Monday, March 18, 2019

After dinner chocolate kawakawa

This is better than after dinner chocolate mints, and very much a New Zealand foraging option! Kawakawa abounds in the 'bush' (forest) where I live and it is by far my favourite NZ foraged leaf. I often make tea, use it for custards instead of vanilla, and in other recipes (just click here for a few ideas).

But these chocolates are my best creation to date, or so I think - so if you copy them please credit me ;-) (I had far too many recipes from this and my other blogs taken without credits, a bit cheeky really, especially if Kiwis do it: New Zealand is a small place, too small to do this!!).

I used some 72% Dark Ghana Chocolate from Whittaker's, which is a NZ product, making this a truly Kiwi treat! Melt the chocolate in a deep plate or terrine (not in a bowl - you want something with more surface than deepness) over a pot of hot water. Forage your kawakawa leaves, wash them well and pat them dry. Holding the stem place them shiny side down onto the chocolate, and then on a tray lined with cooking paper, chocolate side facing up. Add a little chocolate with a teaspoon if you missed a bit - you want to cover the whole surface of the leaf. Don't make it too thick though, thin after dinner chocolates are more 'refined'.

Refrigerate until set, then turn upside down and gently peal the leaves off the chocolate (they will come out easily). Keep in the fridge until serving time. One side will be darker, while the other (the one that touched the leaf) shiny. The chocolate will be coated with the scent and mild peppery taste of kawakawa. I prefer them to chocolate mints, and so did my family, plus they look so cool!

A part from being served as an option to after dinner mints, they are also great with ice cream and to decorate cakes, cupcakes and desserts.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 8, 2019

How to make candied flowers

You will need some fresh organic edible flowers and petals, clean them well with kitchen paper and a little water, if necessary, but make sure that they are not wet before starting.

Mix an egg white lightly with a fork (do not whip). Coat the petals with the egg white.

Next step: coat with sugar. I find caster sugar a bit to rough, and icing sugar too fine, so I just put some normal white sugar in a mixer and grind it a little until it is finer but not as fine as icing sugar.

I keep the egg white, sugar bowl and a tray all in a line so I can work more easily.

Let the flowers and petal dry completely and then store away in a dry place until needed.

And now some flowers for Pinterest! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 4, 2019

Coromandel: la spiaggia di Hahei, Cathedral Cove e Hot Water Beach

La penisola di Coromandel è uno dei miei posti preferiti nell'isola del Nord della Nuova Zelanda. Questa è la mia seconda vacanza alla spiaggia di Hahei, la prima volta, tanti anni fa, pioveva, ma quest'anno me la sono goduta!

Da Hahei si può fare una bella camminata per raggiungere uno dei posti più suggestivi della Nuova Zelanda, Cathedral Cove. Ci si arriva solo a piedi o in barca/canoa, noi siamo andati a piedi, e che bei panorami!

Ma nulla in confronto all'arrivo a Cathedral Cove, con la sua spettacolare entrata nella roccia!

Che meraviglia!

Un'altro posto da visitare è la famosa Hot Water Beach

A bassa marea si scavano buchi nella sabbia che si riempono con acqua termale (molto calda, attenzione!).  Questa la rende anche una delle spiagge più affollate della Nuova Zelanda, ma l'esperienza è unica, e molto divertente!

Avevamo la nostra pala (si possono anche affittare) ed i ragazzi si sono messi al lavoro con entusiasmo! Chi è pigro può trovarsi un posto già scavato, infatti l'acqua diventa così calda che non tutti rimangono nei loro buchi, alla fine ne abbiamo scavati 3!

A Coromandel ci sono anche  kiwi, questa foto comunque è di un cartello... magari ne avessi visto uno da così vicino!

Ancora qualche foto di Hahei

Il terzo giorno c'è stato un matrimonio in spiaggia.

Si possono affittare diverse casette al mare (un po' care, ma il posto merita). La nostra aveva una bella vista sul mare e l'ultima sera...

... c'era una luna piena spettacolare!

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 1, 2019

Drying edible flowers for winter

Summer is almost over and for the past few weeks I have been collecting seeds and drying herbs and flowers for winter. Every time I collect veggies and fruit form the garden I also collect flowers, for the home, and to eat (immediately, or to store).

I dry the flowers in the sun, keep the seeds in jars and the petals in little containers and bottles with cork tops.

I have orange, yellow and reds

Plus a jar with just cornflowers (they dry quickly, don't leave them too long in the sun or they will loose colour and turn white) and a jar with multicolour petals.

I have been also drying flowers by pressing them, so I can keep their shapes (to decorate desserts, for example). For this you just need to make a 'flower press', with cardboard and clean paper (I use a strap to keep it together).  I will have to show you the results in a little while, plus some other methods for preserving flowers (pickled, sugared, frozen...) in another post!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rainbow guacamole

A rainbow guacamole for Auckland Pride Festival! For this guacamole I blended avocado with garlic, lime juice, salt and coriander (can use lemon juice too, it depends on what is available)

To top, from left: friarielli flowers, yellow and orange marigold flowers, poppy petals, red and purple verbena, dianthus, borage flowers, cornflowers. 

I could eat guacamole everyday (and in summer I almost do!!) so adding edible flowers can be fun. Of course I don't always have the time to design rainbows, but even a few petals will do (dianthus below)...

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, February 16, 2019

How to forage and cook bamboo shoots

Nothing like freshly foraged bamboo!

I live in the Waitakere Ranges and there is quite a bit of bamboo here, mostly considered a weed, but as you know I eat quite a few weeds, and this is no exception. I have some in my driveway too, but I tend to walk down to the neighbour, who has some really big clumps of big bamboo! Or it brings it to me, since he sees when new bamboo shoots up... you have to be quick picking the shoot, once they are out of the ground they grow very quickly! The image below is the maximum length allowed.

I started cooking bamboo shoots when I was living in Japan, they were different kind, much 'fatter' but these are good too, better than buying canned bamboo! Peel off the outer green layers, then cut into slices (I also like to cut the tips into two to see the layers), rinse and place in a pot or salted boiling water. Cook for about 15 minutes, then discard the water, rinse, and place in another pot with salted boiling water for few more minutes until soft enough to be cut with a knife (but still a little crunchy. I do this to take away the bitterness.
Store in this second brine solution until time to use it. 

The tips (the best part) can be served as a side dish for a Japanese dinner, the round bits are good in stews and stir fries, but I tend to cut off and discard the nodes, which are harder (I do this after cooking the bamboo shoots). 

For this stir fry I used bamboo shoots (previously cooked as above), oyster mushrooms, and carrots. Heat a little vegetable oil with a few drops of sesame oil, add a tsp of mince ginger and then the chopped vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, then add a tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 6-7 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add chopped coriander at the end (optional). Serve with rice. 

Happy weekend!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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