Friday, November 30, 2012

Quinoa and cauliflower pie, gluten free

I got the idea from this Italian blog and although I changed almost everything in it, I kept the main ingredients: cauliflower and quinoa. I liked this idea because A: I really wanted to do something else with quinoa that didn't involve a salad or a risotto-type-of-dish, and B: I had cauliflower.


1 cup quinoa
1 small cauliflower
200 g feta cheese
2 free range eggs
Half tsp cumin seeds
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Wash the quinoa, then place in a good pot with 2 cups of water. I also decided to cook the cauliflower at the same time (save gas, flavour and nutrients). Cut and wash the cauliflower florets and place over the quinoa. Simmer for 20 minutes. turn the heat of and let it rest for 15. Cube the feta and add to the quinoa and cauliflower, mixing very well. Add the eggs and mix well. With a mortar and pestle lightly crush the cumin seeds and add to the mixture. Adjust with salt and pepper. Brush a terracotta or other oven dish with olive oil, them pour the mixture in, patting it down well. Level the top and drizzle with more olive oil. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes. Let it cool down lightly before serving, so that it will cut well. 

Even better the day after, re-heated.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Capsicums with capers

2 yellow capsicums
2 orange capsicums
1 red capsicum
1 garlic clove
half carrot
1 small celery stalk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more to drizzle at the end)
1 tbsp tomato puree
A little water
1-2 tbsp capers
salt to taste (if the capers are not too salty)
chopped Italian parsley to finish

Wash and cut the capsicums into thin strips. Peel the garlic and cut into two. Wash and chop the carrot and celery into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the vegetables, then add the tomato paste, a little water, the capers (rinsed) and a little salt (unless the capers are already too salty). Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, and adding more water if necessary. Adjust with salt at the end, if necessary, and finish with some freshly chopped parsley and another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve hot or cold, with some nice crusty bread or bruschetta, or even to dress pasta.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fan Mail

A couple of months back I posted about taking part to the Wordsmith tour of schools, it was a lovely experience, and lots of children got inspired to pick up writing as a career. Then last month the event organizers send me a parcel full of fan mail from one of the schools we visited, and I was so moved by all the letters, poems, cards and recipes that the students sent me! I was going to post this before but I am always running out of time these days, anyway, here are some photos.

Thank you Henderson Intermediate School!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fregola with zucchini and halloumi

Yesterday I had another record page views: 2,060. Funny, as I don't have much time to post these days. The most clicked post is always this one, with around 1000 hits each month, so I though that perhaps the word halloumi is a good one to have :-). Well, regardless of which post is more popular of not, thank you all for visiting!

Fregola with zucchini and halloumi


2 zucchini
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
1 block of halloumi cheese
1 cup fregola pasta
500 vegetable stock
chopped parsley
lemon to decorate

Wash the zucchini and cut into thick strips. Peel the garlic and cut into two pieces. Heat the olive oil and the add the garlic, zucchini and the block of halloumi. Sauté stirring constantly and turning the halloumi often. When the houllumi start to become golden remove from the pan and set aside. Add the fregola and stir with the zucchini until toasted. Add a little vegetable stock, lower the heat and cover. Stir from time to time, adding more stock when necessary, until cooked (about 20 minutes). Cut the halloumi into slices and place back over the fregola, then add chopped parsley and lemon slices. Serve hot. If you don't have fregola use Israeli cous cous or risoni pasta.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mountain pawpaw with lemon and sugar, and a Slow Food visit to the Grey Lynn Community Gardens

Yesterday around 20 members and friends of Slow Food Waitakere visited the Grey Lynn Community Gardens, an inspiring place. Our hosts were gardeners Fionna Hill and Lynne Walker and I would like to thank them for welcoming us. If you like to see more photos of the gardens and the Slow Food tour please click here.

The gardens have wonderful produce, and I picked this sweet smelling mountain pawpaw. To tell the truth the smell (very tropical) was better than the taste: it was really watery, probably because it rained so much recently. But when I have "watery" fruit I know that I can just add a few drops of lemon juice and a tiny bit of sugar, and then wait for a few hours. It works like magic! I want a pawpaw tree in my garden now! I kept some seeds, I hope that they will sprout!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Learn to build a Pizza Oven

My friends Dan and Kazuyo are organizing this very interesting class, so I am passing the information on if you live in the Auckland area and are interested.

Pizza Oven Building Class on Dec. 1st and 2nd at PineValley B&B

Grant Steven, known for his hand built clay pizza ovens is coming for two days
to teach how to replicate his large example that will be built in the outdoor 
kitchen at 48 Young Access, Silverdale (Dairy Flat on google map).  Please bring gumboots, your camera,
and some energy to get this hands on experience that will save you thousands
of dollars when you take the knowledge to your garden.

Where: PineValley B&B
                        48 Young Access, Dairy Flat, 0992
                        phone : 09-442-5701, or 027-9191808

When : 1st and 2nd of December (Sat and Sun) 
                        from 10 am to 4 pm.

Cost : $40/ day or $70/ both days (better to come both days to get the complete information)

Please bring gum boots and own lunch. We will serve snacks and drinks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking Down Part 2 is on: the end of Twilight

So this is the end! I won't go to see the movie, I'll probably wait to be on a plane, I seem to watch most of my movies on a plane, and certainly I saw the entire series flying! Also, I admit that I read the books and liked the story, and a quick peep of the latest trailer didn't seem faithful to the book.. too much action!
Still, to celebrate the end here is a re-post of all my Twilight cupcakes and a full Twilight dinner (Vegan!) perfect for those who have decided to do the Twilight Marathon! Warning, lot of scrolling down to get to the end of this post(s)... Enjoy!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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 ©

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 ©

Twilight Cupcakes: Jacob

The werewolf cupcake, baked in a white heart cupcake cup, 
and topped with royal icing covered with black sesame seeds
plus a single red heart sprinkle. I never thought that sesame seeds could 
taste so good with royal icing! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Maybe my favourite book of the series?? Of course the cupcakes had to be three: Bella, Edward and Jacob. No frosting but icing sugar to represent the snow.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

The Twilight Saga continues with New Moon
and a cupcake to eat while
walking the streets of Volterra at night,
or listening to werewolves howling.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

I am having a Twilight cupcake week, starting today.
These 'bite size' mini cupcakes are called
Edward and Bella (I suppose that you can guess 
which one is which). And in case you are wondering, 
the black seeds are black sesame seeds.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Twilight Starter

Plum Tomatoes with Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

 Red tomato and Modena's black gold: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (ABTM), possibly one of the most sensual ingredients ever!

Fresh plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste (I used Maldon)
A few drops of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Assemble as shown in the photo.

New Moon 'Rice'

Tomato and Red Chili Sushi Rolls

I had nori, and it looks black and shiny. And Sushi rolls are round like the moon, but I needed a red moon! Actually, the red rice in the photo is not very clear, these looked much redder to the naked eye. Never mind, they tasted great, I even surprised myself, as I never though of combining tomato and chili with nori seaweed!

Short grain rice
Fresh tomatoes
red chili
Olive oil
Nori seaweed

I didn't measure the rice, I used what I had left. I washed it and cooked it by absorption. In the meantime I fried some fresh chopped tomatoes with garlic and 1 red chili using a little olive oil. Then I passed everything through a sieve to remove the skins and seeds. I added salt and I stirred the spicy sauce into the rice. I then rolled the rice just like for sushi rolls.

Eclipse Pizza

Red Pizza with Black Seeds

Pizza is a must when teenagers are involved (and it was the first food our heroes, Bella and Edward, shared). I scoured the pantry for black seeds, I finished the poppy seeds, but I had some black sesame seeds. I added the cumin seeds mostly for flavour. I also used up the remaining of a jar of roasted red capsicum antipasto. I finished all my fresh tomatoes with the first two dishes, so I used canned tomatoes instead.

Pizza dough, recipe here
Tomato Sauce, recipe here (but omit the basil)
Olive oil
Black sesame seeds
Cumin seeds
Roasted red capsicums

Follow the given links to make the pizza dough and the tomato sauce. I have to say that by this stage the most difficult thing for me was not to add anything green to my food! Roll the dough to fill an oven tray lined with baking paper. Better to make a pizza slab that can be cut into small pieces (good if you have a Twilight inspired party). Top with the tomato sauce, then add salt and olive oil, the seeds and the capsicums. Bake at highest setting in your oven until the borders are golden and it smells delicious!

Breaking Dawn Dessert

Black Sesame Seed Pudding with Rose Syrup and Red Rose Petals

I unashamedly admit that I am very happy with the dessert. In the pantry I found somesurigoma, crushed black sesame seeds, and I remember that in Japan I enjoyed many sesame seeds desserts. And in the garden I had some beautiful red roses, not sprayed and therefore edible!

Breaking Dawn is all about love.....

50 g crushed black sesame seeds (available in Asian shops)
100 ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 (one third) tsp agar agar (available in Asian shops)

For the Syrup
100 ml water
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rose water essence

Finish with red rose petals

Place the first 4 ingredients in a small pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring well, and then pour into a small container. Set at room temperature, and then refrigerate. To make the syrup boil the water with the sugar until it halves in size, add the rose water and set aside. Before serving tilt the pudding from the container (this dose makes about 4 servings) and cut. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter here. Place on a plate decorated with rose petals. Drizzle with the syrup. Eat everything , the rose petals are delicious!!!!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bergamot Cupcakes, and eclipse

The other day I bought a jar of candied Greek Bergamot peels in syrup, they looked really attractive and bergamot oranges are not something that seem to be well known in New Zealand (even if many here drink Earl Grey tea!). I confess of having eaten some just by themselves (a bit of an indulgence really), but mostly they are perfect for topping cakes (and cupcakes). 

Bergamot Cupcakes


120 g butter
3 eggs
130 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200 g self-rising flour
60 ml milk

Bergamot orange peels in 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 half of the flour followed by half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and milk and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. Divide the mixture between the 12-cupcake cases.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown 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. Brush a little bergamot syrup on top of each cupcake and the top with one piece of bergamot peel (I had to cut my peels as they looked to big for the cupcakes). Simple and delicious!

Did you see the eclipse today?
Pity that it is cloudy, but definitely everything
looks a bit strange, and the light is so unusual.
Max is watching it as school with special glasses,
I wish I had them to now, but instead I just took
a photo which probably doesn't says much,
but looks very cool! Let me know if you have
some good pictures!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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