Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soaking olives

I like preserving olives, the step I like best is soaking them in water for weeks, with my little boy who reminds me every day to change the water. I would remember anyway (how could I forget when they are in a big laundry bucket on the kitchen floor?), but it is just so nice to hear him say "Mamma, did you change the water today?". He takes his olives very seriously.

This image is for Black and White Wednesday, a weekly blogging event created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and for the coming week hosted by Sihi of Wondering Ladle. The title of the photo is: soaking olives.

I am also adding another photo to today's post, not food, but I photo that I took a few years ago in Modena, my provincial city. And I am thinking of everyone who is suffering in the area because of the earthquakes. 

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gardening in pots: bok choy

Even if I am supposed to have enough space in my veggie garden I still like to plant a few veggies in pots.  
First of all it is almost winter and things grow really slowly now, but in a terra-cotta pots they will grow faster, and I can move the pots to follow the sun (while I cannot move the veggie garden!). I planted some bok choy in the garden, and some in pots. The pots' plant are ready to eat... in fact I have to hurry up, one started flowering (don't mind having a few flowers, I like to eat them too, they are pretty as well!).

I guess that bok choy is real brassica for beginners: very easy to grow, about 7 weeks from seedlings (about 5 weeks in the pots) and doesn't require much space. No chance of growing broccoli and cavolo nero in pots, unless you like miniatures, but bok choy can even grow in your window boxes (prendete nota lettori italiani che vivete in città). 

 For some recipes with bok choy please go here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pineapple jelly... I mean, agar agar!

We all know of the enzymes of certain raw fruit (pineapple, papaya, kiwi etc) that won't make jelly, or agar agar, set. And also that cooking the fruit first will stop the problem. Or using canned fruit! 
But the only canned fruit I use is mango pulp (to make mango agar agar pudding, in fact) and I was just wondering... wondering... if the Fresh As pineapple powder, having been freeze dried, would still have those enzymes... so I tried. I used 500ml of water, boiled it and added 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of Fresh As pineapple powder and 1 level tsp of agar agar. I simmered everything for one minute and then poured it into 4 individual jelly moulds. I used these colorful ones, when the agar is set you just remove the lid at the bottom and they should pop down. Should. We actually shook them a bit! The pineapple puddings were fresh and fragrant, not too sweet (the sugar ratio was perfect) and I liked the flavor, although my husband and the kids told me that I could have put in a bit more pineapple powder for more zing! I will try a different Fresh As powder soon for more puddings!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, May 27, 2012

doconstructed spanakopita: ovvero, budino caldo di spinaci con salsa di formaggio feta al profumo di origano e cracker di pasta filo al burro salato

I though a lot about this, I am not the type to 'deconstruct' dishes, but I wanted to try. And I wanted a spinach pudding, but spinach puddings started to pop up right and left on the MTChallenge, and I wasn't sure if I should add another one... but in the end I decided to go for it, and this is the result!
The puddings are really soft but perfectly set and stable, so you will make an impression with your guests!

For the savory spinach mini puddings:
500 g chopped frozen spinach
100 ml milk
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
Salt to taste
Salted butter to grease the ramekins

For the Feta Sauce:
100 g feta
A sprig of oregano (or a pinch of dried oregano)
A little milk and hot water

For the Filo Crackers:
5 sheets of film pastry
Salted butter, melted, to brush

Boil the spinach with water, then drain but do not squeeze. Put the spinach in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender. Add the milk and blend again. Add the parmesan and eggs and blend again. Taste for salt then add salt. Grease 8 ramekins with butter and fill with the spinach mixture, then cover with baking paper and secure with a rubber band. Place in a roasting pan filled with water (only half-way through the ramekins) and bake at 160° C for about one hour. 

To make the sauce just brake the feta with a fork and thin down with a little milk and a little hot water until you get a creamy consistency. Do not use a blender but just a fork. Add the oregano and set aside.

To make the filo crackers, place 3 sheets of filo on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush with melted salted butter, then add 2 more sheets of filo and brush again. Using a pizza cutter or a knife make some incisions over the pastry to cut it into 8 rectangles, and then each rectangle into 2 triangles. Make sure that the incisions are all the way through the pastry (i.e. the pastry is cut into 16 triangles). Bake with the spinach pudding (on a different rack, of course!) until the top of the filo is golden and crispy.

Remove the puddings from the oven and reverse over the serving plates (they should come out easily, but otherwise just pass the borders with a knife). Add two filo triangles and a spoonful of feta sauce to each plate. Serve immediately as an antipasto. These puddings are soft, moist and creamy and can be eaten with a spoon, or a dessert fork, and are suited to open a formal dinner. My family really liked them, but I guess that they like Spanakopita too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dino is famous, and the winner is... (actually, are!)

Is this really me? Says Dino Yes it is me! Look at me, I am famous!

Dino is happy! We were shooting my dinosaur minestrone and I just thought that it would be nice to have a 'model'. I went up to Max's room and picked up Dino, who has been in our family since Max was a baby (11 years), just to see how he looked! Well, I think that Dino is exceptionally cute and well kept too for an 11 years old soft toy! And guess what: he made it, he is in this issue of Little Treasures Magazine, and I can assure you that both him and Max are over the moon about it!

Minestrone with dinosaur pasta and tomato soup with animal crackers

Out now,  Little Treasures Magazine

Pumpkin soup with bruschetta, cauliflower and broccoli soup, red beetroot soup with puff pastry grissini,
and Asian noodles with veggies

And now for the winner of this competition. But I should say winners, in all senses! As usual I put the name through the Randomizer, and below is how they came out:

There were 40 items in your list. Here they are in random order:
  1. Fance e Vale
  2. Stefania
  3. 2 Amiche
  4. Michelle
  5. Artu
  6. Iana
  7. Paola
  8. Ester
  9. Chairina
  10. Sastuki
  11. Isabella
  12. Mariangela
  13. Melissa
  14. Jennifer
  15. Astrofiammante
  16. Wagashi Stories
  17. Alice
  18. Valentina
  19. Anotosh
  20. Kitchen Flavours
  21. Gaia Celiaca
  22. Lo
  23. Le cognate
  24. Mariint
  25. La gelida anolina
  26. Sandra
  27. Barbara
  28. Vanessa
  29. Katrina
  30. Sweet Snow Flakes
  31. Elena
  32. Natasha
  33. Chiara
  34. Food, Fun
  35. British Mum
  36. Cheryl
  37. Lucy
  38. Lisa
  39. Shatzy
  40. Veronica
Timestamp: 2012-05-26 07:50:13 UTC

First of all i would like to congratulate Franci and Vale, who have a beautiful blog, La Signora die Biscotti. But this is not the reason why I say winners. When Stefania wrote her comment she said that the first person to write is never picked because she is already number 1 in the list, so the odd weren't with her, but she was graceful enough to start the comments and lead the way for all other entrants. And look at this! She came number 2! I am sure that everyone who knows Stefania will agree with me: she also deserve the prize! So Araba Felice, you won a copy of Party Food For Girls too! 

Thank you to all who entered the competition, I will run more in the future so stay tune, and 
congratulations to the winners, I hope that you will all enjoy the book, and make something from it.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Italian Republic Day with our new Ambassador Alessandro Levi Sandri

Festa della Repubblica con aperitivo Italiano. Presenzierà il nuovo ambasciatore Italiano per la Nuova Zelanda Alessandro Levi Sandri.

Sabato 2 Giugno
Dalle 17 alle 18:30 
entrata $15 p.p. / $7 bambini 
Pizza, focaccia, dolci ed il primo bicchiere inclusi nel prezzo. 
Pagamento in contenti alla porta (non si accettano eftpos o carte di credito)
RSVP entro il 28 maggio: (09)376 3853, o 
Evento aperto a tutti, soci e non soci, vi ringraziamo per girare questa informazione a tutti gli italiani di Auckland. 

Saturday 2nd June
from 5pm -6:30 
$15 p.p. / $7 child 
Prices include a drink and Italian food. More drinks will be available at the bar.
payment at the door on arrival on the day (cash, no eftpos available)
RSVP by 28th May: (09)376 3853, or 
Non Dante members welcome, please feel free to forward this invite to your friends and other Italians.

Address: Freemans Bay Community Centre, 52 Hepburn St., Freemans Bay, Auckland
Plenty of free parking on the road and next to the Community Centre in Pratt St.

We are also pleased to inform you that  Mr  Donato Scioscioli, Italian Embassy Official, will also be present and can assist you with passport applications/renewals and other enquiries you may have. Mr Scioscioli will be available from 10am in the Dante Rooms. If you are planning to see him, please read the information below carefully.

Prima e durante l’incontro, a partire dalle ore 14, il Responsabile per i Servizi Consolari dell’Ambasciata, Dott. Donato Scioscioli, sarà a disposizione per effettuare la rilevazione delle impronte digitali per i connazionali che prevedono di richiedere, nel corso dei prossimi sei mesi, il rilascio del passaporto, per loro stessi e/o per i loro familiari (si ricorda che per i minori di 12 anni non occorre rilevare le impronte digitali). Gli interessati dovranno presentarsi muniti di documento di identità in corso di validità e di due fotografie (40x35mm – vedi Guida Consolare). Per ulteriori informazioni, e per prendere un appuntamento con il Dott. Scioscioli si prega di contattare la Cancelleria Consolare dell’Ambasciata (tel. 04-4747176 o via email:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1020 views, and Party Food for Girls as a giveaway to celebrate

I got close a few times, the closest was 959 in October, and I often thought that I would never reach 1000 page views in a day, and then yesterday....
Pageviews yesterday
(copied and pasted from Blogger statistics)


Well, it may be an isolated case, some days seems to be better than others, but still, a cause for celebrations, and since it is all your merit, dear readers from around the globe, I am offering another
Party Food for Girls book as a giveaway to one lucky person!

Just leave a comment to this post to enter. Don't need to follow this blog unless you like it, but if you do that would be sweet! :-). Contest open worldwide. You have time until this Saturday! Good Luck!

Monday, May 21, 2012

No fuss eggplant and chickpea tajine

No fuss eggplant and chickpea tajine

Slice 2 eggplants and sweat them with salt for 1 hour. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive in the tajine pan, and sizzle 2 cloves of garlic (cut into two lengthwise), a few coriander seeds, a few cumin seeds, chili flakes and rock salt. When the spices start to jump around the pan add a roughly chopped onion and when the onion is translucent (not brown) add the eggplant sliced (rinsed). Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring, and then add the content of a can of chickpeas (with their liquid) and a handful of coriander leaves (or parsley, if you don't have/like coriander). 

Now cover with the Tajine top and simmer on the lowest setting for a hour or so. At the end the eggplant will be a mush, and the chickpeas incredibly tasty. Add some smoked paprika if you like it hotter. Serve on couscous dressed with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

With this recipe I take part in the contest

from the blog La cucina di Esme

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Masala Dahl

I have posted this a few years ago, and it is one of my tried and true lentil recipes that I make again and again. Also this post got quite a few views, but I didn't have the comments activated at that stage of blogging (it took me a while to get into that! What was I thinking!), so it would be good to get some comments now.

In my original recipe I used some masala powder that my friend Mahendra Motibhai - Patel from Fiji gave me (yes, it is his own brand). The package is great and the spice mixture smells highly aromatic and fresh. I love Indian food, I tried to make up a few recipes with the Motibhai masala, and I was particularly pleased with this one.

Well, the Motibhai masala is long finished now, so I use any type that I can get (do you have any brand to suggest?), but here is my original recipe.

Please note that Dahl is usually a soup and the lentils are small, but I had some green organic lentils which I wanted to use, and I was looking for a thicker consistency.

I sautéed for 30 seconds half tsp of turmeric and half tsp of cumin seeds with a little rice bran oil. Then I added a finely chopped onion and one tbsp of masala powder. Then the lentils, which had been rinsed, and then soaked for 30 minutes. I covered with water and added a big hot whole chili. After 30 minutes I added a little salt to taste and, just because I felt like it, a tbsp of butter (this is not necessary, of course). It was perfect, warm, fragrant, and mildly hot. 
Serve with basmati rice.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Also, I would like to acknowledge this.

image from

Friday, May 18, 2012

Green side vegetables with champagne, ed una richiesta ai blogger italiani

First the recipe: sauté one finely chopped shallot with a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Add the stalks, chopped, of a dozen asparagus, stir for a couple of minutes and then add a glass of leftover bubbly and an organic veggie cube (I only use Rapunzel). Let the wine evaporate then add two cups of frozen peas. Add more bubbly if liquid is needed. When the peas are cooked add the asparagus tips and some mange tout of sugar snap peas. Stir quickly to lightly blanch the asparagus tip and sugar snap peas (you still want them very green and crispy). A feast of different textures and greens, and a perfect side veg.

E adesso vorrei chiedere un favore agli amici blogger italiani 

Volete fare un salto virtuale in NZ?

Qualcuno di voi saprà che sono una degli autori del blog della Dante Alighieri Society di Auckland.
Alla Dante siamo un gruppo di volontari che si occupano di mantenere e diffondere la cultura e lingua italiana a Auckland e in Nuova Zelanda. Abbiamo creato una scuola per adulti e per bambini, e facciamo eventi, film, incontri... un po' di tutto veramente. Ho cominciato il blog io perché sono l'unica "blogger" del gruppo, e gli altri stanno imparando piano piano come si fa, però l'idea sarebbe di invitare blogger italiani a contribuire con post di cucina, viaggio, e cultura, dall'Italia. 

Magari avete scritto un post sulla vostra città e vi farebbe piacere dividerlo con gli italiani in Nuova Zelanda, ma sopratutto con i neozelandesi che amano l'Italia (consigli su dove viaggiare sono sempre benvenuti). O avete una ricetta tradizionale? O avete fatto la recensione di un libro italiano? 

Non bisogna scrivere un post apposta per noi, basta riciclarne uno vecchio dei vostri! Chiara, Loredana e Alligatore ci hanno già donato dei post, praticamente li ricopio e incollo, faccio una piccola introduzione per presentarvi, e metto tutti i link e credit e copyright ecc. ecc. 

In italiano va benissimo, e se avete il blog in due lingue... ancora meglio, ma assolutamente non necessario.

Fate un giro pe vedere, se volete, il blog è qui e fatemi sapere.

Infine vorrei ringraziare Belinda per avermi passato non uno ma due premi: Your blog is great! e Red Carpet.

Adesso dovrei rispondere a delle domande e girare i premi, ma penso che tutti i blog che frequento sono 'great' e meritano pure il red carpet, quindi farò la pigra e li metto in palio a chi li vuole :-).

Per le domande.... le ho lette e mi ci è voluto un momento per ricordarmi cosa fossero blush e terra. Non penso che la terra esista qui in NZ!! E non mi so truccare!

1) Qual'è l'ultimo acquisto che hai fatto?
Oggi ho comprato delle cannucce di cartone carissime, ma mi servono per un servizio, poi dei pirottini per cupcake carinissimi che non mi servirebbero ma li volevo, e una spatola (francese!!!) perché la mia fida spatola sta cadendo a pezzi!
2) Unghie corte o lunghe?
Un po' lunghe, ma rigorosamente senza smalto, tipo una French manicure al naturale.
3) Rossetto o gloss?
Burro e cacao.
4) Stivali o sandali?
Dipende dalla stagione no? Comunque ho una passione per i sandali!
5) Abbronzatura si o no?
Magari, qui in Nuova Zelanda c'è il buco nell'ozono e non ci si può abbronzare. Se vado all'estero ci provo, ma sono un tipo pallido!
6) Profumo o acqua profumata?
Ho un mucchio di profumi che mi regalano per lavoro, ma non li uso spesso. Il mio preferito è Allure di Chanel.
7) Hai già fatto programmi per le vacanze estive?
Luglio, ma qui è inverno. Comunque Australia, Sydney, Alice Spring ed la roccia Uluru nel deserto (quella che si vede in tutti i documentari sull'Australia!).
8) Occhi o labbra in primo piano?
Dipende da quanto ho dormito.
9) Terra o blush?
Blush, o almeno, è nel cassetto! Però a volte uso quelle creme autoabbronzanti per sembrare meno vampiresca!
10) Palestra o dolce far niente?
Purtroppo non ho tempo né per una né per l'altro.
11) Shorts o mini?
Alla mia età meglio arrivare al ginocchio per non sembrare una sciattona!
12) Capelli lisci o ricci?
Quello che vogliono loro, maledetti!
13) Il tuo colore per l'estate?
Bianco, arancione, verde.
14) Giornata al mare o in montagna?
Montagna, anche se è più facile che la passi al mare visto che ci abito.
15) Fondotinta in estate si o no?
Mai. Farei solo dei pastrocchi!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Apple Spiral with a "Deco-Pin" from Visual Food

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Today I received a present from Italy, from the talented Rita at Visual Food, the Blog
this little gadget!

So super cute!!! I tried it straight away on an apple, and I am already thinking about all the lovely things I could make! Maybe some raw food fusilli, decorations for cocktails e desserts, funky lunch boxes and side vegetables... do you have any other ideas for me? To give you an example Rita made this for Carnival! 

Thank you Rita, what a lovely present! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pasta with Field Mushrooms

Only one thing beats finding field mushrooms: to be presented with some...

Dan gave me a bag of field mushrooms. 

"What will you do with them?"

"I will cook them with a little butter, garlic and flat leaf parsley..." 

"Too much! Just butter, the traditional way! When I was a boy I used to pick field mushrooms on the way home from school and then cook them with butter..." 

"Did you eat garlic and flat leaf parsley when you were a child?" 


"Maybe it is traditional for me then..."

I know, I can be very stubborn.

I cleaned the mushrooms and let them stand with a little rock salt. This way the worms (if any) will run away...towards the sink! 

Yes, I used garlic, 3 cloves, sautéed in butter, and then I added the mushrooms, chopped. I decided to make a pasta sauce. When the mushrooms stopped trowing out water I added 200 ml of cream, and salt and pepper to taste. I am pretty sure that a Vegan version is possible with some vegetable margarine and vegetable cream, if you try do let me know!

I simmered the sauce a little longer and then I turned the element off and added finely chopped parsley. The get the most out of the garlic I removed the three cloves and squeezed them with a garlic press. The garlic was lovely and soft and with a delicate flavour. I cooked some pasta (500 g, penne) and mixed the lot. Good, very good!

Thank you Dan!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, May 14, 2012

Slow Food, Fair Trade, and Oxfam, for the ethical Mum on Mother Day

On Sunday Slow Food Waitakere hosted Oxfam Biggest Coffee Break in West Auckland. It was also Mother's Day, and my kids learned to make coffee for me :-). Then I spent the morning cooking for the event, I made a banana flowers and potato salad with the two banana flowers I had in the garden (recipe here) and some mini vanilla cupcakes decorated with chocolate and chocolate and coffee ganache. Arantxa make chocolate daisies and chocolate coffee beans to decorate the cupcakes, and I cannot believe I didn't take photos!!! The Chocolate coffee beans looked real!!

Mother's Day card from my kids, an owl with apron and wooden spoon? Yes!!!
Cleaning the banana flowers to make a salad 
Fair Trade ingredients to make cupcakes for the Slow Food event

The event was great, and we were honored to have Julia Collins for All Good coming over to talk about Fair Trade. We learned a lot about what it means to choose Fair Trade for the farmers in producing countries, and also several interesting facts about New Zealand too: did you know that we eat 400,000,000 bananas each here in this country? Julia also gave us all a bunch of bananas, so thank you All Good Bananas. If you like to see photos of the event (and food) please click here.

A special thanks to Slow Food Waitakere members Penny and Yvonne for hosting the event, and to all who came along, and to the sponsors who offered Trade Aid goods for Oxfam's Biggest Coffee Break and Chocolate Break parties around New Zealand: Caffe L'affare, All Good, Whittaker's, Kokako, and Scarborough Fair. On the afternoon we raised NZ$385 for Oxfam New Zealand

See you at the next Slow Food Waitakere event!

Banana flower and potato salad: for the recipe click here

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©


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