NCR Winner - Onions etc

Congratulations to Lucie over at Cooking at Marystow who won this month's edition of No Croutons Required with her scrummy Potato Salad with Shallots and Chives. Lucie wins a cute little badge for her blog.

Head over to Lisa's Kitchen tomorrow to find out the details of the challenge for March.

Update: Lisa will be hosting the May edition of No Croutons Required. This time we are going with Mexican cuisine. Make a vegetarian soup or salad Mexican-style and send us your entry by the 20th of May 2010 to The rules are here.

It's Crunch Time

After 134 years of baking bread, the Warburtons Bakery is moving into the snack market with two new ranges.

The first is a baked pitta chip available in three flavours - Mature Cheddar & Spring Onion, Chilli Jack and Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar. These are called ChippidyDooDaa, a cool name and some pretty cool packaging too.

The second range is a wholegrain snack called SnackaDoodle. It is available in Cheddar Cheese & Onion and Sweet Chilli. They are made from whole wheat, corn, rice, oat and barley and they are 60% less fat than standard potato crisps. Which is great news as far as I am concerned.

I was sent a batch of these new snacks to try. Here are a few notes I took down as I was trying them.

Mature Cheese & Spring Onion

40g bag
183 calories

Crispy little triangles, in fact very crisp. Such a good idea turning pitta into crisps. Graham didn’t like these, he thought the cheese flavour was a bit artificial. He says they are not a crisp he would buy, but it they were sitting in a bowl on a table, he would happily eat them.

Graham 2/5
Jac 2/5

Chilli Jack

40g bag
182 calories

More crispy little snacks. The flavour of these crisps really packs a punch. A much stronger flavour that the sweet chilli SnackaDoodles. These got a thumbs up from Graham who thought they were very crunchy and fairly spicy.

Graham 3/5
Jac 4/5

Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar

40g bag
182 calories

On first bite I thought I could taste more of the pitta than the flavouring, but as I ate another and another, I decided I really liked that about them. Salt and vinegar crisps can be a bit too overpowering sometimes. Graham doesn’t usually choose salt and vinegar crisps, but he enjoyed these.

Graham 3/5
Jac 4/5

Sweet Chilli

20g bag
84 calories

These are puffed wheaty circles, with a lovely flavour of chilli. They have a slight sweetness, but not too strong a flavour. Graham took the bag off me to finish them.

Graham 5/5
Jac 4/5

So the final scores are:

SnackaDoodle (Sweet Chilli) 9/10
ChippidyDooDaa (Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar) 7/10
ChippidyDooDaa (Chilli Jack) 7/10
ChippidyDooDaa (Mature Cheese & Spring Onion) 4/10

Funny enough, Mature Cheese & Spring Onion was be the flavour I would have picked up to try, but it looks like we will be buying those SnackaDoodle Sweet Chilli wheaty puffs for a snack and it's just an added bonus that they are low calorie too.

Vote for a UK Food Blogger

The Observer are looking for votes for this year's Food Monthly Awards. The categories are: Best Restaurant, Best Sunday Lunch, Best Independent Local Shop or Online Retailer, Food Personality, Best Place to Drink, Best Ethical Restaurant, Best Cheap Eat Under £15 Per Head, Reader's Recipe, Reader's Cocktail and this year they are adding a new category Best Food Blog (UK based).

So why not vote for one of your favourite UK food blogs. There are a plethora of fabulous UK food blogs out there and I am sure you have your own favourites, so why not take a few minutes to vote for one of them.

Oh and Happy Blog Birthday to me. Tinned Tomatoes turned three on Thursday and I was totally oblivious to it. Oh well, maybe I will remember next year.

NCR - Onions etc Round-up

For this month's edition of No Croutons Required, I asked you to create a soup or salad suitable for vegetarians which features the allium family.

You could choose one or feature several. Onions, shallots, leeks, spring onions, garlic or chives.

This is what you came up with:

1. Spinach with Fried Garlic and Caramelized Onions
Soma (eCurry)

Soma came up with a vision for the eyes and the senses with this salad. Onions slowly caramelised with sesame seeds, garlic and dry red chili, then add to this some wilted spinach and add a squeeze of lemon and you have a dish that Soma describes as "simple, comfort food from home", but I would call it a delicacy.

Plano, Texas, USA

2. Potato Salad with Shallots and Chives
Lucie (Cooking at Marystow)

There is almost nothing I love more in the summer than a good potato salad. It just conjures up picnics and barbecues in my mind and makes me think of long, hot summer days (this is the optimistic part of my brain).

There is no mayonnaise to be seen in Lucie's potato salad, which is good news for our hips. Just new potatoes, shallots and chives in a lovely vinegary, mustard dressing. Mmmmmmmm!

Midlands, UK

3. Roast Onion & Lemon Thyme Soup
Me (Tinned Tomatoes)
(not in vote)

For my entry, I decided to make an onion soup. It's been ages since I enjoyed a good onion soup and with my dad coming for a visit and his love of onion soup, it seemed like the perfect choice. I decided I would roast my onions to give the soup a more intense flavour. I roasted red and white onions, garlic and lemon thyme, before whizzing up and adding vegetable stock, dried thyme and seasoning. I served my soup topped with cream and chives. Much slurping and contented sighs followed. An exceptional soup for little cost or effort.

Dundee, Scotland

4. Bean & Barley Soup
Usha (Veg Inspirations)

Like all good soups, Usha's Bean & Barley Soup is started off and flavoured with onion, followed by a host of lovely ingredients, including, ginger, barley, tomatoes, carrots and pinto beans.

A really hearty and nutritious meal in a bowl. Gorgeous!

North Carolina, USA

5. Roast Onion Soup
Lucy (Nourish Me)

Another Roast Onion Soup, but very different from my soup. Although Lucy started her soup of the same way by roasting the onions for maximum flavour, she went off in a alternative direction with her flavourings. This is a creamy onion soup, spiced with kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, chilli and tamari paste, smoothed out with coconut and rice milk and finished off with a squeeze of lime. Doesn't that sound amazing? It puts my simple onions soup in the shade!

Melbourne, Australia

6. Very Garlicky Vegetable Soup
Johanna (Green Gourmet Giraffe)

Let's get the question of "how garlicky?" over with first. 16 cloves of garlic yes, you heard me right, I said 16 cloves of garlic! But do not fear, these cloves are thrice blanched which mellows the flavour. Along with all that garlic there are leeks, carrots, celery, swede, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and cannellini beans. All cooked into deliciousness and topped of with a lip-smacking amount of parmesan and parsley. Nom, nom!

Melbourne, Australia

7. Creamy Potato Leek Soup
Inji (My Cookbook Notes)

Inji made her own vegetable boullion for this soothing soup and it sounds just as tasty as the soup itself.

This is another simple, but comforting soup of few ingredients. Potatoes, leeks, thyme, milk, salt and pepper. Just what you need on a wet day, here in Scotland.

Atlanta, USA

8. Italian Onion & Bean Soup with Parmesan Toast
Lisa (Lisa's Kitchen)
(not in vote)

Doesn't that look amazingly good? And look at that crusty toast smothered with parmesan. I am drooling here! Cannellini (white kidney) beans, are cooked with a bay leaf vegetable stock and a whole red chilli, before joining the rest of the soupy goodness. Sweet onions, garlic, arugula (rocket) leaves and lots of lovely wine, red and white. This soup just gets better and better!

London, Ontario, Canada

9. Creamy Onion Soup
Sweatha (Tasty Curry Leaf)

This is the simplest soup you could imagine, a great soup for a beginner to try out. Easy, but full of flavour and creamy, but not full of cream, instead Sweatha has been kind to our waistlines and finished her soup off with milk.

Bangalore, India

10. Roasted Shallots and Apricot Salad with Goat's Cheese
Mangocheeks (Allotment 2 Kitchen)

I was bowled over when I saw this salad. I don't know what it is with Mangocheeks, but sometimes I think she is in my head. She always makes just what I want to eat. It's spooky, I am telling you!

Long Echalion shallots roasted in balsamic vinegar, add these to baby beetroot and marinated goats cheese. The goat's cheese was marinated overnight with, orange juice, apricots and walnuts. Oh good golly!

West of Scotland

11. Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder
Sarah (The Ordinary Vegetarian)

You probably won't believe this but I have never tried chowder. I have never eaten it or cooked it, but this recipe is making me see the error of my ways. It is lighter than what I thought a chowder would be, but I do like it for that. Leeks are the star of the show and celery, potatoes and corn are his backing singers. Flavoured with thyme, sage, mustard, parsley and a bay leaf and made creamy with rice milk. Last, but certainly not least!

Chicago, USA

Another successful round-up and a plethora of delectable recipes for you to try. Do take the time to vote for your favourite, using the poll on the right or by emailing me at The winner will be announced on Friday 30th April 2010.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fudge

This is my favourite cookie recipe and I use it again and again, adapting it as I go. It makes a lovely crisp cookie, that is chewy in the middle. You may want to half this recipe, but I like to make lots to share around. In fact, last time I made these I doubled the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fudge

2 ½ cups plain flour
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup/2 sticks/225g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
100g caramel fudge chunks (if you have trouble
finding these, try Asda)
50g white chocolate chunks
50g milk chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375f / 190c / gas mark 5.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbs in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

In large bowl beat the sugar and butter until light and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and eggs and beat well. Next add the flour mixture, a bit at a time and mix until you have a velvety dough. (I love this dough, it feels so lovely).

Pour in the fudge chunks and chocolate chips and mix in. Chill the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Roll the dough into balls (roughly the size of a golf ball) and squash slightly onto a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper. I only bake 6 at a time, leaving a bit of space between the cookies. they do spread, but it depends on the size of your baking tray.

Bake for 7-8 minutes for a chewy cookie. They should start to crack when they are ready.

Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Makes 24 cookies

Don't you just love Cooper's little Steiff bear? I love him, although I do feel a bit mean when I pack him away in his little suitcase. It just seems wrong somehow.

I cannot mention Cooper without including a gratuitous photo of my little cutie. You will have to bear with me (excuse the pun) through my baby love phase.

Roast Onion & Lemon Thyme Soup

I didn't originally intend to use lemon thyme in this dish, but you know how it is when you give your husband a shopping list and he gets to the shop, isn't sure and thinks getting something is better than coming home with nothing. Well, it was fine actually as I decided to go ahead and use the fresh lemon thyme. It turned out very well and the soup got the thumbs up from my parents who really enjoyed it.

Roast Onion & Lemon Thyme Soup

3 tbsp olive oil
6 white onions, peeled and quartered
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic (don't bother to peel these)
6 sprigs of lemon thyme
2 tsp dried thyme
2 pints vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
cream and fresh chives for garnish (optional)

Toss the onion quarters, garlic cloves, fresh and dried thyme in the olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes until starting to brown. A high heat is best for this.

Remove the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted garlic out of their coats and into the pan, then remove the sprigs of thyme. Pour the onions and garlic into a blender with a little hot stock and whizz until completely smooth. Pour into a pan with the rest of the stock and heat through.

Season the soup and serve with a splash of cream and a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives.

Serves 4

Easy peasy and so full of flavour.


Deep Chocolate Cheesecake

Deep Chocolate Cheesecake with an added layer of chocolate

I saw this indulgent dessert over at Chocolate Log Blog (well a version of it) and suddenly had a craving for cheesecake. Choclette made a Chocolate & Lime Cheesecake Surprise. I may get my knuckles rapped for half inching the photo, but I'm sure Choclette won't mind. It just looks so good.

You may have guessed from looking at my photo that the surprise is the layer of chocolate above the biscuit base. Great idea don't you think? The other innovation in this cheesecake is the addition of yoghurt, not something you would usually see listed in the ingredients.

My brain started ticking over when I read yoghurt. I thought, hey wouldn't this cheesecake be great flavoured with toffee yoghurt?

I guess you are wondering why this is a chocolate cheesecake and not a toffee cheesecake?

Well, it didn't quite go as planned.

I did add the toffee yoghurt, but it just didn't give enough flavour. If I was going to make this again as a toffee cheesecake I would probably make some of the toffee sauce that I topped my Toffee Pecan Brownies with and swirl it through the cheesecake. I think that would be divine.

Unfortunately I didn't have the ingredients to hand and my brother-in-law was arriving any minute. So, thinking on my feet I dived into the cupboard for my trusty jar of Green & Black's Cocoa. Voila, deep chocolate cheesecake. Velvety smooth and wickedly naughty.

Deep Chocolate Cheesecake


100g butter, melted
200g digestive biscuits
200g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
75g Philadelphia or any soft cream cheese
20g granulated sugar
250ml double cream, whisked into soft peaks
250ml toffee flavoured yoghurt
¾ to 1 cup cocoa
chocolate flakes to decorate

  1. Place the digestive biscuits into a large bowl and bash them with the end of a rolling pin until they are crumb like. Mix the melted butter into the biscuit crumbs until well combined.
  2. Pour the biscuit mixture into a round 20cm flan dish and mould it to fit the bottom and sides (as you would with pastry).
  3. Melt the pieces of dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water.
  4. Pour the melted chocolate over the biscuit base and spread out as much as possible. Pop in the fridge to set.
  5. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar and then fold in the double cream and the yoghurt. Next add the cocoa a little at a time. Taste as you go until it is just right for you.
  6. Spoon the mixture onto the set chocolate layer and smooth out.
  7. Sprinkle with chocolate flakes or grated chocolate.

I'll be making this cheescake again as it was very easy to make and much enjoyed. However, we did find the chocolate layer hard to break through with a spoon, without crumbs flying everywhere. My suggestion would be to make chocolate ganache for the chocolate layer.

I do hope you try this cheesecake, it is so adaptable. Lime, lemon, orange, toffee, chocolate, the options are endless. You could make this cheesecake time and time again and never be bored.

Hotel Chocolat Competition Winner

A big thank you to everyone who entered my Hotel Chocolat Competition. Unfortunately there can only be one winner. The prize draw has taken place over at Hotel Chocolat and I can now announce our winner.

Nic from Nip it in the Bud.

Congratulations Nic, your egg is winging it's way to you as we speak.

Happy Easter everyone!

In Print

IN PRINT - a selection

In my 'about me' page you'll find links to numerous websites I've been featured in. This page displays a selection of my interviews, recipes and recommendations in print.

Waitrose Magazine - April 2017

I write a monthly column for Vegan Life Magazine including a recipe. December 2015 to present.

Full page in Daily Record Saturday Magazine, 15 October 2016.

Recipe in At Home magazine November 2015

Named Best Food Blog by Vegetarian Living Magazine - February 2014

Mention in Vegetarian Living Magazine - June 2013

5 pages including recipe in The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe Book by Kate Harrison - May 2013

Mention in Daily Mail - April 2013

Recipe featured in Kids Health and Wellbeing Magazine - November 2012

Mention in Woman Magazine - Diet Special on the 5:2 Diet - October 2012

Article in Vegetarian Living - October 2012

Article in Daily Record (Scottish Food Fortnight Supplement) - October 2012

Recipe featured in Take a Break magazine - April 2012


No Croutons Required - Onions etc

It's the start of a new month, a birthday for me and a new No Croutons Required challenge.

For this month's edition of NCR, I would like you to create a soup or salad suitable for vegetarians which features the allium family.

You may choose one or feature several. Choose from onions, shallots, leeks, spring onions, garlic or chives.

You can find the rules here, but basically just blog your soup or salad, mention that you are submitting it to No Croutons Required and link here. Email me ( a link to your post, along with your name and location before the 20th April 2010. The round-up will be posted on the 21st April 2010, along with a voting poll and the winner will be announced and sent their winning badge on the 30th April 2010.

Congratulations to Jenny over at Southern Fried Curry who won the March edition of No Croutons Required with her Salad made with Fresh Chickpeas. They are just so gorgeous and so very green. I'd love to try these fresh chickpeas.
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