Winner of February NCR & a Copy of River Cottage Herbs Handbook

We had a really great round-up of soups and salads for February's No Croutons Required. The topic was fresh herbs and this coincided with the publication of a new handbook from River Cottage called Herbs (published 1 March 2012). So I teamed up with them and was able to offer a copy to my winner.

Rather than open the vote to everyone, I decided to ask River Cottage HQ if they could choose a winner.

Stuffed Peppers with New Potatoes, Feta & Pesto

I thought the name of this recipe might grab your attention, it certainly called out to me. What a great combination of flavours.

This recipe comes from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I have had this book for a few months and used it a few times, but this is the first time I have written about it. I don't know what took me so long.

I am a great fan of River Cottage and Hugh. I used to avoid all things River Cottage, thinking it to meaty to contemplate, but I have learned the error of my ways. Hugh and his team certainly have a way with vegetables, baking and desserts.

You can read my review of The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook along with a recipe for Lentils with Onions & Watercress, My review of The Herbs Handbook, which is out next month and a recipe for Greedy Pudding Pear Cake which may not be exact, as I scribbled down notes for it while I was watching Hugh make it on tv, but is still rather special.

No Croutons Required - Herbs & River Cottage - Herbs

This month's edition of No Croutons Required features fresh herbs.

There is a mouth-watering selection of vegetarian soups and salads from around the world for you to drool over and this month I have a special prize for the winner too. The winner will be sent a copy of Herbs (River Cottage Handbook) by Nikki Duffy, which is published next month.

I don't know if you have any of the River Cottage handbooks, but they are great resources. They really go in depth into their chosen subject and include some great recipes too. They are a great wee size as well (A5), just perfect for carrying around in your bag for a quick look at when you are travelling or just in a quiet moment.


Scotch or Scottish Pancakes

Scotch or Scottish Pancakes

With Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday coming up this week, my mind has been on pancakes. Scotch pancakes. A family favourite and a family recipe.

I love to serve them warm, stacked and drizzled with maple syrup and banana slices.

I also have a new copper pan, that I wanted to try out. I can report it kept it's heat well and the pancakes lifted easily from it.

A stack of Scotch or Scottish Pancakes with maple syrup and slices of banana

Scotch Pancakes

The pancakes I make are Scottish Pancakes or Drop Scones.

They are also called drop scones because of the action of dropping the mixture into the pan or a griddle that they would have been cooked on originally.

Mostly they are known as Scotch or Scottish pancakes. They are quite similar to American pancakes, as they have the same rise, but they are smaller.

However, lets not get into an argument about where they originated.

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A simple recipe for traditional Scottish pancakes. They are called Scotch pancakes or drop scones and make a very tasty breakfast or dessert. #scotchpancakes #dropscones #Scottishpancakes #easypancakerecipe #easypancakes #pancakes #breakfast #brunch

Scottish Pancakes

Scottish pancakes were originally cooked on a hearth stone or girdle which is also known as a griddle.

If you have one, that's great, but these days you are more likely to cook your pancakes in a frying pan. I personally prefer a heaver frying pan to cook my pancakes in.

If you are preparing for lent or just fancy a treat for breakfast or brunch then do try these pancakes.

They are so simple and quick to make and so very delicious, especially when drizzled with maple syrup and served with bananas.

I remember having these as a child with maple syrup and ice cream, but I tell myself they are healthier with bananas.

You notice I'm not willing to get into a discussion about the maple syrup. All I have to say is that it has to be good quality Canadian maple syrup.

Pancake Recipes

If you are looking for a luxury pancake recipe try my chocolate and lemon curd pancakes or my homemade fluff pancakes with melted chocolate. They are divine.

If you are looking for a healthier option try my chocolate banana pancakes or my vegan chocolate chip pancakes.

For a savoury pancake try my yeasted Staffordshire oatcakes.

Calories per pancake

pancakes, Scotch pancakes, traditional Scottish pancakes, Scottish recipes, Scottish pancakes, drop scones, American pancakes,
Yield: 12 pancakes

Scotch or Scottish Pancakes

An easy recipe for traditional Scotch pancakes. These are also called drop scones and are very similar to American pancakes, but smaller. Serve them for breakfast, lunch or to celebrate Pancake Day.
prep time: 5 minscook time: 10 minstotal time: 15 mins


  • 120g self-raising four
  • 30g caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ pint milk


  1. Rub your frying pan with a little oil and heat on a medium heat until the pan is really hot.
  2. Sift your flour into a large bowl, then pour in the sugar and salt and gently mix together.
  3. Whisk your milk and egg together. Make a well in the middle of your flour and pour the egg mixture in. Whisk the flour into the egg until well combined.
  4. Try a teaspoon full of your batter in your frying pan, to test if it is hot enough. It should bubble up in less than a minute, then cook on the other side for just a few seconds. You should have a teeny golden pancake.
  5. Now cook off the rest of your batter.  Each pancake is made from a tablespoon of batter. They will take about 3 minutes each. Turn them when they start to bubble. 
  6. You can have a sneak peek underneath using a palette knife to check it they are ready to turn. I can cook 3 at a time in my frying pan. You have to make sure there is room between them.
  7. Serve the pancakes with your favourite toppings. I love maple syrup and bananas with mine.
  8. Enjoy!
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Chocolate Chip & Raisin Scotch Pancakes

Chocolate Chip & Raisin Scotch Pancakes

Traditional Scottish pancakes studded with chocolate chips and raisins. So quick to make and very light and fluffy. Eat them warm and the chocolate is still heavenly melty.


Carrot, Hummus & Avocado Sandwiches

I don't often post a sandwich recipe, but sometimes a sandwich is too good not to share and this is one of those.

Creamy and crunchy, garlicky and sweet, with a little tang of lemon and such beautiful colours. How can you resist?

I made my sandwiches with shop bought hummus this week, but it is even better with homemade hummus. You can find my recipe for homemade hummus here.

What's your favourite sandwich?


A Mini Break to Aviemore

We headed up to Aviemore for a midweek break for Graham's birthday. I thought you might like to hear a bit about our trip, the hotel we stayed in, the food and have a look at a few photos.

Hotel Chocolat Hamper Winner

I am about to head off to bed for the night, but before I do, it is time to announce the winner of a chocolate hamper from Hotel Chocolat. I was lucky enough to chomp my way through the Be Mine Collection.

And the winner is........... drum roll please!

Corina from Searching for Spice.

Congratulations Corina!

Mushroom, Spinach and Feta Quiche

I had a notion to make quiche after drooling over Janice's quiche. Well, actually it is a Flemish Leek Tart. Much fancier, but it still made me crave quiche.

I usually buy shortcrust pastry. I feel no shame in that. It is pretty good quality and as a working mum, I don't always have time to make my own. Today is one of those days when I had the time, so homemade it is.

The pastry was flaky and the mushrooms and spinach go so well together. Add in the salty feta cheese and you have a pretty fabulous quiche.

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Mushroom, Feta and Spinach Quiche
Written by

February 12, 2012

You can make this quiche with bought shortcrust pastry or you can make your own. Either way, this quiche will be simply delicious.
  • 1 quantity of shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 4 large flat cap or portabello mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 100g baby spinach
  • 100g feta cheese
  • a good grinding of nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 284 ml double cream
  • a good grinding of salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 200c/180c fan/400f/gas 6.2. Roll out your pastry to slightly larger than your pie dish.3. Place over the dish and gently ease into the corners, leave an overhang over the edges. The pastry came shrink a little, so it is better to leave the excess on and trim later.4. Cover the pastry with greasproof paper and baking beans and bake the pastry for about 20 mins.5. Remove from oven and careful lift out the beans using the greaseproof paper. Set these aside to cool, before returning them to their tub.6. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and return to the oven for 10 minutes until lightly golden.7. While the pastry is baking, sauté the mushrooms and garlic until soft and the liquid is cooked off. Season with black pepper and set aside.8. Place your spinach in a colander in the sink and pour over a kettleful of boiling water. This will wilt the spinach. Refresh the spinach with cold water, then squeeze as much of the water out as possible, then pat dry in a clean teatowel. Chop and set aside.9. Remove your pastry case from the over and spread over the mushrooms and spinach. Next crumble over the feta cheese and grate some fresh nutmeg over your ingredients.10. Lower the oven to 180c/160c fan/350f/gas 4.11. In a jug, whisk the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Pop the pastry case back in the oven and holding it level, pour over the custard filling.12. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and firm in the centre.
Total time: Yield: 1 quiche

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Homemade Shortcrust Pastry
Written by

February 12, 2012

An easy shortcrust pastry. All the ingredients should be cold and make sure you don't put too much water in or the pastry will be tough. Add a little water at a time until the dough comes together.
  • 100g cold butter
  • 200g plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp cold water
1. Sieve the flour into a bowl before transferring into a food processor along with the salt. Add the cubes of cold butter.2. Whizz gently for a couple of minutes until the mixture gets crumbly.3. Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers briefly to make sure it is the right texture.4. Drizzle over 1 tsp of really cold water, cutting through with a knife to combine. Start adding the second spoonful gradually, until there is just enough enough water in the mixture to bring it together.5. Bring it together with your hands. Shape into a ball and wrap in clingfilm. Pop it into the fridge until you are ready to use it. It should be in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Total time: Yield: 1 quantity of pastry


Roasted Butternut Squash & Sage Soup

I used half of a butternut squash to make a creamy pasta sauce for Cooper, which by the way, I urge you to try as it's yummy. The other half of the squash I used to make this easy soup.

I teamed up the roasted squash with sage for an earthy flavour and then added some zing with a swirl of lemony herb dressing.

The combination was outstanding. I don't think the soup would have been half as good without that contrast. It really turned the soup into something special.

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Roasted Butternut Squash & Sage Soup
Written by

February 09, 2012

This a a flavourful and easy soup. I topped my soup with a swirl of citrusy herb dressing, which was a lovely contrast to the earthiness of the soup.
  • ½ butternut squash
  • a splosh of olive oil
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • a few fresh sage leaves
  • 1 pint vegetable stock
  • a seasoning of salt and pepper
  • another splosh olive oil
  • a good handful of fresh herbs, I used parsley & basil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 200c/180c fan/400f/gas 6.2. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Cut into half moon shapes about 2 cm. Toss in olive oil and season with black pepper.3. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until soft and starting to brown at edges. Remove from the tray and leave to cool.4. Once cool pop the squash into a food processor with the sage and the vegetable stock. Pour into a pot to warm through and season.5. Whizz up the fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon juice, then drizzle over each bowl of soup.
Total time: Yield: serves 3 - 4

A few more butternut squash recipes for you to drool over:

* Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat's Cheese from BBC Good Food
* Roasted Butternut Squash Tart with Gorgonzola from Allotment 2 Kitchen
* Comforting Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Dal from Mostly Eating
* Butternut Squash, Feta Cheese & Roasted Pepper Quiche from Farmersgirl Kitchen
* Quinoa, Squash Salad with a Honey Paprika Vinaigrette from Wheat Free Meat Free
* Chunky Carrot and Squash Soup with Coconut and Red Chilli from Tinned Tomatoes

Mini Maple & Nutella Cupcakes for World Nutella Day

Did you know that today is World Nutella Day? No? I didn't either until I had a conversation with Ros in the early hours of this morning.

I won a jar of nutella over at Kerrycooks and it arrived yesterday, that is where the conversation begins.

And so I got my mini cupcake maker from Prezzybox back out of the box for a second airing.

Cooper was very eager to get started and he was a great help measuring out the ingredients and whisking.

Once the cupcakes were cool, I filled them with Nutella and then topped them with Nutella Buttercream Icing and little itsy bitsy smartie-type sweets.

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Maple Cupcakes with a Nutella Filling

Really easy maple flavoured cupcakes. There is no butter in this recipe, so there is no beating until your arm wants to drop off. This is leisurely baking. I filled my cupcakes with nutella and piped nutella buttercream on top, but this is purely optional.
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1⁄3 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 1⁄3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 8 tsp nutella (optional filling)
1. Preheat oven to 180c/160c fan/350f/gas 4 or preheat a cupcake maker (rub the wells lightly with oil).2. I made mini cupcakes in my cupcake maker, but you can bake these in cases. If so, pop the cases into a 12 cup muffin tray.3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, vinegar, maple syrup, oil and vanilla until well combined. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, for at least 2 minutes.4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and whisk just until combined (do not over mix). 5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups or 2⁄3 fill each well of your cupcake maker.6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted in one of the cupcakes comes out clean. If you are using a mini cupcake maker, give the cakes between 8 and 10 minutes until lightly golden and springy.7. Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack. If you are filling them, cut a cone shape out of the top of each cake. Fill with ½ tsp of nutella, remove some of the cake underneath the lid and pop the lid back on. Drizzle with icing or frost with buttercream.8. Enjoy
Total time: Yield: 16 mini cupcakes or 12 standard cupcakes

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Nutella Buttercream Icing
A smooth chocolately buttercream. Great for piping onto cupcakes.
  • ½ cup/1 stick/125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk, a little more if needed
1. Cream the butter until it is smooth. 2. Add the nutella and beat until well combined.3. Add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time, whilst still mixing. 4. Add the milk and whisk in. Add a little more if you think it needs it.
Total time: Yield: enough for 12 cupcakes or 16 mini cucakes

Teatime Treats - Romance (until 28 February 2012)
Chocolate Lover - Valentine's Day (until 15 February 2012)
Sweet Luv - Sweet Dishes for Valentine's Day (until 29 February 2012)

Victoria Sponge with Lemon Curd Cream & Homemade Jam

I had a notion to bake a cake and I have been meaning to make a victoria sponge for a while. I have also been craving lemon curd recently, so I decided to mix it with the cream. Oh my goodness, it is so good. I could have eaten the lot until I felt quite sick. Luckily I was able to restrain myself, but only just. It was a close thing.

I was really pleased with the finished cake, although it had risen quite a lot, so it was a challenge eating it, a plate and fork really need to be employed.

Such an easy cake and easy quantities to remember too. 225g of everything seemed to be the rule of thumb, as I browsed across the internet. Most recipes call for 4 medium eggs, but I like to use large eggs when I bake and the results are always good.

I spread the cake with my Carmelised Nectarine & Apricot Jam, but you could use your own favourite jam and I mixed the cream with a good quality shop bought curd, but I do have a good recipe for Lemon Curd with Nutmeg. It would be especially good mixed with the cream or as a layer under the cream instead of jam. It really is worth making your own curd and jam if you have the time.

I am afraid they are not the best photos, as I was blighted by the darkness, morning and night that is winter, but the photos were much better than they might have been thanks to the light box I made. Thanks again to Sarah over at Simply Cooked for showing us how. And..... now on to the victoria sponge recipe.

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Victoria Sponge with Lemon Curd Cream & Jam
This lovely light cake is especially good with a layer of tangy lemon curd cream and sweet jam, but you can fill it with whatever you like.
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour, sieved
  • a little milk to loosen the cake batter
  • 150ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp good quality lemon curd
  • 4 tbsp jam
1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/350F/gas 4.2. Rub a little softened butter around two x 18cm/7in sandwich tins. Then place a circle of greaseproof paper on the base of each tin. I used the base of the tin to draw around to get the correct size.3. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. I used a electric hand whisk, but you could do this by hand or use a stand mixer.4. Add and beat in the eggs, one at a time.5. Start gradually adding the flour a heaped spoonful at a time and folding in with a cutting motion, using a metal spoon, so you don't loose all the air you have added.6. Divide your mixture between the two sandwich tins. Smooth the top and pop both tins in the oven. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until the cakes are golden and a skewer comes out clean. 7. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof circles from the bottom of each cake.8. Whip the cream, then mix in the lemon curd. You can add more curd until it tastes just right. Top the first sponge with jam, then cream. Top with the second cake and dust with icing sugar.
Total time: Yield: two layer cake


No Croutons Required - February 2012

For this month's challenge I would like you to make the most of fresh herbs. I always think they bring such a lovely flavour to soup and change the tone of the soup completely. Now, they don't have to be the main ingredient in your soup or salad, but they do have to play an important role.

Post your vegetarian soup or salad featuring fresh herbs by end of day on the 20 February 2012. Link here and email me at :

* your name
* your location
* name of your blog
* blog url
* name or your dish
* post url
* a photo of your dish

I can't wait to see all your entries.

UPDATE: The winner of this month's No Croutons Required will win a copy of the new River Cottage Herbs handbook, which is published in March 2012. This is open to all entrants worldwide.

A big congratulations goes out to Susan who won the first NCR of 2012 with her gorgeous Turkish Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts and Zahtar Dressing. I will leave you to drool over the photo and remind you to keep reading on to the previous post for a chance to win a chocolate hamper from Hotel Chocolat.

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