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Friday, July 18, 2014

Skiing (and not skiing) in New Zealand



 Well, the skiing holiday started off promising, driving towards the mountains and Methven and seeing some snow at the top.
But skiing in New Zealand is a bit of a gamble: the first day we managed, although there was only snow in the ski fields, and not lower into the village, or in the surroundings. The other two days the ski field were closed because of high winds! We ended up driving around and doing some hiking by the Rakaia River.





After Methven and a Christchurch break we tried our luck going towards Arthur's Pass National Park. Here some photos taken on the road.





On arrival we hiked to the Devil's Punchbowl (short hike) and then went back to the lodge as it was bitter cold and wet!


The day after we did ski, in Porters, while they were making snow. A real pity that the winter holidays are in July and not in August, so difficult to get snow in July!


My highlight? Seeing the Kea parrots, I love those birds!


And of course the stunning scenery of the South Island!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Crunchy Bean Sprout Winter Mediterranean Salad


I love beans and lentils, but I also love salads and raw food, my body feels like it needs them!
I usually mix cooked beans with raw salad vegetables, but when I remember I get some bean sprouts, and I particularly like this crunchy bean combo from Sproutman. I can just eat the sprouted beans as they are, with a drop of olive oil and lemon juice, 


These crunchy beans are quite filling and with the addition of a few more goodies with just one packet of the packet bean combo I made a salad for 4! It is winter here in New Zealand so there aren't many green leaves around a part from iceberg lettuce, quite bland for my taste, but ok to give 'volume'. No fresh tomatoes either, so I used some semi dried tomatoes, and added more Mediterranean flavors: salted capers, and mixed olives. A salad like this really fills you up, even without carbs or animal protein. The dressing was just extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, with a pinch of salt.



And now some photos from Nan's garden in Christchurch, to add to my Pinterest flower board!
I told Nan that most of her flowers could be eaten, but promised that I would not ;-).




 





Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vegan Goulash


Ingredients:

2 blocks of tofu, frozen for one day and then defrosted
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika (or to taste)
2 carrots
4 large potatoes
1 green capsicum (bell pepper)
1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
2l l vegetable broth
Salt to taste

If you freeze the tofu and then defrost it it becomes porous and easy to cook in stew without breaking up. Also it will absorb flavors really well! Once the tofu is defrosted cut it in big cubes. Chop the onion and sauté with the olive oil. When the onion is translucent add the paprika, the sweet paprika will give flavour, and the hot one… heat, so use this according to taste. Then add the tofu cubes and stir well. Add the vegetables and the hot vegetable broth. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are ready, but before the potatoes start to break up. Goulash is more like a soup than a stew. If you prefer a thicker stew just cook it for longer, stirring often and breaking up the potatoes. Add salt to taste (no necessary if the broth is salty enough).

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles



Yes these are raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles, but what's more they are made using only 4 Fair Trade ingredients: Trade Aid Palestinian almonds, Trade Aid cinnamon, Trade Aid Madjoul dates, and Trade Aid baking cocoa,  plus one local ingredient, Hazelz hazelnut flour from Canterbury. There is no sugar, no dairy product, and no need for cooking. And although this is not a baking recipe I still like to propose it for The Big Fair Bake, although I may actually enter a proper baking recipe later on… time permitting :-).


I like using Fair Trade products because they are in line with the Slow Food principles of Good, Clean and Fair food. And with my philosophy. Furthermore the quality is really good! Take the Medjoul dates for example, they are so sweet and delicious, they can substitute sugar in many preparations. The baking cocoa is so good that you don't need to use it just for baking, it is perfect for puddings and hot chocolate too. The Palestinian almonds are different from my favourite Italian almonds, but they are quite unique, a bit spicy in fact. The cinnamon really aromatic, you need just a tiny bit, I like to say 'a hint' :-). And the hazelnut flour is what's keep everything together so nicely! 



Ingredients:

4 Trade Aid Madjoul dates
20 Trade Aid Palestinian almonds
50 ml water
1 hint (i.e. a tiny pinch) Trade Aid cinnamon
1 tbsp Trade Aid baking cocoa, plus more to dust
2 tbsp Hazelz hazelnut powder, plus more to dust

Makes 12 truffles

Remove the stone from the dates and break up in rough pieces. Place in a cup with the almonds and 50 ml of water. Wait for 30 minutes to let the fruit soften a little and then blend with an immersion blender. 
Add the cinnamon, cocoa and hazelnut powder and mix with a spoon. Shape into 12 balls and roll half in cocoa and half in hazelnut flour. The best way to do this is roll the truffles first in cocoa or hazelnut flour, and then pass them between the palms of your hands quickly a few times so that you will get an even coating, and not too much of it, just the right amount. No need to refrigerate, just let them dry a bit on a tray before piling them into a serving bowl or glass.






Sweet NZ image
I like to enter this post for Sweet New Zealand #36, the blogging event open to every one blogging in NZ, and all the Kiwi bloggers living overseas! This month of July is hosted by Libby at Ditch the Carbs. Click here to enter! Libby, I hope that this is your kind of sweet treat!! 





Please Support Fair Trade!




 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Monday, June 30, 2014

Limoncello Zabaione



My mother told me that to make zabaione one must measure the marsala wine with the egg shell. I.e., for every egg yolk use 1 tsp of sugar and the broken eggshell of the same egg for the marsala. 

And it works, but for this zabaione I wanted to finish the end of a bottle of limoncello. Half an eggshell would it been too much!! So I just used a third of that. Hand beat the egg yolks, with the sugar, then put over a pot at Bain Marie (double booking) and keep beating, adding the limoncello little by little. Keep beating until the 'custard' is light and foamy. Pour into shot glasses (won't need any bigger, I can assure you, it is sweet, decadent and … alcoholic!).

The verdict? Although the taste was great and lemony (taking away that 'egg edge'), the small amount of liquid made this zabaione quite firm! Next time I may water down the limoncello, and go back to the eggshell measuring cup!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poor Italy, Viva Mexico and an improvised Vegetarian Mexican dinner


Well, Italy is out of the World Cup, and I am just glad that I didn't get up at 4 am to watch it happen!
But before the games started the four members of our family picked another nation to support (random, out of a hat) and I got Mexico! You had to dress up, cook something and learn some facts and words from that country… I was lucky! I speak enough Spanish, I like Mexican food, I have been there, and my husband was going there for work that week! So he bought me back a Mexican team T-shirts (looks good) and also some tequila, some Mexican sweets and a cute little piñata donkey. 


Now a part from the sweets (some had milk) the dinner was actually Vegan and just improvised with what I had in the house. I also used tofu, instead of meat. I rubbed the tofu in a mixure of chili, salt, oregano (oregano seems to be the only dried herb really used all over Mexico, although the name is approximative - there are several varieties!) dried coriadner, cumin and smoked paprika. The doses were totally random! Then I sautéed the tofu with a little olive oil. I kept the tofu aside and used the same pot (with the very spicy oil) to sauté some chopped celery and onions, I added some rice, then a can of red beans, and finally a couple of cups of vegetable stock. Lid on and cooked the rice by absorption. In the end I added the tofu, just to warm it up.

For the Guacamole I followed this recipe, with the difference that I didn't have fresh coriander at home, but I used a bit of chili (I always have chili in the freezer). Also because this was a really rushed job (and I had the whole chili, seeds removed) I blended everything with an immersion blender. Quite different texture really, but nice for a change. The tortilla chips came from a packet. Well, this dinner took me 40 minutes to make (including cooking time), so Viva Mexico!!






Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 20, 2014

Torta Bianca allo Yogurt - White Yogurt Cake



I am very pleased with this recipe, of course I always eat all my experiments, even when I am not so happy about them, but this one… I devoured it! It was so soft and light, possibly the
softest-cake-with-taste ever (if you know what I mean… some 'soft' cakes taste like air, or like a bath sponge!!).

Ingredients
butter to grease the tin (I used a ring tin)
3 egg whites
300 g sugar
250 g plain yogurt (I used full fat)
300 g self raising flour
1 pinch of salt
one drop vanilla essence
icing sugar to dust (optional)

Grease the cake tin with butter. Beat the egg white until they form a peak. In another mixing bowl fold the sugar and yogurt with a wooden spoon. Add the flour, salt and vanilla essence and mix well, then add the beaten egg whites little by little and fold. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar if you like.



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cavolo nero soup with chickpeas and pasta




A low fat, high protein vegan dish

1 bunch of cavolo nero
1 shallot
1.5 l vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas
plus the same amount of water
1 cup of small pasta 
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Wash the cavolo nero and remove the white stalks. Slice the shallot. Put everything in a pot with the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the content of the can of chick peas, plus a can of water. Simmer for other 30 minutes then blend with an immersion blend, but not too finely, leave some of the chickpeas whole. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil before serving. It is actually better the day after!


And these are the bananas from my garden. I have another bunch on the tree, even greener. But they came a bit late this year and I a ma not sure how to make them ripe now. Any suggestions?



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 6, 2014

Homemade mascarpone with honey, pistachio and dried strawberries


Making mascarpone at home is one of my favourite occupations these days! A part from the 'magic' of it, and the resemblance to a chemistry experiment (I made this with Max, actually, he made it with me in the background giving instructions and liked doing it!) it is also so much cheaper, fresh and delicious that the one you buy! 


For the mascarpone recipe just click here, it is easier that you may think! When the mascarpone is ready just add a tbsp of honey (I used Tawari) and fold. Divide the mascarpone into 4 cups and it is ready to be eaten or topped with what you fancy. 


This time I just toasted a few pistachios in a pan, then I rub them with a tea towel to take away loose skins and chopped them coarsely. Then I also added some Fresh As dried strawberries, crunchy and full of flavour and aroma. A simple dessert that everyone loved!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Sweet NZ image
This recipe is for Sweet New Zealand #35, the blogging event open to all Kiwi bloggers (living in NZ or overseas) and expats blogging from NZ. June's host is Amanda from Move Love Eat  Click here to share you sweet creations with the Sweet New Zealand team! Also let me know if you are keen to be a host in 2014, and book a month for you!




Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Polenta e lenticchie (polenta with lentils)


Brrrr it is cold! I envy my friends in the Northern Hemisphere now that evenings are becoming chilly, but on the other hand I like to cook nice winter casseroles! This dish is vegan and gluten free, for the polenta recipe I just use polenta flour, water and salt and follow the packet instructions (real polenta takes about 45 minutes, the instant takes 5!). Usually I make soft polenta, thus adding a bit more water, but packet instructions tend to be for the 'harder' type, the one that you pour onto a wooden chopping board and then cut into slices. My nonna (Grandmother) used to make the hard one, and then she cut it with a string attached to the chopping board: no knife needed and even the youngest kids can do it!

For the lentils, wash the brown lentils with water and then soak for a little. Soaking is not really necessary but I like to do it so then I can give them another rinse and get rid off possible dirt that 'escaped' on the first wash. In the meantime sauté a finely chopped carrot, celery stick with leaves and garlic (or onion) with two tbsp of olive oil, add the lentils and cover with vegetable stock. You can also add a tbsp of tomato paste, or some herbs, but this time I just added some chopped parsley at the end of cooking. Simmer the lentils as long as you can, stirring often and adding more water if necessary. Adjust with salt and pepper (and parsley) at the end, add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and save hot, with slices of hot polenta.

And now a little gardening update: I picked this orchid stem from my garden, so happy to have some cut flowers even in winter, and in the garden they seem to attract ants, so it is better to keep them inside. They last a long time too. I have also collected all my pumpkins (4), one is quite big, the others not so, but considering that they came form a plant that I didn't plant I am happy! They look good too, too pretty to cut, but eventually they will get eaten! The Irises instead are not from my garden, but  I am seriously considering planting them, they are so pretty. I am not sure if they will do well in the bush though, anyone has them in their gardens in Auckland?


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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