Saturday, February 27, 2010

A vegan meal in Hong Kong

No no, I am still at home packing (leaving tomorrow)...and filing things away. But I found so many photos from last year travels which I haven't posted yet, and before they become too old I just wanted to add a few which, to me, are particularly meaningful. These ones are of a vegan dinner we had in HK (sorry, no restaurant's name because we were invited to the restaurant - and not even a vegetarian restaurant! - of a private club, for work reasons), but many of these dishes can be ordered in many Chinese vegetarian restaurants.

They were an inspiration to me and I can still taste them!

This is mock duck (made with gluten). Very nice!

Thin tofu 'skins' filled with mushrooms and vegetables and then pan fried, possibly my favourite dish of the evening.

Braised tofu with brassica (different types of bok choi and broccoli)

Noodles with mixed vegetables and shiitake
This was amazing: stewed eggpant

The dessert I didn't really like, it was just a sweet potato didn't feel like a dessert to me, but by this stage I was so full anyway, so it didn't matter.

Finally: we also went to HK Disney, not as big and beautiful like Tokyo Disney, but still very interesting, and the kids looooooved it! I met Goofy and Mikey Mouse. Mikey is a gentleman, he kissed my hand!!! I wander that Donald would have done! :-)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Corn and Farewell

I am saying farewell to my garden for 6 months. I will be traveling from Sunday, I will try to post recipes of the last few meals, made with what I can pick while I am still here, and what I am finishing in the house. Or maybe I will be more into posting about the places I will visit, and food I will eat there!

No recipe for my corn really, I just boil it and eat it with butter :-), but it is so lovely it doesn't need anything else!



Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 22, 2010

The peach tree, and what I have learned from Twilight

Well, the week-end was interesting, couldn't have foreseen the popularity of the last post, thank you all for the comments, re-tweets, and emails, I know now that the Twilight saga is bigger than I had imagined! In fact I was really tempted to make a little experiment and call this post something like, 'Renesmee peach drink' in honour of Renesmee's peachy complexion (for those who don't know yet, Renesmee is the half human-half vampire daughter of Edward and Bella Cullen), just to see into how many other web spaces it would automatically come up! But this is another story.

I have a peach tree, grown from a discarded seed in the bush. Actually, there are two, but one is quite deep in the forest, while the other was struggling in the border of the open garden, battling for space. We don't cut native trees in the Waitakere ranges, this is a protected area, and I wouldn't do it anyway, so no chances of me clearing the space around the poor fruit tree! But it was close enough for me to train it to grow sideways out of the forest and into an open space, over the little Japanese garden I built. In fact it looks quite like a gigantic bonsai now, and in spring the flowers really suit the Japanese garden.

For many years I only had a handful of peaches, but finally this summer the tree was full!

The peaches are smaller than the ones I can find in shops, but they taste great, and they are mine!! What a satisfaction! Thank you lovely tree! A part from eating them by themselves I am making smoothies, like this one, with peaches, banana and apple juice from the local orchard.

And then fruit salads. I like peaches with raspberries, but the season is finished now, so I used the last strawberries and blueberries (marinated with a little sugar and lemon juice for a few hours), than I add peaches and vanilla meringues.

To make the meringues I used two tablespoons of caster sugar for each egg white, and a little vanilla paste (which is full of vanilla seeds). And then, why not, I topped everything with whipped cream :-) (come on, I don't do that that often!!!)


Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Twilight menu (inspired by Stephenie Meyer's books)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Yes, I have 'Twilight fever', or 'Twilight addiction'? Whatever the term, it gets to me at any given time of the day, and I have to open the closest of the Twilight saga's books I can find, and read a bit of it!

Yesterday I got it early in the afternoon, and it didn't go away. I had to act, so just for fun, but also out of necessity (of providing a meal for the family instead of reading...) I though of making a Twilight inspired menu...obviously vegetarian (but don't the Cullens call themselves the vegetarians of the vampire world?), or even more challenging (for me): vegan.

The colours had to be black and red, of course; my daughter insisted that we only buy the books with the red pages, and this was the first of my challenges: I really try not to use artificial colourings in my food, and so I looked for black and red ingredients. And of course the food should also be 'romantic and sensual', Italian and Mexican flavours (which are also mentioned in the books), just a little 'bite' in one of them perhaps?

The second challenge was that...I couldn't go shopping for anything new, I had to do with what was in the house, and at present it is very little because we are leaving in 10 days and I am slowly emptying the pantry!

But I have tomatoes in the garden...

Twilight Starter

Plum Tomatoes with Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Well, the first was easy! Red tomato and Modena's black gold: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (ABTM), possibly one of the most sensual ingredients ever!

Fresh plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste (I used Maldon)
A few drops of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Assemble as shown in the photo.

New Moon 'Rice'

Tomato and Red Chili Sushi Rolls

I had nori, and it looks black and shiny. And Sushi rolls are round like the moon, but I needed a red moon! Actually, the red rice in the photo is not very clear, these looked much redder to the naked eye. Never mind, they tasted great, I even surprised myself, as I never though of combining tomato and chili with nori seaweed!

Short grain rice
Fresh tomatoes
red chili
Olive oil
Nori seaweed

I didn't measure the rice, I used what I had left. I washed it and cooked it by absorption. In the meantime I fried some fresh chopped tomatoes with garlic and 1 red chili using a little olive oil. Then I passed everything through a sieve to remove the skins and seeds. I added salt and I stirred the spicy sauce into the rice. I then rolled the rice just like for sushi rolls.

Eclipse Pizza

Red Pizza with Black Seeds

Pizza is a must when teenagers are involved (and it was the first food our heroes, Bella and Edward, shared). I scoured the pantry for black seeds, I finished the poppy seeds, but I had some black sesame seeds. I added the cumin seeds mostly for flavour. I also used up the remaining of a jar of roasted red capsicum antipasto. I finished all my fresh tomatoes with the first two dishes, so I used canned tomatoes instead.

Pizza dough, recipe here
Tomato Sauce, recipe here (but omit the basil)
Olive oil
Black sesame seeds
Cumin seeds
Roasted red capsicums

Follow the given links to make the pizza dough and the tomato sauce. I have to say that by this stage the most difficult thing for me was not to add anything green to my food! Roll the dough to fill an oven tray lined with baking paper. Better to make a pizza slab that can be cut into small pieces (good if you have a Twilight inspired party). Top with the tomato sauce, then add salt and olive oil, the seeds and the capsicums. Bake at highest setting in your oven until the borders are golden and it smells delicious!

Breaking Dawn Dessert

Black Sesame Seed Pudding with Rose Syrup and Red Rose Petals

I unashamedly admit that I am very happy with the dessert. In the pantry I found some surigoma, crushed black sesame seeds, and I remember that in Japan I enjoyed many sesame seeds desserts. And in the garden I had some beautiful red roses, not sprayed and therefore edible!

Breaking Dawn is all about love.....

50 g crushed black sesame seeds (available in Asian shops)
100 ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 (one third) tsp agar agar (available in Asian shops)

For the Syrup
100 ml water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rose water essence

Finish with red rose petals

Place the first 4 ingredients in a small pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring well, and then pour into a small container. Set at room temperature, and then refrigerate. To make the syrup boil the water with the sugar until it halves in size, add the rose water and set aside. Before serving tilt the pudding from the container (this dose makes about 4 servings) and cut. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter here. Place on a plate decorated with rose petals. Drizzle with the syrup. Eat everything , the rose petals are delicious!!!!!

Last minute editing

Well, this menu is touring the globe now, who knows where it is now in web world, but I did find it already (the day after) in two places:

here (photos and recipes)

and here (as a link)

I am honoured guys, and I don't mind, really, but just as a you may know good blogging etiquette requires that you do put the link to this post, and since the photos are also my copyright (yes,
you have to write my name there too), you should comply.
Just add my name and link to the original post and you should be fine :-)

This one for example:

is ok, or this one

Thank you so much for
your cooperation.


Slow Foods visit to Delegat’s winery

On Saturday 13th February twenty or so Slow Food members and supporters visited Delegat’s winery in Glendene. For a full report please click here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The most clicked post!

Both in here and in Only Recipes the most clicked post is this one! I gets a least one click per day on each blog, and often more. I just thought that this may be interesting from a 'statistical' point of view, and maybe some of you could tell me which is their most clicked post!

I look forward to your comments

XX :-)


"Home Made Halloumi Cheese and Ricotta"

It is easy to make Halloumi and ricotta at home, no special equipment required except for a cheese or brewer termomether.

I started with 2l of milk, full-cream and not homogenized (unfortunately not raw...)

In a large stainless steel saucepan heat the milk to 32C (use the termometer) and then add the rennet (animal or vegetable). I used 2ml dissolved in 2ml of cold water, but if you use industrial rennet you may need less. Follow the manufacturers' instructions. Let the milk set for 45-60 minutes, covering the pot with a lid and keeping the temperature constant on 32C (you may like to place the pot into a bigger pot with hot water, or wrap it with a warm towel).

When the milk is set cut into 1 to 2 cm squares. If the pot is deep also cut across with a slotted spoon.

Wait 5 minutes, then take to 35-38C and stir gently with your hand for 30 minutes, keeping the temperature constant.

At this stage the squares will look smooth and lightly elastic. Wait 5 more minutes, then lift the cheese up with a slotted spoon and place into a basket or colander lined with cheese cloth or gauze. I used a steamer, which has holes in the bottom and sides. Cover with more cloth and place a weight on top (I used a pot filled with 2l of water). Let it rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime make the ricotta, which is a byproduct of Halloumi.


Heat the leftover whey to 90C, then add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tbsp of white vinegar. Gently stir and cook for 5 minutes. The foam forming on the top is the ricotta.

Lift the ricotta up with a slotted spoon and place in a small colander lined with gauze. With my leftover whey I could just make enough ricotta for a Barbie doll, but it is fun to make. Refrigerate the ricotta for one night.

Now cut the Halloumi cheese into pieces and cook in the leftover whey (after lifting the ricotta up) at 85-90C for about 20/30 minutes, stirring from time to time. The cheese will rise to the surface.

Take the cheese slices out, add a pinch of salt on each side, and a little dried mint (optional) then fold each slice into two.

Make a brine with 50% leftover whey, 50% boiling water and 10% salt (i.e. 100g of salt for every litre of liquid). Keep the Halloumi in this brine for up to two weeks, in the fridge.

To cook: Halloumi can be cooked under the grill, in a frying pan or on the barbeque. No oil is needed. Lightly rinse from the brine and cook until lightly golden.

Here with bruschetta and rucola (rocket salad).

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 15, 2010

Foraging Soup

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Get out in the garden (or bush, or field...) and start picking. I got a few young borage leaves, some cress, some puha, then I added a leek and a potato from my garden. Wash everything very well and cook with water, add salt to taste and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pumpkin and Nori Tempura

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©


8 slices of pumpkin, about 2 cm thick

1 sheet of nori seaweed

1 cup of tempura mix

3/4 cup iced water

oil for frying (I used rice bran oil)

salt to taste

Remove the skin and seed from the pumpkin slices. Cut the nori into eight strips and roll each strip around the middle of each pumpkin slice, like a belt. In a bowl mix the tempura mix with the water using a fork. Do not over mix the batter, but leave it a bit lumpy. Heat the oil in a capable frying pan, the oil will be ready when a drop of batter poured into it start sizzling and raise to the surface. Start coating the pumpkin slices with batter on both sides and place them in the hot oil. Fry the slices for approximately 3 minutes, turning once. The batter should look golden and crispy. Place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

Dipping Sauce:

For the tempura dipping sauce I mix soy sauce with a little kombu stock (recipe here, without the wakame of course). Some people add mirin or sugar, but I prefer not to. Maybe a little grated daikon or grated ginger, if I have it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rhubarb Agar Agar

My rhubarb is huge, and ready to eat now! I cooked some for a pie and made some extra juice to make this agar agar.

1 l water

200 g sugar

a few drops of lemon

600 g rhubarb stalks, cleaned and cut into pieces

2 tsp agar agar

Boil the water, sugar and lemon juice. Add the rhubarb and cook until it starts to froth. Drain and use the rhubarb to make pies (or eat by itself). Collect the juice and bring back to boil. Add the agar agar and simmer for 3 minutes.

Pour into a square or rectangular container. Cool. Cut in to squares and store in the fridge. Very refreshing and with a delicate but distinctive taste.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coconut Rice with Thai Mint

riso al cocco
Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This is a lovely way to serve rice, one of my favourites in fact!


400 g Thai rice
1 x 400ml can coconut cream
half tsp salt

(In Thailand they also add sugar, but I prefer not to).

Wash the rice a few times with cold water, place it in a saucepan and add the content of the can of coconut cream plus half a measure of water from the same can (in this way you can also rinse the coconut cream out). Add salt and cover with a lid. Cook very slowly by absorption, if your lid is not very heavy line it with a tea towel to avoid loosing too much steam during cooking.

When the rice is ready turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. At this point you can also add some fresh leaves of Thai mint, they will perfume the rice and give it more flavour.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vegan Risotto with Zucchini and Tofu

Still plenty of zucchini in the garden...I have been cooking them in 100 ways, so here is a risotto!


1 block of tofu, frozen and then defrosted
1 shallot
2 yellow zucchini
2 green zucchini
2 tbs olive oil
400 g arborio rice
1 glass wine (optional)
1.5 l vegetable stock

If you freeze the tofu, and then defrost it, it becomes porous and absorbs flavours like a sponge! Also it doesn't brake into pieces while you are cooking it, even in risotto, when you have to stir often!

Cut the tofu into small cubes. Chop the shallot and slice the zucchini. In a capable saucepan sauté the shallot and tofu with the olive oil. After a couple of minutes add the rice and, when hot, the wine. Stir and add the zucchini, and then, ladle by ladle, the vegetable stock.

Cook as for any risotto and serve.

Lastly, for the Italian readers, I would like to share this post from Erbaviola.
So che il tofu che si trova in Italia non e' sempre un gran che, questo e' proprio il tipo di tofu che mi tocca congelare, e poi scongelare, e cucinare come in questo risotto, perche' mangiarlo 'crudo' non e' proprio possibile per me, soprattutto dopo aver vissuto in Giappone!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Te Henga, 'Bethells' Beach

Sunday at Te Henga

No food in this post, just black sand cake!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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