Monday, April 27, 2020

Covid-19 recipe 9: foraging for bamboo

I have bamboo growing in the driveway, which is beautiful but also invasive and we keep it under strict control, by cutting and.... eating. Every now and then my neighbour bring me big shoot (already about 1m high) which is great, but I much prefer the small and tender shoot so I check the driveway early in the morning for signs of shoots like the one picture above (bottom right). If you leave it to the afternoon it would shoot up in no time!!

I started cooking bamboo shoots when I was living in Japan, they were a different kind, much 'fatter' but these are good too, better than buying canned bamboo! Peel off the outer green layers, then cut into slices (I also like to cut the tips into two to see the layers), and discard the hard nodes. Rinse and cook for about 20 minutes in the water left over from rinsing rice (or add a little rice bran to your cooking water, I don't have rice bran so I keep the rice rinsing water), a pinch of salt and a chili (optional, but apparently it takes away the bitterness). 20 minutes suffice for small tender shoots, but if you have longer ones just make sure that you can pierce them with a knife or leave 5 minutes longer. If not using immediately store in lightly salted water.

Fresh bamboo is tasty by itself, or can be added to a variety of Asian dishes. Usually I have it with rice and other veggies in a Japanese meal, in a stir fry or a coconut 'curry'.

For this curry I fried a shallot with a little vegetable oil, then added one can of coconut cream, 500 ml of vegetable stock, 1 tsp each of Fresh As Kaffir lime powder, ginger powder, sweet basil powder, coriander powder and lemon grass powder, plus a bit of turmeric, and chili flakes, a couple of carrots, green beans, dried mushrooms (pre-soaked) Tofu and my cooked bamboo. At the end of cooking I also added fresh Vietnamese mint, basi, young broccoli leaves and, just before serving, marigold flowers and young Nasturtium leaves.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, April 17, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown recipe 8: eating weeds

Those who know me also know that I like foraging and to eat a variety of wild food, weeds and flowers. I used to do this a lot as a child, and foraged food was a big part of my diet, but these day I do it mostly for fun, for taste, and for health.  This week I have been back to foraging for necessity, which is the best purpose to forage after all. Strictly this has not been 'foraging' though, but more like weeding. My salad leaves are growing at such a slow speed now that it is painful to watch (and yes, I go and watch them every day!!!) but what is growing in the salad bed at remarkable speed is chickweed! This little weed tends to cover the ground in no time, but it is also yummy, especially the young sprouts, and apparently has plenty of vitamin C, A and Bs. It can be cooked, but I prefer it raw, so here are a few ideas, in case you feel like weeding the garden too!

I made a smoothie with chickweed, feijoas and frozen banana (both the feijoas and banana also came from my garden) and some coconut water as a base. It tasted great and very healthy, similar to a smoothie with fruit and spinach. Ahhh but the satisfaction of having used a weed instead!!

Then, recovering a few salad leaves, and equal part (or more...) of chickweed, I had enough for a salad. I also added a few of the youngest leaves of nasturtium plus some flowers and buds, marigold petals and dianthus. This salad went straight into salad rolls, so it didn't need dressing, but if serving it as a side salad just add a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

And here another serving idea: bagel with nut cheese (or cream cheese) and weeds! Chickweed, wild cress and onion weed, all growing wildly in my backyard! So, if we really get into dire straits at least you can say that I taught you how to pick weeds and eat them! 🌱🌿

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown recipe 7 - miniature sushi

Ok, this is a bit of a laugh, but at this stage we need it! I am proposing again my miniature sushi, perfect for those who have eaten too much during lockdown, or need to entertain the kids (can feed an entire Sylvanian Family with this!), or are so bored that need a new challenge. Each rice grain is a sushi piece. 
The video will tell you how to do it.

I made the rice like regular sushi rice (recipe here) and for the toppings I just used a variety of Japanese pickles, plus nori and bamboo shoots, so this is actually a vegan sushi. It looked super cute!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, April 10, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown recipe 6: a super soft and super easy (and dairy free) apple and pear cake

 🍎🍐 I bought quite a few apples and pears from the orchard in Oratia before it closed down and I needed to use those which were getting a bit soft, so I peeled and cut about 1kg between the two and added lemon juice. They were quite “lemony” 🍋😊 and I thought of using my lemon cake recipe from the book Party Food for Girls, with a few variations. 

👩🏻‍🍳 4 eggs, 250 g sugar, 200ml vegetable oil, 250 g self raising flour and a drop of pure vanilla essence. 

Beat the eggs and sugar first until the mixture is pale yellow, then add the oil and, little by little the flour. End with vanilla. Stop beating and fold in the apples and pears. Pour into a greased or lined baking tin (23cm is good, lots of cake here) and bake at 180 for 45 mins to one hour (until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Cool down completely before removing from the tin. Dust with icing sugar. Try it and you will thank me for the recipe 😊

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown recipe 5: kale lasagne

Remember those pre-lockdown trips to the supermarket where shelves were bare? A lot of people complained that it wasn't really possible to 'shop normally' because 'normal' things weren't available. 
In fact I couldn't find any frozen spinach from Talley, but never mind, all the kale was there, sitting alone among the empty spaces previously occupied by frozen peas and mix veggies. I wonder why, I always thought that frozen kale was one of the best frozen veggie out there after mine got all eaten up by bugs! So, lucky for me :-). I use kale in the same way as I would use spinach, and silverbeet too (fortunately still alive in the garden, but either too young or too leaf deprived (by me this time, not by the bugs) to use now. Of course lasagne with kale taste different from lasagne with spinach (or silverbeet) but I love them (btw, to me lasagne is a plural noun, lasagna is just one sheet a pasta).  At the same time I could use the Barilla lasagne I scored when all the other pasta was not available! I usually make fresh lasagne, but I have to say that these ones are super easy to use and quick, and give good results. I wouldn't use any other brand in fact.

Start by cooking the kale. Place the kale in a bowl and let it defrost at room temperature (one pack is 500g, I use it all). Chop a couple of shallots (if you don't have shallots substitute with an onion), and sauté in olive oil, add a little salt and then the defrosted kale and stir well. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time and adding more water when needed. Towards the end of cooking add more salt to taste. Let the Kale cool down completely. I cooked mine the day before so I stored it in the fridge overnight. 

Then make a white sauce. Easy version: mix two tbsp of plain flour with a little full cream milk taken from 1 litre to make a paste with no lumps, add most of the milk and 60 g of butter. Bring to the boil stirring constantly, when it is creamy add the rest of the milk and stir well. Add salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. If you like the more traditional version melt the butter, mix in the flour and then add the milk. Procede as above. 

To layer: place a small amount of white sauce at the bottom of a lasagne dish, cover with sheets of pasta, breaking up some to fit your dish perfectly. Add some kale, a little more white sauce and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Add more pasta and continue to layer as above, making sure that you have as many layer of pasta as possible: good lasagne have many layers, so keep the kale/white sauce layers very very thin!! Make sure that you keep enough white sauce for the last layer which is just pasta completely covered with white sauce and grated Parmigiano.

Bake at 180℃ for 45 minutes, or until you get a nice crust. Cover with tin foil or a lid and let it sit for 20 minutes (in the warm oven if you like) before serving. Or if serving later on in the day keep covered and then reheat in the oven for 20 minutes.

Easy to cut and I love a bit of crunch on the crust and the creamy white sauce just underneath!  

I also used kale to make Palak Paneer, just in case you don't like Lasagne :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown recipe 4: lentil salads, i.e. making the most of 'poor' ingredients

Dried lentils are another 'staple' in my pantry, and I also noticed that while aisles of cans of beans were getting low at the supermarket, packets of dried lentils were still available. Good, because they are cheap and they go a long way, plus they are full of protein and very versatile: you can make soups, stews, curries, lasagne, side dishes or basically add them anywhere to 'increase' the size of your dishes and fill your belly. Because the weather is still nice I'll propose some salads, throwing in some fresh greens, edible flowers and a bit of NZ foraging too :-). All of these salads will serve heaps of people and last a few days in the fridge, in fact they taste better on the second day, giving the lentils time to absorb flavour from the dressing. So I usually make heaps and then before serving I take out what I need and I add the fresh greens and the flowers on the spot.

Lentils with flowers and leaves

500 g brown lentils
1 leaf bay
water and salt for boiling
extra virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
mixed salad leaves
sliced radishes
tomatoes (cherry or cubed)
fresh herbs (like basil, parsley)
edible flowers

Soak the lentil overnight, then rinse well, add plenty of water, a bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook until 'al dente', or as soft as you like (but not mushy). Drain and briefly rinse under cold water. Place in a mixing bowl with the radishes and tomatoes, add extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar (to taste, but make sure that the ratio oil to vinegar is 2 to1), and some salt to taste. Line a serving plate or large shallow bowl with mixed salad leaves (leave a few small ones for the top), spoon the lentils on top, then sprinkle with the remaining salad leaves, herbs and petals (I used verbena, dianthus, and cornflowers).

Same recipe again but with broad beans and different flowers

 This time I added more tomatoes and also broad beans (just the frozen broad beans, to prepare them just cover them with boiling water and then remove the hard skin and they are ready to eat!) . Mix the lentils, broad beans and tomato with the dressing ingredients and place on a bed of mixes salad leaves. To decorate I used calendula, borage and dianthus petals.

With kahikatea berries

Here is another version with a bit of foraging from the New Zealand Bush! The kahikatea berries are ripening, it takes a long time to collect them but they are a welcome addition to a salad. You will need to remove the black blue seed and wash the berries delicately though. 

500 g brown lentils
1 leaf bay
water and salt for boiling
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
frozen broad beans
kahikatea berries
calendula petals

Soak the lentil overnight, then rinse well, add plenty of water, a bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook until 'al dente', or as soft as you like (but not mushy). Drain and briefly rinse under cold water. Place in a mixing bowl, add extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the broad beans (just use the frozen broad beans, cover them with boiling water and then remove the hard skin so that they are ready to eat and bright green). Mix well and then top with the kahikatea berries and calendula petals.

Last one for the day

And here yet another salad (same basic recipe again, use either lemon juice or white balsamic vinegar) and more flowers: nasturtium, borage, verbena, poppy, marigold, dianthus, and cornflowers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Related Posts with Thumbnails