Sunday, October 16, 2016

Baby cavolo nero, banana, spirulina and natural apple juice

And the smoothie today is:
Baby cavolo nero, banana, spirulina and natural apple juice

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Celery, mango, coconut water smoothie

Smoothie of the day!
Celery (add a few leaves), frozen mango cubes, coconut water

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, October 10, 2016

Baby spinach, kiwi, coconut water smoothie

I am addicted to my new Nutribullet, made many smoothies so I'll post a few of my favourites in the next few days, starting with: 

Baby spinach, kiwi, coconut water

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Peperoni e salvia fritti - fried capsicums and sage

Red capsicums are so nice fried in olive oil, and then sprinkled with a little salt… this time I tried a different pairing though: sage! And it works really well. Of course I really like fried sage, so I guess that that help. (In the background I have some fried eggplants, but you all know how to make that right?) :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Easy to make hazelnut milk and instant vegan Nutella

Now that I have a nutribullet I am trying all sort of experiments, and this is my first nut milk.
I used toasted hazelnut, but I guess that if you are into raw food you can use raw hazelnuts. I like toasted hazelnuts though, and a rinsed mine with water to remove as much as i could of the brown skin.

Then I added a bit of water, about twice the amount of the nuts. A quick blend and here is the result!

I passed the milk through a sieve, it tasted great but a bit grainy, so I passed it again using a fine cotton cloth (a clean handkerchief would work).

The ring from the nutribullet jag is ideal to keep the cotton in place while the milk is filtering though!

I got one glass, but where is the photo? Ops, Arantxa drunk it all at once! Max and I just had a taste. The hazelnut taste was great! Plus there was quite a bit of hazelnut paste left over. 

Instant Vegan Nutella

Place the hazelnut paste in a bowl or jug with a few block of dark chocolate, place into a saucepan with some water and bring to the boil to melt the chocolate. Stir. Done.

The resulting chocolate spread has a lovely gianduia flavour (cocoa and hazelnut) but it definitely feels low fat, and it is not too sweet either. Really lovely, and so easy to make!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Asparagus, spinach and onion weed soup

This soup is vegan and gluten free, and makes use of those onion weeds that grow everywhere in Auckland in spring. Forage the onion weeds from a safe and clean place and wash well. The bulbs are fat and delicious just like spring onions (plus they are free!) and you can also eat the stems, leaves and flowers. 

Chop the bulbs, stalks and leaves of a bunch of onion weed and one bunch of asparagus, sauté with a drop of olive oil until fragrant, then add 1 l of vegetable stock and one big potato, peeled and finely sliced. Simmer until the potato is mushy and then add one cup of baby spinach leaves. Blend with an immersion blender and bring back to the boil for one minute. Adjust with salt and pepper and serve, decorated with onion weed flowers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Instant mango and coconut yogurt vegan ice-cream, and how to make more coconut yogurt from you bought jar to save money!

I have tried a couple of brands of coconut yogurt and it is quite nice, although I am not sure 100% if I can call it Vegan. One of the two labels it as Vegan, but the live bacterias (a part from being 'live', if you see what I mean) could come from dairy products, as usually lactobacillus originally do… so if you know more about it just tell me, I really like to find out!*

Another thing that I have noticed is the price of coconut yogurt… so expensive!!! Around $10! So before finishing the second jar I have filled it up with a can of coconut cream (only about $2.50) and after two days in the hot water cupboard followed by two days in the fridge I got my own coconut yogurt (albeit a bit more runny than the bought one). I am trying the second lot with a thicker coconut cream and I'll let you know if it works.

The ice-cream

One cup of frozen mango
Half a cup of coconut yogurt

Blend with immersion blender

I am glad I remembered to take a photo before they gulped it all up: it was delicious!!

And of course it could count as sugar free, gluten free, and possibly raw vegan*.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tomato tofu with vegetables and noodles

I learned to cook tofu with tomatoes from a Taiwanese friend 13 years ago, and I still remember thinking then how odd the pairing was… until I tasted it! Yes it works, and it is great! 

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan then add some fresh chopped tomato.

When the tomato is starting to mush add the tofu (use a firm type), cubed. Sauté on all sides then add two tbs of soy sauce (I use Japanese sou sauce). 

Add some green vegetables for colour (I use some pak choi), and cook for a few more minutes.

Boil the noodles, drain and add them to the pot, stir well with the tofu and vegetables.

Sauté the noodles for a few minutes, then add chopped coriander and chopped onion weed stalks (my Taiwanese friend would not have done that as she was a Buddhist vegetarian and ate no garlic, onion and chives, so I guess no onion weed!). Stir a bit more then serve, decorated with onion weed flowers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Coconut and Lavender Agar Agar, like a Vegan Panna Cotta or Biancomangiare

I like to use lavender for desserts, but the flavour has to be delicate, not too overwhelming. 


one small bunch of Lavender
3 tbsp caster sugar
1x400ml can coconut cream +
same amount in boiling water to rinse the can
1 tsp agar agar

to serve: blackberries and lavender

Pick the lavender from the garden and make sure it is clean, or rinse lightly and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Put in a container and cover with the caster sugar. Put a lid on and leave for 2-3 days. The sugar will absorb the aroma of the flowers. 

 Place the coconut cream in a pot, fill the can with the same amount of boiling water to rinse it and add into the pot. Remove the flowers from the sugar (it will be crumbly and moist) and add it to the mixture. Add a tsp of agar agar and bring to the boil stirring constantly. You can add a few petals of lavender if you like, but don't overdo it - not everyone likes to find 'bits' in such a smooth pudding. Fill 6 individual jelly moulds and let them set. The container with the lavender and sugar still had some sugar around the sides so I put the blackberries there for a few hours to marinate (with the lavender also) and get a bit of juice! I serve them alongside the tipped agar agar, which tasted a bit like young coconut flesh and with a subtle but distinctive lavender flavour.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, July 4, 2016

Leek and potato soup, one of the easiest soups, filling and delicious!

I am surprised when I see people buying already made soups, especially the very simple ones. Ok to buy them if you are going camping. Or if you are staying in a motel and don't want to eat out. Or if you don't have any cooking facilities, for whatever reason.

Ingredients and instructions: peel and cut the potatoes, wash and cut the leek, put olive oil in the pot to sauté the veggies, then add vegetable stock to cover and simmer. Blend. Done.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Brussels sprouts and pastina vegetable soup

One of the easiest way to cook these notorius vegetables is in a soup, a bit like a minestrone, so that all the flavors from the other vegetables, plus the starch of pasta, 'improve' the distinctive taste of Brussels sprouts.

Chop one onion, half a carrot and one celery stalk with leaves, sauté with a tbsp of olive oil and then add 1.5 l of vegetable stock. Simmer until the carrots are soft and then add the Brussel sprouts, a cube of frozen spinach and a handful of pastina (small pasta like stelline). Simmer until the pasta and Brussels sprouts are cooked, add a little more extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to taste. Easy and yum!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lenticchie in umido - Brown lentils Italian style

I love a nice big pot of lentils, preferibly with some oven fresh crusty bread or a slice of polenta or creamy mushed potatoes. But also as pie fillers, for lasagne, or as a side dish, especially now that the weather is cold in New Zealand. For this recipes wash, soak and rinse 500 g of brown lentils, and then boil them in water with just a pinch of salt until cooked but not too soft or mushy. 

In the meantime roughly chop one peeled carrot, one peeled onion, one peeled garlic clove and one stalk of celery with leaves and a few leaves of Italian parsley. This time I also added one green pepper because it was all alone in the fridge, but this is not necessary.

Sizzle the vegetables with two tbsp of olive oil until the onions are soft, then add 1 tbsp of tomato puree, and if you like a little smoked paprika or a chili. Stir and sizzle for one minute.

Add the lentils and their water and more salt to taste, but not too much as the water will reduce.
Cover and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and you are happy with the consistency of your lentils. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Quince jelly

I love quince jelly, lovely project for rainy days! Wash and quarter some quinces, removing the pips, then boil the lot with lemon juice and a little water until the fruit is soft and mushy. 

Put the pulp inside a jelly bag, cheaper if you just use a clean pillowcase (I have one which I use just for jellies) and hung it over a bowl (using a broom and two chairs) for a day and night.

This way the juice will drop into the bowl. As a rule if you like a clear jelly do not squeeze the bag! But I confess that I gave it a little squeeze… I wanted to get more out of it!

Measure the juice and add the same amount of sugar, then boil again.

I had lots, so I put half in a container to set, and added Fresh As Raspberry powder to the other half for a quick raspberry jelly. Delicious!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sun-dried Tomato Bacon, Vegan - step by step instructions

This vegan bacon recipe can be life-changing for those former bacon lovers and for new vegans. This is the best recipe so far, considering also that it looks like the real thing in quite a spooky way (with those white stripes and all), and requires just a few easy to find ingredients.

The first 'secret' ingredient (and this is my first very own input) is sun-dried (or semi dried) tomatoes, which I soaked in a little hot water for 5 minutes. Then I added a tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, half tsp of salt and a little aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas). I blended everything into a paste (using the nutribullet). The resulting paste should have the consistency of a spread, so add more aquafaba if it is too thick. Don't make it runny.

Now for the second main ingredient (and here I got the idea from my friend Lucia who has a vegan bacon recipe here): rice paper. I found this to be such a cool idea, plus it is an alternative to gluten meat or tofu. I had a quick look at all the other rice paper bacon (also called vacon) recipes around the internet and I tried a few ways to combine the rice paper with the paste to assemble the 'bacon' slices, but somehow I didn't quite like the idea of cutting the rice paper into strips, nor soaking them with the flavoring paste: they didn't fry well and the result was more like a burned crispy slice, rather than a juicy rasher with fatty white stripes. So I came up with a easy and less messy system, which produced the best results.

Soak the rice paper disks in hot water, just enough to soften them, and then place them on a clean gauze or kitchen towel. Brush the centre with the sun-dried tomato paste and then fold like shown in the photos.

Keep working making more slices until you run out of paste (or rice paper), well at this stage it looks a bit spooky, like real pieces of flesh... not quite something I would like to think about it, but for those who go for the realist look... here you are! 

Now for the most challenging part: frying the vegan bacon: I used extra virgin olive oil and a skillet, wait for the oil to be hot and then add a few slices at the time, fold facing up first. You have to lift the slices delicately with two hands and lower them in the hot oil, so be careful. 

The secret is not to overcook the slices: first they will bubble up a bit, and you want that, get some air in to keep them soft. As soon as you see the edges drying turn over the slices and fry the other side for even less time, otherwise the sun-dried tomato paste will burn. If the oil becomes too contaminated with burned paste you will need to change it.

Place the slices on a serving plate and eat immediately, since bacon is very fat I didn't bother patting the slices with kitchen paper, after all they are delicious also because they are greasy! For a variation you can use coconut oil instead of olive oil, and I want to try liquid smoke too, as soon as I get my hands on some.

The verdict: well, we all liked it! I thought that the best test was to have a bacon sandwich with some good bread and lettuce; my husband found it very realistic and the kids, who never tasted bacon so they could not compare, thought that it was simply really yum! It is also very filling so we had lots left over, I put them in the fridge and then quickly heated up a few slices in the skillet the day after for more sandwiches, and I did the same in the evening with the last slices chopped into small pieces, to make pasta sauce (the second test). It worked really really well.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©