Monday, November 23, 2015

Gnocchi di patate e zucca step by step

To make gnocchi you need big floury potatoes, like agria, wash them and boil them with the skin. Do not peel first! Peel the potatoes only after they have been boiled, then press with a potato ricer. This is very important, if you you a blender or food processer you will not get the right texture.

I added a bit of cooked pumpkin too (not necessary, but I had it!). Then salt, pepper and ground nutmeg. And then a bit of flour, enough to get a workable dough. There is no exact dosage really, it all depends on how floury are your potatoes, and adding pumpkin does require a bit more flour too.

Take a piece of potato dough and roll it into long strips, then cut off the gnocchi.

Shape the gnocchi with the help of a fork to make some incisions on the top.

The gnocchi is ready! Cook in salted boiling water and as they rise to the surface remove with a slotted spoon and place in the pot with the sauce of your choice (or just melted butter with sage!).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles

Yes these are raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles, but what's more they are made using only 4 Fair Trade ingredients: Trade Aid Palestinian almonds, Trade Aid cinnamon, Trade Aid Madjoul dates, and Trade Aid baking cocoa,  plus one local ingredient, Hazelz hazelnut flour from Canterbury. There is no sugar, no dairy product, and no need for cooking. 

I like using Fair Trade products because they are in line with the Slow Food principles of Good, Clean and Fair food. And with my philosophy. Furthermore the quality is really good! Take the Medjoul dates for example, they are so sweet and delicious, they can substitute sugar in many preparations. The baking cocoa is so good that you don't need to use it just for baking, it is perfect for puddings and hot chocolate too. The Palestinian almonds are different from my favourite Italian almonds, but they are quite unique, a bit spicy in fact. The cinnamon really aromatic, you need just a tiny bit, I like to say 'a hint' :-). And the hazelnut flour is what's keep everything together so nicely! 


4 Trade Aid Madjoul dates
20 Trade Aid Palestinian almonds
50 ml water
1 hint (i.e. a tiny pinch) Trade Aid cinnamon
1 tbsp Trade Aid baking cocoa, plus more to dust
2 tbsp Hazelz hazelnut powder, plus more to dust

Makes 12 truffles

Remove the stone from the dates and break up in rough pieces. Place in a cup with the almonds and 50 ml of water. Wait for 30 minutes to let the fruit soften a little and then blend with an immersion blender. 
Add the cinnamon, cocoa and hazelnut powder and mix with a spoon. Shape into 12 balls and roll half in cocoa and half in hazelnut flour. The best way to do this is roll the truffles first in cocoa or hazelnut flour, and then pass them between the palms of your hands quickly a few times so that you will get an even coating, and not too much of it, just the right amount. No need to refrigerate, just let them dry a bit on a tray before piling them into a serving bowl or glass.

Please Support Fair Trade!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, November 16, 2015

Limoncello zabaione

My mother told me that to make zabaione one must measure the marsala wine with the egg shell. I.e., for every egg yolk use 1 tsp of sugar and the broken eggshell of the same egg for the marsala. 

And it works, but for this zabaione I wanted to finish the end of a bottle of limoncello. Half an eggshell would it been too much!! So I just used a third of that. Hand beat the egg yolks, with the sugar, then put over a pot at Bain Marie (double booking) and keep beating, adding the limoncello little by little. Keep beating until the 'custard' is light and foamy. Pour into shot glasses (won't need any bigger, I can assure you, it is sweet, decadent and … alcoholic!).

The verdict? Although the taste was great and lemony (taking away that 'egg edge'), the small amount of liquid made this zabaione quite firm! Next time I may water down the limoncello, and go back to the eggshell measuring cup!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, November 5, 2015

An improvised Vegan Mexican dinner

This dinner is Vegan and just improvised with what I had in the house. I rubbed some tofu in a mixure of chili, salt, oregano (oregano seems to be the only dried herb really used all over Mexico, although the name is approximative - there are several varieties!) dried coriadner, cumin and smoked paprika. The doses were totally random! Then I sautéed the tofu with a little olive oil. I kept the tofu aside and used the same pot (with the very spicy oil) to sauté some chopped celery and onions, I added some rice, then a can of red beans, and finally a couple of cups of vegetable stock. Lid on and cooked the rice by absorption. In the end I added the tofu, just to warm it up.

For the Guacamole I followed this recipe, with the difference that I didn't have fresh coriander at home, but I used a bit of chili (I always have chili in the freezer). Also because this was a really rushed job (and I had the whole chili, seeds removed) I blended everything with an immersion blender. Quite different texture really, but nice for a change. The tortilla chips came from a packet. Well, this dinner took me 40 minutes to make (including cooking time), so Viva Mexico!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cavolo nero soup with chickpeas and pasta

A low fat, high protein vegan dish

1 bunch of cavolo nero
1 shallot
1.5 l vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas
plus the same amount of water
1 cup of small pasta 
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Wash the cavolo nero and remove the white stalks. Slice the shallot. Put everything in a pot with the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the content of the can of chick peas, plus a can of water. Simmer for other 30 minutes then blend with an immersion blend, but not too finely, leave some of the chickpeas whole. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil before serving. It is actually better the day after!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Torta Bianca allo Yogurt - White Yogurt Cake

I am very pleased with this recipe, of course I always eat all my experiments, even when I am not so happy about them, but this one… I devoured it! It was so soft and light, possibly the
softest-cake-with-taste ever (if you know what I mean… some 'soft' cakes taste like air, or like a bath sponge!!).

butter to grease the tin (I used a ring tin)
3 egg whites
300 g sugar
250 g plain yogurt (I used full fat)
300 g self raising flour
1 pinch of salt
one drop vanilla essence
icing sugar to dust (optional)

Grease the cake tin with butter. Beat the egg white until they form a peak. In another mixing bowl fold the sugar and yogurt with a wooden spoon. Add the flour, salt and vanilla essence and mix well, then add the beaten egg whites little by little and fold. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar if you like.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Homemade mascarpone with honey, pistachio and dried strawberries

Making mascarpone at home is one of my favourite occupations these days! A part from the 'magic' of it, and the resemblance to a chemistry experiment (I made this with Max, actually, he made it with me in the background giving instructions and liked doing it!) it is also so much cheaper, fresh and delicious that the one you buy! 

For the mascarpone recipe just click here, it is easier that you may think! When the mascarpone is ready just add a tbsp of honey (I used Tawari) and fold. Divide the mascarpone into 4 cups and it is ready to be eaten or topped with what you fancy. 

This time I just toasted a few pistachios in a pan, then I rub them with a tea towel to take away loose skins and chopped them coarsely. Then I also added some Fresh As dried strawberries, crunchy and full of flavour and aroma. A simple dessert that everyone loved!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Polenta and Italian lentils - Polenta e lenticchie

 This dish is vegan and gluten free, for the polenta recipe I just use polenta flour, water and salt and follow the packet instructions (real polenta takes about 45 minutes, the instant takes 5!). Usually I make soft polenta, thus adding a bit more water, but packet instructions tend to be for the 'harder' type, the one that you pour onto a wooden chopping board and then cut into slices. My nonna (Grandmother) used to make the hard one, and then she cut it with a string attached to the chopping board: no knife needed and even the youngest kids can do it!

For the lentils, wash the brown lentils with water and then soak for a little. Soaking is not really necessary but I like to do it so then I can give them another rinse and get rid off possible dirt that 'escaped' in the first wash. In the meantime sauté a finely chop carrot, celery stick with leaves and garlic (or onion) with two tbsp of olive oil, add the lentils and cover with vegetable stock. You can also add a tbsp of tomato paste, or some herbs, but this time I just added some chopped parsley at the end of cooking. Simmer the lentils as long as you can, stirring often and adding more water if necessary. Adjust with salt and pepper (and parsley) at the end, add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and save hot, with slices of hot polenta.

Nothing to do with the recipe.. just showing off my little pumpkins :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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, August 15, 2015

Potatoes and carrots with sage, rosemary and garlic

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!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, August 10, 2015

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.

 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.

For a Fairy Flower Party serve with different hot and cold herbal teas, rose and orange biscuits, strawberry meringues and scones with cream and jam.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, August 9, 2015

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, August 7, 2015

Feijoa Jam

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 ©

Saturday, July 18, 2015

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

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Italian tomato passata made with a sieve

After the arrabbiata post I was asked what I mean by 'putting' the tomatoes through a sieve.
Well, traditionally in Italy we put the tomatoes through a vegetable mill, but I don't have one so I use a sieve. The skins and most of the seeds are left behind (or all the seeds, depending on the mesh of your sieve), and the sauce (passata) gets through. This, to me, is the best sauce in the world! Of course you need to cook the tomatoes first (maybe with garlic?) then put the tomato 'mush' through the sieve and back into the pot to cook until thick. Then I just add salt, olive oil and basil and serve, possibly with spaghetti! It takes time, but it is worth it!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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