Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vegan Thai Salad Rolls

With this recipe I would like to take part to the contest piatti unici, from the blog Burro e Miele.
This is the first contest that Eleonora of Burro e Miele hosts, and I really wanted to take part, although my
idea of a 'piatto unico' tends to be different from the traditional Italian types. This is Vegan, gluten free, fat free, light, and yet fully balanced and filling (or at least, it is for me :-)). Best consumed with beer, or with a glass of chilled Cracroft Chase Pinot Gris (please scroll to the end of this post for another Christchurch earthquake update).

Vegan Thai Salad Rolls

On Saturday I went to the Oratia Farmers Market and bought some smoked salt and garlic. The smoked salt is really nice and mixed with a few spices and herbs, so I thought of using it to marinate some organic tofu to put inside my Thai salad rolls.

I cut the tofu into thin strips and then I sprinkled the salt on. After 30 minutes I turned the tofu slices over and sprinkled the smoked salt on the other side too. After other 30 minutes I lightly fried the tofu slices with rice bran oil. I put it on some kitchen paper to remove the excess oil, and set aside.

I used Thai rice paper wrap, which are gluten free. You need to soak the rice papers for a few minutes in warm water (five at the time) and then place them flat on a dried tea towel.

For the filling I also used some Thai chillies in brine, but not in all of the rolls, for others I used leaves of Vietnamese mint, but you can also use Thai basil and Thai mint. Then I used thin slices of carrots, chives, bean sprouts, and of course the tofu (each slice broken into two pieces for easy rolling).
You can also use shredded lettuce, and any other vegetable cut into Julienne strips.

Place the tofu and vegetable on the rice paper. Keep the decorative leaves/chillies a little to one side so that when you roll up your rolls they will be more visible.

Roll the rice paper, folding the sides in as you go, to seal the roll. The wet rice paper is sticky so it will seal well!

Herbs and chillies makes nice decorative motifs, and they are edible too. Make the most of them!

Place your rolls on serving plates, 5 or 6 per child (don't overdo it with the chillies for young kids)
and 7 or 8 per adult.

To serve I used three sauces: soy sauce, Thai sweet chilli sauce, and miso sauce (just a little miso paste diluted with hot water). Each sauce makes the rolls taste quite different!

My little boy loves Thai sweet chilli sauce, so he just had his own little dipping dish. Eat with fingers!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

And now some news from my friends Wilma and Alessandro from, Cracroft Chase in Christchurch (if you remember I have written about them here). They are safe, but their house had some damage, they are sleeping in a big tent (with beds and chairs) and cooking on the BBQ, but they are in great spirit (I really admire them), working to clean up and start anew.

Alessandro and Wilma Laryn

Incredibly their vinery was fine, and all the wine is safe. I am thinking that the restaurants in Christchurch that used to sell their wine will not open for a while (if ever), and so if you would like to support a Christchurch business, and drink some excellent and well priced Pinot Gris, please check their website.

I wasn't asked to write this, it was my idea, Wilma and Ale, I hope you don't mind.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chocolate Coated Cape Gooseberries, and Apricots too

The situation is still pretty hard in Christchurch after the earthquake, a few of our friends had to live their home and they are moving to family and friends' places all over the country. Other friends are flying down to be of support, and my in-laws call themselves lucky as they are among the few who have water (but not electricity, fortunately they managed to go to my uncle for a hot shower).

Sadly the chances of finding more survivors are really thin now.

We will make a donation to the Red Cross and open our home to those who need it, at present it seems like the best thing to do. I also would like other NZ bloggers to know that Christchurch blogger Sue of Couscous and Consciousness is Ok, but was evacuated from her flat when the earthquake struck, with only the clothes she was in and her phone. Her cousin drove two and half hours from Waimate to pick her up and take her back her place. Bron Marshall is also OK, I got a message on FB.

Still not into posting complex recipes, but feel like I need to keep posting, somehow...

Chocolate coated cape gooseberries, and apricots

For the cape gooseberries I got the idea from my Italian blogger friends, surprised that I can grow them in my garden. Apparently in Europe they are really expensive, and you only buy them to decorate important cakes, and to coat them with chocolate.

Usually I coat dried apricots with chocolate, my kids love them, especially the boy: he wants them for his birthday party! Sometimes when I make chocolate apricots I also roll some in shredded coconut, and then use the left over coconut to clean up the chocolate bowl, making little coconut chocolates.

It is all very easy, and in no time I have a tray full of sweet treats!

For the cape gooseberries I pulled back the outer "lanterns" that cover the berries and held them in place with a paper clip, so that they didn't get into the chocolate.

And for chocolate I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana
(my little boy prefers really dark chocolate!)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rhubarb Fool, and thank you

Thank you to all of you who have written and sent emails about the earthquake in Christchurch.
Our family is well but the situation is still bad in the city and around. 

It feels unreal to be in Auckland, so far away: now more than ever I appreciate a roof over my head, water and electricity, and a garden full of food.

Today I picked my first rhubarb for the season, it looked a bit green, but I was happy to see that inside the stalks were quite pink.

I confess I don't feel much like cooking these days, so I opted for something really simple. I cleaned and chopped 700 g of rhubarb stalks. In a pot I put 500 ml of water, 4 tbsp of sugar and a few drops of lemon. When the water was boiling I dropped in the rhubarb. I waited for the water to boil again and then, as soon as a white foam formed, I drained the rhubarb, collecting the water into another pot.

I set the stalks aside and boiled down the water until I go a thick syrup.

I whipped 300 ml of cream and added the cooled rhubarb syrup, making a quick rhubarb fool. Top with pieces of cooked rhubarb.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake in Christchurch

My in-laws are ok, still have to hear from other family and friends, my thoughts go to all in Canterbury.
May not be posting for a while.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Karekare, and the winner is...

The other day I went to Karekare, my local beach. This is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. If you have seen the movie The Piano, you may recognize it, this is a popular spot for filming.

In fact the light here is unique, the sand is black, and the landscape wild and breathtaking.

To reach the beach you must cross a stream (up to your knees, so wear shorts, or a skirt, and sandals).

Every two weeks my kids do surf life saving here, and to reach the surf life saving club house you must also cross the lagoon (up to your belly button, depending on your height, of course!)

Here is the surf life saving club house

I like to go to Karekare in the afternoon, the light is at his best, and for me this is a place for long beach walks: the current is too strong for me to swim, and I don't surf, but it is great to see my kinds learning to handle big waves. Surf life savers patrol the beach and they are all volunteers. They start training young, like my kids, and most of them are locals.

But this afternoon for the kids was horse riding rather than wave surfing. They go every Monday afternoon, after school, in the bush. Today they had a long ride, they were taking the horses from the bush paddock down to the beach paddock.

At twilight they reached the beach, and took the horses to roll on the sand. They are really lucky to learn to ride in an environment like this. My 11 years old girl has been riding for a few years now, she loves horses (a real girl!). Her younger brother is learning now, it is going to be good for him: when he grows up he wants to be an archologist-explorer.


After each day at Karekare they come home so hungry, they eat like wolves, go to bed early, and sleep like logs!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

And now for the winner of last week Giveaway:

List Randomizer

There were 22 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Civette
  2. Arabafelice
  3. Frances
  4. Anna Luisa e Fabio
  5. Zia Elle
  6. Arfi
  7. Enza
  8. Torie
  9. Astrofiammante
  10. Peasepudding
  11. Eleonora
  12. Elifla
  13. BarbaraGF
  14. Barbara
  15. Feliz
  16. Claudia
  17. MariCrea
  18. Red nomad
  19. Ananda
  20. Swati
  21. Angela
  22. Mary
Timestamp: 2011-02-19 20:22:32 UTC

Congratulations Civette! Congratulazioni civettine, mandatemi il vostro indirizzo a
Thank you to all who took part, till next time

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Pasta with a double sauce

I am not sure why I bought this pack of pasta, I think it was because I never seen it before, because it was on special, and because in that supermarket they didn't have Barilla (my safe supermarket choice, since here the pasta selection is extremely limited). The price, similar to quality pasta like Garofalo (obviously Garofalo pasta is more expensive in NZ, and it is only found in some deli stores), wasn't appealing, even on special it was still more expensive that other pasta, but I was also curious.

In the end I found it to be pretty similar to Barilla, with the difference that Barilla has a better package (card board, that I can recycle, I try to buy very little wrapped in not-recyclable plastic). Maybe Jamie should also consider doing an eco package... :-).

Anyway, with and expensive pasta I thought of doing a double sauce, since this was also our main.

The first sauce (base)

I made an easy tomato sauce for the base:

2 x 400 g / 14 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
a few fresh basil leaves
Deli olives, mixed.

Place the content of the two Italian peeled tomato cans into a blender. Add two cloves of garlic, peeled, and blend until smooth. Put the “juice” into a large frying pan, and some water from rinsing the cans (optional). Bring to boil and then simmer, stirring from time to time, for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce is so thick that when you stir it with a wooden spoon you can see the bottom of the pan (this is very important! most people undercook their tomato sauce and so it remains acidic!). At this point as the salt to taste, the olive oil, the fresh leaves of basil and a few olives (choose good deli olives in olive oil, not olives in vinegar. Good quality olives in brine are suitable, but rinse them well first.. Cover and keep aside, warm, until needed.

The second sauce (topping)

Runner beans, whashed
2 tbsp etra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 glass white wine
salt to taste (very little, because feta is also salty)
100 g goat feta
Freshly ground black pepper

My mother in law had some runner beans in the garden so I cut them and pass them in olive oil and garlic. When they started to sizzle I added one glass of white wine. When the wine was absorbed I added  a little water and a little pinch of salt, covered them and let them simmer for a while. Runner beans can take a long time, depending on how big or old they are. These were fresh out of the garden, but big, and they took about 30-40 minutes simmering on the lowest setting

Once the beans were ready (all the liquid was gone) I added some goat feta and lots of freshly grated black pepper, and stirred.

To assemble

Cook the pasta al dente, drain and toss in the pan with the tomato and olive sauce. Divide between 4-5 plates, then top each plate with the beans. The two sauce mix together as you eat, in an ... let's say... harmonious way? Let me know if you have a better adjective!

Please note: This is not a Jamie Oliver's recipe, the sauces are my own.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Also a reminder about the February giveaway:
to win this Japanese set click here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gardening Update

It has been an interesting season in the garden, full of surprises (the best being a super crop of Cape gooseberries that I didn't even plant!). The beans are plentiful, the yellow beans winning in number against the green and the scarce purple. I planted cucumbers for the first time in my life, but got only two and a half (the other half too skinny to eat), but they tasted great and I hope to do better next year.
And I am still picking potatoes, another crop that I don't exactly plant: I just trow peels around the garden and they keep sprouting again, all year round!

One of my favourite discovery is that it is better to plant radishes in a pot. The fact is that we don't need so many, so it is silly to dedicate an entire bed to them and have 50 radishes ready to eat all at once! I plant 4-5 seeds at the time, and plant them again when I collect the ones I need. If you don't have a garden you may like this solution too :-).

It has been a bad year for zucchini. Usually I plant a green and a yellow, and collect more than I need for a family of four, but this year, a part from a promising beginning, I only got about 20 zucchini, and then the plants died! I talked with some friends in the area, and they all told me that they had the same experience. I love to hear from anyone who live in the Auckland area, who can explain me what has happened!

On the other hand it has been a great year for tomatoes. I only put down three plants: cherry, round and plum tomatoes, and they are all doing well. Plus I got another dozen plants that self-seeded from last year, and they are producing too, without my intervention!

I started to get my first broccolini, they may take space, but it is one of my favourite vegetables! Also after I cut the main heads I leave the plants in the garden, and then I pick up the little heads that grow on the stalks.

I didn't plant strawberries, but the old plants keep producing! Everyday a get an handful, enough for the lunch boxes, or the morning cereals. But only from the plants that are very close to the house! The others get eaten by birds, rats, opossums and slugs! I will need more strategic planting next year!

Enough for now, I'll have more vegetables to talk about next time, when I get a chance to photograph them.

Also a reminder about the February giveaway:
to win this Japanese set click here.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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