Friday, September 30, 2011

Cooking with children at school, and another demo tomorrow at Arcadia Bookshop

Oratia District School,  Room 17, clockwise from top left: Italy, Scotland, Holland, Japan

Yesterday our local primary school was presenting a special international day. In my boy's class the children choose to represent four countries: Italy, Scotland, Holland and Japan. I was there with other three mums to help making the food, of course Max thought that doing Italy was going to be 'too easy' so he choose the Japan table and I made sushi rolls with 8 very enthusiastic children (while more children stood by and watched, getting to eat all the end bits and the pieces that weren't 'perfect'!). At the end we all went to see how the tables had been set up, and they were so colourful and happy!!! It was such a great day for the kids, the Italian table had pizza and vino (grape juice really!), the Dutch table had pancakes and biscuits, and the Scottish table had shortbread and fudge. The children were all dressed up too and had made some great visual displays. So creative!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This morning I was baking again, I made and decorated a few cupcakes to take to Arcadia Bookshop tomorrow. Arantxa and I will be there from 12 to 2 pm demonstrate how to make sugar flowers, and sign books, so if you are in Newmarket please pop by to see us!

Arcadia Bookshop

26 Osborne St, Newmarket, Auckland.
09 522 5211

PS: Tomorrow I will announce the winner of the blog candy, keep tuned!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cutting mint

Once again today is Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned CookI have been cutting mint, I have far too much in the garden and it is taking over! Green is not an easy subject for black and white, but it looks interesting with the darker green colours of the bush in the background, and with the suddenly "very white" scissors, who captured all the light!

I am posting this now and it is Wednesday in New Zealand, but my Blogger seems to work on US time, so it always appear as a Tuesday post... anyone can tell me if there is a way of changing this? Thank you :-).

Photo  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Miniatura di frutta con Aceto Balsamico di Modena e petali - Fruit miniature with Modena Balsamic and cherry blossoms

I like small things, even my food I prefer it small.  I like small plates with small tastings, miniature bites, doll houses' type of things... and this month's MT Challenge gave me a chance to go for small again. The theme was fruit salad (with some rules to follow on cutting, sauces and so on), something that I have no problems with really, as I love fruit salads! 

I went a bit 'Japanese' this time because the fruit that is often served at the end of formal Japanese meals is great to look at: small amounts, the presentation as important as for any other course, and as simple as possible. 

For the dressing I used some Aceto Tradiozionale Balsamico di Modena, not to be confused with Aceto Balsamico di Modena (they are two different products) and it goes well with all the fruit used here, including bananas. And to accompany, no ice-cream or similar, but I dared to be different and went for fresh petals... if you choose them go for pink, cherry or peach, and yes, they can also be dipped in the ABTM and eaten,  I did it (but I don't know many other people who regularly eat flowers like I do :-).


for each person:
2 slices of banana (sprayed with a little lemon juice)
2 small balls scooped from a kiwi (green)
2 raspberries
2 small balls scooped from a kiwi gold (yellow)
1 tsp ABTM
cherry or peach petals

The utensils: a knife, a little scoop for the kiwis,  a flower cutter for the banana (I used a Japanese one for cutting vegetables like flowers), small bamboo skewers. To assemble just look at the pictures. Serve with the ABTM.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tortelloni with feta and herbs, NOT gardening, and more cupcake demos

iPhone art by Arantxa Zecchini Dowling©

Well, it is Sunday and it is raining again! I really need to work in my garden and these wet weekends are not helping. My seedlings are coming up though, I will sell some at the Italian Festival in Auckland on October 9, I have this Italian pumpkin, some cavolo nero, borlotti, Venice runner beans, Genovese basil (giant) and San Marzano tomatoes, so if you are planning an Italian veggie garden this year come to the Italian Festival :-). And now for a fun pasta project to do with kids on a rainy Sunday!!!

Tortelloni with feta and herbs

For the fresh pasta recipe just click here, for instruction on how to roll the pasta with a pasta machine click here, and to fold the tortellini just look at the pictures below. The filling was improvised: a bit of feta cheese, some breadcrumbs, and a few chopped herbs (Italian parsley, chives, basil, but anything goes). 

 Also, yesterday Arantxa and I went to Milly's for a cupcake demo, and I completely forgot to take photos! I just remembered when we were packing to leave, and I took the photos of the leftover cupcakes, Arantxa was going to a birthday party in the afternoon and she took them there. The birthday girl's parents were so impressed that they gave her a box of chocolate to thank her :-).

The miniature cupcakes went to her brother Max, he loves tiny cupcakes! Next appointment is at Arcadia Bookshop on October 1st. It is a real cupcake month, even if the book is not only about cupcakes, this seems to be what girls really love! And Arantxa has been drawing lots of cupcakes on my iPhone too :-). Are you a cupcake person? 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini, Artwork by Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More stuff with onion weed and Parenting Magazine

I have been telling friends about onion weed these days, everybody seems surprised (and happy) that you can eat it, especially those who gave up growing spring onions because they seem to take so long for what you get. And onion weed is free and plentiful! I kept telling everyone to use it as a spring onion without realizing that most people here use spring onions just chopped in salad, and that'a about all! So now for more suggestions for onion weed, and spring onion! After reading about the creamy onion weed pasta sauce (here) you may like check this old post as well for more images of the plant and its uses, and in the photos above there are some more things I have been cooking this week.

On the top left my nabe (pot) with simmering Yudofu, one of my favourite tofu meals for chilly evenings:
In a capable pot I put water with some dried kombu (about a large sheet broken into 3-4 pieces), and a few dried shitake mushrooms to simmer, and after 20 minutes I added some soft tofu cut into squares, salt (I have a nice Japanese unrefined salt for it) carrot sliced to look like flowers, and onion weed (bulbs, stalks and leaves cut into 'longish' pieces). I added the flower just before serving. To tell the true the tofu should be then taken out of the broth and eaten with a sauce and relishes, but as a family meal we eat the lot in bowl, broth and veggies too, except for the kombu seaweed, which I discard.

The other three photos are of chickpea flour fritters: I chopped the onion weed (the whole plant, but kept a few flowers for decoration) plus I added some finely chopped spinach, chickpea flour, salt, water and a drizzle of olive oil. When the batter was ready I remember that I have lots of pitted black olives to use, so I chopped up a few and added those too. I fried the lot and the fritters were incredibly tasty! I will make them again, in the next few days, they are incredibly easy and the kids loved them.
These meals are vegan and gluten free.

And for today press news,  Arantxa and I are in the Spring edition of Parenting Magazine, and there are three recipes from the book Party Food for Girls too. Have a peek next time you are in the supermarket or newsagent.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, September 23, 2011

Milly's this Saturday, a lovely snippet from a blogger friend and... Party Food for Boys?

Ciao all, this coming Saturday, 24th September 11.30am-1pm, Arantxa and I will be at Milly's in Parnell for a cupcake decorating demo, for more info please click here and scroll down.

Also I would like to thank Barbara for writing a snippet about Party Food for Girls in the Busy Cook page of the The Poughkeepsie JournalYou can read it here. Thank you Barbara, you are too kind!

And now a bit of a thought: at the book launch some people asked "And what about a party food book for boys?" My publisher asked my son what he thought, but he just shook his head and said: "Not interested."

Hehehe, as a matter of fact it was his 11th birthday on Monday, so Sunday we packed a picnic for the zoo (but it rained, so we went to see the Aqua exhibition at the museum instead) for him and four other boys (plus Arantxa, of course). The king of the party made his orders: a big slab of pizza (just cheese, tomato and oregano), a chocolate cake decorated simply with world flags, and tortilla chips with home made hommus (two kinds, plain and sundried tomatoes). We added some plain cupcakes and fruit, but nothing 'iced', decorated, or flowery! 

Well, it is true that for a picnic you cannot carry lots of ornate food easily, but his tastes are really directed towards 'simplicity' even if we stay at home. I think that the most ornate cake I made for his birthday was a Treasure Island's one when he was 8, for a Pirate Birthday Party (all the kids dressed up drinking fake rum (juice) from goblets and playing pirate games... it was so much fun!) and the rest have always been "make your own pizza" parties, parties with pizza, and picnics with pizza...  And the cake is always a chocolate cake. 

What about the boys in your life, what do they like for their birthday parties? I am curious now :-).

Photo  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Growing my own food.

For Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook I took a photo of my seedlings. This Italian bean plant is three days old, and yet so tall compared to the cavolo nero next to her (or was it the Roman broccoli? I forgot in which pot I put it in!). The green colours are still incredibly pale at this stage, and I thought that they would make a good contrast with the black soil for a black and white pic.

Photo  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Springtime, onion weed time (and more book reviews)

The fields of Oratia are once again full with onion weed. Yes it is a weed, but it is edible and tastes very nice too. In fact when I discovered that I could eat it I stopped planting spring onions in the veggie garden, and started foraging instead. The weed has pretty white flowers and a strong spring onion smell. You can eat the flowers, the leaves, the stems, the bulbs... basically everything except the dirt!

 One of the first things I make with fresh onion weeds is usually a nice raw sauce for pasta: just put the onion weed (every part of it) in the blender (leave out a few flowers for decoration) and blend with a little water, some feta cheese (Vegans can omit this and use a little tofu + salt and pepper instead) and some roasted cashew nuts. Add a little olive oil and toss into your hot pasta. This is a very filling dish and the sauce has a beautiful pale green colour.

And now for more book reviews: here there is a lovely one by Emma McCleary from The Booksellers New Zealand Blog, and you can win a book on their FB page (you got until Wed.) 

Another article was in the Aucklander, you can read it here, and Kazuyo wrote about the book launch in her blog (sorry, this is in Japanese). And on a completely different subject, if you are in Auckland and interested in Vegan chocolate cakes, check out this Slow Food Waitakere class! 


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Cupcake, and a cupcake workshop at Taste Matakana

Photo by Shaun Cato-Symonds, Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Today Arantxa and I went up to Taste Matakana in Warkworth for a cupcake workshop. It was a great chance for Arantxa to teach girls (and boys) to make sugar flowers and decorate cupcakes. Kids went home with a plate full of their creations, and grown up got really into it too. And I guess that it is time to  show a cupcake recipes: the photo above is our Chocolate Truffle Cupcake, please click here to find the article on Yahoo Lifestyle, with the link for this recipe (chocolate ganache included). Also Yahoo offers NZ residents a chance here to enter to win a copy of the book (and if you don't live in NZ you can always enter here).

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

I would like to thanks blogger Frances Chan from The Bake Club who came to the book launch, you can see her photos and read about the event on her blog. Next workshop, about sugar roses and flowers, is at Millys in Parnell (Auckland) next Saturday. See you there!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing a cookbook part 10: the book launch, first book reviews and appearances.

From top left clockwise: Sugar decorations hanging from the staircase, setting up the central table and the display stands, cupcake trays ready to leave home for the launch, putting up curtains and ribbons, goodie bags.
Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Last night we had the book launch for Party Food for Girls. I was too busy to take photos myself, so above there are only some photos of the preparations for the central table, the cupcakes stands, and the decorations and goodie bags. We were in the third floor of an art gallery, and dozens of meringues and sugar and chocolate hearts where hanging with ribbons from the staircase (yes, all the three floors). More sugar decorations and lots of ribbons and curtains were everywhere, and although there was lots of savoury food passed around in trays and at the bar, the centre table and display stalls were entirely dedicated to cupcakes, biscuits, sweets and berries, which disappeared com-ple-te-ly as soon as the speeches were over. Claire helped me all day long with the canapes and Harriet arrived to the launch earlier to help too, while Amanda the publicist, got the job of putting up the curtains and ribbons with the Lopdell House staff (I am sure that it was a new experience for them). Arantxa's girlfriends helped her carry around trays full of pizzette and finger food (all home-made, of course) while Max and his friends guarded the main table very seriously so that it wouldn't be touched until it was time for dessert. Lots of people took photos, if you want to see a couple of Shaun's photos please check out what the king of NZ book blogs, Graham Beattie, posted in the Beattie's Book Blog. The post, entitled 

‘New Holland’s youngest author launches her first book, ‘Party Food for Girls

gives a description of the book launch: 

"...Meringue wreaths and pink sugar hearts adorned the spiral stair case, with billowing white curtains  greeting guests as they walked into the top room of the Lopdell House – complete with stunning views over the Manukau Harbour – the room was definitely decked out to have the ‘wow’ factor – essential for any fabulous girls tea party!..."

and also offer an extract from the book: the recipe for these Teapot Biscuits

photo by Shaun Cato-Symonds

For the recipe and step by step decoration instructions please click here and scroll down. 

Good Magazine was also there at the launch, they will feature two recipes in their next issue. It was great event and Arantxa spoke so well! Other speakers before Arantxa and myself were the Lopdell House Director Lesley Smith, NHP Publishing Manager Christine Thomson, and the Italian honorary Consul for Auckland Mario Magaraggia, who knows Arantxa since she was a baby :-).

Books reviews are now coming in, I just read a lovely one in Taste Magazine by Rachael McKinnon, all writers get nervous about book reviews, it is normal, and part of the process, but when you read a positive review it really helps, especially when you are so busy running around and working extra hours to promote your book. In fact I better be off now to get my 'traveling cupcake kit' ready: tomorrow morning (Saturday 17)  Arantxa and I are going to Taste Matakana in Warkworth, if you are in the area come and see us from 11am to 1pm we will be making sugar flowers and decorating cupcakes (Taste Matakana, 2 Neville Street, Warkworth).

And of course if you are a blogger don't forget your chance to win the book here! In the next few days I will post more about magazines, recipes and giveaways.

Photo Shaun Cato-Symonds, from Party Food for Girls

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

3 Quail Eggs

Today is Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook
My photo is: 3 Quail Eggs

I am really busy cooking and baking for the book launch tomorrow, I will keep you posted, and hope to see some bloggers there. Please remember to enter my blog candy to win Party Food for Girls, the instructions are here. Good luck!

Photo  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

100 cupcakes and 1000 sugar flowers

The preparations for the book launch have started, Arantxa and I have to make so many sugar flowers, trays and trays and trays of them for the decorations, and goodie bags... and also try the best cupcake recipes for the big cupcake display on Thursday. Busy time this one, we have so many things on every day, including the Rugby World Cup. I went to my first match yesterday, Japan France - dressed with a kimono jacket. Today Italy is playing Australia, we are going with flags and the works... but it is raining hard! I am not one for sitting in the rain for 2 hours, but never mind. Also I have been very busy with the book launches and publicity for Libro International, hosting Italian guests and ... did I mention making meringues too? :-) My house is full of sugar!!!

If you are in Auckland I hope to see you at the book launch, and remember to enter my blog candy to win Party Food for Girls. Instructions here. Good luck!

Win this book

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini © 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blog Candy: Win Party Food for Girls

Dear bloggers, here is Party Food for Girls

Thank you all for your responses regarding the blog candy, here are the simple instructions to win this book for yourself:

1 Copy the book cover image (or banner on the side bar) and put it on the side bar of your blog/website, with the title Blog Candy: Party Food for Girls.

2 Link the image or the title to this post.

Write a comment to this post telling me where I can find your blog candy.

If you live in NZ, Australia and the UK you can find the book in the bookstores, for the US and the rest of the world you can find it on If you like to see more images from this book please click here. The winner will be picked with the generator on September 30th 2011. The contest is open world-wide.

In Italiano

Per vincere questo libro:

1 Copiate l'immagine del libro da questo blog e mettetela sul vostro side bar con il titolo Blog Candy: Party Food for Girls, e linkatela (si dice cosi' in italiano?) a questo post.

2  Linkate (si dice così in italiano?) l'immagine a questo post.

3 Lasciatemi un commento per farmi sapere dove avete messo il blog candy sul vostro blog.

Ovviamente vi ringrazio in anticipo per tutto il vostro sostegno!

Thank you for your support, from me and Arantxa :-)

photo by Shaun Cato-Symonds


Thank you all for taking part and for your support :-). The winner was announced here!


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