Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini©

On Sunday 28 September 2008 the children of Waitakere planted 4 Kauri trees at the Arataki Visitor Centre to commemorate the passing of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008.

To learn more about the legislation please visit:


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vegan Risotto with Saffron and Porcini Mushrooms

Come along to the Auckland Vegetarian Food & Lifestyle Festival THIS SUNDAY
28th September 10am to 4pm
Mt Eden War Memorial Hall,
487 Dominion Road, Balmoral,
(opp. Potters Park).

I will be doing a cooking demo at 1:00pm, and I will include this dish:

Vegan Risotto with Saffron and Porcini Mushrooms

2 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
1 small onion
1 tbsp olive oil
400 g Arborio rice
1 l vegetable stock, hot
1 g saffron

Serves 4

Easy steps

- Soak the porcini mushrooms in 50 ml warm water.
- Slice the onion and sauté with the olive oil until translucent in colour.
- Add the rice and stir.
- When the rice is hot add the mushrooms and their water.
- Add the stock little by little, always stirring.
- When the rice is al dente (15 – 20 minutes) add the saffron and stir well.
- If the rice is not cooked yet add a little hot water.

Serve immediately.

Tips and variations

Vegetarians can add a little butter or grated vegetarian cheese at the end.
For more texture if you like you can add fresh mushrooms (sliced) when sautéing the onion.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Slow Grappa

What an afternoon we had at Slow Grappa! The event, a fundraiser for our delegates Aldo, Mary-Ann and Claire attending Terra Madre, was hosted by Sue and Dan, with help from Deb and Claire. Here are some photos by Barbara Holloway.

Hugo's Tamales

Claire Inwood's Recipe for Slow Grappa

This recipe is from Hugh O'Neill of Hugh's New American Bistro, Denver, where I used to work. Hugh is a wonderful Irishman with a passion for Mexican food!
Some variations we would make were shrimp and peanut (for a Colorado wedding feast) and goat cheese, pumpkin and oregano.
Mexican traditional cheeses such as queso blanco or asadero would normally be used.
Traditionally tamales are made with fresh or dried corn husks. I save the husks off fresh corn in the summer for this use. Corn husks make a pattern of lovely ridges in the masa as it cooks. Fresh or frozen banana leaves work well and some Asian stores sell frozen banana leaves (try the Tofu Shop, Pioneer Plaza, Henderson).

1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cup roasted fresh corn raw, canned or frozen [raw is fine and canned or frozen is suitable out of season]
1 cup masa meal (lime treated cornmeal, available at Wah Lee's, Hobson Street, and East West Organics, Glen Eden)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh green chilli chopped finely OR a few dried chilli flakes added to taste
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Coarsely chopped fresh coriander to taste
2 spring onions finely sliced

Simmer milk and corn, strain milk and keep 1 cup of corn aside.
Purée remaining corn with milk, add to masa and mix well.
In a separate bowl whip butter, baking powder and salt till fluffy.
Add masa mixture little by little mixing between additions.
Fold in green chilli, remaining corn, cheese, coriander and spring onion
Lay corn husks or cut banana leaves 12 to 15 cm flat.
If using corn husks place the mixture vertically in the husk following the lines in the leaf, this makes folding easier.
Place 1 tablespoon or 2 of mixture (depending on size of leaf) in the centre of the leaf, fold in the sides and tuck in ends so that no mixture can escape.
Lay rolled tamales flat in a steamer basket, can double up layers. Steam for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Great with a good fresh tomato and lime salsa. Leftover tamales are fine re-steamed.

Any seasonal vegetables can be added, or herbs of your choice, but best to keep with the Mexican theme. Tamales usually feature lard instead of butter, and pork. Good with BBQ chicken or pork added.
You may like to try chipolotles, smoked jalapenos, for a distinct flavour, available from Wah Lee's. Very hot! Use sparingly.
Sweet tamales are also made, using sugar instead of salt, variations on pineapple, banana, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and coconut

Grapefruit Syrup Cake

Claire Inwood's Recipe for Slow Grappa

This recipe came from Everyday Gourmet in Dunedin and featured in a 2004 Cuisine magazine.

200g butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp finely grated grapefruit zest
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk

For the syrup

1 cup grapefruit juice
3/4 cup caster sugar
More zest if you like

Preheat oven to 180° C or 160° C fan bake. Grease 24 cm round tin or line with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar, add zest and beat in eggs one at a time.
Sift flour and baking powder adding alternately with milk.
Bake for about an hour or until skewer comes out clean. I check at 40 min.
Leave cake in tin while you make the syrup.
Place sugar, juice and zest in a pan and stir until reaches boiling point. Cook for about 5 min until slightly reduced, then pour over hot cake.
Cool in tin.

The original recipe was with lemon and included 1 1/2 cups chopped figs [tossed with a little flour before adding to mixture] and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.
3 tsp of lightly crushed coriander seeds were added to the syrup.

Great as a lemon, orange or rosewater cake. Works fine muffin size too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Onion Weed

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Yes, the meadows and orchards of Oratia are full of it, and it is a weed, slowly creeping towards my house, unaware that I will EAT IT! Foraging is back into fashion, and what better excuse to be kind to the environment (Weed Free Waitakere!!!) and your health. Eat raw, or cook...the photos are self-explanatory.

Buon Appetito!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Finally Spring has arrived in Oratia. This peach tree comes from a discarded stone. It had a strange start in life on the edges of the bush, but now it is leaning towards the Japanese garden in search of sun (supported by a couple of bamboo poles) and it looks very pretty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Press Release

Three Slow Food Waitakere members chosen to represent New Zealand at Terra Madre 2008 in Italy.

Chef Claire Inwood form Piha and growers Aldo and Mary-Ann Di Cesare from Te Atatu Peninsula will be travelling to Turin, Italy, in October to attend Terra Madre – a biannual event that brings together 5000 producers, farmers, fishers and food artisans, along with 1000 cooks, 500 academics and 1000 students from 150 countries worldwide.
Terra Madre offers the opportunity to spend five days networking with other nations, attending workshops and conferences, and discussing the major themes. The event is organised by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestries, the Cooperation for Development Department of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the Piedmont Regional Authority, the City of Turin and Slow Food in collaboration with Coldiretti Piemonte and Fondazione CRT, and it will look at food from various aspects – production, the environment, taste, worker rights and consumer safety. Participants will also visit the Salone del Gusto, the world's largest artisan food marketplace, in Turin from 23–27 October 2008.
Claire Inwood has been catering in Waitakere for many years, from weddings to small events to exhibition openings at the Corban Estate Art Centre. She is also a cooking teacher and an artist, best known for her handmade Pacifica dolls, crafted from recycled materials and native flax.
Mary-Ann and Aldo Di Cesare are salad producers for Ecopac, of which Aldo is also CEO, and for many other brands. They are regular stall holders at the Oratia Farmers Market. Mary-Ann and Aldo are keen sportspeople, and both are champion swimmers with a long history of involvement in the Waitakere City Masters.
Claire, Mary-Ann and Aldo are members of Slow Food Waitakere, the Waitakere City branch of Slow Food International. They will be representing New Zealand, and specifically Waitakere, and will be accompanied by 10 more delegates from different regions of New Zealand, including 8 Maori representatives.
Slow Food, founded in 1986, is an international organisation whose aim is to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenisation of modern fast food and life. Though a variety of initiatives it promotes gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural biodiversity and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction. It now boasts over 86,000 members in 130 countries.
For further information on Slow Food, Slow Food Waitakere, Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre please refer to the respective websites:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cuisine hunting for New Zealand’s local food heroes

Cuisine magazine is on the hunt for New Zealand’s local food heroes to be recognised in the inaugural Cuisine Artisan Awards 2009, in association with the super premium wine, Selaks Founders Reserve.

The newly established Cuisine Artisan Awards will acknowledge New Zealand’s best artisan food and beverage producers who are defining the country’s flourishing food and farmers’ market culture — creating top-notch locally produced fare. An artisan producer is essentially a craftsperson who applies their skills to making handmade or individually crafted products, generally on a small scale and often according to traditional practices.

“From craft bakers, olive oil producers and chutney and jam preservers to charcuterie experts and boutique brewers — there are skilled artisans popping up around the country,” says Cuisine deputy food editor Fiona Smith. “We felt it was high time that these talented artisans and the fruits of their labour were recognised.

“New Zealand is a country that is renowned for the exceptional quality of our fresh produce – fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood and dairy. This is a great foundation for our local food producers to add value. The rise and rise of farmers’ markets and the immense popularity that they have experienced have given artisan food producers an avenue to sell directly to customers and given people access to excellent locally produced food.

“You don’t need to look to Italy for olive oil and salami, or France for fine mustard any more – these are being produced by skilled craftspeople just down the road with their own distinct Kiwi identity,” she says.

Selaks Founders Reserve senior winemaker, Brett Fullerton, says New Zealand wine, farmers’ markets and local artisan food are all very closely intertwined.

“In sponsoring these awards, Selaks wanted to show its support for the flourishing artisan food industry in New Zealand. It’s exciting to see artisans forging regional culinary identities and local pride, just as the wine industry has done in many regions. For a long time we have graced winemakers with deserving accolades. Now it’s time to recognise our local food heroes too," he says.

To help in the search for the country’s finest artisans, Cuisine is calling on their readers to nominate their local food heroes. The artisans must be producing food or beverage products on a small scale with an annual turnover of less than $5 million to 30 June 2008. Artisan producers can enter a wide range of product categories including dairy, preserves and condiments; oils such as olive, avocado or walnut; honey, mustards, seafood, meat, baked goods, speciality chocolates, drinks, fruit juices and boutique beer.

A panel of experts will judge the nominees and 10 winners, including a supreme winner, will be announced in the March issue of Cuisine, on sale mid-February 2009.

The judging panel includes Cuisine’s Fiona Smith, Toni Mason, Ray McVinnie and Lauraine Jacobs, as well as Selaks head winemaker Brett Fullerton, founder of Delmaine Enzo Bettio, co-owner of Logan Brown Restaurant in Wellington, Al Brown, and Farmers’ Market New Zealand chairperson Chris Fortune.

To nominate a favourite artisan producer send an email naming the company and the specific product/s you think should be entered to artisans@cuisine.co.nz before 30 November 2008.

Auckland Vegetarian Food & Lifestyle Festival 2008

Sunday 28 September 10 am - 4 pm
Mt Eden War Memorial Hall,
489 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

Have you got this exciting annual event on your calendar?
Come along on Sunday September 28th from 10am to 4pm to enjoy fabulous
vegetarian and vegan food, lifestyle products, free cooking demonstrations by
international chef Peter Chaplin and Good magazine food editor and author Alessandra Zecchini.
Plus: talks on Vegetarian diet and the environment by American author Michael Klaper M.D., and free yoga demonstrations.
Come along for the day – this day is for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Even more stalls this year (upstairs). $2 entry (or free between 10 and 10.30am) .
Cash transactions only. See you there!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pizza with Capsicums and Olives

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini, © cover made with flickr

Some basic Basic Pizza Dough

For the topping
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 pinch dried oregano
1 pinch salt
1 large mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves

Tops 3 flat pizzas

Wash the capsicum and then place whole in the oven at 180°C until they smell cooked. Carefully remove the capsicums from the oven and place inside a paper bag for 5 minutes; this will help the skin come off easily. Peel the capsicums, remove the seeds and cut into small slices, then place into a bowl and stir in the olive oil and a little salt. Empty the content of the chopped tomato can into another bowl, add a little salt and the dried oregano. Top the pizzas with the chopped tomatoes, then add a few slices of mozzarella, a few strips of capsicum and some olives. Bake in a preheated oven at 240ºC (475ºF), or the highest setting you have, for 7 to 10 minutes. Once ready, top with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh basil leaves.

Tomato Sauce for Pizza or Pasta

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini©, cover made with flickr

Here is how to make the easiest tomato sauce ever. This recipe, like the pizza dough recipe, comes form my book Savour (New Holland Publishers). As a bonus this sauce can be used for pasta and a variety or other dishes, its doses can be easily halved or doubled and, if you try it once, you will be hooked!

2 x 400 g / 14 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
a few fresh basil leaves
salt to taste.

Dose for 6 flat pizze or one very large deep base pizza slab.

Place the content of the two Italian peeled tomato cans into a blender. Add two cloves of garlic, peeled, and blend until smooth. Put the “juice” into a large frying pan, and some water from rinsing the cans (optional). Bring to boil and then simmer, stirring from time to time, for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce is so thick that when you stir it with a wooden spoon you can see the bottom of the pan. At this point as the salt to taste, the olive oil and the fresh leaves of basil. Cover and keep aside until needed.

And now you can go on and try to make your own mozzarella....with recipe in Savour, of course.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Basic Pizza Dough

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This is my basic dough for a flat pizza. The flour measure can also be doubled without increasing the yeast, and used for a thick slab of pizza. It is so easy and down to earth that now all my friends use it, especially those with families to feed.

300 ml warm water
2 ½ (2 and 1 half) tsp active yeast granules (I use Edmonds Active Yeast)
¼ (one quarter) tsp sugar
500 g high grade flour, plus more for dusting
1 large pinch of salt

Makes 6 large flat pizzas or 12 smaller pizzas

Put the warm water in a large bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After five minutes, when the yeast starts to bubble, add the flour and salt and work into a dough for about 10 minutes. You can knead it directly on the table or in the mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball, sprinkle it with flour and let it rise, in its bowl and covered with a tea towel, for about two hours.
Punch the dough and knead it for one minute, then divide it into six equal parts to form six small balls. Put these on a floured surface, dust with flour, and cover with a tea towel. Let them rise for 30 minutes then, one by one, flatten them into large rings, using either your hands or a rolling pin.
If you prefer to make smaller pizzas, divide each ball in two and roll as above.

Add the topping of your choice and bake.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Japanese Vegetables with Miso and Sesame Dressing

Japanese Vegetable Market, Kyoto. Photo by Alessandra Zecchini.
Japanese Vegetables with Miso and Sesame Dressing
Ingredients: For the dressing: 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds 1 tablespoon miso paste A little dashi (vegetable or kombu seaweed stock). For the vegetables: 1) Choose one vegetable among the ‘white Group’: Potato, Daikon (available in Asian stores), cauliflower… 2) One vegetable among the ‘orange/yellow group’: Carrot, pumpkin, kumara… 3) One vegetable among the ‘green group’: Broccoli, spinach, snow peas, asparagus… 4) Cherry tomatoes to decorate. To make the dressing grind the toasted sesame seeds with mortar and pestle, then add the miso paste and mix. Slowly add enough dashi (stock, hot or cold) to make a smooth and runny paste. Set aside. Choose your vegetables, one from each colour group) thinking that Japanese food must also be beautiful to look at, and cut into pretty slices. Boil the potatoes, kumara and daikon, but just steam or blanch all other vegetables, as they still need to be crunchy and colourful. Arrange the vegetables in individual bowls as nicely as you can (for example, one small potato, two carrot slices, and 3 snow peas) and drizzle over the dressing. Decorate with a cherry tomato and serve, cold or lukewarm. Suggestions It is important to boil or steam the vegetables separately, or they will all taste the same. The leftover dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days. Make this salad into a main by adding a boiled egg or a square of Japanese soft tofu (the type that can be eaten row).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lately in my garden...

Rhododendron arboreum

Clivia miniata

Freesia and Sparaxis tricolor

Primula x polyantha

Cymbidium orchid
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Cannellini Bean Salad

Three very easy recipes you can make in a few minutes using Italian beans. Each recipe serves 2 when accompanied by bread, rice, polenta, couscous or any other grain based meal.

Cannellini bean salad

1 can Cannellini Beans
1 cup fresh rocket of baby spinach
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Rinse the Cannellini beans and put into a salad bowl. Add the rocket or spinach leaves, rinsed, and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Italian Butter Beans in Tomato Sauce

1 small onion
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 can Butter Beans
250 g Italian tomato sauce (or fresh chopped tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
A few leaves of fresh basil
More extra virgin olive oil to serve (optional)

Slice the onion and sauté with the olive oil until tender. Add the Italian tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes) and then the beans. Cook until the sauce thickens (5 to 10 minutes), add salt and pepper to taste, fresh basil
And a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Borlotti and Balsamic Onions

Borlotti and Balsamic Onions

1 small onion (preferably red)
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 can Borlotti Beans
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt to taste

Finely slice the onion into a bowl. Dress with the Balsamic vinegar and leave to marinate (even for a few hours, if you want more taste). Rinse the beans and add to the onions. Dress with olive oil and salt to taste. If you like add shaving of your favourite mature cheese.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Domus de Janas

Domus de Janas Incorporated- Sardinian cultural and social Circolo in New Zealand - was created with the intention to be a cultural bridge between Sardinia and Aotearoa. It also celebrate the regional richness of Italy with the cultural, traditional and historical differences. The activity that the Circolo aims to maintain and/or to create flows of knowledge and inter exchange between New Zealand and Sardinia. Sardinia is still a mystery in this part of the world as is New Zealand in the Land of the Nuraghi. This Sardinian Circolo, the first in New Zealand, wants tight a relationship between the two island groupings, it wants to be a reference point for the few Sardinian and their families in New Zealand, it wants to transport traditions and ancient culture in this new land and share them with all the other communities in Aotearoa. At the same time it also aims to facilitate inter exchange so that Sardinia will be enriched by the experiences, traditions of this country in which we are welcome settlers. The Circolo is non- profitable organization.

The name Domus de Janas come from the Sardinian language” Fairies or witches house”, following an old and popular belief. As the Nuraghi , they are an essential part of Sardinia’s history. They are burial structures made from dug tombs on the rocks, of various shapes and connected to each other to form trough underground necropolis with a common access corridor and a hall often very large and with high ceiling. In the island there are about 2500 domus de janas they go back to the period between 3000 BC and 1500 BC and some are of more recent times.


New members are welcome.
See attachment or
for more information contact:


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Slow Grappa

A unique fundraising event to celebrate Terra Madre 2008.

Come and meet Claire Inwood, Aldo and Mary-Ann Di Cesare
our Slow Food Waitakere delegates who will represent New Zealand
at the Terra Madre International Convention in Italy this coming October.

We will enjoy a special afternoon with:
a talk on distillation by MW Michael Brajkovich,
luscious grappa cocktails,
a selection of fine Italian grappas,
fantastic finger food,
Icoco Coffee
and a Silent Auction.

Sunday 21 September 2008
2pm to 5pm
Sue and Dan Greig’s home
5 Waima Cres.
Woodlands Park
Waitakere City

Only $15.00
Including food and the first cocktail or drink.
Priority will be given to Slow Food members.
A variety of drinks will be available from the cash bar
(sorry, no efpos)

All profits will go towards our delegates’ airfares to Italy.

Limited space available so book now.

Please RSVP by 17 September to
Sue Greig
(09) 817 8297 sudanhairdressing@xtra.co.nz

For more information on Terra Madre please visit http://www.terramadre2008.org/

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spaghetti aglio, olio e rucola

Spaghetti aglio, olio e rucola

You may know the Italian classic spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli), but
now that it is spring why not try to substitute the chilli with tender rocket (rucola) leaves!

500 g spaghetti
Salt for the water
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
100 g young rocket leaves, washed and drained

Serves 4–5

Cook the spaghetti al dente in plenty of salted boiling
water. In the meantime in a large frying pan heat the
olive oil with a pinch of salt and the garlic cloves. You
should aim to ‘fl avour’ the oil with the garlic, not burn
it, so keep the heat to a medium-low setting. When the
garlic is just about golden add the rocket leaves and
stir. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then
set aside. The spaghetti should be ready: drain and put
into the frying pan with a little of their cooking water,
stir well and serve immediately.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Festival Italiano 2008

31 August 2008

From left: Alessandra Zecchini, President, Dante Alighieri Society; Hon. Chris Carter, Minister of Ethnic Affairs and Education; H.E. Gioacchino Trizzino, Ambassador for Italy in New Zealand; Cav. Mario Magaraggia, Italian Honorary Consul for Auckland.

From left: Paolo Rotondo, actor and presenter of the Festival Italiano 2008, singing Italian songs with fellow actors Maaka Pohatu and Robert Mokoraka.

Offering Flowers to the guests at the Festival.

The Hon. Chris Carter and H.E. the Italian Ambassador trying out a Ferrari.

A beautiful day, and thousands af people!


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