Friday, May 22, 2015

Vegan and gluten free chocolate pudding



This is sooooo yummy, it reminds me of those soy chocolate puddings that you can buy in the fridge compartment of many organic-vegetarian stores (and now in some supermarkets too) but it is homemade and therefore even tastier.

For 4 puddings:
500 ml oragnic soy milk (I use Vitasoy, either Original, Milky or Calci Plus)
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 heap tbsp cocoa (the better the cocoa the better the flavour, so don't go for cheap baking cocoa, but for 'hot chocolate' quality)
1 tbsp cornflour
Natural Vanilla essence (or a little cinnamon if you prefer)

Dissolve the dried ingredients with a little soy milk to make a paste, then add the rest of the milk and mix well. Put on the stove on low and, always stirring, bring to simmering point. Make sure that you stir well, especially around the borders and bottom of the pot, so that the pudding has a smooth consistency. As soon as it start thickening turn the element off, add the vanilla essence (if using) and keep stirring until it has cooled down a bit. Divide into 4 dessert ramekins or small bowls (or teacups) and refrigerate.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kashmiri Masala chickpeas and potatoes made with a left ore juice from peperonata


Manu invited me to a 'Swap' on her blog, and my swapping partner is Billie from Scotland. We had to send each other an ingredient and then make a recipe with it. I sent Billie the Fresh As raspberry powder, and I look forward to see what she will do with it! She sent me some Kasmiri Masala, but because I got it late (I forgot to tell Billie my address, silly me, but fortunately she copied it from the parcel I sent her!). The best thing about a Masala is that you don't have to sizzle all the spices at the beginning and work out the doses, in fact a masala should be added at the very end, to enjoy the fragrances of the aromatic spices (and the Kashmiri Masala is definitely very aromatic!!). So even if I was running around like mad I managed to throw together something starting with the leftover juice of a peperonata (stewed capsicums with celery, carrot, and garlic).


I had all that wonderful bell pepper's stock left from the night before (we ate all the capsicums and veggies), so I just peeled and cut 5 large potatoes, added the content of one can of chickpeas, and some cherry tomatoes from the garden (make an incision with a knife so that they don't 'explode' during cooking). I added a little salt and then simmered everything until the potatoes were soft. I adjusted for salt and added one tsp of Kashmiri Masala, put the lid on for 2 more minutes on low. The only problem is that I don't have a last photo! We ate too quickly before remembering to take one! :-) But I hope that you will like the recipe, and it is super simple! Serve with basmati rice and roti.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Celery, cucumber and coriander juice

Green, cleansing and refreshing! 


Celery stalks and leaves, cucumber, and a few sprigs and leaves of coriander (to taste, it can be really strong).

Happy detoxing!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vegan Sushi and onigiri


The weather has been beautiful, and it is still possible to eat outside, especially fresh things like this vegan sushi. Note that fish sushi is not traditionally eaten in summer in Japan, although thanks to refrigeration now many do, but some 'traditionalists' refuse. Vegan sushi on the other hand, like inari and norimaki (nori rolls), as well as onigiri (rice balls) are all great summer options.


Let's start with the onigiri. Wash the sushi rice (or Japanese rice) several times in cold water, until the water runs clear, and then cook it by absorption. The doses are about 1 and 3/4 (three quarters) cups of sushi rice for 2 cups of water, but that depends on the type of pot. You need a pot with a good lid, or you will loose too much steam. I kind of regulate myself by ear now, since I know my pots and pans. Bring the pot to boiling point, lower the heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Once the rice is ready pour it into a bowl and stir it with a wooden spatula, cooling it with a fan if you can. At this stage I took some rice aside to make onigiri and used the rest for sushi (see below). Rub your hands with salt and shape the rice into balls. I added some salted sakura blossoms on top to make pretty onigiri, and then I made some miniature ones (last photo) which I sprinkled with fresh chives.


To the remaining rice I added some ready made sushi vinegar, about 2 tablespoons, but this is my personal taste. If I don't have sushi vinegar I use 2 tbsp of rice vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt (to taste, and I don't like to use too much sugar or salt!). Roll your norimaki with the filling of your choice (I used takuan, cucumber and busy lizzie flowers). Or use the rice to fill inari (tofu) sachets, and then top them with herbs, flowers, veggies and pickles. So refreshing.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vermicelli in coconut and veggie broth with tofu and Asian fragrances


This is an aromatic vegan and gluten free soup, light and delicious.


500 ml vegetable stock
1 can coconut cream or milk + one can of water (rinsing the coconut cream)
1 large yellow courgette (zucchini)
2 fresh red chilies
1 block of tofu
a pinch of freshly grated ginger
Vermicelli
1 stalk lemon grass
a few coriander leaves
Cherry tomatoes

Simmer all together for a few minutes until the zucchini are soft but not mushy.

In the meantime soak the vermicelli in hot water until soft then divide between 6 bowls.
chop a few cherry tomatoes, and wash some fresh basil and some thai mint

Pour the hot soup over the vermicelli, making sure that each dish has equal parts of tofu and veggies.
Decorate with the tomatoes, basil and Thai mint and serve immediately.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grape juice


There are some beautiful grapes on sale at the Dragicevich Orchard in Oratia, those old fashion grapes that really smell and taste like grapes (not like the stuff that you find in supermarkets). And they make a wonderful juice. Apparently grape juice has antioxidant effects, well, this would be a bonus, but the only thing that I can say so far is that it is delicious, and the aroma brings back happy childhood memories of picking grapes at my Grandma's in Italy. Yes, memories in a small glass! 


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fresh As raspberry agar agar



Agar agar must be the easiest pudding ever, and it is vegan and gluten free. Also, if you don't use too much sugar it will be low in calories (and no fat, I guess…). 

For 4 serving I use 500ml of water, half tsp of agar agar powder (usually I use 1 tsp, but I wanted a softer and more wobbly jelly) and 1 tbsp of sugar (here too, personal taste!). For the Fresh As fruit powder dosage, it depends on your taste; for most fruit (like pineapple) I use 1 tbsp, or 1 and half tbsp (like passion fruit), but the raspberry powder is so intense that half tbsp with suffice, using the other half just to sprinkle on the jelly when is set. Bring to boil and pour into 4 jelly moulds. Let it cool down, refrigerate, and serve (with more Fresh As powder sprinkled on top). 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vegan Rice Paper Rolls


Something filling yet light, done in a jiffy! I had very little left in the fridge, just a bit of salad mix, but in the pantry I had some rice paper, vermicelli and dried gluten meat. So I put the 'fake' meat in a pot with a little vegetable stock (made with an organic veggie cube) and cooked it until soft. Then I cut it into little strips (actually, Arantxa did it - see photo).  I soaked the vermicelli in boiling water and then drained and rinsed them. To assemble the rice paper rolls you will need to line the table with clean tea towels, then soak the rice paper in hot water until soft, top with salad, the vermicelli and the gluten meat strips.



 To see how to fold the rolls (step by step) you can have a look here. If you have time you can fold the rolls adding herb leaves and flowers. Keep the rolls covered with a tea towel until ready to eat. Serve with soy sauce or sweet chili sauce.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How to make mascarpone at home


To make mascarpone at home you can use just cream or a mixture of cream and milk, plus citric acid. Lemon juice can be used instead of citric acid, and if you have lemons (preferably not Meyer lemons, but some more acidic lemons)  you can use lemon juice, but citric acid is easy to measure. Some bloggers make a similar recipe and call the result ricotta (or creamy ricotta), but don't be fooled, they are mistaken (or idiots) and this is NOT ricotta, ricotta is a totally different product made in a totally different way and with different ingredients. You can find a recipe for ricotta here or, even better, here

Mascarpone is delicious, rich and fat, it is used in many Italian desserts or cheese dishes (like torta di mascarpone and gorgonzola) and of course the more cream you add the highest the fat content.

I used 300 ml of cream and 200 ml of full fat (grey top) milk and 4-5 g of citric acid diluted in 50 ml of hot water (the lower the dose and the less 'lemony' the taste, but it is difficult to measure 3 or 4 g, just think of half a level tsp - and again, all teaspoons are not the same!). Gently bring the milk and cream to 85°C, and stir with the thermometer for 5 minutes (yes you will need a cheese thermometer), keeping the temperature constant. Add the citric acid and water solution and stir, turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes. Place a sieve over a bowl and line with a clean cotton cloth (or even two if the cloth is too fine - do not use gauze or cheese cloth, you need something with a thicker mesh). Place in the fridge and let it rest overnight to drip the excess liquid away. In the morning the mascarpone will be ready! The longer you leave it the thicker it will become, so you can let it rest for a bit longer if you like, or stir it into a creamy consistency and store in a container with a lid until you are ready to use it (a few days only). 

Just eat it by the spoon with a little cocoa and sugar, or honey, really decadent!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fresh juice using beetroot stalks and leaves, carrots, apples and ginger


… plus beetroots from the garden, carrots, apples, and a little ginger. For five juices I used about 1.5 kg of carrots, plus a few local apples, and i picked two beetroots from my veggie garden, they were small but the leaves and stalks are perfect for juicing too (of salad) so nothing get wasted. I used just a little ginger (not all the piece in the photo) to give the juice a little zest. It was really sweet and delicious!




 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zucchine ripiene - Stuffed zucchini for vegans and for vegetarians


I have two zucchini plants in the garden, one yellow and one green. They produce a lot, the yellow three times more than the green (I don't know why) and we have been eating zucchini in 100 different ways: grilled, sautéed, fried and tempura, in soups, with pasta… fortunately they are very versatile!
Here I had a few big ones (sometimes I don't pick them for a day and they double overnight! But the important thing is that they don't get to the 'marrow' state - too big and bitter) so I decided to stuff them.
I cut them into two and scooped out the flesh. Then I baked the shells upside down with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil for 15 minutes. In the meantime I blended the zucchini flesh and then added chopped parsley and chives (about 1 tbsp), salt and pepper, a tbsp of olive oil and enough breadcrumbs to make a stuffing (add the breadcrumb one tbsp at the time so that you don't add too much). The zucchini were fresh from the garden and therefore they were very moist, so I needed more breadcrumbs, but if you buy them they may be a few days old and more dry, so less breadcrumbs are needed. I removed the zucchini from the oven, turned them up and filled them tightly with the stuffing. 
In the tray you can see also some zucchini slices, these where from 'regular' size zucchini, and I used them as side veggies.


Bake everything until the stuffing has a nice golden crust. If you are a Vegan you can enjoy them as they are, and if you are a vegetarian add cheese 5 minutes before removing them from the oven. The kids loved them, and they are so easy to make!


 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Plum Jam



Jam made with plums from Oratia. I removed the stone and cooked the plums with a little water and some jam setting sugar (this was a present, and I wanted to try it). The NZ jam tradition seems to be 1kg of sugar for 1 kg of fruit (or even more sugar if you make raspberry jam) for an Italian this is too much. I go for 40 to 60%, with the latter being my preference if I need to preserve the jam for a long time (it helps agains botulin). You can taste the fruit better with less sugar :-).





And our cats, Nikita (left) and Marameo (right) are also enjoying the last of the sun, sleeping outdoors all day long! Marameo is 18 now, an old lady cat 


 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fresh borlotti beans cooked in a skillet with red onion


I love shelling fresh beans from the garden, especially borlotti, as they are so pretty!
I usually put fresh beans in soups, or boil them to make a salad (and keep the water for a soup). To cook them slowly in a frying pan takes a bit longer, but they are delicious!


Chop a small red onion and sauté with a little olive oil for a few minutes, then add the borlotti. Stir and add a little water and salt, cover and check form time to time, stirring well and adding more water when needed. It takes about a hour (or more if you simmer on low), so be patient. No need to add tomato paste as the onion will almost melt and make a nice colored sauce. Taste for salt at the end and adjust with black pepper, if you like. 1000 times better than baked beans!



 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Boysenberry and whisky trifle




For the first layer I made a vegetarian jelly with agar agar, you can follow the recipe here, but instead of pineapple powder I used a handful of frozen boysenberries. When the agar agar was set I added a layer of sponge soaked in whisky (up to you how much, but don't use cheap whisky unless you want a cheap dessert!). Then I made a vanilla creme like this one and covered the sponge. Finally I added whipped cream and boysenberries. 





 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Onion Weed Dip, two ingredients only!



A recipe from the Forage to Feast event held by Slow Food Waitakere last year: onion weed dip. Foraging is healthy and environmentally friendly, and foraging onion weed in Auckland and Waitakere is easy - remember that onion weed is, in fact, a weed, so it can be removed safely!

Onion weed freezes well, just wash and cut into pieces. Every part can be eaten: bulb, stem, leaves and flowers, just make sure that it has not been sprayed or been near busy roads and dogs. To make this dip you just need some creamy feta cheese and onion weed (fresh or frozen). Blend, adding a tiny little bit of water (or olive oil if you prefer) to thin the sauce down if needed. No salt is required as feta is already salty. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and then serve as a dip or spread.

Onion weed can be collected in Spring and stored in the freezer for months. It can also be used in cooking in place of onions, spring onions, chives, leeks and garlic.


 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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