No Croutons Required - The Winner of the March Challenge

We received lots of tempting entries for the March challenge, but the most popular was Soma's flavour packed Roasted Vegetable Stew with Coconut Milk. Congratulations Soma! I can't wait to try this gorgeous stew.

Holler will be hosting the next edition of No Croutons Required. The theme for April is tomatoes. Vegetarian soups or salads featuring any type of tomato will be accepted. Holler has added an additional twist this month. Holler's birthday falls on the first day of the challenge, so she is asking for a menu to go along with your submission. You don't need to cook everything on the menu, just the soup or salad you submit for the event, but do include in your post what you would serve along with it for Holler's birthday!

Cheddar, Dill and Beer Biscuit Muffins

Cheddar, Dill and Beer Biscuit Muffins

Always keen to try quick bread recipes to complement a variety of meals, I immediately took note of Holler's recipe for Cheddar & dill beer bread rolls. Once upon a time, I used to consume a healthy quotient of beer, but I have since changed the glass to accommodate red wine. All the same, I was tempted by the idea of baking with beer — especially a dark, rich and flavorful beer, like the Newcastle Brown Ale that I used. The result was a kitchen filled with baking aromas that will not fail to stir the most stuffed tummies. Soft on the inside with a golden crisp exterior, they have the tantalizing taste and feel of dinner biscuits, but they're bake in a muffin tray, making them incredibly easy to make too.

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Sweet and Spicy Rice


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Sweet and Spicy Rice

Hot and simple … two of my favorite words to describe food. This fast and easy-to-make rice packs a fiery bite on top of a welcoming sweetness, and is delicious served steaming hot. Slightly adapted from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries — a book I'm finding increasingly indispensable — sweet and spicy rice makes a wonderful contrast with more earthy legume or vegetable curries such as chopped cabbage with a crumbly chana dal sauce.

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Chopped Cabbage with a Crumbly Chana Dal Sauce


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Chopped Cabbage with a Crumbly Chana Dal Sauce

For all its nutritional and economic value, cabbage is often one of those vegetables I buy at the market without the slightest idea what I'm going to do with it once it's home. But as with so many ingredients not native to the land, Indians have discovered some of the most delicious and inventive uses for cabbage I've found yet, such as the cabbage poriyal I discovered recently, and now this colorful and delicious cabbage prepared with Indian spices and a delightful and creative dry chana dal sauce adapted from Raghavan Iyer's indispensible 660 Curries.

Pre-soaked dals and chilies are ground to a paste and steamed to form a dry, crumbly and savory sauce that is combined and re-moistened with the cooking cabbage in Iyer's version, but I've fried the paste for ease of use instead here. Either way, the soft crumbs of dal provide an enjoyable contrast in texture with the crunch of lightly cooked cabbage, as well as a wholesome and delicious added layer of flavor.

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Corn Pancakes with Fresh Chunky Salsa

Corn Pancakes with Fresh Chunky Salsa

I've always like corn pancakes, but I've found now that I really like them served with a refreshing and zesty no-cook chunky tomato and jalapeño salsa on a hot summer day. Easy, filling and a fresh tasting and satisfying dinner. This recipe can easily be doubled if you have more than 2 to 4 tummies to satisfy.

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No Croutons Required - Indian Vegetarian Soups and Salads

Eager for spring and dreaming of warmer climates, I chose Indian or Indian-style soups and salads as the theme for the March challenge. Sensible vegetarians who are in harmony with good nutrition and exciting taste sensations will be sure to find some inspiration from this month's challenge. Settle in and have a look at all of the mouthwatering entries we received. Though the choice won't be easy, please vote for your favorite in the comment section or by email. Please note that neither my submission, nor Holler's, is eligible for voting.

Our very first entry is from Rama who is relatively new to the blogging world. She shares this easy, earthy Carrot and Lentil Soup that she based on a Rasam recipe she learned from her sister-in-law. Carrots and toor dal are seasoned with some salt and pepper and fresh coriander. We don't have a picture of this soup, but I can image it is very colourful. (USA)

VnV of Veggie Monologues enter the challenge with this nourishing and chunky Lentil and Garbanzo Soup with Choy Sum. The legumes and choy sum are pleasantly flavoured with ginger, garlic, chilies, onion, garam masala, cumin and cilantro. Sounds like an ideal soup to serve along with some flatbread for a most satisfying meal. (Northern California, USA)

Our next entry is this stunning Mulligatawny Soup from Rita of Asparagus and Raspberries. Her version of this popular Anglo-Indian soup is made with potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions, parsnips, apples, corn, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, coconut milk, pistachio nuts, lemon and lime juice and lots of spice. Packed full of nutrients and flavours, this soup won't fail to cure and nourish. (Denmark, Scandinavia)

Next up is Priya with this vitamin rich Spinach and Dal Soup. Spinach and moong dal are simmered with onion, tomato, garlic, pepper, cumin, nutmeg and some cream. This tasty creation is then blended together into a creamy soup and served with some toasted bread. Sounds like a fine lunch or dinner solution to me. (Paris, France)

Arundathi shares this creative Pineapple Salad. The flesh of the pineapple is combined with cilantro, onion and green chilies and dressed with lemon juice, chat masala and salt and pepper. Served in the shell of the pineapple, this fresh and inspired salad would certainly be an impressive addition to a summer meal. (India)

Trupti submits this pretty Green Pea Soup. Consisting of peas, corn, coconut milk, onion, ginger, veggie stock and chili powder, this delightful pureed soup can be served chilled or at room temperature making it a fine addition to any meal, any time of year. (Virginia, USA)

From Soma of eCurry we have this gorgeous Roasted Vegetable Stew with Coconut Milk. A synthesis of a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and her mom's, this healthy stew is made with roasted carrots, potatoes, squash, and bell pepper, in addition to tofu, asparagus, beans, milk, curry leaves, green chilies and spices. Serve this hearty stew with some bread or crackers on the side for a unique and fulfilling cold weather meal. (Plano, Texas, USA)

Pavani of Cook's Hideout comes up with this colourful Curried Rice and Bean Salad. A meal in itself, this salad has brown and white basmati rice, black-eyed peas, shallots, garlic, curry powder, cherry tomatoes, arugula and is dressed with lemon juice and salt and pepper. This pleasing recipe is easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand. (USA)

Next up is this citrusy South Indian Lemon Rasam from A&N of Delectably Yours. Inspired by N's mom, this warming rasam is made with toor dal, lemon, tomato, ginger, cumin, turmeric, green chilies, and fresh coriander. Serve with rice and perhaps some papadums in place of croutons for a lovely Indian meal. (Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Dhivya of Culinary Bazaar offers up this beautiful Red Lentil and Coconut Soup that is packed full of nutrition and flavour. Lentils and coconut milk combine with onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, lemons, scallions and some fresh cilantro. This vibrant soup was served for lunch with a nice slab of crusty bread. Nothing subdued about that if you ask me! (USA)

My contribution this month is this Mung and Tamarind Dal that I based on a recipe from Dakshin, a highly valued cookbook featuring South Indian dishes. Essentially a sambar, this fiery soup is made up of mung beans, tamarind, lots of green chilies, turmeric and tempered with black mustard seeds, dried red chili, asafoetida and curry leaves. Those who enjoy the heat of Indian dishes will want to try this tasty dal. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Our next entry is this colourful Varuthu Araitha Kootu (Roasted Ground Medley) from Suganya of Tasty Palettes. Moong Dal, and mixed vegetables cooked with some turmeric, are then combined with a fresh spice mixture of red chilies, black pepper, urad dal, grated coconut, asafoetida, and some curry leaves and then tempered with some mustard seeds. A excellent dish to make if you have veggies left over in the crisper, though I'd be tempted to make it anytime and often. (USA)

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf enters this month with a unique and inspired, thick and creamy, North Indian-style Almond and Vegetable Soup. Potatoes, cabbage, green pepper and onion come together with some milk and roasted almonds and salt and pepper and a bay leaf. Certainly this soup would be the star of any meal. (Bangalore, India)

My treasured friend and co-host of No Croutons Required prepared this lovely Turnip, Cumin and Coriander Soup for our event. Holler spices up squash, potatoes, turnip and onion, with garlic, ginger, cumin, chili powder, black pepper and a generous handful of fresh coriander leaves. Anyone invited into Holler's kitchen is sure to experience culinary bliss. (Scotland, UK)

Last but not least, lovely Maninas contributes a taste sensation with her Punjabi Green Lentils with Deep Brown Onions and Garam Masala and illustrates how patience and willingness to experiment will yield mouthwatering results. Green lentils are simmered with turmeric, and then seasoned with a tarka of cumin seeds, browned onions, ginger, garlic and of course garam masala. No picture, as the family camera is occupied, but I am sure you can use your imagination. (Croatia)

Holler will be hosting April's edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Red Kidney Beans with Turnip


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Red Kidney Beans with Turnip

There's plenty of room in most kitchens — and more than enough in mine — for fast and simple recipes to feed a family on the go with a filling, nutritious and delicious meal. Kidney beans, vegetables and gentle spices combine in this recipe — adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's out-of-print Taste of India — for an earthy, satisfying and quick dinner.

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Mung Bean and Tamarind Dal


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Mung Bean and Tamarind Dal

Yet another recipe adapted from Dakshin, a treasured cookbook focusing on traditional South Indian culinary delights. Easy to prepare, this colorful mung bean curry is sure to please those who crave spicy dals, although you can reduce the number of chilies used if you want a milder version. Tempered with tangy tamarind, I served this fiery dish alongside a mild and tasty tamarind rice.

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Tamarind Rice


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Tamarind Rice

I'm perfectly content with plain basmati rice, perhaps moderately adorned with some melted butter and fresh lime juice. I just adore rice that much. Rice lover that I am though, I do enjoy taking a bit more time to create a rice creation that seriously competes for the wow factor of the meal.

And I must recommend this memorable experience of perfect textures and flavors adapted slightly from my trusted copy of Dakshin, a glorious collection of traditional vegetarian south Indian recipes. The steps to prepare the tamarind chutney essential for making this dish can be found here.

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Creamy Split Pea & Vegetable Soup

Creamy Split Pea & Vegetable Soup

Spring might — and I mean might — be finally peering at us around the corner here in southwestern Ontario, but whether it's bitterly cold or just cool there's nothing more warming or comforting than a hot bowl of hearty and nourishing split pea soup. This creamy split pea soup is loaded with chunks of delicious vegetables, takes little time or effort to make, and is most satisfying with thick slices of fresh bread.

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Tamarind Chutney


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Tamarind Chutney

I made this wonderfully layered spicy, sweet, sour and tangy south Indian tamarind chutney in preparation for this tamarind rice dish. Made with fried spices and toasted sesame seeds and coconut in addition to the tamarind, this recipe comes from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan, a lavishly illustrated and informative cookbook focusing on traditional fiery vegetarian Indian dishes from the south. Dal and rice dishes are nicely balanced with vegetable creations, condiments, sweets and snacks and essential spice powders. Included is a helpful glossary of ingredients and cooking terminology common to Indian Cuisine. It's quickly become one of my favorite Indian cookbooks.

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Indian-Style Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry


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Indian-Style Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry

This lovely curry is sweet and spicy, nourishing and delicious … but most importantly, oh so simple and quick. A curry in a hurry for families on the go, and a delightful meal whether served up on a bed of hot white rice or scooped up from the plate in fresh flat breads.

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Spicy White Bean and Turnip Soup

Spicy White Bean and Turnip Soup

Aside from actually traveling to the Mediterranean and dining at a seaside café, the next best way to cope with a relentlessly long and cold winter might be to set a big soup pot full of hot and nourishing Mediterranean vegetables and beans to cook on the stove. This hearty, colourful and slightly spicy Croatian recipe is adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's wonderful Mediterranean Harvest both to boost the vegetables and to deal with the fact I didn't have parsnips on hand — in went the turnips instead, and to delicious effect.

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Spicy Mung Bean Soup with Coconut Milk


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spicy Mung Bean Soup with Coconut Milk

Spring tempts and tickles with rather frosty tendrils, but the tease is not enough to resist the lure of a warming bowl of nourishing soup. Craving mung beans, I came up with this creamy soup that includes a good little handful of hot peppers, but the coconut milk tempers the chilies and the spice resulting in a flavorful but somewhat subdued dish that goes well with some nutty brown basmati rice. An added bonus is that the soup tastes even better the next day. Next time I make this, I'm going to increase the spices a wee tad and add dried red chilies for a slightly fiery undertone.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for February and the Theme for March

Congratulations to Alisa of One Frugal Foodie for winning the potato soup and salad challenge with this lovely Creamy Potato Miso Soup. She certainly had some tough competition.

I'm especially eager for Spring right now and after much thought, decided to focus on a cuisine from a warmer area of the globe and to go with a theme that falls in line with my specialty. For March, the challenge is to come up with an Indian or Indian-style vegetarian soup or salad. Soupy dal dishes are also welcomed. You have until the 20th to email us your entry. For a recap of the submission guidelines, please go here.