Sunday, March 18, 2018

Eat your colour in a minestrone soup

Lovely colourful vegetables from the garden (except the red onions), all ready for a minestrone. From the bottom: red onions, rainbow chard, carrots, yellow beans, silverbeet stalks, celery, green beans, flat beans, kale. Just add water and salt.

Wishing you all a colourful week!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tofe con friarielli (cime di rapa)

For the first time in my life I planted friarielli (cime di rapa), I got the seeds from Slow Food Auckland and I was so excited that I didn't wait for Autumn but I planted them straight away. Auckland is hot and wet, so they grew fast and started flowering quickly, I had to pick them before they seeded even if the tops were small. But they were delicious. I also have to confess that I ate some as salad, when the leaves were very young, and they are probably one of the best alternative to rocket salad around.

After I got my first batch I cleaned it and then cooked in a pan with olive oil, garlic and salt. You can add chilli, but I prefer to taste the friarielli rather than the chilli. Simmer them slowly with a lid for 20-30 minutes stirring often, if they are fresh you don't need to add water (mine came directly from the veggie garden!). The best pasta to have them with is orecchiette, but I didn't have any so I used some tofe, which are close enough in shape, but different in flavour! Still, they were great, or maybe it is just me, happy with my new crop of friarielli!

And now for the bouquet of the day from my garden!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Risi e bisi coi baccelli - Fresh pea risotto with pea pod broth (waste not!)

Peas are a precious crop for me, I don't like to buy big bags of frozen peas like everyone seems to do in New Zealand (and other countries), it makes them feel 'cheap' and 'common' and an everyday boring side veggie.

I like my fresh peas and I like them to be the main player in a dish, like for risi e bisi, a traditional risotto dish from Veneto, Italy. And the best part of growing them? Is to keep the pods, and as I am a NO-FOOD-WASTE advocate, to use them to make stock, which will be the base of the risotto. So shell the peas and keep the pods, wash them well and place them in a pot with water (I used about 1.2 litres of water for a basket of peas) and rock salt and simmer for at least one hour. You can also add a little parsley or celery leaves to the stock, but not too much as they have very strong flavour. Filter the stock and keep hot. You can also cut the pods into tiny strips and add them to the risotto, but I just gave them to some hungry visiting chickens (big mistake, they are always around my house now!!).

To prepare the risotto chop an onion and saute with margarine or soy butter (olive oil ok but vegetable butter is better for this). Butter should still be bubbling when you add the rice (I used arborio). Stir until the rice is hot then add the peas.

Stir again and then start adding the stock, little by little. If you use a good casserole you can cover the risotto from time to time and let is absorb the liquid, otherwise keep stirring and adding stock until the risotto is ready.

Towards the end test for salt and add a little pepper if you like. Eat hot. Leftovers are good to make croquettes or arancini the day after.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 5, 2018

Plum and strawberry smoothie

This is the season for plums, and we also have a few last strawberries in the garden, enough to add to smoothies and make them sweet! In fact I love the fact that plums are a little tart, but they do benefit from the strawberry sweetness. As a base I used half apple juice and half coconut water. Perfect breakfast!

And now a few things from my garden!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two recipes for face steam for teenagers (and everyone else): Calendula and lavender face steam, and calendula, rose and sage face steam

Calendula and lavender face steam

Something a little different today, not food but a floral face steam for my two teenagers! I have plenty of calendula and lavender in the garden so I picked some petals and put them in a bowl. Then you just need to add boiling water and enjoy a face steam. My kids loved it, and I am planning to dry some of the petals to keep for winter... just need a bit of sun though!!  (PS, the rose is just for fun.. but you could add rose petals too, try the next recipe).

Calendula, rose and sage face steam

This is also very aromatic: use calendula as the base since is it good for healing skin from acne, and add rose petals and sage flowers (which have a milder flavour that sage leaves). Also good to clear nose and mind!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Fruit Platter with Balsamic

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena goes well with fruit, and there is also a Balsamic cream you can buy which is less expensive and ideal to decorate plates.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, December 1, 2017

San Pellegrino drink for summer

The garden is full of produce and flowers, and also limes and mint, so cheers to summer in New Zealand with a glass of San Pellegrino sparkling water (just add fresh mint leaves and lime (or lemon). 

What else I have now? Silverbeet and rainbow chards, calendula and radishes (recipes coming soon)

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, November 13, 2017

No waste post: Japanese style pickled radishes - and eat the leaves too! Plus a beautiful Japanese Vegan meal

I picked some lovely radishes from the vegetable garden, did you know that you can eat the leaves too? They are full of nutrients, as well as delicious!

Wash the radishes well, then cut in halves (or quarters if big), keeping attached some of the centre leaves. Set the outer leaves aside to use later.

These are the radishes (with the tender centre leaves) ready to pickle.

Add some salt, I used Japanese unrefined salt because I had it, but ordinary kitchen salt is fine.

Put another bowl over the radishes and then a weight on top (a rock, or anything heavy that you may have in the kitchen). Leave for a day and night, move the radishes from time to time if you like, to get them pressed. They will put out lots of water and create a brine.

This is what they will look like the day after.

Put into a jar with their brine and keep in the fridge (they will last a couple of weeks... maybe more but I don't know, we eat them quite quickly!

And now for the remaining leaves: since I had the above raw I decided to cook the rest for a few minutes in boiling water. 

Then I drained them and when cool I dressed them with soy sauce (gluten free readers can use tamari) and lemon juice. The portion looks small, but they are a perfect addition to a Japanese meal...

 like this one!

Vegan Japanese lunch with produce from my veggie garden

Clockwise from top left: rice with vegetable furikake, nimono of radish leaves, silken tofu with chrysanthemum leaves, rice with spinach, gari (pickled ginger). In the centre pickled radishes. Radishes, ginger, spinach and chrysanthemum all came from my garden

Yes chrysanthemum leaves are also edible (I was given a variety that only seems to make leaves, I like to eat them young). and if you want to know how to grow ginger and make your own gari click here.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Artichoke Risotto

I only had two artichokes and needed a meal for 4 people, and risotto was the ideal solution. Clean the artichokes and remove the outer leaves. Peel the stalks and cut into small pieces. Put everything in water with lemon juice while you work or the artichokes will become black. Finely chop a handful of parsley with a couple of garlic cloves and add salt. Stuff the artichokes with the chopped garlic and parsley and add a drizzle of olive oil. Place in a casserole, together with the stalks, and add 5cm of water. Simmer on low with the lid on for one hour or until cooked (the outer leaves will start to detach), adding a little hot
water from time to time. Prepare a litre of boiling vegetable stock (I used Rapunzel vegetable broth cubes). In a separate pot melt a tsp of vegetable margarine or 3 heat 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, add the rice (arborio or carnaroli) 100g per person, then add the artichokes and their juice. Then slowly add the vegetable stock stirring constantly until the risotto is ready. Adjust with salt if needed and serve immediately, if you have two people one artichoke each, if four cut the artichokes into two.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to grow and make your own gari (pickled ginger for sushi)

To make gari, the lovely pink pickled ginger for sushi, you need to have very fresh ginger roots, which are not to easy to find. So I grew my own! Bough ginger roots sometimes have a little green bud, or develop one if you leave them outside the fridge, and in this case you can just break a piece off (the one with the bud, of course) and plant it! I did just this, not knowing what to expect, and I was rewarded with a big leafy ginger plant! When I 'harvested' the roots they were fresh and fragrant, perfect for making gari. 

For the recipe I looked up one of my favourite books, The Book of Sushi, published by Kodansha International. Sadly Kodansha doesn't publish anymore in English, which is a real pity as they made some outstanding books on Japanese culture, including several cooking books, so this book may not be easy to find now.

I washed my ginger roots (I could not break much of it, as I made the mistake of planting it in a pot with a lemon tree and the root was too deep down to remove completely), but I had enough.

The skin is easy to remove with a spoon or finger nails. Remove the buds, you just need the root, hopefully with a hint of pink in it. Then slice the root as finely as you can manage.  

Then I added a few generous pinches of salt (I used some unrefined salt, but the book is not specific on which salt - or how much, to use) and left it stand for one day. I put a weight on top too, to make sure that the ginger got well pickled by the salt, but this was not requested by the original recipe.
The day after I rinsed the ginger under fresh water.

Then the book says: in a marinade made of 1 cup of rice vinegar, 7 tablespoons water and 2½ taspoons sugar. Allow the ginger to marinate one week.

Well, first of all I noticed that I run out of rice vinegar, but I had some sushi vinegar, which already contains sugar and salt. Secondly, and this is my personal taste, I rather use less sugar (and salt) so I did a mixture of half sushi vinegar and half water. Thirdly, I brought the mixture to the boil, threw the ginger slices in, boiled them from a few seconds and turned the element off. I did this simply because I felt safer pickling it this way, and the result was great! I stored the gari in a glass jar in the fridge for one week before using it, now it is about two months old, almost finished, but still very good.

The original colour is a very light pink, which I like very much as it feels natural to me. The second pink, very vibrant, I made by soaking my own made gari for just a few minutes in the brine of shibazuke, which is a Japanese pickled mix of cucumber and eggplant and red shiso. It is the red shiso that gives out the pink/magenta colour, so anything picked with this leaf will work (and pickles also have plenty of brine left over, which I never throw away but use to colour rice.

Waste not waste not, this is my motto!

Natural gari (top) and gari coloured with red shiso (bottom)

I have to say that I was very happy with the results for taste, texture and ... colours!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Asparagus and onion weed soup

Soon it will be spring, time for asparagus and onion weeds with some nice juicy bulbs, this is a recipe from last year with I will repeat as I am cleaning the veggie garden, always finding some little potatoes and cavolo nero. Everything goes into a soup, with the addition of asparagus, and vegetable stock. I blended everything (but left our a few whole steamed asparagus tips to add later) and used some onion weed and pansy flowers for decoration.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 4, 2017

Soft tofu and avocado sashimi served on homemade disposable bamboo dishers made with bamboo leaf sheath

There is no much to this dish really, just soft tofu with grated ginger and avocado (add wasabi and say sauce) plus some pickles, mostly bought except for the cucumber (recipe here).

The exciting thing for me here are the bamboo platters! I have some bamboo in the garden and it is shedding leaf sheaths. I love those fancy bamboo disposable dishes that you can buy in home stores, so I though of making my own. To clean the sheaths I just placed them in the dishwasher! Some rolled up a bit, but after a couple of days they were flat again! The dishwasher took away the dirt but some black stains remained, which makes me wonder how ecologically they treat the commercial plates, since they are so pale and spotless! But now I can make my own and doesn't matter if they are a little stained, they are natural and lovely to look at!

Photo and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Kale Chips

 I finally decided to join the hordes and make kale chips!

I had to wash the leaves 7 times (that was my Mother's 'magic' number when I was little and my job was to wash the salad!) to remove all the little bugs from the curls! After spinning the leaves I placed them on a oven tray lined with baking paper, bushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt. I baked them for about 10-15 minutes (until they looked crispy and dark green). They taste a little like roasted seaweed. A yummy snack!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©