NCR Soups and Salads for August

It's time to share all the tasty soups and salads bloggers have created for this month's No Croutons Required.

It's been a funny month weather wise here in Scotland. The beginning of August was salad weather, but now we are coming to the end of the month and it's definitely soup weather.

I've even had to pop the heating on a couple of times, which is shocking so early in the year. Mind you we can't complain, we've had a gorgeous summer this year.

So now on to the soups and salads. All veggie and some of them vegan.

Let the tasting begin!

No Croutons Required 
August 2014

Lentil and Chard Soup
Puy Lentil and Chard Soup

Chef: Sarah
Location: Scotland

When hurricane Bertha hit Scotland, we were lucky enough to just be hit by rain, but boy was there a lot of it and it was rather torrential. 

Sarah stayed cosied up indoors with Jacob, but her chard loved all the rain and really came on, hence this thick stew-like soup. It looks wonderfully satisfying, doesn't it?

Curried Lentil Vegetable Soup with Roasted Lentils

Chef: Lisa
Location: Canada

It's been cooler in Canada too so Lisa also went for soup. She topped this vibrant spiced vegetable soup with spicy roasted chickpeas. She often eats roasted chickpeas as a snack, but had a bit of a eureka moment and added them to this soup. I am putting this on my to-do list, it looks amazing!

Cheesey Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Chef: Jacqueline

I made this brilliantly green soup of broccoli and spinach topped with grated cheddar. It's fresh and very tasty. I topped it with grated cheddar, but that's optional. Graham skipped the cheese to keep his bowlful vegan.

Fresh Mint Broad Bean Potato Salad

Chef: Shaheen
Location: Wales

Shaheen made one of my favourite salads, a potato salad. Potatoes are so hard to resist, aren't they?

Shaheen was proud to say all the ingredients bar the dressing came from her garden and I bet it tasted better for it. Nice entry Shaheen.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Chef: Helen
Location: England

Helen enjoyed this salad in Israel where restaurants will often bring you a range of pre-dinner nibbles, like this salad. Of course it's always better homemade. 
It's a simple salad, but the spicy dressing really make it something special. It looks really delicious. I'm bookmarking this one.

Creamy Curried Lentil Salad

Chef: Janet
Location: Canada

I realised while I was reading Janet's post that I've only ever made one lentil salad. I'm a big fan of lentils, I love them in dal, soups and stews, so I'm not sure why they aren't featuring in my salads.

Janet dressed her lentil salad in a tahini-maple-curry dressing. Mmmmm! Sounds great.

Creamy Vegan Potato Salad

Chef: Becky
Blog: VegHotPot
Location: UK

I am seriously contemplating going into the kitchen and making this right now. I have all the ingredients and it sounds amazing. The creamy dressing comes from soft avocado whizzed up with oil, vinegar and seasoning. There's also mustard, red onion and my favourite herb for a potato salad, which is dill. Hmmmmmm! I'll be back in a wee while. I have something to do in the kitchen!

Salade de Concombre

Chef: Hélène
Location: England

Hélène loves making salads as starters and sides during the Summer and when she was recently made this cucumber salad it took her right back to her childhood.

Hélène says the trick is to salt the cucumber so that a lot of the moisture is removed but you still have the crunch. It is coated in a creamy crème fraîche and herb dressing, but she also gives a simpler alternative.

We eat a lot of cucumber in our house as Cooper and Graham both love it, but neither would like it dressed. Great I say, more for me!

French Bean, Tomato and Cumin Salad

Chef: Linzi
Location: England

Linzi made this salad with beans and tomatoes grown in her own garden, so it is super fresh and tasty as well as seasonal. She likes to serve it alongside a main course. Sounds good to me.

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Chef: Rachel
Location: England

Rachel made this recipe for Secret Recipe Club. To join in she was paired up with Deborah from Delicious Happens. Her challenge was to chose a recipe to try from Deborah's blog and Rachel went for this twist on a caprese salad with candied walnuts. Good choice Rachel.
Deborah of Delicious Happens.
Deborah of Delicious Happens.
Deborah of Delicious Happens
Deborah of Delicious Happens
Deborah of Delicious Happens

Deborah of Delicious Happens.

Mexican Corn Salad

Chef: Jennifer
Location: USA

Jennifer was tempted to make this salad after seeing it on Closet Cooking. Her hubby like my own loves corn so this salad is a winner. In the winter she uses frozen corn, but at the moment she is lucky enough to have a supply of fresh corn from her inlaws.

Avocado & Strawberry Salad with a Balsamic Reduction

Chef: Elizabeth
Location: Scotland

Doesn't that look amazing? Elizabeth took the time to reduce some balsamic vinegar into a thick glaze perfect for drizzling over salads and she just had to share with us how good the combination of strawberries and avocado is. I can well believe it looking at this.

Red and White Quinoa Salad with Spicy Dijon Vinaigrette

Chef: Gayathri
Location: USA

Gayathri tries to mostly eat soups and salads for dinner to keep her weight down, which is a great tip and one I could do with following myself. Although she does remind us that quinoa does have as many calories as brown rice, so portion control is important (I think I fall down there). Red and white quinoa, mixed with salad ingredients and cranberries and tossed with a simple vinaigrette. Yum!

So that's all the entries. A fabulous array of dishes I think you'll agree. Please take the time to visit some of these blogs and say hi.

The next edition of No Croutons Required will be hosted by my good friend Lisa over at Lisa's Kitchen. Pop over at the beginning of September and add your dishes to the linky. Remember only one per blog.

Cheesey Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Cheesey Spinach and Broccoli Soup 

I hear we'll have warmer weather next week, but at the moment it's soup weather and today I bring you Cheesey Broccoli and Spinach Soup. 

I used to make this purely with broccoli, but I've started to add spinach to it lately. We eat a lot of spinach. Popeye has nothing on us. I add it to smoothies, soups, dal, pasta and stews. I'm sure I add it to more than that but those are the ways we eat it regularly.  It features in a lot of smoothies too. Today I had a smoothie of raspberries, banana, spinach and mango juice. It was glorious.


I have to consider Graham whenever I cook a meal, so instead of melting the cheese into the soup as it cooks, I add it to bowls at the end. The heat of the soup starts to melt the cheese, but you still have some bits of cheese whole which gives a great texture and combination of flavours. Graham has a vegan soup to slurp and Cooper and I can enjoy our melty cheesey topping. Of course I blended my soup smooth in my Optimum 9400 or my sous chef as I think I should start to call him.

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Cheesey Broccoli and Spinach Soup
A smooth vegan soup topped with cheese for the veggies. Excellent both ways. Frugal, delicious and healthy. Happy days.
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 100g fresh spinach
  • 1½ pints/3 cups vegetable stock
  • a good grinding of salt and pepper
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the garlic and onion and saute for a few minutes until the onion is soft.2. Add the broccoli and spinach and cook gently for a few minutes.3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is just tender.4. Pour the soup into a blender (in batches) and puree until smooth.5 Season and serve. Top with grated cheddar (optional) 6. Enjoy!
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4

Here are a few more veggie and vegan soups for you to enjoy:

vegetarian soups

Clockwise from top left:

Stegosaurus Smoothie - My Ultimate Green Smoothie

The Ultimate Green Smoothie 

This is my favourite green smoothie. I've made it a lot over the last few weeks and thought I should share it with you.  It's a beginners green smoothie. It's very easy to drink and has a fresh sweet flavour. I've passed it round at work to all those unbelievers. Each of them stared at it suspiciously, but after a bit of persuasion they tried it and pronounced it delicious.

easy green smoothie

A fresh and sweet green smoothie

As you can see I used banana to sweeten the smoothie. I also named it Stegosaurus Smoothie to interest Cooper in it.

Cooper has been drinking homemade smoothies since he really little. I find it an easy way to get extra fruit and veg into him on top of what he is getting in his meals and snacks. It's particularly good for those he isn't so keen on.

Something else he isn't keen on is green smoothies. So when I told him I was making a stegosaurus smoothie, his interest was immediately piqued and he was happy to try it.

Unfortunately his pre-conceived ideas about drinking something green with spinach kicked in and he only drank about a third of it,  but it was a great place to start. Hopefully if I keep making it for him in between his other smoothies, he'll get used to it.

It's quite a simple green smoothie and my powerful Froothie blender made short work of it. You could add more greens but this is a good one to start with.

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Stegosaurus Smoothie
A simple fresh green smoothie that is highly addictive.
  • 100 g fresh spinach
  • 8 cm piece cucumber
  • a handful of fresh mint
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp wheat grass powder
  • 400 ml apple juice
  • a few ice cubes
1. Whizz up all the ingredients in a blender.2. If you don't have a powerful blender don't add the ice cubes and cut down the cucumber and banana or you may burn out the motor.3. Pour and enjoy!
Total time:
Yield: Makes 4-6 glasses

For those of you who've been following my blog for years I thought you might like to know that Cooper started school this week. He is enjoying it so far, although none of his friends are in his class, so he is still finding his feet. Here are a few photos from his first day.


Mini Caprese Calzone

Mini Caprese Calzones

Vue Cinemas have been celebrating Jon Favreau’s long-awaited film Chef by creating street food recipe cards.

Chef is a film about Chef Carl Casper who gives up his job in a restaurant, when his integrity is challenged and goes on the road with his friend, ex-wife and son in a food truck. 

I've not seen it yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Vue Cinemas challenged me to come up with some street food to be made into recipes cards and I decided to go for a spot of Italian food.

Italy is somewhere I've always wanted to visit, I just haven't managed yet. I do love italian food though. 

For this recipe I wanted some Italian inspired food that would be easy to eat as you walked. Pizza is great, but it can be messy to eat with your hands, so I made mini calzone with the flavours of a caprese salad. The fresh flavours of tomato, mozzarella and basil. You just can't beat it.

Italian style street food - mini calzone

I made my standard white pizza dough, cut it into circles, added some homemade pizza sauce and topped with a slice of fresh mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, some torn basil and a good grinding of black pepper. I then folded them and sealed them with a fork, pricked them and baked until golden.

Graham was drafted in to tear open the calzone so I could take a photo. He burned his fingers on the first one and was rather pathetic about it. He has delicate girls hands when it comes to heat. I wonder if we build up resistance to heat as cooks?

Head over to the Vue website to read all the street food recipes including this one.

Buon appetito!

Disclosure: I developed this recipe for Vue Cinemas.. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Edinburgh Foodies Festival

lentil and spinach burger 

Premier Inn invited me to visit The Foodies Festival in Edinburgh to report on it.

We drove over to Edinburgh after I finished work and my friend Alistair came with us as he was staying with a friend overnight before going to the festival too. We checked in to our room in Premier Inn Leith Waterfront, which was rather nice, but then Premier Inn is always good quality. 

The Fringe is on just now and I had great plans that we'd have a wander around the old town to see some of the street performers, but it was just too late by the time we had dinner.

From the hotel we walked to Ocean Terminal to have a spot of dinner. It was just too late to go further afield. We decided to eat at Handmade Burger Co, who do a great range of freshly made veggie burgers


From the restaurant we had fabulous view across Leith, the burgers were great and the staff were really friendly. It was a nice relaxed evening.

I had a Spinach and Lentil Burger with burger relish, lettuce, mayonnaise and tomato, Graham had a Cajun Vegetable and Bean Burger, Alistair had a Three Cheese and Baby Leek Burger and Cooper had Vegetable and Bean Burger, once he'd finished chomping on a corn on the cob. 

The burgers were great. Fresh and full of flavour. It's so nice to have lots of veggie options. The burger bun could have been more interesting, but that was a small gripe.

We had more great views over Leith on the walk back to the hotel.

After a good night's sleep, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the neighbouring Brewers Fayre before heading to Inverleith Park. 

Graham and Cooper headed to the Botanic Gardens to take photos and I headed into the festival. It was a little drizzly as I arrived and unfortunately the weather got worse and worse. 

The Great British Bake Off 

After texting Stuart (Cakeyboi) to see where he was, I met him and our friends Dave and Andrew in the Chef's Theatre to watch a demonstration by Glenn Cosby from the Great British Bake Off. He was rather funny and I chortled away and didn't pay much attention to what he was baking.

Franny Craddock
A kind gift from 'Fanny'

Next we headed to the Chocolate, Cake, Bake and Preserves Theatre where we met up with Genna from Blethering Boys, who was there with her hubby and friend. Last to arrive was 'Fanny' from Keep Calm and Fanny On. I'm afraid I'm not free to divulge Fanny's real name, it's top secret.

With fruit ciders and non-alcoholic berry drinks for the drivers we settled down for the next two demonstrations thankful we were in out of the torrential rain.

Those poor drenched people looking in on us in our dry seats jealously.
Our first demonstration in the cake tent was Absinthe Fairy Cakes made by Emilly Ladybird. Vegan cupcakes with booze. Hmmmmm, interesting! Emilly first told us about her love of steam punk and then ventured into the recipe. I'm afraid I was too busy sipping my cider to take any photos.

Next up was two of the three sisters from Three Sisters Bake. The third sister is heavily pregnant, so sent her apologies. The three sisters have a Cafe and Craft Boutique in Quarrier's Village to the West of Glasgow. They had a new book published in March called Three Sisters Bake and are working on  food truck as we speak.

For this demonstration we were talked through making an ombre cake, which I thought was really interesting as icing cakes isn't my strong point. I don't think Andrew was as impressed. He prefers eating cake to making it.

Thrree Sisters Bake

After the demonstration, we all decided we'd had enough of the torrential rain and bid each other goodbye.

Andrew and I squelched around the site to see what was on offer. It was a bit half-hearted as it was still raining heavily. I did buy some rather tasty cheese from The Snowdonia Cheese Company and a new brush for my garlic plate. Oh and I was delighted to see Charlotte Flowers was there with her gorgeous chocolates, so I popped across for a chat and stocked up on their dark chocolate shards. Happy days!

Poor Graham and Cooper got caught in the rain at the Botanics and were sheltering in the car. Graham was in a very grumpy mood abut having one very wet foot, so once we got back to the car I decided food was in order.

I had a look through the free food and drink guide we were handed out at the festival and found a vegan cafe to visit, called The Forest Cafe. It had great reviews so I popped the postcode into my phone and off we went. It was easy to find, but we drove round the block a few times before finding a parking space.

Inside it was very arty with painted walls, decorated tables, odd chairs a blackboard with the menu. Andrew, Graham and I had enchiladas (Graham's were vegan) and Cooper decided just to have falafel on a wrap with just a little hummus. The enchiladas were giant with a dressed side salad, rice and potato salad. Just what we needed. Although I didn't manage all of mine.

We were shattered by the time we got home and all ready to head to bed. It was a fun weekend, but it would have been better if the weather had been on our side. I'll definitely return next year, but I'll be crossing my fingers for sunshine.

Disclosure: Premier Inn gave me a complimentary stay and spending money for the festival. I already had a press pass courtesy of the Festival. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

Mash Topped Vegetable Pie (Veggie and Vegan Options)

A simple pie of vegetables in a cheese sauce topped with mashed potato. Comfort food at it's best. Vegetarian and vegan options.

Mash Topped Vegetable Pie in baking dish

Comforting Pies

It's getting cooler up here in Scotland, so salads are being pushed aside in favour of more comforting dishes like this mashed potato topped vegetable pie.

I do love a comforting pie and it seems like you do too as my pies are all really popular.

If you haven't seen my other pies, check out my Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie which is also topped with mashed potato; my Cottage Vegetable Pie which is a bit like a veggie shepherd's pie but has a lot of vegetables in it and my Cheesey Vegetable Pie which is also vegetables in cheese sauce, but topped with golden, crispy pastry.

Mashed Potato Topped Vegetable Pie in a black baking dish

Family Recipe

This isn't one of my best photos, but it's a great family dish.

A mixture of vegetables in a creamy sauce topped with mashed potato and baked until the surface of the mash is crisp and golden and the sauce is bubbling.

We all love the crispy bits on a bake like this, don't we?

This pie is frugal, it's comforting, it's filling and we all really enjoyed it.

I made two versions of this dish, a veggie one for Cooper and I with a mature cheddar cheese sauce and one with a vegan cheese sauce for Graham.

ingredients for cheese sauce in a blender jug

Blender Cheese Sauce

I made the cheese sauce for this pie (both a vegan and a vegetarian sauce) in my power blender.

Did you know you can make a cheese sauce in a blender?

I was inspired to make sauce in my Optimum 9400 blender after seeing a blender white sauce over at The Crafty Larder.

The blender sauce was a little thinner than usual, but it was silky smooth and so quick to make.

I'll definitely be making cheese sauce this way again. Of course if you don't have a powerful blender like mine, you can whisk the sauce in a pot the traditional way.

pin it for later

A simple pie of vegetables in a cheese sauce topped with mashed potato. Comfort food at it's best. Vegetarian and vegan options. #vegetablepie #mashtoppedpie #pie #veganpie #vegetarianpie #mashedpotato #vegetables

Remember - follow me on PinterestFacebookTwitter and Instagram for more recipe inspiration and lots of chat.

Frugal Recipe

You can use any vegetables you have languishing in the fridge or freezer or simply choose your favourite veg.

This is a really frugal recipe that doesn't break the bank.

It's also a great way of getting your 5 a day in one meal. I think we all need to try and eat more vegetables than we currently do. Don't you?

I do hope you try this recipe and enjoy it as much as we did.

Mash Topped Vegetable Pie 


This pie is a real comfort dish and although it has a cheesey comforting sauce, which contains fat, it isn't too calorific and because it has so many vegetables it can still be seen as a reasonably healthy dish.

There are 524 calories in 6 portions and 786 calories in 4 large portions.

The pie is high in potassium, vitamin D and iron and a good source of calcium.

Mash Topped Vegetable Pie

Mash Topped Vegetable Pie (Veggie and Vegan Options) - recipe card
Yield: serves 4-6
prep time: 15 Mcook time: 40 Mtotal time: 55 M
A comforting and economical family pie of vegetables in a creamy sauce topped with mashed potato and baked until golden.


  • 4 carrots, sliced thickly
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets and then halved
  • 340g  tin/2 cups  sweetcorn
  • 1kg potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 5 tbsp olive oil (for the mash)
  • 2 tsp olive oil (for the mushrooms)
  • 4 large flat mushrooms, sliced
  • 60g butter (dairy free spread) for the sauce
  • 7 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml milk (unsweetened soy milk)
  • 120g mature cheddar grated (vegan cheddar & vegan parmesan)
  • ½ tsp English mustard powder (optional)
  • a good grinding of salt and pepper


How to cook Mash Topped Vegetable Pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 220c/fan 200c/gas mark 7
  2. Steam or boil the cauliflower and carrots until just tender, drain and set aside.
  3. Steam or boil the potatoes until soft, mash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Gently fry the mushrooms in the olive oil, season these too.
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, make your cheese or dairy free sauce. Either whizz in a high power blender for a few minutes, then leave to thicken or whisk over a low heat in a pot until smooth and thick.
  6. Mix together the cooked vegetables and corn and coat in the sauce, then pour into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potato. 
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.
  8. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread.
  9. Enjoy!


I have added vegan parmesan to the ingredient list as vegan cheddar can be quite mild, so the parmesan adds extra flavour.

You can also add veggie parmesan to the vegetarian cheese sauce if you want more of a punch of flavour.
Fat (grams)
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pie, vegan pie, vegetable pie, vegetarian pie, mash topped pie, mash topped vegetable pie, vegetables, cheese sauce, blender cheese sauce
British, vegan, vegetarian
Created using The Recipes Generator

Comforting Recipes for Cold Days

comforting recipes - chilli and curry

Disclosure: I mentioned my power blender in this post. I've been using it for 6 years now and love it. I do work with Froothie, but I was not expected to write a positive review and comments are my own.

Prosecco, Elderflower & Mint Cocktail

Like Prosecco? Oh yes me too and I loved the Hugo cocktail I tried at Pizza Express. 

I liked it so much I decided I had to recreate it.  It's not rocket science but it's very slurpable, so I thought I would share it with you along with my trip to Pizza Express in St Andrews.

I visited Pizza Express with my good buddies Stuart (Cakeyboi) and Genna (Blethering Boys). We were tasked with trying the Summer menu. It's sometimes tough being a food blogger!

We started with the most important order of the night, our cocktails. It was a good start to the night.

Then we went on to order some starters to share. 

  • Polenta Chips

Italian polenta with rosemary, twice baked and finished with Gran Moravia cheese, served with honey & mustard dressing.

These were great and I loved the dip they were served with. Very moreish.

  • Leggera Panzanella "PizzaExpress"


  • Bosco

Warm garlic mushrooms, baby mozzarella, avocado, roasted tomatoes, spinach, rocket, balsamic syrup, honey & mustard dressing, warm dough sticks

I did enjoy this one., but I don't think it needed the dough sticks. Mind you if you were having this as a main course you might be glad of them.

  • Leggera Superfood Salad


Baby spinach and seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and fresh basil finished with balsamic syrup.

This was a heavenly salad. When I go back I'll be ordering this as a main course and not sharing it at all. This is what a salad should be.


So hard to choose which one to have. I went for the Caprina Rossa. Beetroot, goat’s cheese, red onion, garlic, tomato and mozzarella. Finished with Gran Moravia cheese, rocket and pesto, served with a wedge of fresh lemon. It was a good choice. I do like a pizza topped with rocket and this one was lovely thin and crisp. A good flavour combo.


For dessert I selected off the Summer menu. I went for the lemon curd sorbet with blueberries, coulis and a chocolate straw. It was the perfect finish to the meal. Really refreshing, but not heavy. I am liking the summery fresh flavours on their new menu.

As much as we enjoyed the food, we also had great service from the friendly staff and had a good view of the restaurant, which was rather busy for a Wednesday night. It's obviously a popular place. Oh I do like people watching. Don't you?

After our meal we had a wee stroll round St Andrews. If you haven't been, you must make plans to visit. I love all the cobbles and the architecture, never mind all the interesting little shops.

Pizza Express St Andrews

St Andrews 111 South Street, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9UH

01334 477109

 Check out Genna and Stuart's reviews of the evening 

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Prosecco, Elderflower & Mint Cocktail
A fresh summery cocktail for happy days.
  • 1-2 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • a sprig of mint
  • a few ice cubes
  • a glass of prosecco
1. Pour the elderflower cordial into a wine glass and top with a squeeze of lemon juice.2. Add ice cubes and a sprig of mint.3. Top with Prosecco and serve.4. Enjoy. Hic!
Total time:
Yield: Makes 1 cocktail

Here are a few more pizza recipes for you to try with your cocktail:

Pizza Primavera - Franglais Kitchen
Homemade Wholemeal and Lentil Pizzas - Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
Puff Pizza with Pesto - Tinned Tomatoes
Banana, Caramel and Chocolate Dessert Pizza - A Glug of Oil

Disclosure: Pizza Express invited myself, Stuart and Genna to try the new Summer menu. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.
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