Monday, November 29, 2010

Coconut Macaroon Cupcakes

My husband loves coconut cookies and cakes and macaroons... anything to do with coconut. The other day I mentioned to him that I wanted to make some of those fashionable French style macaroons that you see everywhere here in NZ now. But when I said the word 'macaroons' he immediately thought of coconut macaroon type cookies, and he was quite excited. The I showed him a picture and he bacame skeptical about the pretty pink and pastel green things I wanted to make.
"Have they got coconut?" "Ehm... no.... almonds...."
In his opinion this made no sense at all: he wanted to bite into something coconutty!!!

So I made some chocolate and coconut cookies instead, (I will post about them later on), and these cupcakes, and called them coconut macaroons cupcakes.

Roses from my garden to decorate and... could not decide which background was better for the photo: Blue or white? So I put both photos in. What do you think?

Coconut Macaroon Cupcakes

For the cupcakes

3 eggs

120 g sugar

75 ml vegetable oil

80 g coconut

100 g self-rising flour

Half tsp vanilla paste

For the frosting

1 egg white

2 or 3 tbsp icing sugar (depending on the size of the egg)

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp coconut shreds

Makes 12 cupcakes

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the oil and keep beating, then add all the other ingredients, one at the time.

Divide the mixture into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180ºC for approximately 20 minute.

Let the cupcakes cool down for 30 minutes. In the meantime whisk the egg white with the icing sugar and lemon juice, like for making a meringue. Fold in the coconut shreds and then spoon over the cupcakes.

Place back into the oven at 100º for about 10 minutes, or until the topping start to colour.

Allow to cool down before eating them, if you can :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Yes Summer is here in New Zealand, cricket on the radio (not that I understand it, but it feels good), the sky is blue and I made another focaccia like the one I did a few days ago, but this time with sun-dried tomatoes. Very nice!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tofu Balls and Chinese Vegetables with Ginger Sauce


One pack fried tofu balls
one hand full of dried mixed Chinese mushrooms
2 small bok choy
1 large carrot
1 tbsp vegetable oil
one can of baby corn
1 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
half tsp freshly grated ginger

Serves 4

I like fried tofu balls, I get them form the Chinese shop and they are very versatile. If you find them too greasy (usually they are not) you can rinse them under water and then pat them dry with kitchen paper.

Place the dried Chinese mushrooms in a bowl and soak with water for 1 hour.

Drain and keep the water aside to make the sauce later.

Wash well two small bok choy and one large carrot. Slice the carrot into stick, and cut the bock choy, putting the green leaves aside. Remember that you want to cook the vegetables very quickly, so that they stay crispy and colourful.

I don't have a wok, so I used my favourite pot, it gets very hot. Heat a tbsp of vegetable oil, add the mushrooms (be careful, they have a lot of water and they will pop in the hot oil), stir for a few minutes, then add the carrots and the white part of the bok choy. Stir and cook for two minutes.

Add the tofu balls and stir.

Add the content of the can of baby corn (including water) then add the bok choy leaves and cover for a couple of minutes. The leaves will steam nicely!

In the meantime make a thickening sauce. Add one tsp of cornflour to the water of mushrooms, a tbsp of say sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and half a tsp of freshly grated ginger. Personally I don't like to have to much sauce, if you do just add more water and cornflour.

Pour the sauce in the pot and stir until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately, with rice or noodles.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What did I do before blogging: embroidering flowers and birds

I started this embroidery tapestry so many years ago that I cannot tell. It was a traveling project, I just made the design as I went along, without a structure, and with the colours I had at hand. And then... many things happened, I did less and less every year, and finally I stopped.

When I was in Italy my Mum took out her own embroidery, I had forgotten about it! A few years back she asked me to draw a pattern for her on the canvas, and I did. She only had the background to finish, just needed to find some more blue thread.

She could not believe that I forgot about it, and mine, as a kid I was very fast at this, of course I used ready made patterns then, and all the thread was provided. But I also had more time, and no computer. I even started to be more 'creative' and plan my own textiles.

When I was at university studying textiles I designed and made an embroidery on the style of William Morris. It took me two years, and it was hard to find the colours treads (I only used 7 colours), but I finished it, and frame it. It is in my bedroom now, the photos are a bit dark, but you can get the idea.

I thought that I could complete my second bird project in a couple of years too. At first it went well, I didn't worry about the design or colours, in fact I invented birds with impossible colours so that I could use the threads I could find along the way. But then I could also carry needles and small scissors on the plane!

Then I went to Japan and I started to work a lot, and to weave and dye, then I moved to New Zealand and I got a house to renovate, then the babies came along, and more work, more house stuff, more ... excuses?

And now I seem to spend quite a lot of time with my laptop. Even my loom lies there, unattended, like my sketch books, natural dyes, and bags of wool to spin.

I dug for my tapestry last week, and took it with me to Gisborne. I left the laptop at home.

Maybe, just maybe, if I blog about it, maybe I will also feel compelled to do some more work on it! Maybe same time next year I can compare photos, and see some progress! Keep reminding me, please! :-)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sad news

29 miners died in the Pike River mine in Greymouth. The youngest was just 17, the oldest 62. This is such a sad moment for everyone in New Zealand, no blogging today, just a thought for the families.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On the road again: Gisborne, New Zealand

On Friday we left early to drive to Gisborne, on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa.

It was a long drive, about 7-8 hours, but we stopped in a few places to stretch our legs and take in the views.

In the late afternoon we got to Gisborne, the first city in the world to see the light of the each new day.

We changed quickly and went to the beautiful Rongopai marae for the launch of the book
Wiremu Pere: The Life and Times of a Maori Leader, 18371915. It was an honour to be there to launch such a important book.

On Saturday we strolled in the city...

... and went to the beach. A bit too cold for me to swim, but not for the kids!

Also, many treasures to be found on the beach...

And things to build!

In the afternoon we visited another Gisborne beach, a real surfers' paradise. And this is the backyard or my friend Elena's house...

You don't believe me? Scroll down, here her swing and deck chair! What a place!

(Per gli italiani che leggono: so che la Nuova Zelanda sembra lontana, ma se potete venite a trovarmi, ne vale la pena!)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A very easy semifreddo dessert

This dessert is easy to assemble and takes very little time. You will need two pieces of sponge cake/trifle sponge. Place one piece in a container and drizzle with your favourite booze. I used Frangelico because I needed to finish the bottle, it has a lovely hazelnut flavour.

Next, mix some vanilla ice cream with some preserved pitted cherries.

Spread the (now pink) ice cream over the sponge cake and cover with the second layer or sponge.

Drizzle some more booze on top, and cover. Place in the freezer for at least two hours. The sponge won't freeze, and it will cut beautifully!

Cut and serve. It really tastes quite professional, so don't tell anyone how easy it is!!! :-)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

olive focaccia made while mopping the floors

One of my kids' favourite snack when they get home from school is a nice piece of freshly baked focaccia. I don't usually measure the ingredients, but the flour/water ratio is about 500 g of flour for 300 ml of water, plus a pinch of salt and 2 tsp of dried yeast granules and a pinch of sugar (this yeast dose is good up to 1 kg of flour. I made a dough.

While the dough was rising I cleaned the pantry and found a jar of the olives I marinated last year. They were still good, small (I picked them from a friend's tree) but very tasty.
If you like to know how to preserve your own olives go to the CUISINE ON THE NET section on the sidebar of this blog, and click Preserving Olives.

First I needed to remove the stones, which I did with a knife. At first I did this over the jar, but it was messy and I wasted too much oil, so I drained a few olives (over the jar) little by little and then I cut the flesh off the stones.

I added the olives to the risen dough and mixed.

Then I left the dough to rise for a second time (I cannot give you exact times because I was mopping the house and making this focaccia at the same time... maybe 1 hour the first time and then 45 minutes?

I rolled the dough and resumed mopping (and you can see the mop in the picture!!!!) for other 30 minutes.

Then I made some little 'craters' with my fingers and added some olive oil from the olives' jar. I sprinkled with some rock salt on top.

Baked for about 30 minutes at 200 °C, and when the kids came home they smelled it immediately!!! Yum!!!!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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