Sunday, February 28, 2016

Noodles with banana blossom and tofu

I have three banana plants with flowers this year, so I know that I will be eating banana flowers at least three times! Such a satisfaction! How to prepare a banana blossom for eating? First you need to remove the pink/mauve petals (and small banana florets under each petal) from the blossom until you get to the pale centre. Keep the petals though, they are good as containers or decorations. You can find the step by step photos on how to peel and cut a banana blossom here. Then cut the centre and mix immediately with lemon juice. Put into a bowl and add more lemon juice and a couple of tbsp of Japanese soy sauce. Put another bowl on top (inside the first one to press down the content) and fill the second bowl with something heavy (a rock, for example). Keep the cut blossom pressed in this marinade overnight, in the fridge. This is necessary or the banana blossom will taste too astringent.
The day after, cook the noodles and drain. Rinse under cold water, and place into a bowl. Cut the tofu into squares and fry in a mixture of sesame oil and vegetable oil until golden, then add a tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, sizzle quickly and toss with the noodles. Squeeze the banana blossom from excess liquid and add to the noodles. Mix well and serve at room temperature, decorated with some Thai mint or coriander. This noodle salad was delicious and I will make it again, in fact so far this has been my favourite recipe with banana blossoms.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vegan mayonnaise, 4 ingredients and 2 minutes

Well, after making pavlova, meringues and pasta with aquafaba (brine from a can of chickpeas) I am convinced that it really works like eggs, so why not try mayonnaise too? This is my own recipe, it tastes great and it is easy to make!

2 tbsp aquafaba (brine from a can of chickpeas)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch salt
about half a cup vegetable oil

Place the first three ingredients in a tall thin container or glass and start blending with an immersion blender, add the oil slowly and see your mayonnaise form! It takes two minutes for half a cup of fresh lemon mayo!

For variation: add a little mustard or wasabi or capers, or garlic (my favourite!) or anything. Store in the fridge.

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 22, 2016

“Use Your Melon” for NZ WATERMELON MONTH: Watermelon juice with lemongrass and mint

It is lovely and hot in New Zealand now, the perfect time for watermelon and for fresh juices, and this one is so refreshing! 


Fresh lemon grass
Fresh mint

Blend the watermelon flesh with ice and a a little bit of water  (just to get the blender moving) and then pass the juice through a sieve (not too fine, just enough to keep the seed pieces out). Pour into a jag and then stir with a stick of lemongrass (best if you can leave the juice in the fridge with the lemongrass for at least 30 minutes). The mint is from my garden and it is quite strong, so I added it only at the end, for decoration and a hint of fragrance. 
Serve with more ice if you like.

I am sure that there will be readers that will think of vodka and other boozes, so a little tip is that this drink is is also good mixed with Prosecco!

Kiwi bloggers, if you have some have some watermelon recipes and you would like to take part in NZ Watermelon Month (there are prizes!) all you have to do is to post them with an accompanying photo on your blog. You can email the link to or simply tag LeaderBrand if you choose to post your blog link on social media.
#NZWatermelonMonth #LeaderBrand

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 15, 2016

Frutta sotto spirito

The easiest way to preserve fruit, if you like alcoholic fruit, that is! The Cape gooseberries are with whisky, and the cherries and plums with Cognac (I added a bit of sugar to the plums because they were a little sour). I will try them soon!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, February 12, 2016

La canzone Bocca Di Rosa rivisitata al femminile

Presto è San Valentino, festa romantica (e poi mi piace la cioccolata!) ma anche piena di stereotipi. Allora ragazze e donne, proviamo a mettere un po' le cose in prospettiva, immaginiamo per esempio che Bocca di Rosa (quella della canzone di De Andrè, bellissima fra l'altro) fosse stato un bel ragazzo.

Bocca di Rosa per le donne

Liriche adattate al femminile dalla canzone Bocca Di Rosa
di Fabrizio De Andrè

Lo chiamavano bocca di rosa
metteva l'amore, metteva l'amore,
lo chiamavano bocca di rosa
metteva l'amore sopra ogni cosa.

Appena scese alla stazione
nel paesino di Sant'Ilario
tutte si accorsero con uno sguardo
che non si trattava di un missionario.

C'è chi l'amore lo fa per noia
chi se lo sceglie per professione
bocca di rosa né l'uno né l'altro
lui lo faceva per passione.

Ma la passione spesso conduce
a soddisfare le proprie voglie
senza indagare se la concupita
ha il cuore libero oppure è moglie.

E fu così che da un giorno all'altro
bocca di rosa si tirò addosso
l'ira funesta dei bastardini
a cui aveva sottratto l'osso.

Ma i compari di un paesino
non brillano certo in iniziativa
le contromisure fino a quel punto
si limitavano all'invettiva.

Si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
sentendosi come Gesù nel tempio,
si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
se non può più dare cattivo esempio.

Così un vecchio mai avuta moglie
senza mai figli, senza più voglie,
si prese la briga e di certo il gusto
di dare a tutti il consiglio giusto.

E rivolgendosi ai cornuti
li apostrofò con discorsi arguti:
"il furto d'amore sarà punito-
disse- dall'ordine costituito".

E quelli andarono dal commissario
e dissero senza parafrasare:
"quello schifoso ha già troppe clienti
più di un consorzio alimentare".

E arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi con i pennacchi
e arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi e con le armi.

Spesso gli sbirri e i carabinieri
al proprio dovere vengono meno
ma non quando sono in alta uniforme
e lo accompagnarono al primo treno

Alla stazione c'erano tutte
Dalla perpetua alla maestra
alla stazione c'erano tutte
con gli occhi rossi e i fiori in testa

a salutare chi per un poco
senza pretese, senza pretese,
a salutare chi per un poco
portò l'amore nel paese.

C'era un cartello giallo
con una scritta nera
diceva "Addio bocca di rosa
con te se ne parte la primavera".

Ma una notizia un po' originale
non ha bisogno di alcun giornale
come una freccia dall'arco scocca
vola veloce di bocca in bocca.

E alla stazione successiva
molta più gente di quando partiva
chi mandò un bacio, chi gettò un fiore
chi si prenota per due ore.

Persino il parroco che non disprezza
fra un miserere e un'estrema unzione
il bene effimero della bellezza
lo vuole accanto in processione.

E con il Cristo in prima fila
e bocca di rosa poco lontano
si porta a spasso per il paese

l'amore sacro e l'amor profano.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Festival Italiano Auckland Youtube Video

Youtube video of the Festival Italiano 2015
Filming and editing by Duncan Eastwood 

playing 'Maria Mari' by Eduardo Di Capua

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vegetarians traveling in Melbourne

You won't starve in Melbourne, a cosmopolitan city which offers many types of cuisines, but you may end up spending quite a bit… food is not cheap here! If you are able to cater for yourself try to visit the Victoria Market and stock up with fresh produce and seasonal fruit: we found excellent (and cheap) mangos and figs, things that you don't often find in markets in New Zealand. While in the city centre we also oped for smaller cafes, a lot of them have specials like vegetarian wraps and bottled water or coffee for around $8. No need to mention any place in particular as there are many in the small side streets between Burke and Collins Streets, and the food is pretty much the same, nice and filling, and the coffee generally good. And if you need a real Vegan treat go to Supercharger!

The smoothies and desserts are excellent!

But my best Vegan experience was in a Vietnamese restaurant! There is a large Vietnamese community in the city and if you head out from the centre and go to Richmond St you will find a long line of restaurants, and a few Vegan too! The frappes here may not be everyone taste, but the fresh cane juice I had was great.

The menu is extensive and with pictures (but don't look at these too closely, they may differ quite a bit in presentation from the real thing), and full of tofu and fake meat and fish, vegan omelette and, in true Vietnamese style, lots of fresh greens and herbs. Portions are generous and prices quite low, we ate well and had a good night with our cousins sharing all sort of dishes.

Another popular cuisine in the city is Italian, so off we went to Lygon St (where there is also a vegetarian cafe, but we wanted pizza and gnocchi). Personally I found the place a bit too touristic, and after walking up and down the street with staff trying to convince to enter their establishments we settled in for place that looked more or less like all the others. Nothing special but not expensive either, cheerful and lively, like the whole street.

For dessert we went to the famous Pidapipo, the queue was long so we were hopeful, and the ice cream was ok (lots of vegan sorbets too), but not what I had hoped for: there was an aftertaste… this was not an artisan ice-cream, and was definitely make with powders… not as good as our Auckland's Giapo!

But one place you have to try in Lygon St is the big Italian cafe Brunetti (and they also have ice cream, a bakery and some savoury food). Our pastries were so filling that we didn't need lunch later!

And talking about Italians in Australia, and sweet things, if you like patisserie and colours you must check out Adriano Zumbo. Well, we were there for Australia Day so some of the cakes were very 'patriotic', but they were fun to photograph, and if you want to take some of Zumbo's delicacies over the ditch but are worried about customs (fresh food is not allowed into New Zealand), you can always go to the supermarket and get some Zumbo's Tim Tam biscuits. There are 4 flavours, we tried the coconut and they are very rich, like a mini cake!

I have more pictures of Melbourne (and food) here, we did eat plenty (but I have to say that there was hardly any vegetarian food at the Australian Open) and also managed to snack happily with good Australian beer and Tasmanian cheese. We didn't go to any really expensive restaurant this time, so sorry if these are missing from this post, but Melbourne is only 3 and a half hours away, and I am sure that we will be back!

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Alessandra's Vegan Homemade Fresh Pasta

Fresh pasta in Emilia Romagna (Italy) is traditionally made with flour and eggs, but since I am using aquafaba (the brine from a can of chickpeas) a lot these days, and it works very well as an egg replacement for many recipes, I thought that it could work for fresh pasta too!

And yes it works! The chickpea brine gives protein to the mixture and elasticity to the dough which is easy to roll exactly like an egg dough. Only the colour is lighter (not so yellow) but I don't see this as an issue, and you can always add a pinch of saffron to the aquafaba if you like your pasta more yellow. The taste is perfect and the pasta dries very well, and cooks well too. Plus the taste is great!

So, while I am from Emilia Romagna and will continue to make pasta the traditional way (eggs and flour), I can now also make fresh pasta for my vegan friends, and use this recipe in winter when chickens don't lay eggs.

Alessandra's Vegan Homemade Fresh Pasta

200 g high grade flour (plus more for dusting)
150 ml aquafaba

Serves 4

Mix the ingredient until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Divide the dough into small pieces (about 6-8) and pass through the rollers of a pasta machine, starting from the larger setting down to the thinner setting. Don't skip settings, every piece of dough will need to go through all the settings one by one, dust with flour if the sheet of pasta looks too sticky and you find it difficult to put it through the settings. After the last setting (or the second to last if you prefer your pasta thicker) cut the pasta to your chosen shape. I made tagliolini here. Dust with more flour and roll the pasta into 'nests', place on a try lined with a clean tea towel and let it dry (if not using immediately). Keep it in a dry place and it will last a few days (I haven't tried to leave it for too long, but usually I do make pasta one or two days ahead). To cook: place the pasta in salted boiling water and stir immediately, it won't take long to cook, if it is very thin it will take just a couple of minutes. Drain and serve with your favourite sauce.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, February 5, 2016

Best of Melbourne: things to do and see

I had a great week in Melbourne, a good city to visit, albeit the weather is always a gamble. But we were lucky, not too hot or wet, and even managed to see the Australia Day celebrations. 
I have already posted about the Victoria National Gallery here, definitely worth a visit, while we were there there was the wonderful Warhol-Weiwei exhibition

And here were some more of Best of Melbourne things to do and see: 

Australian Open

Tennis! Great to spend one day at the Australian Open and see some tennis stars in the flesh!

Punt tour in the ornamental lake of the Royal Botanic Gardens 

With Punt Tours Melbourne: this was really lovely, takes you away from the tourist hordes and takes you back in time to a romantic Melbourne, like the one from Miss Fisher's Murders

And after punting on the lake time for scones and cream!

Walking around 

We did a bit of shopping, but not much really, the best thing for me was to walk around the city and see the old and new buildings. I like the old traditional houses more, very charming. 

For a full city view you'll need to go on top of the Eureka Tower (Melbourne's tallest building) since the city is too flat to get a panorama shot anywhere else.

Melbourne Zoo

This is a must if you have kids, but even if you don't. My favourite animal in the in whole world is the Platypus, so I was happy to finally see one in the flesh (in fact I went back to see it three times!). The photo is from the sign outside the tank though, it was swimming around happily and I didn't want to disturb it with a flash.

A trip outside Melbourne to see the animals in the wild

If you have time and car pop out of the city and you will find Australian kangaroos jumping around. 

The kangaroos were cool, but the highlight of the trip was to spot a baby echidna! So cute!

The Italian bit…

I will talk more about this in the next post (veggie guide to Melbourne), since the most important thing here, after the Italian Museum and various Italian associations that you may visit if you are Italian, is the food.  So at this stage I will leave you with some images that will probably lure you to visit the big Italian cafe Brunetti in Lygon St.

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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