No Croutons Required June 2014

It's a bit chilly here in Scotland today, so it's the right time to share some soups in the No Croutons Required roundup. There are salads there too, but I'm feeling so shivery I'll be looking at the soups first. I don't know quite what happened to our hot weather of a fortnight ago. I am seriously thinking about putting the heating on, but enough about me, let's have a look at all the droolworthy entries.

No Croutons Required
Vegetarian/Vegan Soups and Salads

Tomato and Coriander Soup

Chef: Corina
Location: ?

Corina still finds herself still making soup in Summer, but she doesn't mind and what's not to love about this soup? It has such a vibrant colour and I bet the flavour is pretty vibrant too. Tomatoes and a large batch of coriander make the basis for this soup, but Corina pops some spice in there. Nice entry Corina.

Black Bean Soup

Chef: Sarah
Location: Scotland

Sarah misses California a lot. She used to spend a lot of time there before she had her little one and she misses the food too, especially the Mexican food. One veggie Mexican restaurant in particular did the most amazing soups that stick in the mind and Sarah has kindly replicated one of them for us. She thinks it's pretty spot on and I can tell you I am certainly drooling over it! Sarah makes her soup in her slow cooker, but the recipe could be followed on the cooker top in a pot.

Roasted Pepper Gazpacho

Chef: Mireille
Location: NYC, US

Chef Mireille is serving this Spanish style smooth soup with a Mexican twist. Lots of peppers, chilli and spices and finished off with avocado and crispy tortilla soups. The flavour combinations sound very nice indeed. I bet it packs a punch. Thanks for your entry Mireille.

Green Beans and Potato Soup

Chef: Johanna
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Johanna's late friend would always make a soup she called stone soup, you may know the tale. It's an old folk tale of a soup made from nothing but a stone, although in actual fact this is the beginning of the tale and the protagonist persuades villagers to add ingredients to improve the soup. So a soup made from nothing just bits and pieces leftover. Johanna had some beets, potatoes and greens which she used to make this virtuous stone soup. Leftover soup can be some of the best in my experience.

Roasted Jalapeno Soup

Chef: Lisa
Location: London, Ontario, Canada

My good friend Lisa is a chilli freak! She loves the stuff. Hot, hot, hot. She even grows her own peppers, but at the moment it's shop bought while she waits for her plants to fruit. She uses 6 Jalapenos in this soup, but they are roasted which makes them a little milder and there is also the addition of coconut and almond milk. Mmmmmm!

Spicy 'Kermit' Raw Green Cavolo Nero Soup

Chef: Sarah
Location: London, UK

Sarah is a woman after my own heart. She likes making blender soups. They are over the top with goodness and nutrients. They're super quick, there's no chopping and the taste is so strong and pure. I made a tomato one today, but I'm longing for a try of this one. Sarah's main ingredients in this soup are butternut squash and cavolo nero, but the blender guaranteed the brightest of green soups. ps I apologise in advance for Sarah's jokes. 

Greek-Style Tortilla/Taco Salad with Halloumi

Chef: Lisa
Location: West Midlands, UK

Lisa made her first homemade taco bowls last week and was keen to try them again. This time she filled them with a really fresh, crisp salad, golden halloumi cheese and a scrummy lemon and herb dressing. I am now craving salad with halloumi and I happen to know I have a block in the fridge. I stood and stared at it for a while earlier. Nice tip re-making the taco bowls too. My kind of dish!

Laotian Larb Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Chef: Janet
Location: Houston, Texas, US

Why have I not had a lettuce wrap before? What is wrong with me. You could do so much with salad labs. *quickly scribbles that down* After trying out a new Thai restaurant, Janet was keen to recreate the dishes. Her hubby said it wasn't too like the original, but it was greatly enjoyed. Janet steamed the tofu, which made it light and fluffy and turned it into a sponge for soaking up the other flavours. Something worth trying I think. Oh and by the way, when you say larb, you don't pronounce the 'r'.

Chickpeas Fatteh

Chef: Jin Hooi
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

This one is a bit of a stretch as a salad, but I've let it pass. Fatteh is traditionally a Lebanese breakfast dish.  It's a dish of toasted Lebanese bread and cooked chickpeas covered in tangy yogurt sauce. Jin was introduces to this by a colleague and was rather pleased with it. It's not a dish I've heard of before, but as I do love chickpeas, this one intrigues me. Thanks for submitting it Jin.

Tuscan White Bean Salad

Chef: Elizabeth
Location: Shetland, UK

Elizabeth was sent some luxury olives. One jar was infused in vodka. Oh my! She decided quite wisely to use the more standard olives in her bean salad.  Cannellini beans, olives and tomatoes dressed in a lemon and parsley dressing. I'm not keen on olives personally, but I think this is one good looking salad and I bet that dressing really tastes great on the beans. Nice entry Elizabeth.

Avocado Salad 

Chef: Mayuri
Location: Mombasa, Kenya

Oh how I love avocado and so does Mayuri. She teamed the avocado in this salad with freshly cooked kidney beans. In her post she talks about people arguing about what should go in a dish and what shouldn't, but I agree with Mayuri, you cook to your own and your family's taste. This is such a great salad and it's dressed in a gorgeous garlic, coriander, lime and chilli dressing.

Another great roundup of soups and salads this month. Thanks to everyone who entered and I hope my readers are inspired to visit a few of these blogs for new ideas.

The next round of No Croutons Required will be live on Lisa's Kitchen at the start of July. Check out the Food Blog Diary for the latest events, which are added as the month progresses.

If you haven't done so already why not enter my current giveaways too?

Froothie Slow Juicer Giveaway - closes 30 June 2014

Chop Chop - An Authentic Chinese Restaurant in Edinburgh

I don't eat Chinese food very often unless I make it myself.  I don't like dishes swimming in sauce. Don't get me wrong I do occasionally give in to a takeaway of Sweet and Sour Tofu with Vegetables, but only about twice a year.

I know that food isn't like this in China, I know the food there is really fresh and exciting and I know that generally the restaurants here cater for the British market. I really wish they wouldn't!. That may have been a good introduction to the fearful British palate 50 years ago, but really it's time to move on. Our palates have.

Me and Stuart (Cakeyboi). Photo: Blethering Boys
I was delighted to be invited along to Chop Chop in Edinburgh's Haymarket along with my good friends Genna from Blethering Boys and Stuart aka Cakeyboi. It's an authentic Chinese restaurant and quite an experience if you haven't been to one before.

Once we eventually found some parking, we ventured inside a yellow shop front into a very unassuming dining hall. We were instantly greeted warmly and made to feel super welcome by the manager Yin Wang who settled us at a table, got us drinks and told us a bit about the restaurant.

The restaurant is authentic to the style found in Changchun in Northern Eastern China where the head chef and owner Jian Wang comes from.  We were told new customers are encouraged to order the buffet so they can try different dishes.

In the traditional style the dishes are brought out as they are ready one by one and the diners share the dishes. It's a communal dining experience.

Boy were we impressed! The dishes didn't look overly exciting until you tasted them. We spent the whole meal moaning and groaning in pleasure. Each new dish was so fresh and popping with flavour.
I particularly liked the crispy shredded potato, the cucumber salad, which was shredded cucumber and Chinese leaves with glass noodles in a tangy dressing, the green beans in a chilli and garlic sauce and the dumplings. The dumplings were amazing. Actually they've won awards for them.

Yin Wang taught us how to make our own dipping sauce for the dumplings at the table, then the trick was just to master the chopsticks.

For dessert we tried a bit of everything. Lush creamy ice creams and sorbets that tasted fresh and homemade, mixed fruit dumplings that were like hot little apple pies, sugar string apples in caramel, which we dipped in iced water to crisp up and my favourite, the peanut butter dumplings, oh my!

Those peanut butter dumplings were amazing. The peanut butter was hot, oozy and slightly salty and they were topped with icing sugar for a sweet finish. I shall remember those for a long time.

It was a great evening and a memorable meal. We all plan to go back again and introduce all our family to this hidden little gem. 

If you visit Edinburgh, get off the train at Haymarket, turn right and at the corner look up to the right, see that little yellow restaurant? Yes, that's the one. Now don't be shy, go on, go in and sit down. You won't regret it.

Now why not have a read of Genna and Stuart's reviews:


Lime Scented Victoria Sponge Cake with Lime Curd

I call this Lime Scented Victoria Sponge Cake, because I added some lime peel to the cake batter and the smell was divine, but the resulting taste of lime was very subtle.

I made this cake in thanks for a kind deed.

Our all-round fabulous maintenance man at work Malcolm (he can fix or construct anything) and I were chatting about scrapyards one day.  I know, how does this connect to cakes? I'm getting to that part.

Vegetable pieWe were talking about scrapyards because he's planning a wedding and buying lots of vintage plates for their garden party and I was interested in the food props that scrapyards can offer up.

So we got around to talking about props and I asked Malcolm if he knew were I could go to get some boards made and he kindly offered to make me some.

They've made such a difference to my photos, it's funny how a background can change the style of a photo completely.

In thanks I made Malcolm a Lime Scented Victoria Sponge Cake with Lime Curd. It was a bit of a late thank you but he enjoyed it and appreciated the thought.

The lime curd was homemade. I made it in my new Froothie Optimum 9400 blender and it only took minutes to make. None of the usual 30 minutes of arm-aching beating.
blender lime curd
It was frothy and sweet, but lovely and tart too. The perfect filling for a Victoria sponge cake.  Malcolm decided to share it in the staff room as his bride to be is watching her figure for the wedding. Yes, I should have considered that. I'll have to make another for him to take home after the wedding.

If you're vegan I also have a recipe for a vegan victoria sponge cake that came out a treat. A little moist, but full of delicious vanilla flavour.

Also try this cake with homemade Scottish Raspberry Jam

print recipe

Lime Scented Victoria Sponge Cake
A light and fluffy Victoria sponge cake scented with lime. A traditional and foolproof recipe I use a lot.
  • 225g soft butter butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225g self-raising four sieved
  • a little milk to loosen the cake batter (if required)
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've started buying pre-cut circles of greaseproof paper.3. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. You can use a electric hand blender, a stand mixer or develop your muscles and beat by hand.4. Whisk the eggs and beat in a little at a time. If it look like it is separating add a little flour.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. Once they have cooled a little, remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. Fill with your favourite filling. I like whipped cream and curd.8. Enjoy!
Total time:
Yield: Makes a 2 layer sponge cake

Victoria Sponge Fillings:

Whipped cream and
For a vegan version:

I'm entering my recipe into 3 food blogging challenges:
  1. Bake Fest by Cooks Joy
  2. Family Foodies by Eat You Veg and Bangers and Mash.
  3. Let's Cook for Fathers Day by Simply Food


Froothie Lime Curd

blender lemon curd 

I could actually call this lime curd frothy instead of froothie. I made it in my new Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender. It only took a few minutes and it's frothier and lighter than a normal curd, but utterly delicious, sweet and slightly tart. Pass me a spoon quick!

Actually if you look at the top right of the photo, you may just see where I stuck my finger in to try it. It took all my willpower to stop myself from just getting a spoon and eating the lot, but I'd made the curd to fill a cake.

note: In America this is called lime butter.

Victoria sponge filled with blender lemon curd

Lime scented Victoria sponge with whipped cream and lime curd. Oh it was good!

Optimum 9400 blenderI'm loving my Optimum 9400, it's a powerful beast and so easy to clean. 

So far I've been making soups, smoothies and curd in it, but it can do so much more. Ice cream, sorbet, sauces..... the list goes on.

It's a great machine for anyone who has been longing for a Vitamix but can't afford the £600 price tag. The Optimum 9400 comes in at just £349 and you can have it for a month's trial with postage paid for you if you want to return it.  I really don't think you would want to after trying it. 

It comes with an optional 10 years warranty and can be used for wet and dry blending unlike Vitamix which requires you fork out more money for another jug. 

The Optimum 9400 is a powerful beast of a blender
So quick buy one, while they're still at the introductory price of £349!

homemade lemon curd
Lemon Curd with Nutmeg
I don't think you could make this curd in a standard blender as it doesn't heat the mixture.

If you don't have a powerful one like this, then you're better heating the curd in a pot. 

You see the Optimum starts to heat if you blend for a longer time, so it gently cooks the eggs. 

I've made lemon curd the traditional way before and you stir forever. I just looked back at my recipe and it says it takes about 30 minutes. I won't be going back to that method! 

I didn't have enough eggs for my original recipe, but I went ahead and made it with 3 and it worked just fine and cut down on the calories.

Now what flavour shall I try next?

print recipe

Blender Lime Curd
A light and frothy lime curd make in minutes in an Optimum 9400 blender.
  • 3 large eggs
  • juice of 4 (150ml approx) limes
  • finely grated lime peel (from 2 limes)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed
1. Crack the eggs into your blender and add the lime juice, lime peel and sugar. 2. Blend gently, gradually increasing the speed, then leave to blend on full for 5-6 minutes. 3. Add the softened butter a cube at a time while blending, until it is all combined. Leave to blend for a few seconds more.4. Pour into a jar or bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, leave in the fridge to set.5. The curd will keep in the fridge for a few days.6. Enjoy!notes: if you don't have a powerful blender like the Optimum 9400, whisk your curd in a pot while gently heating until it has thickened, which will take approximately 30 minutes.
Total time:
Yield: Makes 1 bowl of curd

Here are a few more fruit curds (butters) for you to try:

  1. Granny's Quick Lemon Curd - Fab Food 4 All
  2. Blood Orange Curd - Fuss Free Flavours
  3. Lemon Curd - Greedy Gourmet
  4. Microwave Lemon Curd - Feeding Boys and a Firefighter
  5. Blackberry Curd - The Botanical Baker
  6. Homemade Lemon Curd plus 10 uses - My Custard Pie

Disclosure: Froothie sent me a Optimum 9400 to review. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.


The Food and The Food Bloggers - Food Blogger Connect #FBC14

This is my last Food Blogger Connect post, I promise! I could go on and do a few more, but sometimes you need to know when you've had enough of a good thing.

So now we have the food and the food bloggers.

We start with Patron Tequila, who provided an endless variety of smooth tequila cocktails all weekend and tucked away a little bottle for each of us in our goodie bags. Patron we salute you!

  1. This handsome young man provided us with the most heavenly slushy smoothies all weekend. He was representing Sweetbird who sell a range of smoothies, syrups, sauces and lemonades with no artificial colours, high fructose corn syrup or GMOs in the range and suitable for veggies and vegans. Utterly delicious.
  2. The Secret Sausage team arrived with their grill and campervan stand so we could all taste their Secret Sausages which are a blend of fresh vegetables in a vegetarian casing, blended with natural flavours and spices.
  3. Liberation Nuts. Provided us with snacks while we soaked in all the information at the sessions. I particularly liked the Chilli and Lime Cashews and Peanuts which had little bits of surprising crunch from the roasted corn. Nice!

Veggie Paella from @paellaandtapas
Halloumi Tacos and Cactus Salad
The best meal of the weekend. A spread of Middle Eastern dishes from Terra Rossa
The yogurt labneh was spectacular.

The best find of the weekend for me was Oatly.

Milk made from oats.
Doesn't sound that interesting right? That's because you haven't tried it. It blew us away. The taste is amazing.

The original oatly is thick, creamy and utterly delicious, the organic is thinner like milk and would be great in smoothies. The chocolate oatly milk rocks! You can drink it or bake with it. 

 "It’s made fresh on 100% Swedish oats and enriched with extra calcium, fiber for your heart and stomach, a realistic amount of good protein and is naturally low in unsaturated fat."  
It's vegan, dairy and soy free, healthy and just tastes so good. 

Now for the bloggers: 
Tina (The Spicy Pear), Nayna (Simply Food) and Sylvia (Happiness is Homemade)
Stuart (Cakeyboi), Lisa (United Cakedom) & Nayna (Simply Food)

Jo (Jo's Kitchen) and Sarah (Taming Twins)
Hazel (Cookie Cottage) and Louisa ( Eat Your Veg)
Sylvia (Happiness is Homemade), Tina (The Spicy Pear) and Manjiri (A Slice of Me)

Karen (Lavender and Lovage), Amanda (Glamorous Glutton) and Jane (Hedge Combers)

Me, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Check out these other posts from Food Blogger Connect:

Follow on Bloglovin
Back to Top