Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Horse) and Sweet New Zealand #30 Recap

Happy Chinese New Year!

I am starting the Year of the (wooden) Horse with the recap of the 30th edition of Sweet New Zealand, so I hope that all these sweet treats will bring me good luck! January has been busy with lots of work but also travel, and holiday, and the this blog has been busy too: last week it reached for the first time 100,000 page views in a month, I don't know if this will keep on, but as I am writing I am now at around 117,000 page views and for this I have to thank a few referrals, like Pinterest (Alli, I remember you saying something about this a while ago), a raw and vegan website (I knew that juicing was good!), but mostly Google (.com, ,nz, .uk, .au…).

Anyway, after a bit of self-promotion I am ready to start with the recap, posting all the entries in chronological order (received date).

The first entry is A New Years Trifle of Gingerbread & Nectarine by Alli Pirrie-Mawer at Pease Pudding. This was Alli's New Years Eve dessert, composed of Gingerbread Sponge, Creme Anglaise, Poached Nectarines, whipped cream and crystalized ginger for decoration. And what about the presentation! Alli, I think that the photo is so good that it will earn me a few pins :-)

The second entry is from Carmella at Easy Food Hacks who confesses her craze for salted caramel goodies and proposes this (almost) Fool-proof salted caramel sauce. The 'almost' word is in her title, not my interpretation. The recipe has step by step photos and instructions and seems pretty fool-proof to me!

Then I had a entry: Ricotta Cheesecake with Rum and Raisins, I prefer ricotta cakes to regular cheesecakes as they are lighter, and possibly because I am Italian and ricotta, rather than cream cheese, is in my DNA. Good excuse eh!

Then I got in my inbox a Chocolate Mousse from Marnelli at Sweets and Brains, and kind of wished that Sweet New Zealand wasn't just a virtual thing… I mean, don't you just want to dip your spoon into the computer screen when seeing this one! Decadent as!!

And what about these melt-in-the mouth gorgeous Orange blossom & pistachio shortbread crescents from Lesley at eat, etc. Lesley says that they could easily be her favourite biscuits with their "oh-so-delicate flavour and texture and crunchy bites of nuttiness", and I believe every word of it: they sound truly delicious.

Last month's host for Sweet New Zealand, Alice from Alice in Bakingland, is back in style with another stunning dessert: Grown Up Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake. I guess that this is grown-ups only because it contains alcohol, but Alice also believe that ice-cream cakes should be  adults' desserts, and if they are as pretty as this I can only agree. 

Next up is Sue from Couscous & Consciousness with these delightfully pretty Tea Cup Steamed Ginger Coconut Cakes using a Donna Hay's recipe and her Mum's demitasse cups. The cakes are steamed, not baked, and Sue appreciated not having to turn the oven on during this hot summer. I agree, plus steam pudding are so delicious!.

I managed to put another entry in, from my Only Recipes' Blog, something to think about before the first feijoas come in: Feijoa zest agar agar jelly

Last but not least (and I hope I didn't forget anyone now!) is our queen of raw desserts, Frances from the Bake Club (you should sub this also as the 'unbake' club!) with this Raw vegan chocolate brownie. Frances says that this is a recipe by Gabriel Power from which she found in Harvest Wholefood newsletter, and that it is really rich. Need to say more? Yum!

Well, that's all folks, thank you for entering! As I didn't get any volunteer for February I will host Sweet New Zealand again next month, please let me know if you can do March (or April or any other month!).
Thank you and, once again, Happy Year of the Horse!

Making Chinese New Year Cards

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gardening for food at home, and New Brighton Community Gardens

Freshly picked from the garden, it doesn't seem much and yet it feeds 4, and for less than the $15 you
would give to a  Supermarket (FYI overseas reader, this $15 is a NZ supermarket campaign )

First course, vegetable soup with: yellow zucchini, green zucchini, plum tomatoes, parsley, chives, celery,
carrot, silver beet, onions. The onion are really small but I can't grow them any bigger in the bush so
I grow them in pots.
Chop, add water (rain water for me, so this too is free!) and salt, then cook. You can add a bit of
extra virgin olive oil at the end.

Second basket, more tomatoes, basil, cucumber, radish, lettuce and mizuna.
Make a salad. I just add olive oil, salt and lemon juice so the dressing is not that expensive.
Yes there is a main to go with the salad, a frittata made with free-range eggs (60c each at the farmers market, the most expensive thing in this meal, and I used 4). To flavor the frittata I used chives from the garden, and the usual salt and pepper, a bit of self-raising flour, and olive oil to fry.

Frittata before flipping
Frittata after flipping

Well, no much for dessert, only some rhubarb and a few strawberries (regular and wild),
since the season is almost finished for me.
Still, I am not discouraged: I boiled the rhubarb with 1 tbsp of sugar, added a pinch of agar agar and
made a jelly to be topped with a little yogurt, the strawberries and some edible violets.
Arantxa got the biggest strawberry!

I am very lucky to have a little veggie garden, but even if you don't have a garden there are many community gardens where work and produce are shared, and the results are amazing. Just watch this short video to see a truly inspiring community garden in New Brighton, Christchurch. And my father-in-law is featuring too, walking around the gardens! He is having an operation tomorrow so I would like to wish him the very best. Over to the video now:

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Detox! Celery, rhubarb, cucumber and apple juice

This juice tastes good and feels good! For four glasses I used seven stalks of celery (no leaves this time) half a telegraph cucumber, two stalks of rhubarb from the garden (yes, raw!) and then topped up to taste with natural apple juice (no sugar added). The apple juice is optional, of course, but I like it ;-).

For a change in my weekly bouquet from the garden I picked some parsley flowers. They look quite pretty actually, and there is no parsley smell around (I was a bit worried about that!).

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ten Twenty Four Restaurant

During our trip to Hawke's Bay we met up with cousins Rodney, Nicki and Georgia for lunch at Ten Twenty Four. It was a lovely hot day, and this restaurant is perfect for al fresco eating in the lovely courtyard full of flower pots. The indoor seating is equally lovely, with lots of flowers. To me the decor of a restaurant comes second to the flower compositions, vases and floral display, those daily touches that really speak of care and passion. I would love to know who pick the flowers for 1024! 

While we were waiting for our meal we received the complementary amuse-bouch, I cannot remember the description but everybody liked the passion fruit drink which bubbled and exploded repetitively in a  puff of white smoke. The kids too enjoyed this, although their glasses didn't have alcohol and the bubble/smoke effect wasn't the same. There was also a verrine with miso and a melon and vegetable aspic which was pretty and interesting, but didn't score any points. Possibly it needed more 'zest' ?

As usual I will report only on the vegetarian dishes, which is what we had. Max found his ideal starter with the baked to order fresh tortilla with avocado and 'Romesco' (not quite sure what that was, maybe it was the cheese? Pecorino Romano?). Anyway, he loved it and it was a generous portion too.

Arantxa had the Cracked Pepper Lavosh Parmigiana (and this had parmesan). 

I had the same as Rodney, the purple basil scones, but these were not on the menu so I am not sure what the green-bluish sauce was, it tasted like some kind of kale or seaweed and it was delicious.

Georgia had the Sake scrambled eggs in toasted nori roll and miring cured carrot puree, again a generous portion that could have almost been a main.

After all the veggie choices for starters there was only one for main: Grilled Aubergine Laska with coconut cream and kaffir lime. Lovely buttered Pakowhai new corn was offered at our table, and the kids love it! They also ate the laska even if it was a little spicy, but they are used to different cuisines, spices and the so called 'fine dining' (no children's menu for them, they are curious gourmands!).

And this is the close up of our main, there were so many things in it that I wondered if it was a 'one-off' or if it reproduced exactly for diners on other days. At the bottom there were both pasta and another grain, topped with the grilled spiced eggplant, and then dried citrus (orange?) and a citrus sauce. I am usually quite good at guessing ingredients, but there were too many here. Still, I enjoyed this and it was fun and different from the mostly boring vegetarian mains that far too many restaurants insist on serving.

For dessert Georgia had marshmallow chocolate ravioli on creme Anglaise, I didn't try them as I am never sure if the marshmallow is vegetarian, but they looked intriguing (and she loved them!).

Nicki and the kids had the chocolate truffles, and they were decadent and yum! I was too full and just had coffee.

Owner-Chef Kent Baddeley obviously has fun doing what he is doing, and the atmosphere of the place (which is fancy but not pretentious) compels diners to try even the strangest concoctions without passing judgment, but just for fun. Arantxa even has a photo of us showing off our colorful dirty serviettes (golly, the fish eater had electric blue sauce smeared all over)!

All in all it was a great meal and experience, I could define it like 'rustic-fine dining', and reasonably priced too, with plenty of local fresh ingredients. So yes, I would recommend it happily, otherwise I wouldn't be here writing all this :-). In fact I don't usually do restaurant reviews in this blog, and just post pictures of the dishes (mostly for the benefit of traveling Vegetarians). But on our way out Nicki saw the chef and run up to him to introduce me like a famous food blogger! Lol, no escape!

So here we are Kent, posing for the camera! Thank you for a lovely meal, and if I am back in Hastings I'll definitely come again and see what you dished up for the day! In the meantime I'll follow your blog :-)!

Ten Twenty Four
1024 Pakowhai Rd, just out of Hastings,
ph: 06-870 6440,

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

I am editing this because I forgot to say that on 26 January I logged in at 2pm (via a Pinterest pin about Tonga) and I saw that the page views for this month (last 30 days) reached exactly 100,000! I took a screen shot to celebrate, here it is. Thank you all for visiting this blog!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We love Hawke's Bay, plus Napier, Hasting and Mission Estate Winery

We spent three wonderful days in Hawke's Bay

The sea is wonderful to look at, but a bit too scary for me to swim.

One of the best things for me was to be able to eat all the wonderful stone fruit that they grow here.

A must-see is the lovely city of Napier with its Art Deco buildings. Most of the city was destroyed in an earthquake in 1931, and rebuilt in the Art Deco style popular at the time.
The symbol of the city is the statue of Pania of the Reef

For veggies eating in Napier I recommend the Wholefood Kitchen, next to the Chantal organic food store.

Next to Napier there is Hasting, also with lovely Art Deco buildings, and the funkiest lamp posts in NZ.

 Hawke's Bay is famous for its wineries, one of the most famous is Mission Estate Winery. It was established by French missionaries in 1851, making it New Zealand's very first Winery.

We also had a really enjoyable restaurant experience in Hawke's Bay, but this deserves a post on its now, so I will talk about it next time (and the photos of some of the dishes will amaze you!!)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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