprika-flecked sour cream”. Definitely lucky for us! Thank you Susan :)

(New York, US)

Next we head out to Toronto to visit Ricki over at Diet Dessert and Dogs.

Ricki has made us a Curried Root Vegetable Chowder with Dumplings. Ricki is hoping that dumplings will scrap through as a sort of pasta and if not she suggests we add some elbow pasta. I think this is a fine idea, so in to the round-up it goes.

Ricki has quite a story to go along with this chowder, which she learned to make in a “massive, ivy-covered, stone-and-brick Tudor style mansion of at least 5,000 square feet”! You want to hear the story now, don’t you?

(Toronto, Canada)

Our last entry comes from Becke over at Columbus Foodie who has made us a Fall Pasta Salad.

The salad is made from pasta, butternut squash, honeycrisp apple, salted pepitas, golden raisins and goats cheese with honey. Mixed up and coated in a sherry maple vinaigrette.

I didn’t know what pepitas were, so for those of you who are also in the dark, they are roasted and salted pumpkin seeds. What a great addition to a salad.

(Columbus, US)

The voting poll will run until 8pm on Sunday 30th November, after which time the winner will be announced and awarded with a badge for their blog.

Good luck everyone!

Foodie Christmas Gifts

If you are thinking about giving chutney or mincemeat as gifts for Christmas or Winter Solstice, now is the time to do it. Before all the madness descends, with the advent of December. It also means your preserves will have time to mature.

Chutney will keep in a cool, dark spot quite happily for a year and then once it is opened move it to the fridge. The recommended time to keep it in the fridge is one month, if it lasts that long!

Delia keeps her Christmas Mincemeat in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 3 years.

Here are a few recipes to tempt you:

Chunky Plum & Apricot Chutney

Hot Mango Chutney

Apple & Red Onion Chutney

These chutneys have all tasted great and have had really good reviews from friends and family. I haven't tried the Chunky Plum & Apricot Chutney as a finished product yet, as it is still maturing, but it did taste great, straight out of the pan!

I have spiced up my Mango Chutney this year and adjusted it into cup measures.

Spicy Mango Chutney

3 mangoes, peeled stoned and chopped into chunks
3 cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 small red or green chillies, finely chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
2 cups red wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups demerara sugar

Put all the ingredients except the sugars in a preserving pan or a large heavy-based saucepan. bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is beginning to soften.

Add the sugars and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick.

Cool the chutney slightly, then spoon into jars, cover and seal.

Fills 4 x I 1lb/545g jam jars

Here are a few other tempting recipes:

Green Tomato Chutney and Apple and Plum Chutney made by Gill over at My Tiny Plot.

Apple & Cranberry Chutney, made by Beth over at Jam and Clotted Cream.

Vine Ripened Tomato Chutney made by Julie over at Peanut Butter and Julie.

Pear, Date & Cinnamon Chutney made by Ursula over at Jane Spice.

Cranberry Chutney made by Juliet over at Think Inside the Icebox



Squash, Carrot & Noodle Soup

This is one of our favourite soups. The combination of peanut butter, chilli and ginger give this soup a wonderful rich flavour and adding noodles turns this into a really filling meal in a bowl. Move over pot noodle. There's a new boy in town!

print recipe

Squash, Carrot & Noodle Soup
A really satisfying soup that is full of flavours and textures. A real winner.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • ½ butternut squash, chopped
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 cups/2 pints vegetable stock
  • 200g soft noodles
  • 1 large handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 large handful roasted peanuts
  • a good grinding of salt & freshly ground pepper
1. Gently saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil.2. Add the celery and carrots and cook for a few minutes. 3. Add the squash and cook for another few minutes.4. Stir in the chilli powder, turmeric and peanut butter. Pour in the vegetables stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 30 minutes.5. Add the noodles and cook for a few more minutes before seasoning and adding the coriander. 6. Serve topped with a sprinkling of roasted peanuts.
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4-6 


Apple, Pear & Passion Fruit Chutney

I have the preserving pan out again! I really do like giving friends food gifts at Christmas. I think it is very much a 'feel good' thing to do! You would think this would mean that I spend less money, but no, I am not that wise and still end up buying presents as well. It is an expensive time, *sigh* and it really shouldn't be should it?

I wanted to make an apple and pear chutney this time and decided to add passion fruit as an experiment. The little jewel-like seeds didn't soften as I supposed they might, but added a little bit of crunch. I was quited surprised! Luckily they do add to the overall flavour.

Apple, Pear & Passion Fruit Chutney

3 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
1 large pear, peeled and chopped
2 passion fruit, halved and scooped out
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups malt vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 cup demerara sugar
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
12 dates, stoned and chopped
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon

Place the pear, apples, passion fruit, onion, salt and vinegar in a large pan and bring to the boil. Add all the other ingredients, bring back to the boil and then simmer for approximately 40 mins until the chutney has thickened, stirring occasionally.

Decant into sterilised jam jars.

Store in a cool, dark place for a couple of months to mature. This chutney will keep for up to a year, in that cool place, but once opened keep in the fridge.
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