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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Arrabbiata sauce and what works best to stop chili burning


I pulled up my tomato plants, no more fruit now, and with all the rain we had the last tomatoes tasted more of water than of tomato! The solution? An arrabbiata sauce! Please note that the chilies here are not mine except for the fat black one (I had two, a couple more still on the plant, not sure if I will ever harvest them though…). 


My son Max loves arrabbiata, one of his favourite sauces, as long as it is not toooo hot. So I just used one chili and put it in the pot with the cut up tomatoes. I cooked the lot until the tomatoes where mashy (most were cherry tomatoes so it didn't take long!), then I passed the tomatoes through a sieve and collected the pulp minus seeds and peels. I cooked this until thick, added olive oil and salt, and the sauce was ready. Another way would have been to cook the tomatoes first and then add the chili to the tomato pulp, but this worked well. 


Max fascination with chili led him to do a science project last year (year 8), and it was very interesting for me too. He bravely tried different chilies several times over a course of a few weeks, looking for the best antidote to spiciness. He was very meticolous, repeating the experiments over and over and even asked some of his friends to try (not very successful here though). For each type of chili he checked how many tbsp of water, apple juice, milk, yogurt or rice were needed to take the heat off.



The juice experiment soon became the hardest, as he quickly worked out that sweet fruit juices don't work! Water didn't help much either, since the capsaicin compound is hydrophobic, but these were all things that he had to work out himself, rather than reading them in books. As to be expected the best antidote in the list was yogurt, followed by milk (just above rice, the only solid food in the experiment).


Yogurt goes well with curry, and we often have a lassi drink or a raita when we eat Indian food, but what if the arrabbiata sauce is too hot? We wouldn't put yogurt here! Fortunately all fats work with capsaicin, and olive oil is one of the best, not good to drink, but perfect on pasta :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter - Buona Pasqua



Happy Easter Have a wonderful holiday
Love and xxoxo

 Alessandra


Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Picking, treating and preserving olives in brine, and olives marinated in olive oil and herbs


Preserving olives is a rewarding experience. If you don’t have an olive tree you may be able to forage olives from trees in community gardens and in parks.  Usually olives are ready around April-May (in New Zealand).
Pick the olives from the tree (never from the ground) and wash well in cold water. If you prefer sweet-tasting olives you can put them in a bucket of water for up to 40 days, or 20-30 days for very small olives, changing the water every 24 hours; the olives will become brownish in colour, and lose a lot of bitterness. After this period make a brine (recipe follows) and bttle your olives. If you prefer crispy green olives with a peppery taste, just wash them and soak them for a day, then preserve them in brine.

Brine for preserving olives

Before making the brine, be sure to have plenty of glass jars with lids, sterilised and completely dry.

Ingredients
Water
Salt

Prepare 10% salt brine (100 g of salt for every litre of water) by placing in a saucepan the water and salt.  Simmer until the salt is completely dissolved. Once the brine is cold place the olives into clean sterilised jars and cover completely with the brine.

To each jar add one more clove of garlic, a fresh bay leaf, a chilli pepper, or a fresh sprig of thyme.  Seal and put away in a dark place for three months. After this period the olives can be used in cooking or can be marinated with olive oil and your favourite herbs.
If you’d like to keep the olives for longer, prepare a new brine with an 8% solution (80 g of salt every for every litre of water) and put the olives into new jars with the fresh brine. Olives stored this way, and completely covered with brine, will last up to one year. Don't worry if you see white spots forming at the top of the brine, as this is natural — just remove them every time you open the jar, and always rinse the olives before using. Below is a recipe for marinating your preserved olives with olive oil and herbs, starting with your olives in brine.
  




Olives marinated in olive oil and herbs

I suggest you use a delicate olive oil for this recipe, like an extra virgin olive oil from the supermarket. Expensive olive oil is far too precious to marinate olives, unless you have your own press.

Ingredients
300 g olives in brine (green or dark)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 peppercorns
200 ml extra virgin olive oil



Drain the olives well from the brine, and give them a little rinse if necessary. Place in a large jar, add the herbs and pepper corns, and cover with the oil. Leave to rest for at least one day, and then serve. Store in a cool place and use within two weeks.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sexy pumpkin!




 I got given this pumpkin, it is quite big and really beautiful, I am not quite sure about the variety, a long neck? I don't want to cut it yet (too pretty) so it has been posing in my living room like a big bottomed model in an art studio.
Does anyone know this variety, and what it is best used for? I expect that I can get quite a bit of flesh from the 'neck' while all the seeds are in the round bottom part… and if this is the case I may just keep some seeds for next year, so I can too have some fancy long neck beauties like this one!


Well, if you have a name, and some recipes, for my model I look forward to hearing from you! :-)


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fig tart and green lisianthus



There is a fig tree up the road from my house and every year I can forage a few figs. This year they abound and are small but sweet. The skin is a bit hard though, so they are perfect for baking rather than eating raw.

Fig tart

For the base:

- 200g plain flour
- 100g  butter, soft
- 100g sugar
- 1 egg 
- 1 drop vanilla essence

For the filling
- 12/15 figs (depends on size)
- 3 eggs + 2 egg whites
- 100 g raw sugar
- 100 g yogurt
- 1 drop vanilla essence
- Icing sugar to sprinkle

Prepare the base and spread over the base and borders of a 23cm tart dish lined with baking paper. Cut the figs into two and place over the pastry, cut sides up. Whip the eggs and egg whites with the sugar, add the yogurt and vanilla essence and then pour over the figs. Bake for about 45 minutes at 180°C or unit the centre is not wobbly anymore. Dust with icing sugar and let it cool down completely before cutting.



I am in love with lisianthus, especially the light green variety. It would be great to grow them in the garden, anyone out there that knows how? 




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, April 11, 2014

Polish Easter Egg Workshop Wednesday 16 April and the recipe of the day: Gluten free and vegan vermicelli with baby corn and Chinese mushrooms






 Celebrate a Polish Tradition and Create Beautiful Eggs for Easter

An Invitation from Regina

The Polish tradition is that after fasting for Lent for 40 days a family makes a basket of food to be blessed at Holy Saturday’s Mass.  There is a quiet element of competitiveness with the baskets with most parishioner’s, especially the women, checking out the baskets to judge who they believe has the best one.



The contents of the Easter basket are eaten by the family on Sunday morning, so everything one consumes for breakfast needs to be in the basket, this includes: decorated Pisanki (eggs), kielbasa (Polish sausage), a butter lamb, salt, a babka (pound cake from a moulded tin) or a sweet yeast cake.  A Pussy Willow branch or toy chick is also in a lot of baskets as this is one of the first trees to show signs of the impending and long awaiting Spring and both are a sign of new life.

Every year our family has made an Easter basket with many friends joining us for the decorating of the Pisanki.
We extend a warm welcome to all to join us this Easter!

The Details
Where: Oratia - address available on registration
When: Wednesday April 16th 7pm to 9pm
Cost: $5 Members $15 Guests
RSVP: Anutosh 8349909

And now for the recipe of the day:

Gluten free and vegan vermicelli with baby corn and Chinese mushrooms


This is a cold dish, incredibly filling. 

Ingredients

1 handful mixed Chinese dried mushrooms
1 pack vermicelli 
A few drops sesame oil
1 can baby corn, drained
1 small carrot, grated
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Juice from half a lime or lemon
1 fresh chili finely chopped (optional)
2 or 3 tbsp soy or Tamari sauce (Tamari sauce if you are gluten free)
Vietnamese mint fo decorate

Soak and then simmer the mushrooms until they are soft, then drain and cut into small strips. Cook the vermicelli in boiling water (or use the mushrooms' stock) for two minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water, place in a mixing/serving bowl and add the sesame oil. Mix well. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Serve at room temperature, or cold if it a really hot day.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vegan and gluten free chocolate pudding for Sweet New Zealand



This is sooooo yummy, it reminds me of those soy chocolate puddings that you can buy in the fridge compartment of many organic-vegetarian stores (and now in some supermarkets too) but it is homemade and therefore even tastier.

For 4 puddings:
500 ml oragnic soy milk (I use Vitasoy, either Original, Milky or Calci Plus)
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 heap tbsp cocoa (the better the cocoa the better the flavour, so don't go for cheap baking cocoa, but for 'hot chocolate' quality)
1 tbsp cornflour
Natural Vanilla essence (or a little cinnamon if you prefer)

Dissolve the dried ingredients with a little soy milk to make a paste, then add the rest of the milk and mix well. Put on the stove on low and, always stirring, bring to simmering point. Make sure that you stir well, especially around the borders and bottom of the pot, so that the pudding has a smooth consistency. As soon as it start thickening turn the element off, add the vanilla essence (if using) and keep stirring until it has cooled down a bit. Divide into 4 dessert ramekins or small bowls (or teacups) and refrigerate.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©



Sweet NZ imageThis recipe is for Sweet New Zealand #33, the blogging event open to all Kiwi bloggers (living in NZ or overseas) and expats blogging from NZ. April's host is Marnelli form Sweets and Brainsclick here to enter. Also let me know if you are keen to be a host in 2014, and book a month!



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kashmiri Masala chickpeas and potatoes


Manu invited me to a 'Swap' on her blog, and my swapping partner is Billie from Scotland. We had to send each other an ingredient and then make a recipe with it. I sent Billie the Fresh As raspberry powder, and I look forward to see what she will do with it! She sent me some Kasmiri Masala, but because I got it late (I forgot to tell Billie my address, silly me, but fortunately she copied it from the parcel I sent her!). I had a super busy week (which included preparing for a full day TV shoot), and I am behind with my deadline for publishing a recipe! But the best thing about a Masala is that you don't have to sizzle all the spices at the beginning and work out the doses, in fact a masala should be added at the very end, to enjoy the fragrances of the aromatic spices (and the Kashmiri Masala is definitely very aromatic!!). So even if I was running around like mad I managed to throw together something starting with the leftover juice of a peperonata (stewed capsicums with celery, carrot, and garlic).


I had all that wonderful bell pepper's stock left from the night before (we ate all the capsicums and veggies), so I just peeled and cut 5 large potatoes, added the content of one can of chickpeas, and some cherry tomatoes from the garden (make an incision with a knife so that they don't 'explode' during cooking). I added a little salt and then simmered everything until the potatoes were soft. I adjusted for salt and added one tsp of Kashmiri Masala, put the lid on for 2 more minutes on low, and then served my aromatic stew to the family (with some roti and some raita). The only problem is that I don't have a last photo! We ate too quickly before remembering to take one! :-) But I hope that you will like the recipe, and it is super simple!



And for the weekly gardening photo: the last blueberry (I think) from my plant but still quite a few Alpine strawberries coming up, this is what we can pick every two days, not enough for jam maybe, but enough to decorate desserts :-).


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Celery, cucumber and coriander juice

Green, cleansing and refreshing! 

Celery stalks and leaves, cucumber, and a few sprigs and leaves of coriander (to taste, it can be really strong).

Happy detoxing!








Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 31, 2014

Vegan Sushi and onigiri (rice balls)


The weather has been beautiful, and it is still possible to eat outside, especially fresh things like this vegan sushi. Note that fish sushi is not traditionally eaten in summer in Japan, although thanks to refrigeration now many do, but some 'traditionalists' refuse. Vegan sushi on the other hand, like inari and norimaki (nori rolls), as well as onigiri (rice balls) are all great summer options.


Let's start with the onigiri. Wash the sushi rice (or Japanese rice) several times in cold water, until the water runs clear, and then cook it by absorption. The doses are about 1 and 3/4 (three quarters) cups of sushi rice for 2 cups of water, but that depends on the type of pot. You need a pot with a good lid, or you will loose too much steam. I kind of regulate myself by ear now, since I know my pots and pans. Bring the pot to boiling point, lower the heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Once the rice is ready pour it into a bowl and stir it with a wooden spatula, cooling it with a fan if you can. At this stage I took some rice aside to make onigiri and used the rest for sushi (see below). Rub your hands with salt and shape the rice into balls. I added some salted sakura blossoms on top to make pretty onigiri, and then I made some miniature ones (last photo) which I sprinkled with fresh chives.


To the remaining rice I added some ready made sushi vinegar, about 2 tablespoons, but this is my personal taste. If I don't have sushi vinegar I use 2 tbsp of rice vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt (to taste, and I don't like to use too much sugar or salt!). Roll your norimaki with the filling of your choice (I used takuan, cucumber and busy lizzie flowers). Or use the rice to fill inari (tofu) sachets, and then top them with herbs, flowers, veggies and pickles. So refreshing.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vermicelli in coconut and veggie broth with tofu and Asian fragrances


This is an aromatic vegan and gluten free soup, light and delicious.

For the broth:
500 ml vegetable stock
1 can coconut cream or milk + one can of water (rinsing the coconut cream)
1 large yellow courgette (zucchini)
2 fresh red chilies
1 block of tofu
a pinch of freshly grated ginger
1 stalk lemon grass
a few coriander leaves

Simmer all together for a few minutes until the zucchini are soft but not mushy.

In the meantime soak the vermicelli in hot water until soft then divide between 6 bowls.
chop a few cherry tomatoes, and wash some fresh basil and some thai mint

Pour the hot soup over the vermicelli, making sure that each dish has equal parts of tofu and veggies.
Decorate with the tomatoes, basil and Thai mint and serve immediately.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grape juice and a glass full of memories


There are some beautiful grapes on sale at the Dragicevich Orchard in Oratia, those old fashion grapes that really smell and taste like grapes (not like the stuff that you find in supermarkets). And they make a wonderful juice. Apparently grape juice has antioxidant effects, well, this would be a bonus, but the only thing that I can say so far is that it is delicious, and the aroma brings back happy childhood memories of picking grapes at my Grandma's in Italy. Yes, memories in a small glass! Have you ever had a similar experience with food and drinks?


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fresh As raspberry agar agar, and Win with Sweet New Zealand!



Agar agar must be the easiest pudding ever, and it is vegan and gluten free. Also, if you don't use too much sugar it will be low in calories (and no fat, I guess…). 

For 4 serving I use 500ml of water, half tsp of agar agar powder (usually I use 1 tsp, but I wanted a softer and more wobbly jelly) and 1 tbsp of sugar (here too, personal taste!). For the Fresh As fruit powder dosage, it depends on your taste; for most fruit (like pineapple) I use 1 tbsp, or 1 and half tbsp (like passion fruit), but the raspberry powder is so intense that half tbsp with suffice, using the other half just to sprinkle on the jelly when is set. Bring to boil and pour into 4 jelly moulds. Let it cool down, refrigerate, and serve (with more Fresh As powder sprinkled on top). 

This recipe is for Sweet New Zealand #32, the blogging event open to all Kiwi bloggers (living in NZ or overseas) and expats blogging from NZ. Frances is the host for March, and there are many prizes this month offered by Healthy Food Guide (Tote bag, magazine and zesty citrus zester), so check out how to enter by clicking here. Also let me know if you are keen to be a host in 2014, and book a month!

Sweet NZ image
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vegan Rice Paper Rolls


Something filling yet light, done in a jiffy! I had very little left in the fridge, just a bit of salad mix, but in the pantry I had some rice paper, vermicelli and dried gluten meat. So I put the 'fake' meat in a pot with a little vegetable stock (made with an organic veggie cube) and cooked it until soft. Then I cut it into little strips (actually, Arantxa did it - see photo).  I soaked the vermicelli in boiling water and then drained and rinsed them. To assemble the rice paper rolls you will need to line the table with clean tea towels, then soak the rice paper in hot water until soft, top with salad, the vermicelli and the gluten meat strips.



 To see how to fold the rolls (step by step) you can have a look here. If you have time you can fold the rolls adding herb leaves and flowers. Keep the rolls covered with a tea towel until ready to eat. Serve with soy sauce or sweet chili sauce.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 21, 2014

Win the Italy Home Replica Shirt in time for the FIFA World Cup



Over at the Dante Auckland Blog there is a fab giveaway open to all Kiwis (and Italian Kiwis!) to win the Italy Home Replica Shirt.



Click here to enter, or visit the Dante Auckland FB group.


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