Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Karekare Beach Races

Avete visto il film Lezioni di piano? Ebbene, questa è la spiaggia, ed il primo posto dove vi porterei se mai verrete a trovarmi.

Today we went to the Karekare Beach Races, the iconic event that raises funds for the local community. This year's beneficiaries were Lone Kauri Community School and Karekare Surf Lifesaving Club.

This is West Auckland at its best: unspoiled wild beaches, horses, fun, and informality.

Bob Harvey signing copies of The Iron-Bound Coast, published by Libro International

My daughter spent the day helping with the pony rides for the little ones.

She and her riding friends nicely groomed the horses and then took them to the beach. They worked all day, and so did the ponies!

My boy spent a good part of the day sliding down the big sand dunes.

Mamma, look at my feet!

It was a great day out. See you all next year!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feijoa and lemon zest cordial

Krzyszof gave us a bag full of Feijoa. With mine, and the one Carolyn gave us, we have been eating them everyday, and using them for smoothies. But because the feijoa season is short I though of freezing some for winter, to make smoothies when we don't have so much fresh fruit. To freeze them it is better to peel them and cut them into two, so that they can blend better.

But before peeling them I wanted to keep some zest. I wanted to make a liqueur, and then the kids complained: they cannot drink alcohol! "Mamma, can you make a cordial please?".

I collected the zest from 12 large feijoa (wash them well first), added the zest of half a lemon, placed everything in a pot with 500 ml of water and 100 g of sugar. Boiled the lot for 5 minutes (to dissolve the sugar), then covered with a lid and let it rest overnight. In the morning I strained the 'syrup' and bottled it.

Now the kids have their cordial (a real treat, as I don't usually have sugary cordials in the house) in a fancy bottle. Just need to add a finger of it in a full glass of water and enjoy: delicate, refreshing, and with a note of exotic fruit :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dark Chocolate and Fig Cake

We have a fig tree up on the road, our neighbours planted it many years ago, and passers-by help themselves with the fruit every Autumn. More than harvesting I would say that this is foraging, in the Waitakere Ranges there are several fig trees, and everybody can pick the fruit, possibly before the birds do (they spread the seeds and fig trees are becoming a noxious weed in the bush!). 


For this recipe I used a 250 g bar of Whittaker's Dark Ghana Chocolate. Break the chocolate and melt with 100 g of butter (salted, if you can). In the meantime divide 3 eggs and beat the whites into stiff peaks.

Stir the melted chocolate and butter with a spatula or spoon, then add 2 tbsp of sugar, the 3 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla paste (or a few drops of pure vanilla essence) and 3 tbsp self-rising flour.

Gently fold in the egg whites.

Wash and cut the figs into halves, then place, cut-size down, into a baking tin lined with baking paper.


Cover with the chocolate mixture and bake at 180°C for approximately 30 minutes: the sides of the cake should look perfectly cooked, but the centre should still be a little tender and moist.


Wait at least 5 hours before tipping the cake onto a serving dish and removing the baking paper from the top (and what a pretty pattern!). This cake is semi-soft and very chocolatey, and the figs give colour as well as pairing well with dark chocolate. As an alternative you can also use pears.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In my garden now: Rhubarb, feijoa, bok choy, bananas...

Yep, bananas! The other morning I looked out of my kitchen window and I saw that one of the banana plants had a flower. New flowers in the garden make me incredibly happy, and this was a big one!

I went out to have a look and under the outer petals I could see the first little bananas.

After a few days there were some more... maybe this year I will get lucky and I'll have my very own bananas, for the first time!

Rhubarb is also full on now. It took my husband a while to convince me to plant rhubarb, but I have to admit that it is a great plant, and it keeps popping up every year, stronger than before!

I cut it and place it in a pot with water, lemon juice and a little sugar, and as soon as the water start frothing I drain it, keeping the pink water to make syrups and liqueurs, and the rhubarb for pies, muffins or for the breakfast cereals.

Broccolini is one of my favorite crops, the plants keep producing, I cut them and get some more, 3 or 4 times, and in the end I get some thin ones, with flowers, good to use for Chinese cooking.

My last little teddy bear pumpkin.

I need to find more space for pumpkins next year, but where? Down into the bush?

Bok choy: fantastic winter veggie, it grows in a few weeks and takes up very little space, in fact you could grow it in a window box! This is the easiest brassica to grow, a brassica for beginners!

Incredible, I still get strawberries! Maybe one or two at the time, and I have to be quicker that the snails!

My feijoa plants fruited for the first time. I love Feijoas, such a New Zealand icon! We eat them on cereals, or make lovely smoothies with them.

Of course I didn't get enough from my plants, and they are small (the small one in the picture), but Carolyn game me some of hers, like every year :-)

Last little surprise in the veggie garden: a tiny green frog. I am sorry the photo is not very clear (taken with the iPhone) but I didn't want to get to closed to her (him?).
I love frogs!

Happy Easter to all!
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tea Party Cupcakes

I saw some pretty cupcakes with teapots photographed by Eva Blixman on Torie Jayne's beautiful Blog. I loved the idea, although the original ones seemed to have a bit too much topping for my taste: basically I love to look at overly decorated cupcakes, but I prefer to eat (and make) some which are a bit more 'shy'. When it comes to decoration I believe that less is more!

I made some Italian butter cream for the frosting, and then I used some fondant, coloured with a little berry juice to get a soft pink. I shaped a teapot and tea cup, and with the leftover fondant some roses and flowers, all in light pink and white. Note that these were small cupcakes, so the teapot is quite small, barbie doll size :-). They are off to a birthday party/sleep-over tomorrow, with my daughter. I hope that her friends will like them.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Slow Food Waitakere Croissant Class

On Sunday a small group of members from Slow Food Waitakere learned to make croissants from Allison of Gourmet Gannet.

The students

The teacher

After a demo we are all ready for hands-on!

It was a great class for everyone. We baked some croissants (plain and chocolate) on the spot, and we took some more home to freeze or bake. I baked some as soon as I got home, and they came out lovely (pics below). Thank you Allie for a lovely morning!


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