Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vitamin smoothie: Kiwi, spinach and berries - and a few of my favourite things right now

So yummy: Kiwi, baby spinach leaves and frozen mixed berries, plus some coconut water.

And now some photos of favourite things right now:

Eating gelato at Giapo

Eating dinner in the Japanese room, with feet under the warm Kotatsu (Japanese heated table)

Collecting small things

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


One of my favourite dishes from my village in Italy, borlenghi or berleghi. A bit like a savoury crepe, made with a simple batter, just flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to thin it down to a glue consistency (in fact the batter is called colla, i.e. glue!). Then it is cooked between two very hot and greased flat iron plates called cotte and turned several times until cooked (still flexible and soft but a little crispy on the borders). For the dressing traditionally lard is used, but since I don't eat meat I use salted butter mixed with finely chopped fresh rosemary and garlic. Then add parmigiano reggiano and fold. Eat immediately, and patiently wait for another one! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Kiwi smoothie

Time for vitamin C! This smoothie is just kiwi, banana and coconut water, a real meal in a glass!

And look what I found in the garden! Full of rain poor pumpkin, very heavy and now drying on the windowsill.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sun-dried Tomato Bacon, Vegan - step by step instructions

This vegan bacon recipe can be life-changing for those former bacon lovers and for new vegans. This is the best recipe so far, considering also that it looks like the real thing in quite a spooky way (with those white stripes and all), and requires just a few easy to find ingredients.

The first 'secret' ingredient (and this is my first very own input) is sun-dried (or semi dried) tomatoes, which I soaked in a little hot water for 5 minutes. Then I added a tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, half tsp of salt and a little aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas). I blended everything into a paste (using the nutribullet). The resulting paste should have the consistency of a spread, so add more aquafaba if it is too thick. Don't make it runny.

Now for the second main ingredient (and here I got the idea from my friend Lucia who has a vegan bacon recipe here): rice paper. I found this to be such a cool idea, plus it is an alternative to gluten meat or tofu. I had a quick look at all the other rice paper bacon (also called vacon) recipes around the internet and I tried a few ways to combine the rice paper with the paste to assemble the 'bacon' slices, but somehow I didn't quite like the idea of cutting the rice paper into strips, nor soaking them with the flavoring paste: they didn't fry well and the result was more like a burned crispy slice, rather than a juicy rasher with fatty white stripes. So I came up with a easy and less messy system, which produced the best results.

Soak the rice paper disks in hot water, just enough to soften them, and then place them on a clean gauze or kitchen towel. Brush the centre with the sun-dried tomato paste and then fold like shown in the photos.

Keep working making more slices until you run out of paste (or rice paper), well at this stage it looks a bit spooky, like real pieces of flesh... not quite something I would like to think about it, but for those who go for the realist look... here you are! 

Now for the most challenging part: frying the vegan bacon: I used extra virgin olive oil and a skillet, wait for the oil to be hot and then add a few slices at the time, fold facing up first. You have to lift the slices delicately with two hands and lower them in the hot oil, so be careful. 

The secret is not to overcook the slices: first they will bubble up a bit, and you want that, get some air in to keep them soft. As soon as you see the edges drying turn over the slices and fry the other side for even less time, otherwise the sun-dried tomato paste will burn. If the oil becomes too contaminated with burned paste you will need to change it.

Place the slices on a serving plate and eat immediately, since bacon is very fat I didn't bother patting the slices with kitchen paper, after all they are delicious also because they are greasy! For a variation you can use coconut oil instead of olive oil, and I want to try liquid smoke too, as soon as I get my hands on some.

The verdict: well, we all liked it! I thought that the best test was to have a bacon sandwich with some good bread and lettuce; my husband found it very realistic and the kids, who never tasted bacon so they could not compare, thought that it was simply really yum! It is also very filling so we had lots left over, I put them in the fridge and then quickly heated up a few slices in the skillet the day after for more sandwiches, and I did the same in the evening with the last slices chopped into small pieces, to make pasta carbonara (the second test). It worked really really well.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Vegan Monte Bianco

I didn't think that making a Vegan Monte Bianco would have been so easy, (plus no cooking required) and the result so delicious. It seems that coconut cream goes really well with chestnuts! Here are the ingredients:

1x 400ml can coconut cream, refrigerated for at least one day
1 drop vanilla
1 tbsp sugar
1 x439g Clement Faugier chestnut puree
1x 250g Clement Faugier Sweet chestnut spread
Dark chocolate to grate (I used Mexican chocolate)

You can add a few drops of rum or Frangelico if you like.

Scoop the coconut cream out of the tin (leave the water at the bottom) and beat until soft and foamy. Add sugar and vanilla. Set aside. Beat the two chestnut purees together (I added the coconut water to make them softer). Add some grated chocolate (about 2-3 tbsp, or to taste) and if you like a little alcohol. Spoon the chestnut mixture over a plate and shape like a peak. Then cover with the coconut cream.

Grate some more chocolate on top and refrigerate until serving. 
Well, your Vegan friends will be surely impressed: this is sooooo good, full of proteins, and gluten free too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, May 23, 2016

Frittata con le primule - Frittata with cowslip

Pick as many cowslip flowers as you can from a field and clean them gently, removing the green parts. Keep the best for topping and chop the remaining, adding them to eggs whisked with grated Parmigiano and a little water. Pan fry the frittata (I make several thin 'frittatine' if I have time) with a little olive oil. Cut the frittata into pieces and lay over a base of mixed salad. Top with the remaining flowers. You can add some Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena on top if you like.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Carciofi alla romana

These type of artichokes are called mammal  the 'petals' are rounded and not as spiky like for carciofi. But they are excellent cooked alla romana. Cut the outer petals off until you get to the tender heart, leave a bit of the stalks, but peel them, and then immediately put them in water and lemon (so that they don't become black) to wash them. Finely chop plenty of Italian parsley with garlic and a pinch of salt, and use this to fill the centre of each artichoke. Place the artichokes in a pot, drizzle some olive oil in the centre of each artichoke and add a little water at the bottom of the pan (about 2 fingers). Cover with a lid and simmer on low for a long time (1-2 hours) adding water from time to time. Sorry I didn't take a photo of the final product, but you can find one here.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Strawberries with ricotta - snow on spring flowers

I was back in the Italian Apennines recently and in the market I bought some fresh strawberries and some local ricotta which was so creamy it was almost like mascarpone, so I thought of 'marrying' the two. I marinated the strawberries with lemon juice and a little sugar for a few hours, long enough to make a nice sweet smelling strawberry joyce and enhance their flavour. Then all I had to do was to put a slice of ricotta in a dessert bowl and top it with the strawberries and their juice. Mmmhhh! It was so good I am still thinking about it!

I also loved the colour combination, the red of the fruit with the snow white of the ricotta… which made me think of both spring and winter! In fact when I arrived in the mountains the fields and woods where full with flowers...

…and after a few days I woke up in the morning to find everything covered with Spring snow!

Well, it did last only one day, but it was quite beautiful! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Milan in Spring and Salone del Mobile 2016

Paris may be beautiful in Spring, but so is Milan! In recent years the city has become greener, cleaner and more livable, mixing the old and the new with style and gusto. Every time I visit I discover a new gem, and this year it was San Maurizio, a recently restored sconsacrated church in the centre of the city, free entry and beautiful art! Another novelty: Ape trucks dot the city as food trucks, selling everything from gelato to strawberries, from beer to hot food. What a cool city!

Tip: if you are seeking serious coffee, New Zealand style, (and perhaps Eggs Benedict) go to Taglio, in the Navigli area.

Salone del Mobile 2016

This year the Salone del Mobile was great, and I really enjoyed all the new designs, and the very popular exhibition event Before Design: Classic (classic decor revisited). 

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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