Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is so easy to make, but looks impressive and tastes delicious.


1 big agria potato
1 bunch asparagus
3-4 onion weeds with flowers
1 l vegetable stock
nasturtium flowers and baby leaves
sage flowers
violet flowers

Peel the potato and cube. Clean the asparagus, remove the woody stalk ends and cut into small pieces keeping the tips aside. Clean the onion weed, set the flowers aside and cut the stalks. Place potato, asparagus spares and onion weed stalks in a pot with the vegetable stock and simmer until all the veggies are soft. Add the asparagus tips and blanch. Remove the asparagus tips and blend the rest of the soup. Serve and top with the whole asparagus tips, decorate with nasturtium flowers and baby leaves, sage flowers, violet flowers and onion weed flowers. Eat everything!

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ochazuke, Japanese comfort food

When I was teaching Italian in Japan I once asked my students to tell me what was the typical Japanese dish they had for dinner, one answered ochazuke, and everybody laughed! Ochazuke meant that you lived alone, or your mum/wife was out for the night and you couldn't cook. Or that you run out of money! For homework they had to write a description of Ochazuke (in Italian) and the week after they came with their recipes and, most surprising for me, they all brought a sachet of flavoring for ochazuke, for me to try. The basic idea is to use leftover plain rice and top it with hot green tea, and then some toppings (and these where the sachets, a bit like furikake, but with green tea added, so that you just needed hot water). Most of the students in that class were young and lived by themselves, thus the need of quick comfort food, and they always had left over rice, and possibly a sachet of seasoning. I got to love ochazuke, but rather than seasoning from a sachet I use some chopped-up nori, some wasabi or ume plum, salted sakura flowers, dried shiso... anything I have at hand really, and then some green tea. 

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Soba with nori tagliolini, onion weed and salted sakura (cherry blossoms)

In this post you saw my idea of cutting nori with a pasta machine. So here is what I did what that cool nori 'fettuccine'.

Just cook the soba and top with the rest of the ingredients. To serve just add a drop of soy sauce.

To make the nori tagliolini … just cut the nori sheet with a pasta machine! For the onion weed... just forage it, wash and cut (you can eat the flowers, stems and bulbs... the lot!). I bought the salted sakura (cherry blossoms) in Japan, I love them, a bit like salted capers really!

 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Making nori seaweed 'fettuccine' with a pasta machine!

I had an idea! Instead of cutting nori seaweed with scissors (like I usually do) I tried with a pasta machine, with the tagliolini setting. And it works really well! Next time I'll show you how I used it, but for now I just wanted to share the idea! Anyway, great to top rice, soba, soups, salads... so pretty too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Coconut and ginger tofu


Two blocks of soft tofu
1 shallot
2 fresh red chillies 
1 can coconut cream
500 ml vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
fresh coriander
fresh Vietnamese mint (or basil)

Drain the tofu and cut into slices. Finely chop the shallot, and roughly break up the chili, discarding the seeds unless you like your food very spicy. Place everything in a pot with the coconut cream and vegetables sock and simmer for 20 minutes. Grate the ginger and add to the tofu, finish off with some fresh coriander and Vietnamese mint leaves. If you don't have Vietnamese mint use fresh basil.
Serve with Thai rice or noodles.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saffron Quinotto

In Lima I heard a lot about quinotto, quinoa cooked like risotto. Many of my Italian blogger friends also  make it, and I though of trying, starting with a classic saffron style 'quinotto'.

I chopped one onion and cooked it with a little olive oil, then I added 450 g of quinoa. Once the quinoa was 'toasted' and 'greasy' with oil, I added one glass of white wine, and then, ladle by ladle, slowly slowly, and stirring often, one litre of vegetable stock. I added the saffron just at the end, when the quinotto was cooked.

How was it? Well, I liked it very much, my son liked it too, but my husband and daughter weren't so sure... they ate it, but are they are not going to beg me to make it again, they prefer risotto with rice :-).

And did you ever try to make quinotto?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chili and garlic Swiss chard (coste aglio olio e peperoncino)

Swiss chard (silver beet) is a vegetable that you can find all year round, and fortunately I love it. Also it can be cooked in so many ways, as a side or as an ingredient for a main. This is a quick side, I never had it 'spicy' and I was pleasantly surprised! 

Just wash the silver beet (chard), cut the white stalks and leaves into fork-size pieces (pieces that you can pick up with a fork). Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add a peeled clove of garlic or two, and some fresh chilies (I added a green and a red, chopped). When the garlic and chilies sizzle add the white stalks and stir. After a few minutes add the leaves and salt to taste. Cover and let the leaves cook in their own steam, stirring from time to time. Serve hot. Yummy, different and super easy!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vegan and gluten free soup: Minestrone with veggies from the garden

Do you get tomatoes plants that die and leave you with green tomatoes hanging there not ripening? I do! What a pity, but even if some veggie are ugly I can still manage to make a soup out of them!

I don't know why the yellow zucchini plant is three times more prolific than the green one! Still, I am not complaining, look at the colour!

My favourite additions to soups are beans, it is just so much fun shelling them and look at the beautiful colours. Pity that they become all brown during cooking.

And here is the minestrone. No recipe, just wash, chop and boil, add salt to taste and extra virgin olive oil at the end. So tasty and healthy! Some of the photos are mine, but the prettiest are Arantxa's!

Photos and recipe by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling ©

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feijoa zest agar agar jelly

In this post you can find the recipe for the feijoa zest syrup, and from it I took about one tsp of sezt for the feijoa zest meringues. The leftover syrup (full of zest) was about 350 ml, and I decided to use it to make a little jelly with agar agar. I added a level tsp of agar agar and brought it back to the boil. The I poured it into a jelly mould and waited. It tasted great and was quite a visual treat, with all the zest floating in jelly! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, January 20, 2014

feijoa smoothie

Feijoa is one of those fruits that really symbolize Kiwiana for me, and in particular the joy of sharing produce in New Zealand. There is always someone ready to share feijoas in New Zealand, and this to me is like sharing joy: no matter how little fruit my plans produce in a way or another a bucket of feijoas alway reach my kitchen from another garden.

 Feijoa smoothie:
for 4 smoothies I used about 10-12 feijoas and some natural apple juice: so delicious and full of vitamins!

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chestnut fritters, vegan, gluten free and naturally sweet!

The best thing about these fritters is that chestnut flour is naturally sweet, so no sugar is needed. Also these are vegan and gluten free, all you need is chestnut flour, water, sultana (optional) and some oil for frying. You can find the recipe here.

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fried Mochi and capsicums served with soba, seaweed salad, avocado and Japanese pickles

I really like the mochi cakes, the Japanese glutinous rice blocks that are traditionally found in the traditional New Year soup (zoni). Mochi is usually grilled before going into the soup, but I don't have a grill for it, and tend to just boil it into it for a little. I love it. My family less so. And they don't like the idea of mochi in any our miso soups. So I tried to pan-fry it, thinking that they like everything fried, and guess what? Fried mochi is a new favourite! Now I add a block of pan-fried mochi in almost every Japanese meal I make (that is, while my mochi stock last: it is not so easy to find it in New Zealand!). 

In my (short) experience one of the best ways is to pan-fry mochi is with something that will also give it a bit of flavour, like capsicums. These are the little capsicums from my garden, small but tasty! Heat the oil in the frying pan, add slices of capsicum and mochi, turn everything a few times (I like to turn the mochi blocks on all six sides) and serve hot. Here is my mochi and capsicums served with soba, seaweed salad, avocado and Japanese pickles, a quick and balanced lunch!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Alpine (wild) strawberry smoothie

Alpine (wild) strawberry smoothie

All the wild strawberries you can find
One banana
Natural apple juice

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, December 2, 2013

Super quick vegetable risotto

Quick Risotto di verdura


1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 celery stalk with leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley
400 g carnaroli rice
1 glass white wine
1.5 vegetables stock
1 portion of frozen spinach
4 tbsp frozen peas

Chop the onion, carrot and celery, then sauté with olive oil. Add the parsley and rice, then a glass of white wine. Add the vegetable stock ladle by ladle, stirring constantly. Halfway through cooking add the spinach, and 5 minutes before finishing add the peas. Serve hot.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fregolotto (Fregola risotto)

 Outside Italy it is very difficult to find fregola, but Israeli couscous is readily available in many shops now, and can be a great substitute. 


1 small onion
1 capsicum (any colour)
1 celery stalk with leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400 g fregola (or Israeli cous cous)
1 cup Italian tomato passata
1.5 l vegetables stock
Parsley and cherry tomatoes to decorate (optional)

Chop the onion, capsicum and celery, then sauté with olive oil. Add the fregola and stir, when hot add the Italian tomato passata and then, ladle by ladle, the vegetables stock, stirring constantly like when making a risotto. When the fregola is cooked and all the liquid absorbed serve, decorated with parsley and cherry tomatoes (optional).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©