Monday, May 29, 2023

Kiwi fruit: green, gold and ruby red

Well, it may seem silly but I never seen kiwi fruit disappearing so fast as when they were served this way! And I swear that they taste better sliced like this that eaten with a spoon...

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Kawakawa liqueur - liquore al kawakawa

I have been planning to make a kawakawa liqueur for a while now, so when I went to Italy I bought back a bottle of 70% alcohol for this purpose (they didn't have the 95% in the shop, but 70% is more than I can find here in NZ anyway, where pure alcohol for making homemade liqueurs is not sold).

So this is my first attempt:

Pick, wash and pat dry 5 leaves of kawakawa
Place in a jar and add 200ml of alcohol (I used 70%)
Leave for 10 days in a dark place
After 10 days make a syrup with
100ml of water and 100g of sugar
Make sure that the syrup is clear before turning the heat off
Let the syrup cool down completely and then add to the alcohol and leaves
Leave for 10 more days
Filter and bottle
Leave for a couple of days to settle and taste!

Well, it is delicious, the colour is green and the aroma is strong (can't believe that just 5 leaves can give you so much flavour!!), not sure if it is too sweet or not for my taste (as sweet as limoncello really) but in one month and a few tastings I will decide how to make a second batch. I am pretty sure that it is good for digestion, and blocked nose! But let me 'experiment' a bit longer :-)

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Friday, November 25, 2022

Ricotta cake with fresh redcurrants - Ciambella alla ricotta con ribes rosso

From my book Sweet As... ciambella alla ricotta. Ricotta ring cake. Usually made with jam filling, this time I added fresh redcurrants, it was great!

250 g ricotta
300g sugar
3 eggs
300 g self raising flour
grated ring of 1 lemon
1 cup of cleaned fresh redcurrants

The original recipe is in my book Sweet As...

Here is a quick explanation: cream together the ricotta and sugar, then add all the other ingredients following the order in the ingredient list. Bake at 180C for approximately 40mins. Sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate with fresh redcurrants.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Friday, July 22, 2022

Tagliolini alle zucchine


For the pasta: 
200 g flour
2 free range eggs

Mix the flour with the eggs to make a smooth and elastic dough. Divide into 6 pieces and pass them through the pasta machine, in turn, going from the largest setting to the second thinnest (or thinnest, depending on how thin you like your pasta). Then pass through the taglioni setting and create some nests. Set aside.

For the zucchini:
4 small zucchini
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 tbsp butter
a few fresh basil leaves (or chopped parsley)

Parmigiano Reggiano to serve

serves 3/4

Wash and cut the zucchini into strips. Rinse and pat dry. Peel the garlic clove, cut into two and then sauté with the olive oil. Add the zucchini, a few at the time, with a pinch of salt, and sauté on both sides. You will need to add less and less salt as you work. When you have finished put all the zucchini back in the frying pan with the butter and basil (or chopped parsley)and keep warm, while cooking the pasta. The tagliolini will need to boil for only about 2 minutes, then drain them and add them to the zucchini. Stir and serve immediately, decorated with fresh basil or parsley, and with plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Tè al ribes rosso - red currant tea


More than a recipe this is a tip: fresh red currants make a delicious tea, just wash the berries and add hot water, let them sit for 5-10 minutes and then serve, with lemon slices if you like, and sweeten if you wish (sugar, honey, maple syrup...)

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, May 23, 2022

Zucchini and ricotta dumplings in spinach and blue cheese cream, with walnuts

For the dumplings:
Grate 4 zucchini, add 500g of ricotta, 2 tbsp of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, 2 eggs, salt and pepper to taste,  and enough breadcrumbs to make the mixture workable (about 2 tbsp) so that you can make about 25 golf ball-sized balls. Place the balls on an oven tray lined with baking paper and spray with a little oil. bake at 180C for about 20-25 minutes, or until they start to golden (turn over once if they seem to cook too much on the bottom). Cool down

For the sauce:
In a casserole place 4 frozen spinach portions with 250 ml of vegetables stock. Simmer until the spinach is defrosted, then add 300 ml of cream and 125 g of gorgonzola or blue cheese, cubed. Simmer and stir until the cheese has melted. 

Add the ricotta dumplings into the simmering sauce and stir gently, until the balls are well coated and simmer for 5 more minutes. Top with chopped parsley and walnut halves. Serve hot, with plenty of sauce.

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Vegan and sugar free chocolate mousse

I am on a diet but really wanted some chocolate for Mother's Day, something mostly raw, low carb and healthy. This dessert is so easy and delicious that I made it two days in a row, once with hazelnuts and once without. I'll share the basic recipe:

12 dates
a little water to cover the dates
1 heap tsp cocoa (I used Dutch cocoa)
half tsp vanilla essence
1 firm avocado
berries to decorate

Remove the stones from the dates and place in a nutribullet or blender and add enough water just to cover them. Soak for 20 minutes, then add cocoa (a real heap tsp of it) and vanilla. Blend. Add the avocado, sliced, and blend again. Divide into three serving bowls or glasses, top with berries (frozen ok) and refrigerate until serving time. Decorate with edible flowers if you like, I used Alyssum here. If you want to add hazelnuts you will need about 8, toasted and grounded, to add to the date mixture. 

My husband couldn't believe that it was made with avocado and no sugar! The texture is just like a mousse, you can increase lightly the cocoa for a more bitter-chocolate flavour, increasing the dates (or using dates that are too big) will make it sweeter but may give out more of a date rather than cocoa flavour. If the mousse is too thick add a drop of water and mix again.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Monday, April 25, 2022

Feijoa cake

👩🏻‍🍳about 20 feijoas, 3 eggs, 200 g sugar, 80 g butter, melted (I used salted butter, if you use normal butter add a pinch of salt to the mixture), 200 g self raising flour and a drop of pure vanilla essence. 

Cut the feijoas in two halves and remove the flesh with a teaspoon. Set aside. Beat the eggs and sugar first until the mixture is pale yellow, then add the butter and, little by little the flour. End with vanilla. Stop beating and fold in the feijoas. Pour into a greased or lined baking tin (20cm is good) and bake at 180℃ for about 45 mins (until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Tip upside-down on a serving plate while still hot, the feijoas tend to go to the bottom so I keep the cake upside down to have them at the top. Dust with icing sugar and let it cool down completely before serving (so that the base of the cake will flatten nicely). Yum with cream or mascarpone!

Also, did you know that you can eat feijoa flowers too? Find out more here

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Green smoothie with feijoas... and more flowers from the garden

Like most people in New Zealand I am loaded with feijoa this April. A good way to use them is in smoothies, and this is a particularly good one: feijoa, banana, spinach leaves and coconut water. Quantities to taste!

And now some flowers from the garden for my Pinterest board!

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ricotta with strawberries, manuka honey, edible gold and cornflowers


I have been on a diet recently so this is a pretty low-fat dessert: ricotta with strawberries marinated with lemon juice (a mixture of regular strawberries and tiny Alpine strawberries from the garden) and a tiny little bit of mānuka honey. For best effect the dessert is decorated with edible gold and cornflower petals. It was stunning to look at, and delicious!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Colourful beet salad


These baby beets (and a couple of baby purple carrots) were boiled and then peeled (the skin comes off easily) and dressed with olive oil and salt, plus a sprinkle of fennel leaves. I added onion weed, borage and calendula petals to complete the salad. Very yummy, and pretty! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, January 10, 2022

A round vegan custard slice, step by step

Thanks to my friend Ray I have recently discovered these sweet Spanish Ines Rosales' tortas (there is also a savoury version). And noticing that they are vegan I thought of making a quick dessert, a bit like a custard slice, which I love, with them!

For the custard I used oat milk (barista style).

1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
250 ml oat milk
a few drops of vanilla essence
2 sweet Ines Rosales pastries
Amarena cherries (optional)
Icing sugar to sprinkle
Fresh Fruit to serve (optional)

Mix the first three ingredients together and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla at the end. You should cook this custard until it is quite thick, and then keep stirring after cooking until it is lukewarm and no more steam comes out. Make sure that is thick, not runny!

Pile the custard on one of the pastry

I had some amarena cherries so I though of adding 4 to the custard, but any fresh or preserved fruit would work too. Just don't add too much 'juice'.

Place the second pastry on top and press lightly, smoothing the custard on the sides with a small spoon, if necessary. Sprinkle with icing sugar and refrigerate for a few hours.

This actually served three people, and we had fresh cherries on the side. I'll definitely make it again, probably with berries or with fruit preserved in alcohol! Yum! A real treat!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

And now some flowers for my Pinterest board!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ricciarelli di Siena, and homemade/recycled Christmas decorations

Ricciarelli are delicious Italian (Tuscan) almond sweets, apparently originated in the XIV century.
Making them in New Zealand is quite special, as they really give Xmas an Italian flair. Bitter almonds are one of the ingredients though, and I have not found them here, so I use apricot kernels (be careful, they are poisonous so you just need a tiny amount).

200 gr of almonds
about 6 to 10 apricot kernels
200 gr of sugar
2 egg whites
zest of an orange or a tbsp of candied mix citrus peels
Possibly some more ground almond if the mixture is too wet
plenty of icing sugar to roll and dust

Blanch the almond and the apricot kernels separately in hot water and remove the skin. 
Place them in the food processor with the sugar and grind to a powder. Do this in two lots, on pulse, making sure that the mixture doesn't heat or becomes a paste.

Lightly whip the egg whites, just gently, they don't have to be stiff like for a meringue, just starting to be white. Add the ground almonds and the orange zest or candide citrus peels. Mix well, if it feels too soft add a little ground almond. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The day after flour a board or working surface with icing sugar and roll the paste into thin rolls, about 2-3 cm thick. Cut and shape into biscuits, about 1.5-2 cm high. the traditional shape is like a grain of wheat, with two pointed ends. 

Place on a oven tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle with more icing sugar. Bake at 150C for 15 minutes or until the edges start to be golden. Ricciarelli should not be overcooked! Let them cool down completely before removing them from the baking tray. They keep well for a couple of weeks in a biscuits tin. 

All the decoration on this Xmas tree are homemade or recycled.

I recycled small bottles fro Italian fruit juices and crochet around them to make lights. I used recycled old wool for the crochet, and also made a few balls and little doilies. I foraged and painted the pine cones, and also spray painted some dried hydrangeas flowers. And then my usual sugar decorations, made with fondant, all white this year! Finally I recycled the crystal drops from a broken chandelier, they look classy on the tree!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Banana blossom and carrot salad


I usually just have the banana blossom 'heart' for salads, but this time I have included a few of the little flowers that are found under the Petals. Cut the banana blossom from the bunch of bananas (leave them on the tree if they are still green) and peel off the outer pink petals, collecting the little blossoms and dropping them in cold water and lemon juice (I added some to the sink). 

Prepare another bowl with water and lemon juice and cut the banana 'heart' into small slices, dropping them quickly into the lemon water so that they don't brown. If you want to add the flowers you will need to remove the style and stigma, and the papery outer part of the flower. This takes a long time and this is why I only do it for a few of the most tender flowers. The more central flowers, which are completely white (no pink) can be eaten whole.

Rinse well and drain, then place in a bowl and add lemon or lime juice, about 2 tbsp, soy sauce, about 1 tbsp, and half a tsp of grated ginger. Press down with a plate or a second bowl and place a weigh on top (you can find an image in this recipe here). Leave overnight, or even a couple of days (like I did, it was perfectly fine!), then rinse under cold water, shake well and place in a clean bowl. Grate one large carrot and dress with lemon juice, salt and olive oil, then fold in the banana flowers. Mix well, taste for salt, and scoop into the banana petals for serving. I also decorated mine with Vietnamese mint flowers. 

It was very good, but next time, if I have the patience and time to clean all the little flowers, I'll tray to cook them. The 'heart' is definitely much nicer! 

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, July 23, 2021

Soft baked cheesecake, "Japanese style"

One thing that I loved about living in Japan were the cakes, both Japanese and Western style. In fact the Western style cakes not only are of an incredible high quality, but they also seem lighter and less sweet that what we have here in New Zealand. The baked cheesecake has always been one of my favourites, I do find it a little 'eggy' perhaps, but every now and then it is fun to make!


1 x 250g pack of cream cheese (I used Philadelphia) 

50g butter (I used salted butter, follow instructions if you use unsalted butter)

150ml cream

50 sugar

5 eggs (large)

80g self rising flour

lemon zest and juice

Apricot jam for the topping (optional)

Cube the cream cheese and butter and place into a mixing bowl with the cream and sugar. If you use unsalted butter add a very small pinch of salt too. Place the bowl on a pot with boiling water (Bain Marie)  and mix well until all the ingredients are melted. Make sure that there are no lumps of cream cheese! Remove from the heat and then add the egg yolks, one by one, mixing well.  In the meantime whip the egg whites to a stiff peak, and also heat the oven to 180C. Add flour to the main mixture, then lemon zest (1 lemon) and lemon juice (one or two tbsp, depending on your lemon - Mayer lemons are sweet so you need more, if you use a more acidic lemon one tbsp will suffice). Fold in the egg whites little by little. Pour into a 18cm round baking tin lined with buttered baking paper (on the bottom and side of the tin - I butter both the tin and the baking paper). Place the tin on a larger baking pan filled with 30-40cm of hot water and place into the oven. The cake will also bake at Bain Marie. Turn the heat down to 160C and bake for about one hour. Turn the oven off but do not remove the cheesecake: leave it to cool down in the oven with the oven door slightly open. Sadly it will drop a bit in heigh while cooling, but this is normal. I am not sure what kind of stabilisers commercial bakeries use to keep their baked cheesecakes super high, but this is more about taste, and the homemade does taste better! When the cheesecake has cooled down remove from the baking tin and if you like brush the top with a little apricot jam thinned with hot water. 

I particularly like this cheesecake because it is so soft and not so sweet, so I can have it for breakfast with my coffee. For dessert instead I like to add some Italian amarena cherries in syrup, or some berries, fresh or frozen, marinated with a little sugar and lemon juice, to give it a bit more sweetness and flavour.

And now some flowers for my Pinterest 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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