Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Black Coffee for Black and White Wednesday

Welcome back to Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. The last two weeks I opted for white subjects, mozzarella, and Italian meringues, this week I am still doing the 'Italian thing', but rather than choosing a white topic I am going for black, so here it is:
Black coffee

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recap time for Sweet New Zealand #1

Recap time for the first edition of the blogging event Sweet New Zealand! Thank you to all the bloggers who took part this month, I hope that it was easy and straightforward (it seems like everybody managed to send links and photos ok, so I am quite relieved!). For those who are new to this event, Sweet New Zealand is open to all Kiwi bloggers, blogging here or overseas, and non-Kiwis living and blogging in NZ. Entries could be 'recycled' from old posts and to set the example I proposed something that I published back in June: Yogurt Cheesecake

Yogurt cheesecake, Alessandra Zecchini ©

I posted this cake because I loved how it came out, and I think that from now on most of my cheesecakes will be, in fact, yogurt cakes! Keeping in with the yogurt theme the second recipe is a Yogurt Soufflé Glacé from the blog Only Recipes. I like this recipe because the base is an Italian meringue (something not really done in New Zealand) but mostly because it is extremely rare that I post recipes taken from other blogs or books, and when I do I always have fun, especially when the recipes (like this one) are from lovely food blogs, in this case from la cucina di mamma loredana.

Yogurt Soufflé Glacé, Only Recipes © 

And from the Vegan blog a Vegan dessert: Agar Agar Mango Cubes. Now, it is nice to have more than one blog when there are events like these, also because I was a little worried that I wouldn't get enough entries (I was wrong), so I thought that at least I could raise the numbers!), and I also though that it would be nice to post a Vegan dessert, since there aren't so many around... wrong again! Read on and you will see why!

Agar Agar Mango Cubes, Vegan Blog ©

If you are really serious about your chocolate desserts there is something really really decadent for you here: Baileys Chocolate Truffle Cake from Auckland based blogger Mairi of Toast. I think that Mairi will make many women happy with this one, the 4 words' title contain all the right terms to make our feminine brain buzz: Mmmmh Baileys... Chocolate... Truffle... Cake... ! Mairi also takes some very funky photos which are a pleasure to look at, and I like the fact that she records her recipes step by step.  

Allison from Pease Pudding is, we could say, my neighbour, blogging from the West of Auckland where she also has a cooking school: The Gourmet Gannet (the Waitakere Slow Food group had a mozzarella making workshop there the other day). For Sweet New Zealand Allison proposed this skillful recipes for Tortas de Aceite, and you know what? This is also a Vegan recipe: no eggs and no dairy products: very Mediterranean and full of flavour. A recipe I would love to try in fact, since Torta de Aceite are very expensive to buy, so thank you for sharing this Alli! Also while I am at it I would like to remind all Kiwi blogger that Allison has set up the New Zealand Food Blogger Association, so Kiwi bloggers, please gather round and join in! The first NZFBA conference is planned for November this year.

Tortas de Aceite, Pease Pudding © 

Next entry is from Zo of Two Spoons, a Christchurch based student who is set to prove that good recipes don't need to cost lots of money, and she is doing it brilliantly, I think. Look at her Caramel Orange Cake. The base is what Zo describes as a sour cream cake (pointing out that you can use yogurt, great, I love yogurt!) and the 'glazing' is a caramel orange topping (please note that this is an up-side-down cake) which I am sure could be 'recycled' for a number of other different cakes just to give them a 'lift'! Well done Zo.

Caramel orange cake, Two Spoons © 

And here there is the first Kiwi blogging from overseas: Emma form my darling lemon thyme is originally from Raglan but lives in Australia. A trained chef who mostly worked in the pastry section of restaurants, Emma entered this delectable gluten free chocolate tofu peanut butter pie, and excuse me if I was stunned to find another Vegan dessert entry, and with tofu (I loooooove tofu). Emma's recipes always look very professional and beautifully photographed, and I always enjoying reading her. 

gluten free chocolate tofu peanut butter pie, my darling lemon thyme © 

Kristina form Plum Kitchen is proposing these very seasonal pumpkin and ginger cupcakes. If you know me you also know that I am very partial to cupcakes (ok, I admit that I belong to cupcakeolics anonymous), but hey, I was really happy to see a cupcake entry for Sweet New Zealand, and even more pleased to see a nicely presented one without shockingly bright colours. A classy cupcake Kristina, you have my thumb up!

Pumpkin and ginger cupcakes, Plum Kitchen ©

Indonesian born and Waikato based Arfi from Home MadeS is of the first blogger I got to know in New Zealand, I think a couple of years ago now, or more??? Do you remember Arfi? And then I met her in person, with Mairi and Alli, last summer. Arfi's posts are always beautiful, with amazing photos and stunning gluten free recipes, so much that even some of my Italian food blogger friends who write gluten free blogs know her! For Sweet New Zealand Arfi has entered these scrumptious gluten free chocolate biscuits and can I please make you notice that the proper name for her recipe is Gluten-Free Chocolate Biscuits with Three Chocolates, Fruit, and Nuts. Wow, I want one now!

Gluten Free Chocolate Biscuits, Home MadeS ©

New on the New Zealand Food Blogging scene is Lesley of Eat, etc..., so give her a round of paki paki (Maori for clap your hands)! Lesley blogs from Auckland and for Sweet New Zealand proposes these super cute little carrot cakes. Carrot cake is such a New Zealand classic and I love the variation of having little ones, individually decorated just like cupcakes. 

little carrot cakes, eat, etc... ©

Blogging from Wellington we have Mika of Milliemirepoix. Mika also has another blog, Gusty Gourmet, which I just discovered by doing this SNZ event, and a very useful discovery it is, to keep me updated with what is going on in the Wellington food scene. Mika's sweet contribution today is this pear, feijoa and ginger crostata, a rustic looking cake with a sugary crust. I love it and I am sure that it will win many more fans. 

Pear, feijoa and ginger crostata, Milliemirepoix ©

Another great entry from the Wellington area (Porirua) is from Jemma of Time for a Little Something. This recipe is pretty special, I think, because it makes use of a very New Zealand ingredient: the tamarillo. I never had tamarillo before coming to NZ, and I think that Jemma's Rhubarb and Tamarillo Bread and Butter Pudding is a perfect way of using this unique fruit. Thank you Jemma!

Rhubarb and Tamarillo Bread and Butter Pudding, Time for a Little Something  © 

The final entry is Vanille from @Down Under, I wasn't sure how to list the entries, so I uploaded them in chronological order, i.e. first received first published, and I was very happy when Vanille made it to the event by sending me her Kumquat Madeleines on Sunday night. Vanille is also one of the first NZ bloggers I got to know, albeit only virtually. She is from France (but lives in New Zealand) so her blog is in English and French, and her photos are always so beautiful and inspiring. I am also very fond of her paper crafts, which are super stylish!

Kumquat Madeleines, @Down Under ©

Stop press! I had to :-), just received this lovely entry from honorary Kiwi Barbara from Winos and Foodies. Barbara lives in Australia, but she has lived in New Zealand for 30 years, so I could I refuse a slice of Beetroot Cake? Thank you for taking part Barbara ;-).

Beetroot Cake, Winos and Foodies ©

Well, this was fun, I got to know more NZ bloggers and enjoyed their recipes. Thank you so much all for taking part in Sweet New Zealand, next appointment in September, our host will be Allison of Pease Pudding.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kumara, dip and soup (kumara and celery)

Kumara, the New Zealand sweet potato, is a very Kiwi winter staple. There are different types of kumara, but the most common are the gold/yellow/orange ones, and the red ones. The reds look prettier, but if you peel them inside they are white, while the orange ones are still colourful under their skins.

Kumara are sweet and they mush and blend so well that I used them a lot when I was making baby food, years ago. The kids have progressed from baby food now, but I haven't stopped blending kumara: I am just adding more seasonings to it now :-).

Kumara dip

I used the orange kumara here, peeled. This is not a recipe as such, you can add what you like to your blend. Peel and boil the kumara, or roast them for more flavour. Blend with a couple of garlic cloves (peeled), salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and a fevourite spice (some examples are smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, or a mixture of all of the above if you like). Serve as a dip or with a plate of meze.

Kumara and Celery Soup

This is such a classic NZ soup, everybody seems to know how to make this one: You just need some kumara (I used the red ones, peeled). Cook about 2 large kumara with 3 or 4 celery sticks (with leaves, most Kiwis do not add the leaves here, but celery leaves have lots of flavour and they are perfect for soup) in a litre of light vegetable stock. When the celery and kumara are soft blend well and serve. No need to add cream, in my opinion,  but do if you like. Serves 4.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A book for New Zealanders and Italians

Maybe this is becoming a bit of a book blog, but I wanted to share with you a project that we have been working on for over a year now. And I believe that this is a very special book which means a lot to many Italians and Kiwis alike.

For 50 years after the end of the Second World War, most people in the Chianti region between Florence and Siena did not know that New Zealand forces had been the ones to liberate them from Nazi German occupation in the summer of 1944.

It took research by Stefano Fusi, then mayor of Tavarnelle (near Florence), and his New Zealand wife Jill Gabriel, to affirm that the liberators had been not Americans but soldiers of the 2nd New Zealand Division, many of whom never made it home.

Last year we were in Italy to celebrate 25 April (both Anzac Day and Italy liberation Day) in Tavarnelle, it was a wonderful and moving occasion, I have already written about it here.

The city of Tavarnelle has build a monument to the fallen soldiers, the New Zealanders' names (listed here) sit at the top, followed by the names of the Italian soldiers. 

The Tavarnelle monument to the fallen soldiers (for a full list of the NZ soldiers click here

Then in 2009 a book - I Giorni della Liberazione: Le truppe neozelandesi da San Donato alle porte di Firenze, was published in Italy, and tomorrow the New Zealand edition - To the Gateways of Florence: New Zealand Forces in Tuscany 1944, will be launched in Wellington. More launches in Christchurch and Auckland will follow during the next 2 weeks. Stefano and Jill, as well as the current Mayor of Tavarnelle, are here in New Zealand for the occasion, if you are interested in history, or if you are a descendant of a WWII soldier in Italy, you can find more info here.

I know that my dad, who experienced Nazi German occupation and war, would have loved this book, and I wish that he was here to see it, so I will save a copy for my children instead, because history is important.

Photo of Tavarnelle monument by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mozzarella in Black and White

Today is Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. In the photo: making mozzarella with the Slow Food Waitakere group (click here if you like to read about it). 

White food looks even better in black and white! 

Photo  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Polynesian Navigation and the Discovery of New Zealand

The discovery of New Zealand by Polynesian navigators represents the culmination of one of the great waves of world exploration. A book for sailors, historians, geographers, travelers. For more informations click here .

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Slow Food Sunday

Making mozzarella

Today some members of Slow Food Waitakere group meet for a mozzarella making workshop at the Gourmet Gannet. If you like to see more photos please click hereand if you like to read Allison's mozzarella recipe you can find it by clicking here. Thank you Allison for hosting the event and sharing your recipe :-).


After making mozzarella we all went for lunch at the Tasting Shed on State Highway 16, it was a lovely day out, the sun was almost warm, and the Tasting Shed was a good discovery. 

All serious about our food!

Taking a photo of Sean taking a photo of his lunch

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 19, 2011

Florence Fennels Cooked in Milk

I don't do it often, but to cook Florence fennels in milk is a very Italian method, not really used much overseas (or at least, I haven't noticed it!). The fennels seem to acquire a really special taste when cooked in milk, and after this first 'stage' they are usually baked in the oven or placed under the grill, with or without toppings. A big tray would have several fennels, but becasue I only had three fennels I decided to add some lasagna sheets to make sure that they would not 'dry up' too much in the second cooking stage in oven. 

Fennels Cooked in Milk

Wash three Florence fennels and cut like in the photo. 

 Gently (very gently) simmer the fennels in milk (about half a litre) until they are quite tender (about 30 minutes). Watch the pot at all times: the milk may boil out. Lift out the fennels, but keep the milk in the pot.

I didn't want to put the fennels straight into a pan, so I placed three lasagna sheets on the bottom (I used Barilla egg lasagna). Fennels on top, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.

I made a sauce with the milk from cooking the fennels, I just added one tbsp of flour and some butter, salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Stir until you have a thin velvety sauce.

 I poured most of the sauce over the fennels and the topped with three more lasagna sheets, which I covered with the remaining white sauce.

  Bake everything at 180°C for about 30 minutes. Serves 3-4 and it is very very yummy.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meringhe in Bianco e Nero

Today is Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. I made Italian meringues, I think that they are suited to Black and White.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Final Day of the Twilight Cupcake Saga: a Coven of Cupcakes

Last day of my Twilight Cupcake Week, I photographed the cupcakes all together, they made quite an impact, and I had fun making them. If you aren't into the Twilight series forgive this indulgence, but I had a very busy week at work and with one Sunday baking I managed to post every day for a week with very little effort. And if you are a fan of the series, thank you for visiting (I received up to 600 page views per day, mostly from the US, for these posts), I hope that you enjoyed them.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Twilight Cupcakes: Volturi Cupcakes

Black or white cupcakes cups, white royal icing, a cherry, and maybe a splash of red?
Volturi cupcakes: stylish, minimalist, timeless,
these could be the 'evil twins', sadistic Jane and silent Alec. 
Perfect for a Halloween party too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 12, 2011

Twilight Cupcakes: Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn, styling inspired by the original book cover, black and white elegant cupcake cup for the new Bella, pure white for Renesmee. 
Very vanilla cupcake base and Italian butter icing for the frosting.  

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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