And we have a winner!

Congratulations to Vanessa over at Sweet Artichoke who won this month's No Croutons Required with her scrumptious Carrot, Cashew & Coconut Soup.

This month's roundup was very popular with a stonking 79 votes on the voting poll and a few email votes too. It was a tight race between Vanessa and Reshmi, who made us a Carrot Salad with a Moroccan Flavor. Reshmi was pipped at the post within the last hour of voting. It was a very close call.

If you would like to take part in the September round of No Crouton's Required then head over to Lisa's Kitchen for the details.

Well, I am heading off on my hols, so I may not be around much, but I will catch up with you all when I get back. Save up any interesting news for me.

Taste & Create XXXIV

It has been such a long time since I took part in Taste & Create, years in fact, but as it is the three year anniversary I decided it was time to join in again. There is not usually a theme to these challenges, but as this is a special occasion we have a topic to stick to. Desserts. Well, I'm in!

For this round I was teamed up with Kimberley who has a rather lovely blog called Rhubarb and Honey. There isn't much in the way of desserts to choose from but there are some lovely recipes such as Gooey Jalapeno Poppers, Parmesan Spinach Cakes and Crispy Kale Chips.

I finally settled on Maple Pecan Popcorn. Dessert? Heck yes! We are having it for dessert tonight. I think it calls for snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie, that's if Graham hasn't finished it all before then. He keeps going back for just another piece and another piece. I have threatened to chop his hands off if he goes back into the conservatory again. We haven't even had dinner yet.

Fresh popcorn and toasted pecans coated in homemade toffee made from butter, a little salt and lots and lots of maple syrup. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!


NCR - Carrots Roundup

I was surprised to realise that we had missed out the humble carrot in our No Croutons Required challenges, so this month I thought we should make up for it and the soups and salads just rolled in. Sit down, get comfy, relax and have a glance down all the delicious carrot recipes.

1. Carrot Soup
Akheela (Torviewtoronto)

The first entry to pop into my inbox was a carrot soup from Akheela. Akheela's children dug up the vegetables for this soup and helped to prepare them. The carrots were popped into the pressure cooker, along with beans, pepper, potato and onion. Lovely and healthy. A real family meal and such a good idea to get the chidren involved. I bet they enjoyed it even more because they helped with the cooking.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

2. Carrot Salad with a Moroccan Flavor
Reshmi (A Feast to the Eyes and Stomach)

Reshmi got brownie points from her husband for making this delicious salad. He is a happy man. Reshmi spiced the salad up with ginger, cinnamon and pepper. She also added cucumber, lemon and plumped up raisins before dressing it. Lovely!


3. Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad with Lemon Basil Almond Pesto
Janet (The Taste Space)

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm! Yum! That was the first thing I thought when I saw the photo of this salad. Cute little pasta shapes coated in homemade Lemon Basil Almond Pesto and tossed together with carrot, yellow zucchini, green zucchini and bell peppers. What's not to like? Count me in :)

Toronto, Canada

4. Orange Carrot Salad
Mangocheeks (Allotment 2 Kitchen)

Mangocheeks was wisely using up what was in her fridge when she came up with this simple but tasty salad of carrots, new potatoes and broad beans. Any salad which includes potatoes is always a winner in my book. Mangocheeks calls this an orange carrot salad. There are no oranges around, just the vibrant colour. Mangocheeks posed an interesting question, one I hadn't considered before. What was the colour orange called before the discovery and naming of the fruit? Head over to her post to find out.

West of Scotland

5. Carrot Soup with Fennel Pesto
Johanna (Green Gourmet Giraffe)

Johanna has to get high marks for this soup. She made her own stock and pesto as well as the soup. You don't get better than this. Leek, shallots, garlic, carrots, parsnips, homemade vegetable stock, white wine, and a mouthwatering swirl of homemade fennel pesto and sour cream. Boy oh boy!

Melbourne, Australia

6. Carrots and Beans with Caraway, Harissa and Pistachios
Soma (eCurry)

Soma has made us a warm baby carrot and bean salad, with garlic, lemon juice, caraway seeds and lots of lovely roasted pistachios then spiced up with harissa.It all comes together to make this visual delight. Lovingly cooked and photographed. Soma suggests serving it with some pita bread or any flat bread. I want to grab that fork and dig in right now!


7. Carrot, Cashew & Coconut Soup
Vanessa - (Sweet Artichoke)

Before I go on to describe this yummy soup, I have to pass on some great advice from Vanessa's granny. We have all heard the tale of carrots being good for our eyesight, well apparently they are also good for toning the thighs. Quick get to the supermarket before everyone else hears and there is a riot. I will be at the checkout when you get there! Right deep breaths, calm down and back to the soup. Vanessa has flavoured her carrot soup with cumin, coriander, cinnamon and turmeric. She finished it off with cashew nuts and coconut milk. Those are just the kind of flavours I like in a soup.


8. Carrot & Coriander Soup
Rose (Roses r Red)

The next entry comes from a really sweet blogger called Rose. I have followed Rose's adventures for some time now, even though hers is not a food blog and I always leave with a smile. I was very pleased when I saw an entry from her this month. Rose has made us a carrot soup combining both dried and fresh coriander, coconut milk finished off with some lovely crunchy croutons. Nice soup Rose and I love the photograph :)

Adelaide, South Australia

9. Carrot & Tiffin Salad with Caesar's Dressing - not in vote
Jacqueline (Tinned Tomatoes)

I made a simple carrot, salad leaves and basil salad, dressed it with some of Lisa's Caesar's Dressing (which is delicious by the way) and topped it with a tiffin egg. Tiffin eggs are basically vegetarian scotch eggs. The boiled egg is encased in a mixture of fried onion, carrots and breadcrumbs, bound together by curry paste and egg and then rolled in crushed cashew nuts before being baked. They are great for a picnic lunch. Unfortunately we aren't getting picnic weather right now, so they have become salad toppers. I encourage you to try them. Make them the day before, so the flavours can really develop.

Dundee, Scotland

10. Moroccan Carrot Salad
Sweatha (TastyCurryLeaf)

Sweatha has travelled to Morocco to bring us this rather tasty salad. Carrots, currants, walnuts, cumin, coriander, apple juice, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Sweatha describes her salad as sweet, spicy and tangy. Sounds good to me.

Bangalore, India

11. Carrot & Daikon Salad
Sarah (Simply Cooked)

I couldn't honestly say I knew what a daikon was until I read Sarah's post. She described it as a well-built radish with a peppery bite. I went to wiki to learn more only discover she was spot on with her description. I also found out it is also called Oriental radish, Chinese radish and Mooli (from Hindi Muulii). It is low in calories (only 34 per 85g serving) but that portion gives you over a third of your daily vitamin C. Good choice Sarah.

Sarah mixed finely grated carrot and daikon together and tossed them in a delicious sesame dressing, and sizzled in some hot oil, adding some scallions at the end.

Hong Kong

12. Chilled Carrot Coriander Soup
Denise (Oh Taste n See)

Isn't this a prettily turned out soup? Gold star for presentation Denise. I never quite manage a finish like that. Denise roasted carrots and onions in olive oil, paprika, cayenne, coriander powder, salt and honey. When it had cooled she whizzed it all up with yogurt, lemon juice and milk. Doesn't that sound fabulous? I roast tomatoes for soup, but never think of roasting other vegetables for soup. I must try it.

Seattle, U.S.A

13. Curried Carrot, Lentil & Cashew Soup
Anna (Diary of a Ladybird)

Mmmmmmmmmm! Who knew there could be so many ways to make carrot soup and they all sound so good. I fell in love with this one before I had seen a photo or read the recipe. I just knew it was going to be a cracker. This is Anna's first entry to a blogging challenge. She was immediately inspired once she read about this month's challenge and set about making her soup right away so she could join in and I am so glad she did. Carrots, lentils, onion, cashew nuts, madras curry paste, coriander and yoghurt. All I can say is *drool*.

Sydney, Australia

14. Carrot Ginger Soup, Stovetop Optional
Valerie (City|Life|Eats)

Valerie has been living through a heatwave in Washington so the thought of cooking a soup was not appealing. Who needs to up the temperature any more? So she used some ingenuity and made this warm soup in her rice cooker and blender, although it would be equally good served cold. Carrots, sweet potato, ginger, onion, jalepenos, almond milk. All infused with spices. Valerie suggest topping the soup with diced scallions, diced avocado, splash coconut milk or chopped cilantro. Yum!

Washington, DC, USA

15. Whole Cabbage Stuffed with Coleslaw - not in vote
Lisa (Lisa's Kitchen)

We close the roundup with an entry from my good friend and co-host Lisa. It is seriously impressive and as Lisa says, just imagine it being served at a dinner party. This spicy coleslaw salad is served in a hollowed out cabbage. This 'no mayonaise' coleslaw is made from cabbage, carrots, green chillies, ginger, fresh dill (a must in my opinion), yoghurt, cream, lime juice, mustard seeds, salt and pepper. Doesn't that sound gorgeous? It is on a whole different level from your average coleslaw. I will definitely be trying this one.

London, Ontario, Canada

So ends our roundup and now it is time to make the difficult decision and choose your favourite. Vote using the poll or send me an email ( You have until the end of the month to decide. The winner will be announced on the 31st of August, then Lisa will post the next challenge on the 1st of September.

Carrot & Egg Tiffin Salad with Caesar's Dressing


Carrot & Tiffin Salad with Caesar's Dressing

Tiffin Eggs

7 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 mediun carrots, grated
2-3 heaped tbsp curry paste
4 slices wholemeal bread, whizzed into crumbs
1 heaped cup roasted cashews, finely chopped or whizzed


a mixture of salad leaves
3 medium carrots peeled into strips with a potato peeler
handful fresh basil leaves

(from Lisa's Kitchen)

½ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ garlic glove crushed or finely grated
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
1 cup of fresh vegetarian parmesan, grated


Heat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas mark 5

Put 6 of the eggs in a pan of cold water and bring them to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then cool quickly in cold water. Carefully shell.

While the eggs are cooling, heat the oil, fry the onion for 5 mins, then add the carrot and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the curry paste and breadcrumbs. When the mixture is cool, beat the remaining egg and stir into the mixture.

Divide the mixture into 6 and flatten each portion with your hands (wetting them makes this a bit easier), then wrap around each egg - the mixture will seal well as you press it together. Roll the eggs in the cashews and chill until ready to cook. The prepared eggs can be kept in the fridge overnight.

Bake the eggs for 15-20 mins. Set aside to cool.


Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, mustard and pepper in a bowl. Whisk until well blended.

Drizzle in the oil and whisk in the cheese.


Fill a bowl with mixed salad leaves. Mix in the strips of carrot and basil. Toss together.

Place a handful of the salad on each plate. Drizzle some dressing over the salad and top with tiffin eggs that have been sliced in half.


Serves 4-6


Lentil Soup

What can I say about this soup. It is warm, comforting and so good for you. It's the perfect basic recipe to turn to when you need a quick meal. I just love it. I served it up with some of my Yoghurt & Cheese Scones. Bliss!

Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
4 large carrots, grated
3 pints/7 cups vegetable stock
1 tin chopped tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups red lentils
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil until the onion is transluscent. Mix in the cumin and chilli powder before adding the grated carrots. Pour in the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes and lemon juice. Next add the red lentils. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whizz the soup with a hand blender until you reach your desired consistency. I don’t like it completely smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 6 – 8


Chilli Bake

It's another dreich day here in Scotland. We were lucky enough to enjoy some sun at the weekend, but we are back on track and the rain is pouring down. Just the weather for ducks and comfort food. To heck with salads today!

This recipe is more of a serving suggestion, than a recipe, but I can guarantee you will enjoy it.

* First of all I baked some large potatoes.
* While the potatoes were baking I made a batch of veggie chilli.
* Once the potatoes were cooked, I cut them into wedges and put them back in the oven to crisp off.
* Then I filled a large ovenproof dish with potato wedges, covered the potatoes with a generous layer of chilli and then a layer of grated mozzarella.
* I popped the dish back in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese had melted and was lovely and golden.

Serves 4 - 6

Serve with lots of lovely vegetables or salad and garlic bread.

Veggie Chilli

1 tbsp olive oil
I onion, cut in half and sliced into half moons
2 red chillis, sliced finely, keep seeds in for heat
2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
2 tsp cumin
500g mushrooms, sliced
454g frozen Soya Mince
1/2 pint vegetable stock
3 cans chopped tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed
1 can cannellini beans
1 tube tomato puree
3 tbsp Green & Blacks Cocoa
1 handful fresh coriander, chopped

Saute the onions in olive oil, then add the chilli peppers, chilli flakes and cumin.

Next add the mushrooms. Once they are soft, pour in the soya mince. Give the mince a good stir, so that is is well coated in the oil and any juices from the mushrooms, then pour in the vegetable stock.

Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the beans, the tomato puree and the cocoa powder. Cover and leave to cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the fresh coriander.


* in a chilli bake
* in tortilla wraps with salad leaves, sour cream and cheddar
* with rice, guacamole and sour cream
* in a baked potato topped with grated cheddar
* with mashed potato and vegetables (it's a Graham thing!)
* with nachos/tortilla chips, guacamole, sour cream and cheddar
* on a veggie burger in a roll, topped with cheese and eaten very carefully
* mixed through pasta

So, you don't need to worry if you have chilli leftover, once you have made your chilli bake. It can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

3 lbs strawberries
1 lb rhubarb
juice of 2 lemons
4 lbs caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 knob of butter (this helps to eliminate the scum that floats to the top)

Wash the strawberries and rhubarb. Slice the strawberries in half and the rhubarb into 2cm long chunks.

Place the sugar in a heatproof bowl and pop in a moderate oven for 10 minutes to heat up.

Put a saucer in the freezer to test the jam.

Place the fruit in a large, heavy based saucepan with the lemon juice and heat up to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Slice open the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the bowl containing the sugar.

Add the warm sugar and vanilla to the pan, stir to dissolve and bring to the boil.

Boil for around 10 minutes over a high heat, stirring regularly (my jam took 20 minutes, but this was because I used frozen rhubarb, so it produced a lot more liquid as it cooked, fresh rhubarb & strawberries should only take about 10 minutes, but just judge it as you go).

To test the jam, put a spoonful on your cold plate, leave to sit for a few seconds and then push your finger through the jam, if it wrinkles, it's ready.

Remove from the heat and pour into sterilised jam jars (I sterilise my jars in the dishwasher).

The jam will set as it cools.

Makes around 6 lbs of jam. I filled 6 x 400g jars and 1 x 500g jar. I use a mixture of bought and collected jars.

We are really enjoying this jam. You can taste the rhubarb, but it is quite subtle. I think I will change the quantities next time, so there is more rhubarb and less strawberries.

Here are some thoughts on how to use your jam, other than smearing it onto buttered bread.

* Smeared onto warm Blueberry Scones.
* Loaded on to Delia's Scones with a dollop of rich clotted cream.
* A squidgy surprise in the middle of fresh, sugary Doughnut Muffins.
* Spread in the obligatory Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwiches.
* Smeared into the middle of The Caked Crusader's Coconut Sandwich Cake with Coconut Buttercream.
* Sandwiched in the middle of Lucie's Coconut Slices.
* Blended into Chele's Strawberry Jam Bread.
* Drizzled over Nic's British & American Pancakes.

Pay It Forward Winner

As you can see, I used the services of my wee independent adjudicator again. This time to choose the winner of the Pay It Forward Giveaway. He was fascinated by everything but the little folded pieces of paper in his hat, so I got comfy and waited. We got there in the end and he selected Katie from Katiecakes, who said in her comment she loves getting stuff in the post. Your wish is our command Katie. One Scottish parcel coming your way.

Remember for all your food event, competition & giveaway needs, visit The Food Blog Diary. There are 27 events listed so far for August and more will be added as the month progresses. You can also have a browse through Foodie Fairs and Festivals being held this month.

Online Doctorate Programs
Online Doctorate Programs
Oh and I nearly forgot. Well, to be truthful, I did forget. I was meaning to tell you that I have won an award. I have won an Awarding the Web 2010 Top 45 Diaries Blogs Award. Isn't that swell? I never actually use the word swell, but it just jumped onto and off my tongue, so I am going to stand by it. It is swell and I am very chuffed and would like to thank the lovely person who put my blog forward for consideration.

No Croutons Required - Carrots

A new month is dawning and it is time for a new No Croutons Required challenge.

It gets harder and harder to think up a new challenges every month. We have been in business for three years now. We have 30 roundups under our belts and such an extensive collection of amazing soup and salad recipes to reference. If you ever look at the leftover vegetables in your salad drawer and wonder what to do with them, you need look no further than our index of recipes.

So this month, I had to think carefully in order to come up with a new idea. I made a list (now you know how much I love lists) of our previous ingredients and tried to think of something new and I was surprised to see that we had not honoured the humble carrot. So without further ado, I announce this month's challenge.

Pay homage to the trusty carrot and make us a tasty vegetarian soup or salad. Submit your entry by close of day on the 20th August 2010. The full rules may be viewed here.

Congratulations to Sunita from Sunita's World, who won July's challenge to bake a quick bread to accompany a soup or salad. Sunita baked us Cheesy Potato & Rosemary Scones which she suggested serving with Spicy Potato and Leek Soup.

I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering. Well done Sunita!
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