No Croutons Required - Winner - February 2009

Congratulations to Ailsa over at One Frugal Foodie for winning this month's No Croutons Required.This month's challenge was to create a soup or salad featuring potatoes and Ailsa stepped up to the mark with a delicious looking Rich and Creamy Potato Miso Soup.

We received a record-breaking 97 votes this month and it was neck and neck for a while between Ailsa and Claire from The Hungriest Hippo who made us a
Potato, Roast Garlic and Thyme Soup. Just 3 points in it, so I think a pat on the back has to go to Claire too! Thank you to everyone who contributed and everyone who voted.

Your badge is winging it's way to you Ailsa :)

It is almost time for March's challenge. To find out what Lisa has chosen as the topic, head over to Lisa's Kitchen.

A Book and a Brownie

First the book.

Are you a member of a book club? Would you like to be?

A Slice of Cherry Pie Forum has a monthly book club and it is up and running this month (March) with a quirky, real life story about a family who moved from their home in France, to the UK and bought a dilapidated farm.

We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee

Here is the jacket review:

While looking for a place to buy for his 76-year-old mother after his father's death, Benjamin Mee, living in France with his wife and two children, received details of his "dream scenario" by his sister. Unusually, the property in question was a struggling zoo.

We Bought A Zoo tells the story of how the dilapidated Dartmoor Wildlife Park, populated by around 400 exotic animals, was transformed into the busy Dartmoor Zoological Park by an ordinary family using a trial-and-error method. Along the way, Mee has to deal with an escaped jaguar, fighting (among people as well as animals), an escapologist wolf, and a tiger which stands up during general anaesthetic.

The book also describes how the family coped during the gradual deterioration of Mee's wife Katherine due to a brain tumour and how they coped with her loss.


If you would like to join in, leave a comment on the forum to let us know you are joining us and we will start a discussion about the book, as the month progresses.

You will find the discussion thread on the book shelf. The discussion will contain the word SPOILER, for those who haven't finished the book when the discussion starts. You may start the book at any point during the month.

The book is available from for £5 (paperback), for $16.47 (hardback) and for CDN$18.87 )hardback)

Of course you could borrow it from your local library for free :)

And now the brownie:

My Chocolate and Beetroot Brownie Cake. Listen to me, ha, I have acquired it, therefor, it is mine. If you want the truth, I got this gorgeous brownie recipe from Jules over at Domestic Goddess in Training and it is the best! A fudgey, moist, dense, chocolate hit of a brownie and of course it is healthy because it has beetroot in it! Honest!

This time I decided to layer the brownie up with a peanut butter frosting. The reviews were mixed. Some people loved it and others who are not fond of peanut butter, would have preferred a chocolate frosting. I was in the first group, it was delicious!

Peanut Butter Frosting

110 g butter, softened
250 g crunchy peanut butter
250 g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
40-50 ml water

Whizz up all of the ingredients, gradually adding the water until you have the consistency you want. Taste and then sigh with pleasure :)

I have left this recipe in metric, because I still haven't got a hang of the whole stick of butter thing yet and I didn't want to mix up my measurements too much.

No Croutons Required - February Roundup

The roundup is a little later than usual, as my computer died and wouldn't let me recover my document. Arrrgh! Hey ho, I just had to start again, so better late than never, here it is!


They are always good aren’t they? You will be particularly impressed when you see the potato soup and salad recipes that have been submitted for this month’s No Croutons Required. I wasn’t overly impressed with my own entry, but I now have a lot more variations to try out.

We are starting this month’s line-up with a soup, courtesy of Sylvie over at A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit. Sylvie has made us a simple and tasty Turkish Red Lentil Soup, flavoured with a kick of paprika. Doesn’t it look gorgeous? Such a good start to the event.
(Manchester, England)

Next we are heading over to Feeding My Enthusiasms, where Elle has made us a Hearty Potato and Spinach Soup. What makes this soup really special, is the care taken in the preparation. Elle roasted the onions and potatoes in balsamic vinegar, before adding them to her rich green soup.
(Northern California, US)

Rachel over at Rachel’s Ramblings, is a first-timer here at NCR. Rachel is an author who keeps a very amusing diary blog, but has kindly ventured into the kitchen for us and whipped up a Potato, Pea and Coconut Soup, spiced up with chilli, nutmeg and black pepper. A delicious combination of flavours, I think you will agree?
(Gloucestershire, UK)

We have a salad next and a mouth-watering one at that! Johanna over at Green Gourmet Giraffe has made us a Dill Pickle Potato Salad. Potatoes, carrots, red onion, peas, dill pickle and caraway seeds, all coated in a vinegary dressing. Yum!
(Melbourne, Australia)

Priya over at Priya’s Nice N Tasty Recipes has made us a Leek & Potato Creamy Soup, but because this young lady lives in the city of love, Paris, she also calls it Veloute De Poireaux. Doesn’t that just sound divine? Definitely delicious in any language :)
(Paris, France)

I just knew this edition of NCR would be a popular choice with Val over at More Than Burnt Toast. Val loves the humble spud and has tempted us with a lot of tasty potato dishes over the years. This month Val strutted her potato stuff with a Spinach & Greek Potato Salad with Feta Vinaigrette.
(British Columbia, Canada)

Last month Soma from eCurry lured me with her Moroccan Harira Soup, which was so spicily tempting. Yet again she has surpassed herself and this month she serves up another Moroccan delight, Potato Salad with Herbs & Tomatoes.
(Texas, US)

Manda over at Asparagus Thin has made us a Curried Roasted Root Vegetable Salad, which sounds like it is packed with flavour. Parsnips, celery root, rutabaga, beets, potato and shallots, marinated overnight in a curried dressing and then topped with herbs just before serving.
(Virginia, US)

We have another first-timer next. Val from Soup and Song. Val has made us a tasty Potato and Chickpea Stew with Chipotle. For this spicy and stew-like soup, Val selected potatoes, leeks, garlic, carrots and celery, which she thickened and spiced up with tomato paste, Mexican oregano and chipotle chile in adobo sauce. Lovely!
(Oakland, US)

We are visiting California again, but this time to say hello again to Tigerfish over at Teczcape – An Escape to Food. Tigerfish has chosen to make a Rosemary Potato Salad of Roasted Potatoes and Caramelised Onions. Mmmmm! Roast potatoes are always a great treat to me, as I only have them about once or twice a year. I think this salad is going to be on my mind a lot :)
(California, US)

Next we have a blogger who had a bit of a break, but when she came back, we realised why. Let me introduced you to the newly wedded and with a newly souped up (forgive the pun) blog, Jenny from I Married an Omnivore. Jenny has made us a Rustic Whole wheat Potato Soup, which she insists I double dared or as she put it double dawg dared her to make. I deny all knowledge of this of course, he he!
(Michigan, US)

For my entry, I had a root around in the fridge and decided use carrots and sweet potatoes in my salad. I really liked the dressing, but I very slightly overcooked the sweet potato, so I wasn’t overly impressed by my own contribution. Luckily it is not up for the vote! So here it is, my Sweet Potato and Carrot Side Salad. (not in vote)
(Dundee, Scotland)

Next up is Sweatha from Tasty Curry Leaf, a veteran NCR blogger. Sweatha has made us a Cajun Style Potato and Kale Soup. I am really enjoying spicy soups at the moment and this one is spiced beautifully with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme. This Cajun Seasoning would be good for spicing up a whole range of dishes. I will definitely be bookmarking this recipe.
(Banglore, India)

I’d like to welcome a new blogger from Bonny Scotland next. Claire from the The Hungriest Hippo. Claire has made us a Potato, Roast Garlic and Thyme Soup. Indeed, a whole head of garlic, which always tastes so sweet and delicious after roasting. A nice combination of flavours Claire :)
(Edinburgh, UK)

You couldn’t fail to love this next soup, it has such a fabulous name! It is Tater Frenzy made lovingly by Abbhi over at Soulful Creations. This is a creamy soup thanks to the soymilk added and given a slight tang with some balsamic vinegar. Yum! Welcome to NCR Abbhi, we hope to see a lot more from you in the future :)
(Maryland, US)

After a torturous visit to the dentist (well once the drugs wore off anyway), Ailsa from One Frugal Foodie, came up with this soothing dish - Rich and Creamy Potato Miso Soup. Ailsa claims she is not good at thinking up “flavorful yet harmonious concepts”, but forgive me for saying, that is tosh Ailsa LOL! This soup sounds really, really good. Keep them coming :)
(Las Vegas, US)

Who better to come up with a potato dish, than a potato ho! No, I am not being insulting, Potato Ho Down is actually a monthly potato event and if you are a member, then you are a Potato Ho, honest! Anyway, back to the next entry, which comes from the Potato Ho in question, KC over at Kits Chow. KC has made us a Potato Salad with Asparagus, Peas and Green Olive Tapenade. Sounds delish!
(British Columbia, Canada)

Our last entry is from my co-host and good friend, Lisa over at Lisa’s Kitchen. Lisa is in the midst of cold and snowy weather just now, which doesn’t seem to end, so she has made us a nourishing winter’s soup - Cream of Potato and Turnip Soup. Instead of the usual milk and flavour base, Lisa has added pureed white beans (cannelloni) to the soup, so that this soup packs a nutritional punch as well as being full of flavour. (not in vote)
(London, Canada)

Please vote for your favourite in the voting poll, over to the right, which will be up and running until the 27th of February, after which the winner will be announced and awarded a badge for their blog. (poll closed, see the winner here).

ps head over to Lisa's Kitchen at the beginning of March, to see what Lisa has chosen for the March edition of No Croutons Required.

Sweet Potato & Carrot Side Salad

This is my entry for this month's No Croutons Required. There is still time to join in, just make a soup or a salad featuring potatoes and submit your entry to me at by the 20th of February. The line-up and voting poll will be posted the next day and then the winner will be announced on the 28th of February 2009. The rules can be found here. Please remember to include where you are from in your email.

Sweet Potato & Carrot Side Salad

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into sticks
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup fat free fromage frais
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
peel of 1 orange & 1 lemon
1 handful fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
salt & pepper

feta cheese to serve (optional)

Boil or steam the potatoes and carrot until just tender, then rise under a cold tap to stop the cooking process.

Spoon the fromage frais into a bowl and add all the other ingredients. Mix well. Season.

Mix the potatoes and carrots with the dressing and top with some feta cheese and a little of the peel.

Herbful Pasta Salad with Mushrooms

I woke up this morning and looked out of the window to a winter wonderland. Thick, thick snow and it was coming down fast. I just had to go out for a walk, so I wrapped up warm in my walking gear and headed out. It was great and I just love the silence that accompanies a thick layer of snow.

So you might think that this sort of day would call for a hearty bowl of hot soup!

Well, that would have been nice, but I am aching for Spring to arrive. Wishful thinking, maybe, but I want Spring and I want it now! Hence this light and zesty, mushroom and herb pasta salad. After all, when the house is all toasty, you can pretend.

Herbful Pasta Salad

1 tbsp olive oil
12 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Dishi Volanti pasta


1 handful fresh flat leaved parsley
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh dill
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta until al dente and then rinse in cold water, to cool and stop the cooking process. Leave to drain.

Saute the mushrooms in the olive oil and garlic, until soft, then season.

Whizz up the dressing ingredients.

Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, mix in the mushrooms and coat with the herb dressing.

Serves 4 - 6

Graham was sent home from work early because of the snow. A snow day, lucky him. He was very pleased to come home to warm house and a bowl of this pasta salad. It got a big thumbs up!

I am sending this salad over to Ruth at Once Upon A Feast as my entry for Presto Pasta Nights. I haven't entered a dish for ages, but I couldn't miss out on this line-up as it is the 100th edition. So a big congratulations to Ruth and her guest hosts for continuing to present us with a gorgeous selections of pasta dishes every week!


If you're on a diet, then look away now!

Cranachan is a Scottish dessert made with cream, raspberries, honey, whisky and oats. Yum!


2 cups double (heavy) cream
1 cup porridge oats
4 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp honey
2 cups raspberries
4 tbsp icing sugar

Toast the oats in a frying pan for a few minutes, being careful not to burn them. Tip them onto a plate and leave to cool.

Whizz up 1 cup of raspberries with the icing sugar.

Whip up the cream, with the whisky and honey until you have soft peaks. Then fold in most of the oats, but keep some aside for serving.

Layer a small glass with raspberry sauce, then carefully add the cream mixture. Sprinkle with oats and top with raspberries.

Serves 4 - 6

The reason I said small glasses, is that it is very rich! The wine glass I filled would have been enough for a family of four to sit down to for a week! Honest.

For a lighter version, try folding in some natural yoghurt and serve it in a small glass!

Tomato, Lentil and Coriander Soup

Snow is on the ground again here in Scotland. The Winter does not seem to want to let go it's icy grip. On the bright side, we are gaining a few minutes of daylight every day, so it doesn't seem so dismal. My one complaint is that it is absolutely baltic at work. It is hard to use a computer when your fingers are stiff with the cold.

So, it is soup time again!

Tomato, Lentil and Coriander Soup

Tomato, Lentil & Coriander Soup


6 ripe tomatoes, halved
2 red onions, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, left in papery skin
1 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 handful of coriander, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place the tomatoes, onions and garlic in a roasting tray, mix with the olive oil and season. Roast the vegetables for 20 - 30 minutes until the vegetables are starting to brown at the edges. 
  2. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before removing the skin from the garlic. 
  3. Whizz up the vegetables in a blender and add to your soup pot, along with the stock and lentils. Cook your soup for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender, then add the lemon juice and coriander and taste for seasoning.

Serves 4

Here are a few snowy pictures from our walk in Den of Alyth.


Cherries and Chat

Food and chat!

It is exactly what we all love, isn't it? Add some cherries into the mix and you have the A Slice of Cherry Pie Forum, which is hosted by the gracious Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie.

This is a free food forum and everyone is welcome to join. There are recipes, discussions, a veg patch, a wine bar and even a book club (We haven't had a new book to read for a while, so any new suggestions would be welcomed)!

Why not come along and have a look and maybe a chat. You will find some really friendly and welcoming bloggers there.

I hope to see you there :)

No Croutons Required - Potato Challenge

This month is the Potato Edition of No Croutons Required. I would like you to make a soup or a salad featuring potatoes. I am hoping that this challenge will appeal to everyone. Those experiencing the highest and those experiencing the lowest of temperatures just now.

Submit your entries to me at by the 20th of February. The line-up and voting poll will be posted the next day and then the winner will be announced on the 28th of February 2009. The rules can be found here. Please remember to include where you are from in your email.

Good luck everyone! I am looking forward to seeing your entries!

Congratulations to Anna over at Morsels and Musings, who won the January challenge with her gorgeous Mushroom and Barley Soup. Look at those succulent slices of mushrooms. Mmmmmm!
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