Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blackcurrant coconut macaroons

A super easy and quick recipe for the weekend! My husband loves coconut macaroons, and I often make them if I have some leftover egg whites. 

I just made a meringue base with egg white and more or less the same amount of icing sugar (this time I had 2 eggs whites). To add interest I included one tbs of Fresh As Blackcurrant powder. The colour was very pretty!

Then I folded in some dried coconut, enough to make them 'spoonable' over a baking tray, lined with the Lynette's baking sheet I won form blogger Zo. Nice to use a baking sheet that can be recycled over and over again!

I Baked at 100 C for an hour or so and then I let them dry with the oven door open. They aren't pretty, but they are nice, and gluten free too :-). Have a smashing weekend!!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Opossum scaloppine... I mean...Tofu scaloppine!!!!

This month's MTC challenge is about scaloppine, and very kindly they allowed not only meat and fish scaloppine, but also seitan, for vegetarians. Now, the seitan in Italy may be better and more suited to scaloppine, I dotn't really know, but I can assure you that the one here is as suited as a shoe sole would be and so, risking of being eliminated, I am using tofu instead. 

So what about the opossum?

For those who don't know, opossums in NZ are an imported dangerous pest that is destroying our native forests and birds. So it is our civic duty, especially if we live in the bush, to trap them... and kill them. For a vegetarian this is hard to stomach, but since I show little pity to mosquitos, for example, I have to come to term with the fact that yes, opossums and other predators must be eliminated. We didn't have any for a while, and then the other night my husband saw one, and he said that he was going to set the traps in the morning. But during the night the opossum got busy in my garden!!! The day after I decided to make my tofu scaloppine with white wine and parsley and... all the parsley was gone!! Eaten!! By the Opossum. OK, it could have been worse, I still had the wine, but the beast didn't leave me a single little leaf, and I had to buy the parsley, it was slightly irritating. That night, tempted by an apple with peanut butter, the opossum died in its trap. I still cannot get used to it, fortunately the boys deal with the carcass. How? Well, my next door neighbor is an old hippy, basically a vegan except for roadkill type of meat. He says that since we have to kill it we should also eat it. So when we get an opossum we call him, he checks to see if it is healthy (tb is a risk here) and then he skins it and cook it. This time it was nicely parsley flavored, and stuffed with apple and peanut butter! His son was most appreciative too: he doesn't like the policies of the meat industry and prefers to eat meat that comes from a wild animal, killed for an ecological purpose. Well, my hat off to them, but I still rather eat tofu :-).

Tofu Scaloppine with wine and parsley, and thin roast potatoes

I used 4 dried blocks of Japanese tofu: first I let it rest in 500 ml of warm vegetable broth to rehydrate, then I cut each piece into two thinner slices (scaloppine must be thin) and pressed them well to get the extra stock our (keep it, you will need it later!) and flatten them a bit more. I passed the slices in flour, and then placed them in a pot with plenty of sizzling melted salted butter. A quick sauté on both sides, and then I added a good glass of white wine. Once the wine was absorbed and the scaloppine had been turned around a few times I scraped the bottom of the pan (you may need to remove the scaloppine to do this, I didn't) and added the leftover vegetable broth. I simmered everything until I had a thick sauce, then I added salt and pepper to taste, and plenty of (bought) chopped parsley.

To accompany the scaloppine I made some thinly cut roast potatoes, (simply brushed with olive oil and salt only and roasted until crisp) and it was such a nice, vegetarian, main!! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Persimmons: the Italian way and the Japanese way

I have fond memories of eating cachi (Italian for persimmons) as a child in Italy. Ahhhh delicious sweet cachi, from October to December, always so soft that they were bought in trays from the fruit vendors, and then Mum would put them in a bowl, give us a spoon, and let us enjoy the runny soft flesh. Then at 19 I went to live in the UK, and for 6 years I had no persimmons, with one exception. To be honest I could not believe how little fruit they had in the UK (back then), every house I went in seemed to have only three types of fruit: oranges, green apples and bananas. Berries and stone fruit were luxuries and mostly used canned, or to top desserts. There was exotic fruit but mainly in fruit baskets given as presents (with the exception of the previously mentioned bananas, and the occasional pineapple). Persimmons were probably considered exotic too, although things may be different now. During those six year the only time I saw them was when a friend, married to a Japanese lady and with a catering business (so he knew where to get unusual fruit) offered me some. I didn't even know the English name, but I discovered that the Italian name cachi sounds like the Japanese name Kaki. And then I was surprised to see that the kaki where hard, not soft, and cut into slices and peeled.
Definitely a different variety, I thought: hard cachi were impossible to eat in Italy, as they tasted really unripe. I did eat my slices, and they were nice, but then I left the remaining kaki that my friend gave me to ripen fully until soft enough to be eaten with a spoon :-). They were smaller and tasted a bit different from the Italian ones, but they were still good, and a real treat (although my English boyfriend was disgusted by my way of eating them). 

After London I went to live in Tokyo for three and a half years, and I had plenty of kaki there! I learned to eat them the Japanese way too, and yes, I do enjoy them, and occasionally I still eat them cut into slices (especially if I eat them on the low table in my Japanese room, something nice to do in Autumn and Winter). In Italy my aunt has two persimmon trees, one for soft and one for the smaller, Japanese type that can be eaten hard. But I still prefer the soft ones, (and so does my daughter).

A funny story now:
In Tokyo I lived in front of a tiny greengrocer shop. When kaki were in season I checked from my window the colour, to assess the ripeness. I learned that yes, some Japanese did eat them with a spoon also, but mostly they just like them sliced and peeled, so the over-riped and soft didn't really sell. As soon as the kaki looked soft enough I went out and started my bargaining with the old greengrocer.
"They are a bit soft, aren't' they?"
"Yes, but they are still very good! You can eat them with a spoon!"
"What about 100 yen for the lot?"
The bargaining was purely ceremonial. Of course he worked out pretty quickly that I like them soft, (I didn't buy any other fruit or vegetable that looked old or over ripe, even when he tried to sell it to me) so much that the days I failed to notice soft kaki he would call out to me:
"Hey, honorable foreigner, I have some soft kaki for you!"
"Mmmh, so you have..."
 "What about 100 yen for the lot?"
"Ok!" :-)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gorse flower cupcakes, foraging in Anawhata

Gorse cupcakes and Anawhata

On Sunday we went to Anawhata, one of my local beaches, and one of my favorites, as you can only reach it walking down a path in the bush. There are many gorse plants around, a weed in New Zealand, but the flowers are lovely and smell like coconut. They are also edible so I picked some on the way back.

The walk to the beach

From top left clockwise: Vegetarian humor on a sign (and no, it wasn't me!), the path to the beach, the beach and a far away surfer (needs to carry his board down, and then up again the path!), cute shells on the black sand.

Beautiful seaweed

I picked about two large handful of gorse flowers, made a syrup with a 100ml of water and 1 tbsp of icing sugar, put the gorse in the hot syrup and let it rest for one night. 

For the gorse cupcakes: 
120 g butter
3 eggs
130 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200 g self-rising flour
100 ml gorse flowers and syrup

Makes 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 12-muffin tray with cupcakes paper cups.
Melt the butter in a jug, either in the microwave or in the oven (while the oven is warming up for the cupcakes). Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, until the mixture looks light and pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the melted butter and the lemon zest. Keep beating at a low speed now; add flour followed by gorse and syrup and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. Divide the mixture between the 12-cupcake cases and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden at the top. You can also check by inserting a toothpick into the cupcakes: if it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool down. 

Would you like to know what they tasted like? They tested like banana cupcakes!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fruit smoothies: a bit of sunshine in a glass!

Guys I am freezing! This photos was taken a few weeks ago and I am behind with my posting, but today I need to look at it because it is sunny and bright! And after all I make fruit smoothies every day when the kids come home from school, a burst of vitamins! I mostly use apple juice as a base (the one I buy from Dragisovich, the last apple orchard in Oratia that sells apple juice from the shed) with a banana or two, then I add whatever fruit I have, and since I had just about 1 tbsp of Fresh As Plum powder left, I decided to use it!

Doris Plum Winter Fruit Smoothies

500 ml apple juice, 2 bananas, 1 tbsp Fresh As Plum powder
Blend well. Serves 3-4 vitamin loving kids!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vegan school lunch boxes, eat your colours and 5+ a Day

Carrot and cucumber sticks, grapes, blueberries and Cape gooseberries, Olive focaccia (homemade)

When I was living in Japan I learned to present lunch boxes including a spectrum of at least 5 colours.
I try to do this with the kids' lunch boxes now, and these days the 5 + a Day is also promoting 'colours', which is a good way to make food more interesting. Of course here in NZ lunch boxes are stuffed down the school bag and tossed around, so I could never make them like these super pretty bentos, (I also wouldn't have the time in the morning or late at night!) but sometimes I do them for a lunch at home.

Now it is a complete coincidence that these lunch boxes are all Vegan (and containing mostly raw food!), often the kids would have cheese rolls and homemade pizza, and often a milky chocolate drink or a drinking yogurt too, but as they have so much milk and yogurt for breakfast everyday that they can do without for lunch!

My problem has been trying to have 5 different colours as the season is getting colder, especially for the blue! The first photo was taken a couple of month ago, and the rest followed every couple of weeks. When there are blueberries around it is so easy, now most of the berries they have are frozen, good for smoothies and cereals and desserts, but not school lunches.

Avocado sushi, cherry tomato, banana, kiwi gold, feijoa, mandarin, grapes

If I don't have blueberries I try to put a few red/black grapes, is a pity that they are all imported, but so are the bananas. For the rest I always try to be seasonable and use fruit and veggies that grow in NZ, the tomato here was from my garden. Sushi only happens if there is some left over after dinner the night before: I could never get up at 5am to make it fresh!

Baguette with green salad and hummus with Dukka, banana, mandarins, kiwi gold, dried prunes

When I don't use grapes I try to add something close to purple/blue, like dried plums. Hummus is also another favourite filling, if they could my kids would have a hummus rolls every day, and they don't seem to be fussed if it smells of garlic.

Baguette with rocket salad, hummus and broad beans, orange, grapes and Cape gooseberries

Hummus again, this was just over a week ago, believe it of not I had broad beans in the garden, an unseasonal plant that followed its own schedule! Not enough for a meal, but enough for a couple of rolls. The Cape gooseberries too are from the garden, incredibly enough they are still going!

Dolmas (rice wrapped in vine leaves), carrot sticks, cucumber and cherry tomatoes, banana, grapes and mandarin

Winter is progressing and the lunch boxes are becoming a bit repetitive: mandarins, banana, carrot sticks and grapes seem to dominate, and I occasionally buy cherry tomatoes even if they are grown in hothouses (but so are most cucumbers, I guess). The dolmas came from a can, a very occasional purchase, but it does add variety and, yes, the kids love those too!

I am dreaming of cherries and strawberries and blueberries and plums and colorful capsicums which make it so easy to add colour, but I also guess that winter is the time when we should overdose with oranges and yellows.

And if you have kids please tell me, what goes into their lunch boxes this season?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 15, 2012

Easy silver beet baked pasta

Eating in: easy!

Brrrrr it is so cold now! I am baking almost every day, so most of my dishes seem to end up in the oven. This spent most of its life on the stove though: first I washed two big bunches of silver beet and cook them. I boiled the white stalks first, and then the green leaves. To do this I put the stalks in a big pot with a little water, and a pinch of salt, then after 5 min of boiling I added the leaves but no more water: the steam is enough to cook the leaves. 

Then I made a thick besciamelle: I melted 100 g salted butter, took the pan off the stove and quickly mixed in 100 g flour, then back on the stove and slowly added 1 l milk. Stirred well until thick and then added salt to taste, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.

In the meantime I cooked 500 g of pasta, I drained it and dressed it with a couple of tbsp of besciamelle, then placed it in a lasagna dish. I placed the silver beet stalks on top first, and then green leaves as a third layer. I covered everything with the remaining besciamelle. A super generous dusting of grated parmesan cheese on top, and straight into the oven until the crust was golden. This baked pasta cuts like a dream and it is super easy!

Eating out: am I unlucky?

I never do restaurant reviews on this blog, unless I am traveling and I like to show the food ... but I wouldn't call it a review. And if I don't really like a place I don't talk about it, full stop. But I was dying to write this :-). Last Saturday I went to the opera to see Rigoletto with a group of friends, so we meet before for a drink here. Fancy that, we were sitting at the same long table as Peter Gordon! (No I didn't take a photo or tried to chat with him, he was talking with some friends and I don't think that it is polite to barge in!). The bar was nice and buzzing, the staff was lovely, and there were a few tapas available that everybody said were very good. Unfortunately I was the unlucky one, I ordered crema catalana and it wasn't... right. But I will go back again happily... and maybe just stay away from the desserts :-).

A final note to show a bit of Autumn colours in West Auckland: Arantxa has joined the photography club at her school, and as a good Mum I think that she is super-talented!
Happy weekend!

Photos by Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Orange and Yellows in Black and White

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This photo 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 Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen. The title of the photo is: Orange and Yellows in Black and White. Do you like it? :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Passion fruit and Cape Gooseberry Agar Agar Jelly for Sweet New Zealand

I used more or less the same recipe as for the pineapple agar agar: 500 ml of water for one tsp of agar agar, then instead of Fresh As pineapple powder I used their Passion Fruit powder, one and a half tbsp of it, and two tbsp of sugar (since the passion fruit powder is more sour than the pineapple powder).
I still have Cape gooseberries in the garden, I picked a few and cut them into two, them place then in the jelly cups before pouring in the hot agar agar. 

It was a beautiful dessert, so I am entering it to this month edition of Sweet New Zealand, hosted by Shirleen of Sugar and Spice.
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tofu with Bell Peppers, looking for a right English title

Or with capsicums... In the last month I had a larger number of visitors form the US for all of my blogs, and I was asking myself if I am using the right English names for them. There is one person who keeps 'correcting' me ("we call them this and we call them that") so for once (once!) I changed the title!

On the other hand... maybe I could call this recipe Paprika Tofu! :-)

I chopped two stalks of celery, one small onion, and sliced a carrot. I put everything in a large pot with olive oil and sautéed for 5 minutes. I added one yellow, one orange and one red bell peppers/capsicums/paprika and then after 5 minutes I added one can of Mutti tomato pulp (like a thick passata), one cup of vegetable stock and one block of tofu cut into cubes. I simmered the lot for 30 minutes, then I added salt and smoked paprika to taste (quite a bit of smoked paprika actually, I love it!). I simmered everything again until the sauce was quite thick, and then I added some chopped parsley and one more drizzle of olive oil, and served everything with Israeli Couscous (which is similar to Fregola Sarda).

Super red and bright in colour, and flavor!!

With this recipe I take part in the Lagostina contest hosted by Araba Felice in Cucina
in the section "Healthy but with Flavour" for the Tempra pot :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Riesling Challenge 2010 Tasting Vineyard v Winemaker

Copied and pasted from the Slow Food Waitakere site, this wine tasting event is a real gem, so if you are in Auckland on the 8th of July, and you would like to learn more about tasting and comparing wines, come and join us! 



The Riesling Challenge 2010
Vineyard v Winemaker

Sunday 8 July 2012
Time: 2:00pm
Address:  5 Waima Cresent, Titirangi

Cost:  Members $20.00, Non-Members $25.00

           (limited numbers)

A Little Bit of the History of "The Riesling Challenge:

How It Began:  Neil Charles-Jones came up with the idea for the New Zealand Riesling Challenge
at an awards dinner.  It struck him that for all the talk of good wines being made in the vineyard, it
was the winemaker who always picked up the awards.

How it Worked:  Twelve winemakers were each given 4 tonnes grapes from one vineyard namely the
Mud House "The Mount" vineyard in Waipara Valley.  Each winemaker made 250 cases of wine,
processing the grapes and making the wine in the manner they saw fit.  Resulting in twelve very different
wines, varying from dry through to sweet.

The Tasting:

We will be tasting the resulting 12 wines under the guidance of Mark Compton, who is a well respected
winemaker and educator, with a particular interest in aromatic wines - Riesling being his favourite.

After the Tasting:  We thought it would be nice way to finish the afternnon if you would like to
bring a plate of finger food to share after the conclusion of the tasting, either to be enjoyed with rest
of the wine (if any is left) or a cup of tea or coffee.


Laurel McAlpine
Ph: 817 5859

N.B.  There will be limited numbers so please book early


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