Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tofu and spring onion skewers

My friends Astuko and Hideko often send me this dried tofu which I find super versatile! I just soak it in water (or stock) and then use it in a variety of dishes. This time I just soaked it in water and then cut each blog into four pieces, and put them in a skewer (soak the skewers too!) with some spring onions. 

I sautéed the skewers on both sides with a little rice bran oil to which I added a few drops of sesame oil, then I brushed the tofu and spring onions with a sauce made by simmering a teaspoon of honey (use sugar or molasses if you are vegan) with two tbsp of water, two of soy sauce (gluten free please use tamari) and a pinch of freshly grated ginger. I turned the skewers over one more time and then I served them, hot and yummy! The scrapings from the pan were delicious on plain rice too!

And this is a picture of Karekare from a walk last Sunday, the Hau Hau track going up, and the Coman on the way down. Splendid! Click here if you like to see more photos of the views from these tracks.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Potatoes and carrots with sage, rosemary and garlic, and do you know this flower?

Digging up the garden I pulled some ugly carrots and a few potatoes (white and yellow). I cleaned them and boiled them until cooked but firm, then I remove the skins (from the carrots too!) and sautéd them with olive oil, garlic, sage, rosemary and a pinch of salt. Really simple but super tasty!!

I also found this flowers… really pretty but I have no idea what they are! I didn't plant them and I thought that they were a weed, do you know them?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pumpernickel sandwiches with herb cream cheese and edible flowers

I first created these cute sandwiches about 20 years ago in Japan, the lack of brown bread there meant that every time we had a party I was really keen to offer something that was rare - yet not expensive (I was able to buy pumpernickel, cream cheese and edible flowers in an international deli) so that I could make plenty and feed large crowds.

Yesterday I held a fundraiser tea party with Slow Food Waitakere for Oxfam, and decided to make my flower sandwiches again, also as a topic of conversation (are they sweet or savory? Can you eat the flowers? What kind of bread is this?). All you need is pumpernickel (this comes from Germany and it is already sliced), cream cheese (like Philadelphia), fresh herbs (I used chives and basil), a pinch of salt, and lots of edible flowers, micro greens or seed sprouts. 
Chop the herbs and mix with the cream cheese (add a little milk to make it spreadable) and a pinch of salt. Spread the herb cheers over three layers of pumpernickel (including the to payer) and stack. Cut into the desired size. Top with edible flowers and leaves.

This was part of the first station of our tea party: the herbal tea corner, with different hot and cold herbal teas, rose and orange biscuits, strawberry meringues and scones with cream and jam.

But we also had an English High Tea table, with leaf Indian tea, cupcakes, club sandwiches, asparagus rolls, and more scones, meringues and chocolates.

Then in the kitchen there was more or an Italian fare with bread and focaccia, Italian biscuits, orange cake and chocolate cake… and coffee!

The last room was for the Japanese tea party, I forgot to take a photo during the preparations, fortunately Regina got this one, with guests! Here we had mango agar agar, brown rice crackers, Japanese sweets with bean paste, nashi and persimmons, and green tea.

 Over thirty people attended and it was a great afternoon, thank you to all the ladies at Slow Food for cooking and helping: Penny, Sue, Regina and Fi. Thank you also to Pukeko Baker and Miller's Coffee, and to all who attended and donated to Oxfam. If you couldn't make it you can always make a donation to Oxfam here.

Photos (except the last one) and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tip for peeling ginger

This I discovered by chance, and I am sharing because I love grated ginger but I never knew how to peel it, except with a knife. But this only works with frozen ginger. I always have frozen ginger, when I buy some I use a bit and then I put the rest in the freezer and break out what I need from time to time (broken roots in the fridge dry up, and in my kitchen sprout, so the freezer is my only option). Today I took out a piece and I made an incision with a knife to break it. But because it was so hard and frozen I threw it in a bowl of water where I was soaking some mushrooms and dried tofu. After five minutes I took it out and the peel just started came off!
I could not believe how easy it was, this is going to be my frozen ginger peeling method from now on (just water, I don't think that the mushrooms and tofu had anything to do with it!)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bruschetta Caprese

I feel like one of those fancy New York bloggers publishing this, as it isn't really a recipe but just a snack, or a quick summer lunch, and mostly it isn't something new and original, probably all the Italian bloggers are giggling too: hahaha Caprese salad, how original!

But I just got a new iPhone and I couldn't wait to try the camera out, after all I seem to use my phone as much as a camera as for making calls! For the 'recipe': well, just toast some nice crusty bread, rub with garlic if you like (not really necessary for a Caprese though!) top with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and then sprinkle with salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. The basil and the black and yellow tomatoes are from my garden, the red ones aren't, no more tomatoes now, but they are still cheap in the shops, and relatively tasty, so I hope to enjoy this kind of salad (or bruschetta) for a few more weeks yet!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tea Party at my place to raise money for Oxfam

Slow Food Waitakere High Tea to raise money for Oxfam
A Fair Trade Fortnight Celebration
 Sunday May 18th at 2pm
 The cost is a Koha for Oxfam

An exclusive afternoon tea experience with four delicious stations
Click here  to make a donation to Oxfam
Oxfam's Morning Tea (formerly Oxfam's Biggest Coffee Break) is enjoyed each May during Fair Trade Fortnight when people throughout the country get together to taste the Fairtrade difference and fundraise for Oxfam's work towards a fairer, safer, more sustainable world.
How does money raised at our Morning Tea help?
We want to raise $320 which is enough to help cover the cost of one year’s training in life-changing farming methods that can dramatically increase the amount of rice people are able to grow. 
Thinking of joining us?

Alessandra and Peter's 
783 West Coast Rd
Oratia, Auckland 
(please park on the road and walk down)
rsvp alessandra@clear.net.nz by 14 May.

About the Koha
We want to let our guests decide what feels right for them to contribute to Oxfam at our High Tea.
We know that contributions will honour the great work being done by Oxfam and the effort put in by Alessandra and the Slow Food Waitakere team in hosting this event.
Our goal is to raise at least $320.

Can't make it? 
You can still help just click here to make a donation to Oxfam.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

43 NZ AUTHORS 21 May - 29 June

Arantxa and I will feature among the 43 NZ authors photographed for this exhibition in Christchurch (Arantxa is the youngest author). For more info go to http://majamoritz.photoshelter.com/#!/p/photo-art

Monday, May 5, 2014

Feijoa jam... is like guava paste!

I made feijoa jam using my usual ratio of 60% sugar (i.e. 60g sugar for every 100g fruit - in this case you need to scoop the pulp our first, as the jam is made only with the pulps, not the skins).
Most Kiwis seem to use the same amount of sugar as the weight of the fruit (100g to 100g) which I find too much personally, but if this is also your style of jam and you are planning a feijoa jam … think again!!
Even with the 60% ratio my jam was so thick that I regretted putting it into jars! It would it been better in a mould, like quince paste.

In fact it really reminds me of the guava paste that you can buy in South America (and in some shops here too, in cans). It smells tropical and taste fantastic, sweet and thick and just perfect with a strong cheese. So next time I'll make feijoa 'paste', not jam, and I'll be sure not to put it into a jar!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sweet NZ imageThis recipe is for Sweet New Zealand #34, the blogging event open to all Kiwi bloggers (living in NZ or overseas) and expats blogging from NZ. May's host is Sue from Couscous and Consciousness. I have entered another recipe already for Sweet NZ this month, but since feijoas are in season now I didn't want to wait another month. Visit Sue's blog and click here to share you sweet creations with her. Also let me know if you are keen to be a host in 2014, and book a month!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Hazelnut and vanilla verrines with quince jelly, figs and cape gooseberry… or with alpine strawberries

Crema di nocciola e vaniglia con gelatina di cotogne, fichi e alchechengi

A few days ago I was in Christchurch where I bought some hazelnut flour (Hazelz). I love hazelnuts!
For 4 verrines I used:

2 eggs
3 tbps sugar
1 tbsp (level) cornflour
400 ml full cream milk
1 drop real vanilla essence
1 tbsp (heap) hazelnut flour

for the topping
4-8 tbsp quince jelly (see below)
figs and cape gooseberries to decorate

In a pot mix the eggs with sugar and cornflour and add the milk little by little. Simmer stirring constantly until a custard form, then add the vanilla essence. Pour 200 ml of this custard into a measuring jug (I used the same one I used for the milk) and set aside, then put the hazelnut flour and Frangelico into the remaining custard and stir well. Fill four verrines or glasses with the hazelnut cream (this will be quite thick) and then pour the (thinner) vanilla custard on top. Let it cool down then add the quince jelly. I made the quince jelly by cooking the quinces and then straining the juice overnight in a jelly bag (actually, I use a clean pillowcase that I keep just for jellies) hung over a bowl. Don't squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. Usually for thick jellies I measure the liquid, add the same amount of sugar and bring back to the boil, but here I only used half the quantity of sugar and I got a soft, almost 'liquid' jelly, good to pour over desserts like this. A tbsp or two per glass will give you a nice covering. Refrigerate. Before serving decorate with slices of figs and cape gooseberries.

For this dessert instead I didn't use quince jelly but I just added some alpine strawberries and some Fresh As raspberry powder. For decorations I used some (edible) pansies. While the first verrines were very 'Autumn', this one was more like a 'fruits of the forest', it reminded me of foraging in the mountains in Italy for alpine strawberries, raspberries and hazelnuts. It works really well. 
But who ate what? Max got this one, and we had the other three, all delicious!

I also like to add some photos of the Transitional Christchurch Cathedral of Christchurch, better known as the Cardboard Cathedral. If you live in New Zealand you will know that the Christchurch Cathedral was significantly damaged in the 2011 earthquake. I haven't been to Chch since last August and so much is being rebuilt now (or demolished, to be rebuilt), a long job! 

 I really wanted to visit the Cardboard Cathedral, I heard so much about it and I wasn't disappointed! Usually I am not a fan of modern churches, but this is truly beautiful, and special. It was designed, for free, but Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who works in many 'disaster' areas using materials like paper, cardboard and wood.

Why is it call Cardboard Cathedral? Yes, those 86 'tubes' which make the A-frame are cardboard (specially treated, of course). Have a look at this 2 min video to see how it was built. Well done Christchurch, and ありがとう Ban-san.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sweet NZ image
This recipe is for 
Sweet New Zealand #34, the blogging event open to all Kiwi bloggers (living in NZ or overseas) and expats blogging from NZ. May's host is Sue from Couscous and Consciousness. Sue lived in Christchurch and her house was destroyed by the earthquake, so I hope that she will find the images of the Cardboard Cathedral uplifting. Visit her blog and click here to share you sweet creations with her. Also let me know if you are keen to be a host in 2014, and book a month!


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