Thursday, January 28, 2010

It is a blessing to have friends around the globe, but it is also hard to keep in touch. After a few years, if there are no chances of meeting up, correspondence may relent or fail us, and sometimes we loose touch completely for years. But then, if we are fortunate and determined enough to meet again, old friendships seem never lost, and sometimes more 'mature' friendships blossom.

And then there are those cases which are almost 'formal'. Correspondence is rich at first, and then diminishes down (yes, even with emails!) to the once a year New Year's greetings. This is what has happened with my friend Yoko. We got busy. We got married, and we had children. And we lived in two different continents. At the beginning I could go back to Japan and meet her briefly, check on the kids and so on, but after a few years it became hard.

But in the last New Year card I wrote to her I had the impulse of writing also my blog address, and there she was, back in touch, and telling me that her husband had opened a restaurant in Tokyo. So, to celebrate our renewed contact, I will show you her restaurant!

Now, the vegetarians followers of this blog may be surprised that I show pictures of a meaty restaurant, but as probably 98% of my friends are not vegetarians, and some of them read my blog anyway, here is something for them to look at! And in a way I like to show meat and fish eaters the same courtesy that I would like to receive from them (and that, fortunately, I mostly enjoy anyway).

Yoko tells me that her husband's shop (in Japan this is defined as a shop, not a restaurant) is called EN 縁
(in my dictionary the kanji translates as relation, or connection, Yoko please let me know if this is wrong!)

Yoko says: "Because beef and the internal organs meat are mainly cooked on the charcoal fire, with the aid of a clay stove called SITIRIN, they are very delicious!
Please stop by when you come to Tokyo!"

I will do Yoko, and maybe you could cook, just for me, some tofu!!!! And we will drink some sake together :-)!

3-25-8 Syakujii tyo Nerimaku Tokyo

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trapani ed Erice

This was my first taste of Sicily, unfortunately too brief and 'confusing' to make detailed comments or take good photos, but I can only say that it left me wanting to discover more. For now here is:

Above: It feels very North African. Below: Spaghetti alla Norma


But not always...

At the Hotel Moderno, everybody in my party ate fish (apparentely this place is famous for its fish couscous), but I had pasta with pesto alla trapanese (I put here a link from the blog
Io da Grande with the recipe - in Italian). Below: Antipasti, china, and sweet things.

In Erice there is also the Castle of venus, built over a temple where Venus Ericina was worshipped. The legend says that the temple was founded by Aeneas, and the oldest walls were build by the architect Dedalus. Later the Normans did the rest. I thought this to be a very fine place, and the view was amazing, mostly because the weather was uncertain that day and I could not distinguish the sea horizon, which just blended with the sky into a never-ending brush of aquamarine.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oratia Plum Jam

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Plum jam is one of my favourite, and as I live near some beautiful orchards in Oratia, west of Auckland, I like to make the most of the plentiful supply. This year my neighbors invited me to pick from their fruit trees, the variety was great and the fruit delicious.

Plum Jam


For each Kg of plums I used 600 g of sugar, (because I like my plum jam a little tart) and one teaspoon of pectin.

Wash the freshly picked fruit and place in a large saucepan with a little water. Bring the fruit to a gentle boil. When the fruit is simmering add the sugar and stir well. After 5 minutes add the pectin. Simmer the jam for about 5 more minutes and then pass through a sieve, discarding the stones.

Place the hot jam in sterilised jars, dried in the oven. At this point you can add to each jar a cinnamon stick (for dark plums) or a long pepper (for yellow plums); or you can wet the inside of the jar with a little grappa or brandy (an old Italian method). Either seal the jars with cellophane covers (available in all supermarkets) and secure with an elastic band, or use capsule lids (I use Quattro Stagioni brand).

If using capsule lids, seal the jars well, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the jars. Let the jars cool down in the pot overnight and when they are cold make sure that the capsule has popped by pressing gently on the lid. Properly sterilised jars will keep for over a year.

I also made plum paste, but I will talk about it in another post...if it turns out well :-)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Almost self-sufficient zucchini antipasto

I have two zucchini plants, one yellow and one green. It is incredible how many flowers and zucchini two plants can provide, certainly more than enough for a family of 4! The green zucchini plant is huge and very prolific, the yellow one less so (don't know why...), but still, I get enough. In the garden I also have herbs and lemons, and a friends who grows garlic gave me some; for this dish I only had to buy salt and olive oil!

Zucchini Antipasto

Cut the zucchini in long strips and fry on both sides with extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop some Italian parsley, mint, and Genovese basil with two cloves of garlic and a generous pinch of salt.
Place this 'pesto' on the zucchini (keep a little aside for decoration) and add the juice from half a lemon. Stir and let the zucchini marinate for two hours. Arrange on a platter and add the remaining 'pesto'. Serve.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

I am entering this recipe in the Grow Your Own competition hosted by House of Annie. Do you Grow Your Own? Have you posted about it during the month of January? Read the complete rules on Andrea’s site. Then show off your post and submit it here:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lake Taupo, Huka Falls, Geothermal Areas, Waitomo Caves, Kawhia...and more!

I hea koe?
I Taupō au.

I had a few lovely days in Taupo, on the lake, good family time and a few dips in the thermal pools.

To see nearby: the fantastic Huka Falls

And the geothermal areas: first a look at a geothermal power plant

And then the Craters of the Moon geothermal site. The signs are clear...

and numerous....

We kept to the path, but our feet were hot!

Then we travelled north ...

And stopped to visit the famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves. These are great but no photos can be taken inside, so look here! A magical experience! Below is the cave exit...

In Waitomo we stayed in the historic and charming Waitomo Caves Hotel

More travelling: wild animals in the back seats:

And a few amazing sites on the way: Mangapohue Natural Limestone Bridge

And the Marokopa Falls. All these sites are reachable by short walks in the bush.

In the car again, on the road to...

Our final destination before turning back to Auckland: the charming harbour and village of Kawhia

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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