Thursday, June 18, 2009

Outrageous Fortune, The West Family Album

Coming soon....


Outrageous Fortune: The West Family Album is the ultimate fan handbook to New Zealand's favourite family, the Wests, and their associates from the hit TV3 show Outrageous Fortunes. Written by the show's writers and featuring the actors’ take on the series, the album features script extracts, a trivia quiz and a drinking game  – and probes the characters to reveal all from Cheryl’s recipes to Pascalle’s philosophy, Ted’s racing tips to the Tool Guy code.  

Written by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the multiple award-winning creators and executive producers of Outrageous Fortune, and Tim Balme, who has been a storyliner and scriptwriter since the show’s second season. 

ISBN:    978-1-877514-00-5 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Vegetarian in Singapore


Singapore is one of the most exciting Asian cities to dine in. Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines blend with other Asian and Western fare, and bloom into thousands of restaurants, cafés and informal eateries. In fact it is said that eating, together with shopping, is the national pastime, and you can find people munching at any hour of the day and night.

The tropical setting and the vicinity of countries like Malaysia and Thailand assure a vast array of tropical fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices which provide fresh tantalizing flavours.

I have been to Singapore several times, and never had a problem with being vegetarian. On my last visit I was fortunate enough to stay at the Fairmont Singapore and, before travelling, I checked the hotel website for a quick restaurants preview. The Fairmont has 15 restaurants and in 2007 was in the Condé Nast Traveller (UK) Gold list for 'Best Hotel in the World for Food'.

Well, I felt positive that with 15 restaurants I wasn’t going to starve! But I was luckier than that – I happened to visit in May, the month traditionally set aside to celebrate Vesak Day, the most holy day in the Buddhist calendar. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.

During this month, many non-vegetarian restaurants also provide a special vegetarian menu. Not only that, the Western tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day in the same month adds to the choice, as many Mother’s Day specials happen to be vegetarian because vegetarianism is also associated with health, and keeping one’s mother healthy!

At the Fairmont they had a vegetarian special in every restaurant, and I was really keen to try the Szechuan Court & Kitchen, renowned for serving some of the finest Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine in Singapore. Szechuan food is spicy and flavourful, with the ubiquitous chilli peppercorn a key ingredient. Taking advantage of the extensive vegetarian promotion menu I started with the vegetarian version of Szechuan hot and sour soup, which was yes, spicy, but utterly delicious.

Then I moved to the Cantonese Dim Sum and from bamboo baskets and small plates came an array of the most delicious things: pan-seared shredded yam with pumpkin filling, crispy vegetarian oysters with sweet and sour sauce, deep fried potato and vegetable croquettes, balls of steamed turnip with asparagus and black fungus wrapped in a crystal clear dough, and poached vegetarian dumplings with assorted vegetables and mushrooms.

By this stage I was full. My lunch companions went on to mains, but I jumped straight to the dessert: mango pudding. There were many more choices on the vegetarian promotion menu; beyond what I’ve listed I counted another 6 appetizers, 5 soups and 10 mains. It is not often that I leave a restaurant satisfied, and with the feeling that I could go back for the next few days and try something new each time.

If you are walking around the city, and in need of a quick meal, the numerous food malls offer a bustling atmosphere and inexpensive food. One of the best bets is Indian: there are always authentic vegetarian dishes, and the bonus is that Singapore is clean and safe. On my visits I’ve had more than one meal eaten with fingers over a banana leaf, and never felt sick.

The same thing can be said about fresh fruit. In many countries we need to be aware of fruit either cut or washed with water, and only eating what we can peel. But in Singapore you could almost live on fresh fruit and juices. The big plates of cut guava and papaya, and the amazing fresh mango or sugar cane juices, are exquisite.

Another thing vegetarians should take note of is that many street malls have vegetarian or Buddhist eateries. These are easy enough to find: just walk around the stalls and check out the cheapest! Usually it has a lotus flower on the sign, and the food is Chinese style. Select either rice or noodles, then three mains and a free soup… it costs around NZ$2.00, because serving vegetarian food for Buddhists is an act of piety, not a money-making enterprise.

Western cafés also abound, which is good if you like to start you mornings with a cappuccino and a pastry, rather than a bowl of noodles. Italian and French restaurants are also popular, as it is fusion cuisine.

I had a magnificent work dinner organised by Glenmorangie. Each course was to be matched by a different Glenmorangie whisky, introduced by a whisky expert. The special menu had been designed by a Scottish chef and there were around 50 guests.

A few days prior to the dinner I advised my hosts that I was a vegetarian, and you know what? They didn’t even blink. They created a vegetarian 5-course menu just for me, to match the whiskies. So while everyone else was eating foie gras and lobster I was treated with delights like porcini mousse, white asparagus, carrot foam, and basil risotto. I was sitting next to one of the organizers, who was sincerely interested to know how well the flavours of my food matched the drinks, and never made me feel once like the odd one out of the group. Nor did any other guests asked why I was a vegetarian, a question that seems to follow me to dinner in New Zealand and in many other countries.

So Singapore is excellent from the culinary point of view. The only drawback of the city is that the climate may be to hot for some people. It is wise to keep drinking water, and maybe eat more raw food, light meals, or just salads.

At the Fairmont I found a good choice in the Alligator Pear restaurant, next to the swimming pools and very informal. The food is also created to complement the various spa treatments on offer, and I did have a massage. This was an hour of bliss, and the Balinese masseur the most professional I can ever remember.

Good food and massages, what else can a girl wish for? I was so content with myself in Singapore that I even forgot to shop!

80 Bras Basah Road
Singapore, 189560, Singapore
+65 6339 7777

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Fiammiferi spenti....

Fiammiferi accesi....

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini©

For the pastry

  • 160 g flour
  • 80 g  sugar
  • 80 g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 egg 
  • The grated zest of a half a lemon or a a drop of vanilla essence

  • Mix by hand and make a dough. Shape the dough into a square, about  two cm thick. Let it rest for 30 minutes in the fridge, then cut into very thin slices and place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 160˚C for 10 minutes. Let the biscuits cool down and then dip one end in melted dark chocolate. Add a candied cherry to half of the biscuits (which wilt be the lighted matches, fiammiferi accesi!) 

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Te Waka Kai Ora

    Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

    Taitokerau Organics Inc  hosted Te Waka Kai Ora (TWKO), the national maori authority for the organic industry of New Zealand,  in Ahipara, Te Hiku O Te Ika from the 5th - 7th June 2009.

    Te Waka Kai Ora is the national maori representative body that is a part of Organic Aotearoa NZ (OANZ), the national organic authority for support of the organic industry.

    I was there to cook an run workshops about Italian and healthy food for the partecipants. 
    During the 3 day wananga in Ahipara Northland,  were addressed the need to support maori and the certification of their goods and services that they produce, and many other issues related to organic growing, the environment, and healthy eating. This hui was also part of a maori land tv series, and a documentary, to be showcased in 2010.

    For more photos and info click here.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    “I won’t wear tights when I get back …I promise”

    Please read this message for Paolo Rotondo


    I’ve managed to score an incredible opportunity; I was

    awarded the 2009 Shakespeare Globe International Artistic


    Ten theatre practitioners from around the world have been

    selected to go to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London in August

    2009 for a month-long intensive period of training culminating in a

    public performance on the Globe main stage.

    You can imagine the challenge and thrill for a New Zealand actor.

    In my line of work this is huge.

    Obviously they thought I’d be appropriate. My experience in

    New Zealand Film, Television and Theatre is extensive. Not

    only have I had leads in feature films and theatre, but I am also

    an award winning playwright and screenwriter…but mostly teenage

    girls recognise me from Shortland Street.

    This Fellowship is an opportunity to really lift my game, test my

    mettle and learn some stuff.

    Of course the idea is to return to New Zealand and put the

    new found knowledge into practice. As a teacher, director

    and collaborator I’ll have the opportunity to influence our

    local scene, hopefully in a meaningful way.

    The Shakespeare Globe International Artistic Fellowship

    is a prestigious initiative but it is also costly. I still need at least

    $10,000 to reach my goal.

    I’ve struggled to get any big sponsors, so I’m approaching

    many people for small donations. I’d put a donation

    from you to really good use. 

    If you’d like to know more

    please email

    or contact Paolo Rotondo on


    Or you can deposit your

    donation into:


    3 Pesos Productions Limited


    Kindest Regards

    Paolo Rotondo

    -        Paolo Rotondo


    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Cavi art!!!!

    Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

    Well, fancy that...seaweed caviar for vegetarians! This is
    I found it in the supermarket, there is black, red and green (wasabi flavour), and I was very courious!

    Actually, it tastes quite good, fresh and lightly 'marine' in a seaweed sort of fishy smell or oily aftertaste...

    It may not taste like caviar, but it is an ethical substitute, and the texture and feel to the palate is very pleasant. Also, it is not so expensive...

    Here on buttered crostini with dill.

    Working for children in Waitakere City

    Click here to see images of Kura Toa book launch in Henderson.


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