Sunday, March 31, 2013

First photos from Chile: Valparaíso

We are here, fantastic city, so colourful and artistic, full of history and interesting sights.
This is the view from our hotel's terrace, 

and this is from our bedroom's window.

We spent a day just touring the streets, will post more photos in the next few days.

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!

To all my readers and blogger friends, have a great holiday! I am going to South America, I will resume posting soon, for the time being... Ciao!!!

From Party Food for Girls, eggs colored with natural vegetable dyes,
recipe by Alessandra Zecchini (in the April Dante Newsletter), photo by
Shaun Cato-Symonds

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raw Food Pastry Class with Slow Food Waitakere

Unfortunately I won't be in New Zealand for this class, yes, I am off traveling again, will keep you posted... see if you can guess where I am going! But I really need to share this because I had other classes and dinners with Eri and she is really talented. 

Just look at this Vegan cake!

And what about this one? Eri made this Chocolate Vegan Cake a while ago in a Vegan Pastry Class for Slow Food Waitakere, you can click here to see photos.

And I love the look of this one!!

Eri sells Vegan cakes ( and for this class she will make RAW Vegan cakes! So if you are in Auckland and interested in Raw, or Vegan, or even Gluten Free cuisine, this class, organized through Slow Food Waitakere, may be for you!

Sunday April 7th 1pm to 4pm 
Raw Food Pastry Chef Eri is 

teaching an amazing raw 

cheesecake  (with no dairy, of

course) along with raw truffle, green 

smoothy, and how to make a 

whipped cream using coconut

Raw Food Pastry Chef Eri

There will be scones and tea served 

for the tasting party.

She is going to bring a whole array of  
her vegan cakes so that we can all 

taste them.

Take a look at Eri's cakes

What you need to know about the Raw Food Pastry Class

Date: Sunday April 7th 

Time: 1pm to 4pm 

Cost: $50 per person ($45 Slow Food members)

Location:  Pine Valley, 48 Young Access, RD2, Silverdale (Dairy Flat), 0992

RSVP Anutosh : (8349909) by Thursday April 4th

Monday, March 25, 2013

Italian black rice

Well, I couldn't resist and I bought it, I never seen it before! The first thing that I tried is a classic risotto and the verdict is that this is not rice for risotto :-). Anyway, here it goes: sauté the onion in butter, add the rice, add a glass of white wine, and then slowly add the veggie stock ladle by ladle and stir until the risotto is cooked. The taste was nutty and interesting, and the colour quite amazing, but the texture was wrong. I knew it when I saw the rice, it didn't look like the right grain, but I had to try! The rest of the packet will go... not quite sure, maybe I will mix it with some long grain white rice and steam it, to see what happens. It may taste good with coconut. What do you think? Did you try this rice?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More goods from the garden


New potatoes... there are always new potatoes in the garden because I thrown in potato peels all the time!

Wonder of Venice Bean 

Mizuna, Japanese salad, very easy to grow

Some crops are flops, but I still eat them

Lots of carrots, but so ugly... must sieve that soil a bit better!

This year the zucchini are terrible, so small! Maybe it was the lack of water?

This year my peach tree made only 2 peaches!!! 

And for flowers, I have just discovered that this plant is called brugmansia, not datura. Datura have erected flowers, while these are pendulous. I have to keep this plant under strict control so that it doesn't spread in the bush, it is incredibly strong, even if I cut it back to the base so many times! When my daughter wad little she used to look inside in search of fairies. She also knew not to  touch the plant as it is poisonous, and that only fairies could get inside the flowers. Magic :-) 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wonder of Venice beans with parsley and garlic

One of my best crop this year is Bean Wonder of Venice Runner from King Seeds, I have a few plants growing so high that they are reaching the nearby trees, so much that the bamboo support poles are bending (great stuff bamboo, it bends!!)

Wonder of Venice is yellow and delicious, and not stringy. 

I don't like to boil beans, I rather stew them slowly. For this recipe I just sizzled some garlic with olive oil, then I added the beans (washed and topped and tailed) and then cooked them on low with the lid on, adding just a tiny bit of water and a pinch of salt. They take about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime I chopped some garlic, parsley and salt, and then added this mixture to the beans once they were cooked. So simple, and the taste is so good!

Another good crop this year is tomato, I pick cherry tomatoes and plum tomatoes daily now, and the Cape gooseberries are also starting to come through: these are great for the children's lunch boxes. A lot of gardeners in NZ had a good tomato crop this year, and I wished that I have planted more now, usually I don't get so many!

Final note: I am enjoying my flowers from the garden too, I think that they missed the rain this year, but the strongest still managed to prosper even if I couldn't water them (we have a draught here and I use only a little water for the vegetables, I would feel too guilty overwatering my garden when some farmers have so little water). Did you garden prosper this year, or did it suffer for luck of rain?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kimono Tango

Kimono Tango

When I was in Japan in January I met my old friend Chizuko, and she presented me with these beautiful cushions (she calls them pillows), plus some table runners. They are all made by hand using kimono and obi (Kimono belts) materials, and you can get them from her cottage industry shop Komono Tango

I think that it is a fantastic idea to recycle kimono fabric: the materials are beautiful: silk and often with fine gold and silver threads, traditional designs, and handwoven by craftspeople. I had some old kimono and obi cuttings myself that I had made into cushions a few years ago and they still look like new! I added Chizuko's ones and now they are all on my bed. 

If you like Japanese design and craft do have a look at Kimono Tango's website in English: they make cushions to order and send them all over the world. Kimono Tango is made up by a group of Japanese mothers and grandmothers who are trying to make ends meet in the current economic crisis, which was worsened by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

They make everything themselves, often using their heirloom kimonos and obi. You can only make about 6 or 7 cushions from one obi, and Kimono Tango uses fabrics exclusively from 1955 to 1965 circa, to make sure that they are real silk, and handcrafted. I can really appreciate this, some of you may know that I have a passion for Japan, but I also have a passion for textiles, especially Japanese textiles, since my major at university was Japanese art and textiles of the Edo Period (1603-1868).

Kimono Tango's and some of my own cushions
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini  ©

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ethiopian food: Slow Food dinner at Cafe Abyssinia

Last night I went whit the Slow Food Waitakere group to Cafe Abyssinia for dinner. What a great evening, I even got a chance to wear my Abyssinian skirt! Do you like Ethiopian food? For more photos click here.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini  ©

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two quick ideas: fruit pearls, and baked halloumi rolls

Quick post today, and two food ideas (ideas rather than recipes...)

I make fruit salad with watermelon and blueberries quite often, I really like the colours together, and there is no need for sugar. This time I also had some Cape Gooseberries and some Alpine strawberries in the garden, so I added them in. Very effective, and a sugar free healthy dessert!

The second idea: (and I just wished that I had this idea before!) 
We eat quite a bit of halloumi at home, easy to prepare and serve on a bed of sautéed vegetables or couscous, or with a salad. But I thought that there must be another way instead of always grilling it or pan frying it! So I cut it into slices and rolled it in filo pastry, a bit like for a Chinese spring roll. I brushed the pastry with water (this way it doesn't brown too quickly), and baked it! Some leaked a bit, but remained compact (unlike Edam that runs everywhere and burn!), and it was so delicious and easy to do that it is going to become a staple at home (also because it is nice cold too, and the kids had it in their lunch boxes!).

I hope these ideas are useful :-). Ah, and yesterday I think that I got my Pageviews' record too: 4,028 for the day! Must comment on newspapers more often :-).

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday night vegetarian.... extra good with fish? I don't think so!

This is the first thing that I read when I opened Bite, the food insert NZ Herald this morning:

In the paper this morning...

I read it again. Can this be possible? The recipe itself is Pan-fried polenta, ripe tomatoes and Mexican salsa, and it consists of instant polenta, fried and placed on a bed of cut tomatoes, and served with some store-bought Mexican Salsa Verde (yes, store-bought, this is what the recipe says, it even offers a brand name but I will not repeat it). The first thing that I though when reading this recipe (a part the fact that it doesn't make sense, culinary I mean) was that perhaps it was a bit low on protein (and taste) and thus a sub-editor (or the editor, or the writer, or a supermarket nutritionist, or a passing fishmonger...) decided that it needed to be paired not with beans (the obvious choice for polenta) but with freshly cooked fish fillets. Or maybe they thought that this was a side dish and they didn't know that it was going into the "Monday night vegetarian" section? After all in the digital version it doesn't mention the word vegetarian (and it comes with a supermarket sponsored video on how to fillet a fish!). Or maybe the word vegetarian was just a (big) typo?

Screen shot of the recipe from
It isn't the first time that the same magazine writes stupid (yes stupid) things in regards to vegetarian food. It all comes down to the fact that, regardless of how many improvements there have been towards accepting vegetarians, we are still dished up recipes like the above one. It is time that publications either employ vegetarians to write their vegetarian recipes, or the existing food writers/editors/sub/nutritionists/chefs etc. learn a bit more about the world. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The best meringues ever (yes ever!) and the Italian Quiz Night at the Dante Auckland

Passion Fruit Meringues

I like making meringues more than I like eating them. I mean, they are nice and all, but I am not crazy about them. Or at least, I wasn't until the other day, when I had 3 egg whites in the fridge that needed to be used and I decided to make meringues with them. I used caster sugar, and didn't measure (I tend to go by ear, it mostly works...) and decided to try to add a passion fruit too, pulp and seeds. I whisked everything with the kitchen aid, and adjusted with more sugar to compensate for the extra moisture that went into the mixture. Well, I have to say that I was impressed: the best tasting meringues ever for me, I don't know if I can ever have normal meringues again now, these were just so 'tropical' and fragrant!

As a final note: last night we had our Italian Dante Quiz, it was so much fun, and also great to see how much Kiwis know about Italy! If you like click here to see some photos. And of course, thank you to all the participants, and congratulations to the winning teams: I Diavoli Vecchi (first), I Padrini (second) and I Gattini (third)!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini  ©

Friday, March 15, 2013

Making fresh pasta in the garden, and over 76,000 page views

According to Blogger my page views have increase dramatically in the last three months, in February they were almost 60,000 (and it is a short month) and looking at them again today they counted over 76,000 in the last month. 

I have a couple of visitors' counters too in place, and they did show a considerable increase (although never agreeing, and often showing different countries online!), plus one that emails me weekly reports (so I do try to compare). But as these are free gadgets (I don't want to pay for a blog that is just a hobby and not work), it is up to me to keep truck of the numbers and compare, and mostly ... I forget, plus I get confused by the completely different figures! I am sure that there is not a perfectly secure statistic counter, after all the internet is far from perfect, there is even one website that collects several NZ food blog statistics and attributes this blog with half the number of recipes that it has, and 1/3 of visitors numbers. How can I trust their statistics when they cannot even count how many recipes I have published? 

Anyway, If you use a statistic gadget (free) that gives you easy-to-understand visitors' statistic (non just visitors' numbers), possibly with a graph, please let me know :-). I love statistic :-).

And now the fresh pasta! Yes it is still summer here (incredible!) and I decided to take my spianatoia (the large Italian wooden board that we use to make pasta) outside. I have to remember to do this more often! I think that preparing food outdoors is sort of special, and it makes you feel less tired. This time my son Max took the photos. The cute monocycle man cutter was a present from my kids, they like to give me funny kitchen gadgets! It is supposed to be a pizza cutter really, but it isn't very good for pizza really, so I use it to cut pasta (perfect for this!).

So, a part from BBQs, do you ever prepare food outdoors?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini and Max Zecchini Dowling©

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pumpkin with coconut cream and basil, first a side dish and then a main

I had half a pumpkin to use, but just a little bit of Thai herbs mix (ginger, lemon grass, chili, garlic and coriander), certainly not enough to give my pumpkin a spicy flavor! Still, I felt like coconut, so I cut the pumpkin and two celery stalks with leaves and put them in my pot, then I added one can of coconut cream plus one can of water (to rinse the cream out), the remaining Thai herbs mix (about half tsp) and one organic veggie stock cube. I cook the lot until the pumpkin was soft, then I adjusted it for salt and added plenty of fresh basil leaves. I wanted to add some of my Vietnamese mint but it has all dried up (no rain in Auckland either) but the basil was strong flavored and I was surprised how nice this tasted in the end! I though of using this as a side dish (like in the photo) but I run out of time to make the main and since this dish had so much sauce I just added some cubed firm tofu to it when I warmed it up for dinner. I served with Thai rice. Very nice way of eating pumpkin in summer!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Instant Breakfast

This is for the boy, as he prefers to "drink" his cereals in the morning (takes less time!)


Half glass pouring yogurt (I use boys'nberry
yes, a different spelling from boysenberry, good for boys!)
Half glass milk
1 banana (I use All Good Bananas)
1 tbsp blueberries


Blend and drink. It makes one glass and half of thick and filling smoothie!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 11, 2013

Panna Cotta with Rangpur agar agar topping

Yesterday I posted about this citrus fruit, which I believe to be a Rangpur "lime" (technically not a lime!). And as promised, here is the recipe:

Panna Cotta with Rangpur agar agar topping

500 ml cream (if you are Vegan use Coconut cream, I am sure that it would go very well with this citrus topping!)
2 tbsp sugar
1 level tsp agar agar
for the topping
4 Rangpur limes
2 tbsp sugar
Half level tsp agar agar

Bring the cream to the boil with the sugar and agar agar, simmer until the sugar and agar agar  have dissolved (about one minute) stirring constantly, then pour into some glasses (I used different glasses, Martini and grappa mainly, since I hardly use them to drink with I thought it would be nice to show them off with a dessert!). Let the panna cotta cool down completely, and set. In the meantime separate the Rangpur segments into a bowl and remove all pips. Add 2 tbsp of sugar and let them rest at room temperature (in the sun if possible) and covered for an hour or two to dissolve the sugar and make some juice. Then put the segments and juice in a measuring jag and add water to take the Rangpur mixture  up to 300ml. Add half level tsp of agar agar and bring to the boil. Pour over the panna cotta and let it set at room temperature before refrigerating until serving time.

PS, don't forget to keep the peels and click here for a fragrant citrus bath idea!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rangpur, not Tahitian limes

Sue brought me some organic citrus fruit from a friend's garden in Coromandel, she told that they were Tahitian limes. I heard this before in NZ, I think that this is the common name here, but they don't look like limes, more like yellow mandarins, and they taste a bit like grapefruit. So I did a quick search and found that they probably are Rangpur, a cross between a mandarin and a lemon.

What to do with them? Well, I read that they are great for gin and tonic (maybe this is why they call them limes), but usually I only drink gin and tonic when I go to other people's houses (a very common pre-dinner drink in NZ), and I wanted to cook with them. If I find the time I will post a recipe tomorrow, for now I can just tell you that I had a good use for the peels: I put them in a gauze and tied it up to make a gigantic 'tea bag' to put in my hot bath. The fragrance is divine, a bit like a bath with the Japanese yuzu fruit, very citrusy and full of 'zest'.

Please let me know if you know this fruit, and what you do with it.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Apple slice cake

This is an incredibly simple and quick recipe that makes an amazing apple cake! 


Rind from 1 lemon, plus the lemon juice
5 Oratia Beauty apples
150 g butter
200 g sugar
4 eggs
250 g self raising flour
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Peel, core and slice the apples into rings, spray with lemon juice.
Melt the butter and mix with the sugar. 
Add the eggs, flour and lemon rind, then fold in the apple slices. 
Line the bottom of a 20cm round baking tin with baking paper and grease the sides with butter. 
Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake at 180°C for approximately 45 minutes. 
Wait 5 minutes then reverse on a serving plate. 
Dust with icing sugar. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This recipe is for Sweet New Zealand, the monthly blogging event (and we are now at Sweet New Zealand #20!!) for Kiwis and bloggers living in NZ, this month of March hosted by Lesley at eat, etc.

I also would like to remind all Sweet New Zealanders that 
April 2013 host is Monica from Delissimon
May 2013 host is Bridget from After Taste

Please leave me a message if you like to book for June or a another month.


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