Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Parmesan and Borage fritters: four ingredients, gluten free!

Borage flowers are perfect for fritters, and for many other recipes, but I mostly use them for fritters because everyone loves them.

Borage flowers and young leaves (or other edible flowers)
3 free range eggs
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
Olive oil for frying.

 Pick the top of the plant as soon as it flowers, about 10 cm of stem with a few young leaves too. Don't wait until the flowers make seeds, these are too hard to eat!!! Rinse the stems well and several times and drip dry them. You can also use zucchini flowers for this, I had just a three in the garden and in they went into a batter made by whisking three eggs with a tbsp of parmesan cheese. Fry with extra virgin olive oil turning once until golden and crispy, and serve hot (but even cold leftovers are great to put into a sandwich, if you manage to save some, that is!).

Would you like more recipes for borage flowers? Try these:

Also check out the blog Cooking with Flowers for more ideas and recipes using edible flowers.

What else is in the garden now? New potatoes! Yum!

And the first tomatoes, finally!

And to finish a couple of photos of flowers in Nan's garden in Christchurch!

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wonderful Italian cheese in New Zealand

Mature cheeses from Emilio's cheese

I had a lovely dinner in Christchurch with Italian friends, and met local cheesemonger Emilio Festa of Emilio's cheese. I love cheese and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to try some NZ made Italian style cheese with a glass of Cracroft Chase Pinot Gris (my favourite Pinot Gris made in NZ by Italian Wilma and Alessandro Laryn). 

Emilio and Adriana
Fresh cheeses from Emilio's cheese
I cannot say which was my favourite cheese, they were all so delicious that it was too hard to decide, but I was moved when Emilio took out the crescenza, something so difficult to find here in New Zealand! I took some home for the family and everybody loved it!

Crescenza from Emilio's cheese

Pity that Emilio's cheese is only sold locally and doesn't make it to Auckland, but if you go to Canterbury check out the local Farmers' Markets around Chch, and Emilio's FB Page to find out where his cheeses are sold.
Only by supporting good local artisan cheesemongers we can truly develop great cheeses in New Zealand.

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do you know the name of these Campanula flowers, and Vegan chocolate pudding with strawberries and edible flowers

Sue gave me these beautiful flowers, the purple ones smell like honey, so delicious!
I believe that they are a type of Campanula (bell flowers), but I don't know the exact name. 
Do you?

Vegan chocolate pudding with strawberries and edible flowers

Arantxa picked flowers from the garden: roses, lavender, sage, violets and nasturtiums 
 I made my trusted vegan chocolate pudding, and since we are in season I wanted to top it with some strawberries, and maybe some flowers too? So I asked Arantxa to look after this.

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)
Strawberries and edible flowers to finish.

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. Cut the strawberries and place over the puddings, then add the petals of edible flowers (I think that maybe there was a bit much here, with lots of lavender, rose and sage aromas… but it was definitely a very perfumed dessert!).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sweet New Zealand, this is the end!

Well, we did get to 40 months of uninterrupted Sweet NZ blogging events, and I really would like to thank all the host and all the bloggers who took part. All your recaps are listed here!

But in the last year the interest has diminished, in part due to the fact that I have also been too busy to blog and therefore follow the event properly (i.e. writing to bloggers to encourage them to enter), and in part due to the fact that I am not the only busy person around! Many NZ bloggers stopped writing, or are writing less and less. Recently I attended the NZ Guild of Food Writers conference and I was a bit sad to hear that the general perspective in the industry that the NZ Food blogging scene is, basically, negligible. I am not sure if this is true or not (what do you think?) and I like to think that there are still many bloggers out there that update regularly and keep a conversation going, but I am also sure that Sweet NZ is not sustainable anymore, and so I have decided to stop at 40. Thank you to Frances and Arfi who supplied the last recipes for this edition, here is a quick recap:

Raw, vegan and gluten free sweet for Christmas? Homemade marzipan From Only Recipes

Yorkshire curd tart by Frances from the Bake Club

Chocolate and plum mousse with Italian meringue base and Fresh As plum powder from Alessandra Zecchini

Strawberries with orange and cinnamon, by Alessandra Zecchini

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chocolate and plum mousse with Italian meringue base and Fresh As plum powder

What I like about mousses is that you can just improvise, and as long as you beat well the main ingredients (eggs and cream) you can never go wrong! I made this with Arantxa; while I made the Italian meringue and whipped the cream she whipped the egg yolk, and while she folded the chocolate I folded the plum cream, and there was a lot of licking of spoons and bowl at the end, and 7 lovely mousses in the fridge!

3 large free range eggs, separated
2 tbsp icing sugar
50 ml water
300 ml cream
1 tbsp cocoa2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Fresh As Plum Powder (plus some to sprinkle)

Start by making an Italian meringue base: whip the egg white until stiff. In the meantime boil the water and icing sugar into a syrup. When the syrup is bubbly, start to thickens and smell like candy (but before is turns white or caramel! Be careful here!) pour it at once into the egg whites, (while beating). Keep beating until the meringue is cold again.

In another bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar and cocoa for a loooooong time, until light and creamy. In a third bowl beat the cream well too. Divide the Italian meringue into two, add the Fresh As plum powder to one half and beat for one more minute, until the meringue is pink.

Divide the cream into two and fold with the pink and white meringue mixtures. In one bowl you will have the pink plum mousse ready (set aside) and in the other the white 'base' to which you will need to add the chocolate mixture. Do this slowly and folding well.
Pour the chocolate mousse first into glasses or verrines, and then top with the plum mousse. Sprinkle with more Fresh As plum powder and refrigerate for a few hours.

I am entering this recipe for Sweet NZ #40, to enter your November Recipe click here.
Sweet NZ image

And now: two images of some of my favourite flowers, peonies, for my Pinterest Board! 

Photo and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Two New Zealand birds in my garden; tui and kererū

I love the fact that I can use my phone to video the birds I see out of the window. We are surrounded by native forest, including plenty of nikau palms, so we have lots of kereru, and we also have flowering trees like puriri, and a one exotic, an Australian frangipani, that tui love! In fact this morning there was quite a fight between two tui for the control of the frangipani, it was like living in a Attemborough's documentary. Here tui and kereru feeding (in peace).

The Tui is an endemic bird of New Zealand that mostly feed on nectar. Here is feeding on an Australia frangipani tree (Hymenosporum flavum).

The New Zealand pigeon or kererū is a bird endemic to New Zealand. The nikau is the only palm native to New Zealand. Filmed in the Waitakere Ranges, Auckland.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Strawberries with orange and cinnamon (perfect for Xmas) and Sweet New Zealand

Sweet NZ image
This is the 40th consecutive edition of Sweet New Zealand, and I will be hosting it from this blog.
Last month (October 2014) our host was Lesley from eat, etc. so check out her round up here for some ideas. And I am also entering the first recipe: Strawberries with orange and cinnamon. This is a prelude to the Xmas Season, strawberries are the traditional Xmas fruit in NZ, but being from the Northern Hemisphere I cannot renounce some more traditional and festive winter flavors, like orange and cinnamon. 

Just wash and cut the strawberries (two punnets), add the juice of one orange, a cinnamon stick and one tbsp of sugar. Let the strawberries marinate for a few hours at room temperature, and then a few more hours in the fridge. Serve cold, with cream, or yogurt, or ice cream, or just as they are!
Now it is your turn to enter Sweet New Zealand!
1. This event is open to all bloggers living in New Zealand (even if you’re not a Kiwi), as well as all Kiwi bloggers living and blogging overseas.
2. You can enter anything sweet: cakes, biscuits, slices, desserts, even drinks. You may submit as many entries as you like, including old posts if you want.
3. Your entry must contain the phrase Sweet New Zealand, the Sweet New Zealand badge (choose your own size), a link to the host, and to this post – so if you are submitting an older post remember to update it accordingly.
4. To submit your entry, email me at alessandra (at) clear (dot) net (dot) nz by 28th November 2014 with:
  • name of recipe with the link to the post you’re contributing 
  • a photo from your post (not more than 250 kb if possible)
  • your name, your blog name and a link to your blog

  • A roundup of all the entries (with links and photos) will be published at the beginning of December. Leave me a message below if you have any questions. 
I look forward to your sweet entries!


Photo and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just in time for Halloween: Vegan huhu grubs

Click here for the full story (and recipe!)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tiramisù di Alessandra

I developed this recipe many years ago when I was living in Japan, and it has two particularities:
it is made with cream instead of mascarpone (which was difficult to find then, but then became my signature dish - thus the name!) and the topping is not cocoa but Italian ground coffee. I also like to use whisky, good quality, it makes all the difference!

Tiramisù di Alessandra

3 free range eggs, separated
300ml cream
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
15ml espresso coffee
15ml whisky
20 (1 x 250g packet) savoiardi or sponge biscuits
espresso coffee powder for dusting (or cocoa)

Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Lightly  whip the cream, then fold in the eggs whites and beat together for a few seconds. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks together with 1 tbsp of sugar until runny. Add to the cream and egg white mixture and beat again for a few seconds, In a wide soup bowl mix the espresso coffee, whisky and the remaining sugar and quickly dip the savoiardi biscuits, sugary side only, in the liquid. Arrange the biscuits soaked side up, in a 5cm deep 20x20 serving dish. Spoon over a little more coffee liquid if the biscuits look dry. Spread hald of the cream mixture over the biscuits and repeat with the remaining ingredients, Bang the dish on the working surface to remove any air bubbles in the dessert and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight,. One hour before serving dust with plenty of ground Italian espresso coffee (or cocoa). Refrigerate again, cut into squares and serve.

Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©, from the book Sweet As…easy to make desserts and baked treats, New Holland Publishers NZ

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sweet NZ image
I like to enter this post for Sweet New Zealand #39, the blogging event open to every one blogging in NZ, and all the Kiwi bloggers living overseas! This month of September is hosted by Lesley at Eat, etc.. Click here to enter! And let me know if you are keen to host Sweet New Zealand in November!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Israeli cous cous with grilled eggplants and capsicums

I cannot wait for summer, capsicums and eggplants! Nearly there, in the meantime I use char grilled veggies preserved in oil, they are very versatile for a quick meal. For this dish I cooked a packet of Israeli cous cous (but fregola pasta is perfect too) with just water and salt, then I drain it and rinse it under cold water to cool it down and separate the 'grains'. I added extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, and finely chopped herbs and garlic. Then I mix it with the eggplants. Finally I filled some of the capsicums with it. It needs to rest for a few hours at room temperature, so that the cous cous gets more flavour. Easy and quick, and it makes such an impression!

And now just some pretty things I saw: loved this wallpaper with plates, + real plates!

Cans and tins look good on tables, although I wander if this mackerel was also on the menu too… I don't eat fish so I wouldn't know, and the restaurant, albeit rustic, was not a cheap one!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Festival Italiano 2014 - photos by Joe Shearman

KSDA Kim Santarelli Dance Academy students performing the Tarentella at the Festival Italiano - Auckland

Italian market in Osborne St 


Art of Produce stall

Kid's area

Gina's boy

Piazzetta and kids area

Osborne St.

Gina's restaurant

Osborne St

KSDA Kim Santarelli Dance Academy students performing Mambo Italiano at the Festival Italiano - Auckland

United Travel Newmarket stall

Pranzo, Italian lunch

Deanna Tolj and Ken Were from United Travel Newmarket

Luca Manghi and Mary-Ann Di Cesare

Sandro, Renee and Paolo Rotondo

From left: Paolo Rotondo, Festival Italiano MC;
H.E. Carmelo Barbarello, Italian Ambassador in NZ,
Shale Chambers, Chair of the Waitemata Local Board, Mark Knoff-Thomas - Chief Executive New Market Business Association

Face Painting

Selling raffle tickets

Eating area

Face painting


Mark Knoff-Thomas - Chief Executive New Market Business Association


Eating area

From left, Christopher Dempsey - Waitemata Local Board, Pippa Coom - Deputy Chair Waitemata Local Board, Mike Hannan - Peroni Nastro Azzurro NZ, Alessandra Zecchini, Massimo Ciccioni - Dante Auckland President, Shale Chambers – Chair Waitemata Board, Mark Knoff-Thomas - Chief Executive New Market Business Association, Rob Thomas Waitemata Board 

Osborne St

Fans of Italy

Italian cheeses


Alessandro and Spiderman

Cool T-shirts!

Alessandra, John and Fiorella

Luca and Niccolò

Osborne St

From left: In front, Paolo Rotondo, Festival Italiano MC;
Back: H.E. Carmelo Barbarello, Italian Ambassador in NZ, Massimo Ciccioni, President, Dante Alighieri Society,  Mark Knoff-Thomas - Chief Executive New Market Business Association, Shale Chambers, Chair of the Waitemata Local Board


Sandro Aduso and Mario Magaraggia

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