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 ©

Monday, July 19, 2021

Pumpkin Coconut Curry (and pumpkin soup for the day after)


Bake the whole pumpkin in the oven and then slice and remove the outer peel and centre, slice and set aside. Chop two shallots and one green pepper and sauté with a little vegetable oil,  then add red curry paste (as much as your taste buds suggest) and a can of coconut cream, plus the water from rinsing out the can. Bring to a simmer, then add the sliced pumpkin and some Vietnamese mint leaves and flowers, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Top with fresh Vietnamese mint flowers, and also chopped coriander and Thai or lemon basil. Serve with rice, it is delicious!

If you have made a lot you can also blend it into a soup, easy as!

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, July 5, 2021

How to make ciabatta bread at home


This is my recipe for a simple yet foolproof ciabatta bread loaf, one of my favourite loaves! The recipe is straight from my book Savour (now available as an ebook from Kobo and from Barnes & Noble, and also from Amazon for Kindle), where there are many more bread recipes, and more. In the meantime enjoy this one!



300ml warm water

2 teaspoons active yeast granules

14⁄teaspoon sugar

300g high-grade flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt 

Makes 1 loaf

Place the warm water in a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. When the yeast starts to bubble, add the flour and salt and work into a dough for about 5 minutes using your fingers. This dough will be too sticky to roll on the bench or table so knead it in the bowl (although it feels more like mixing). Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and turn out the risen dough onto the tray bottom-side up. The dough will be sticky so you will need to scrape it from the sides of the bowl; it is also likely to be runny – prop up the outside edges of the baking paper with a couple of small ovenproof ramekins to avoid ending up with an extremely large flat loaf (the ramekins can be filled with water to create a steam oven effect - image 1)). Dust the top of the loaf with the extra flour. Bake in a preheated 180 ̊C (350 ̊F) oven for 25–30 minutes.

 Remove the bread from the oven, wrap in a tea towel, then place in a plastic bag and seal. Leave the bread in the bag for 30 minutes so that the steam will cook it further and make it soft and deliciously chewy. If you prefer a ciabatta with a crunchy crust, eat it while it’s still warm – yum!



Tips and variations

Although some recipes add 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough, I prefer an oil-free version so I can drizzle olive oil on it when it is freshly cut and ready to eat. I also like to dip ciabatta slices in a little oil flavoured with crushed cumin seeds and salt or basil leaves.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Gnocchi di ricotta con fiori eduli - Ricotta gnocchi with edible flowers



Start by mixing 500 g of ricotta with a few flowers and petals (I used cornflower, verbena and calendula). Add salt to taste and white pepper if you like.

Add 100 g of flour and mix well.

Shape into balls, no bigger than a golf ball, and flatten lightly.

Bring the water to boil, add salt, then lower to a simmer. Add the gnocchi a few at the time, moving them lightly in the water as they cook. Be gentle! When the gnocchi rise let them float for a minute or so and lift out with a slotted spoon and transfer into a pot with melted butter and sage.

Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked. Keep the the pot with the butter warm and turn over the gnocchi just once, very delicately. Dish and top with the melted butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, and some more edible flowers.

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Learn to make bread, pizza, pastries, savoury tarts and pies, frittata.... and more: Savour is now an ebook!

Exciting news! Savour, my second book with over 100 recipes (mostly family and Italian recipes) is now available as an ebook:
 from Kobo, worldwide. Click here to find out more!
Or for Amazon for Kindle
Also From Barnes & Noble 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Kahikatea berries to eat!!

Is kahikatea berry season again! I already have a few posts about foraging these New Zealand tree berries here, if you want to find out more. Since I cannot climb the tall trees I have to pick the berries that fall on the ground, it takes time and they are tiny, but everyday I get just enough to put on the cereal in the morning (for Max and Peter, I just have them with yogurt). They need to be washed and then the black seed removed and discarded. I leave the remaining red berries to marinate with just a drop of manuka honey overnight, and in the morning they are ready for breakfast! 

Max's cereal! (TBW, we also have our own bananas!!)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Little Bay, Coromandel, New Zealand

Abbiamo passato un po' di giorni nella penisola del Coromandel, vicino a Little Bay, bellissima spiaggia!

La vista dal nostro 'batch' nella foresta.

Spiaggia e acqua meravigliose!

E se non si va durante i giorni di vacanza non ci sono neppure turisti in giro.

L'ultima foto è fatta alla cittadina di Coromandel, i tre Tekoteko.

 Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Homemade Labne with homemade dukka and edible flowers


Labne cheese is basically strained yogurt. I use Cyclops organic yogurt (green top) which I find to be the best for making labne. Use think plain yogurt which is just yogurt (no added gelatin or other thickeners).

To strain the yogurt I used a cotton cloth, not too fine, but finer that a muslin cloth or cheese cloth. Tight well and hang in the fridge with a container underneath to collect the liquid. Leave it for at least one night and one day. Two days if you can.

To make dukka put some almonds in a skillet and toast quickly, then add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and toss in the hot skillet for one more minute, finish with the coriander seeds, which will need only one minute. Cool down and place in a mixer (keep a few almonds and seeds aside for decoration) with a good pinch of salt, and if you like some smoked paprika. Ground. Place the labne on a platter, cover with dukka and the whole seeds and before serving add rosemary flowers and friarielli or broccolini (or similar brassica) flowers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Omelette with cheese and dried cornflower petals


It is winter here and no so many flowers in the garden, but I have plenty of dried cornflower petals, which keep a beautiful blue colour and are fun to use in the kitchen.

For the frittata: beat three free-range eggs with a little water and a pinch of salt. Grease a fryingpan with olive oil and when the oil is hot add the eggs. Spread the mixture well (I make four 'cuts' on the sides to spread the eggs well) and sprinkle with cornflower petals. 

Add a couple of slices of Edam cheese and more petals.

Fold the omelette and then cook for one more minute on each side. Then add a few more petals on top.

Serves two. Yum!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Apple cupcakes with dried flowers


I have a selection of dried petals: blue cornflowers, red petals (a mixture of rose, verbena, dianthus) and orange and yellow (marigold and calendula), ready to add to a cake or cupcakes or muffins.

Ingredients for 12 cupcakes/muffins

4-5 Oratia Beauty apples
40 ml water
10 ml lemon juice
120 g salted butter
3 eggs
130 g sugar
A few drops of pure vanilla essence (optional)
200 g self-rising flour
Dried flowers
For the icing:
100 gr butter
100 g sugar
more dried flowers

Preheat the oven to 175°C. 

Line a 12-muffin tray with cupcakes paper cups.

In the meantime place the water and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, peel and slice the apples and drop them directly into the lemony water.

Melt the butter in a jug, either in the microwave or in the oven (while the oven is warming up for the cupcakes). Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, until the mixture looks light and pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the melted butter and the vanilla essence, if using.

Keep beating at a low speed now; add half of the flour followed by half of the lemony water from the apples. Add the rest of the flour and water and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. Add the apples and the dried petals. Divide into the cupcakes paper cups.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown at the top. You can also check by inserting a toothpick into the cupcakes: if it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool down. The icing is optional, I just mixed some melted butter with sugar and used it to top the cupcakes, then sprinkled more dried petals on top. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Zucchini with marigold vinegar and marigold fresh petals


This is a delicious starter or side dish. Cut the zucchini in thin long strips and pan fry with olive oil on both sides for just a minute (don't let them brown, they just need to soften). Chop plenty of Italian parsley and garlic with a pinch of salt and add to the zucchini, with a tbsp or two of marigold vinegar (recipe here). If you don't have marigold vinegar just use some white balsamic or white wine vinegar (but consider making marigold vinegar too!). Let the zucchini marinate for at least two hours, more if possible, then lay on a serving platter and sprinkle with fresh marigold petals. Serve at room temperature of chilled.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Marigold Vinegar


Pick the marigolds and shake them well into the garden to save all the insect. Pick a few little tender leaves too.

Next rinse the flowers well: fill the sink with waters and wash the flowers, then repeat several times, until you are sure that there clean. Place them on a clean tea towel to drip and then gently remove all the petals and put them in a clean sterilised mason jar. Add some leaves too and press down well. 

Cover with white wine vinegar and close. Store in a dark place for a few weeks before using. Use as regular aromatic vinegar, for dressing salads etc.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini 


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