Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nettle Croquettes

If you pick the tender young leaves of stinging nettles (using gloves, of course) you can make a variety of dishes. In Italy we use them to make fillings for pasta (like tortelloni) and pies, to make risotto, soups, as a side vegetable, or in frittata. The other day I made these croquettes.

Pick only the tips, with the smaller leaves. The nettles need to be washed, and then boiled until tender. Once cooked they won't sting anymore! Then drain them (you can keep the water and use it as hair rinse against hair fall) and place them in a frying pan with garlic, olive oil and salt, and sauté them for a few minutes. Now they are ready to be eaten, but I went a bit further for the croquettes:

When cold I mix them with two egg yolks and lots of bread crumbs, enough to get a paste that could be shaped into croquettes. (I removed the garlic, not everybody likes to find a 'surprise' in their croquette!)

Finally I fried them in olive oil on both sides. Excellent hot, but they can also be eaten cold. If you make them flatter and larger they can be used as veggie burgers. Vegans could omit the egg yolk and use a little oil instead. Nettles are rich in vitamins A, C and D, and they are a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and manganese. The dried leaves also make an excellent tea.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, July 26, 2010

Red Walnut Pesto

In the last post I talked about my trip to Austria and Imogen and Günther's walnuts. Not only they gave me some red walnuts, but also some walnut oil. I decided to make a walnut pesto for pasta. Using a mortar and pestle I mushed the red walnuts with a peeled garlic clove, then slowly I added some walnut oil, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese (this is optional, you can just use a little salt instead).

The pesto was great! I cooked some pasta with rocket (I added the rocket leaves to the pot a few minutes before draining the pasta), and I used the pesto as a sauce. We really liked it and I'll definitely make it again!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Austria and red walnuts

After Slovenia we entered Austria, and the first place we visited was Graz.

And then we moved on to Vienna (Wien), to stay with my husband's cousins, Imogen and Günther. What a beautiful city is Vienna, so ...musical!

Of course I had to go to the Hotel Sacher to try the famous Sachertorte, which was delicious.

Also we ate apple strudel, and watched the demo in the bakery at Schönbrunn Palace.

We spent a whole day just in the Palace and its gardens, and it is worth it!

Imogen and Günther live outside Vienna and have a walnut plantation. One tree produces red walnuts, I have never seen them before: the shell is brown like for normal walnuts, and the taste is the same, but the colour of the kernels is incredible, like a bright red radicchio. We took some home with us.

We ate most of the walnuts by themselves, but I also put them in salad (here with rocket, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and salt). I will use the rest to decorate biscuits, since they are ever so pretty! Thank you Imogen and Günther ;-)!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Vegetarian in Slovenia

On the road again, on our way to Austria we decided to go through Slovenia, a Country we never been to. So we booked a night in a Tourist Farm where they do organic food and provide for vegetarians. Organic tourist farm Makek

Here it is, at 950 m above see level, in the Kamnisko-Savinjske Alps and Karavanken mountains. Very peaceful. For dinner they served us a vegetable soup, a bit like minestrone, but with cauliflower. Not bad!

We ordered local beer :-)

Now, I don't know anything about Slovenian cuisine, we only had bread and pastries from a bakery for lunch, in a village on the border with Italy, as the food in the cafés was quite meaty. So when we arrived at our destination we were starving, and curious! The second course at the Makek was salad (lettuce, onion and cucumber, not something I can personally digest in the evening) and so far I would say that the dinner was vegan...and light.

The main: local dumplings filled with white cheese similar to cottage cheese, quite nice (definitely not vegan but OK for veggies), and a local polpettone made from bread (quite filling but lacking a decisive taste). The side vegetables were, again, cucumbers, but cooked with tomatoes. Usually I only eat raw cucumbers, so it was quite strange to have them cooked like if they were zucchini.

The dessert was a crêpe filled with stewed apples, simple but nice.

The location is very nice, we had a stroll and took in the views, and the mountain air.

Breakfast was richer than dinner: eggs, bread, cereals, fruit, cheeses, they even made polenta for us...but we could not eat polenta for breakfast! The best things for me were the jams, one plum and one apricot, really home made. Once again possibly good for veggies (if you eat cheese) but a little difficult for vegans (unless you can eat polenta for breakfast!).

On the whole the place was good and not expensive, considering European standards, and the fact that we had two very nice big rooms, beautifully furnished, so I would recommend the place if you are looking for peace and quiet, and something different.

Bye Slovenia, with your lovely houses with cute fairytale roofs, on to Austria now!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini©

Friday, July 2, 2010

London after 13 years

I had a great week in London, a lifetime ago I used to live there, in fact I lived there for nearly six years! Some things are the same, some are new, like Farmers Markets...

And the London Eye!

But the difference for me was that this time a was a tourist, and I really enjoyed being a tourist in London, rather than being a poor student :-). In a week I did all the sights, shops and museums I could manage, and had a great time with the family!

Vegetarians have a good time in the UK, I think. Now even the 'Korner' cafes offer a veggie option! Staying with family meant that I mostly eat at home, but I had great veggie dim sum in the Docks, and of course I could not avoid scones and cream at the British museum cafe!

No time to write more though, actually, no much time for blogging these days really. I am working on a new cook book and I am still traveling, maybe I will have to blog about that, if anyone is interested to know how to write a cook book, that is!



Photos by Alessandra Zecchini©


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