Saturday, November 21, 2015

Florence Fennel and avocado salad with walnuts

This is a lovely salad and also a light main, filling, nutritious and full of different textures and flavors!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Konnyaku and vegetables with Japanese dressing

The other day I had a crazy craving for gomadofu, the 'tofu' made with sesame seeds. But I couldn't find it anywhere in Auckland! If anyone can help (or tell me how to make it at home!) please do! Meanwhile here is a fantastic recipe with Konnyaku

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Crunchy Bean Sprout Winter Mediterranean Salad

I love beans and lentils, but I also love salads and raw food, my body feels like it needs them!
I usually mix cooked beans with raw salad vegetables, but when I remember I get some bean sprouts, and I particularly like this crunchy bean combo from Sproutman. I can just eat the sprouted beans as they are, with a drop of olive oil and lemon juice, 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Vegan Goulash with tofu


2 blocks of tofu, frozen for one day and then defrosted
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika (or to taste)
2 carrots
4 large potatoes
1 green capsicum (bell pepper)
1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
2l l vegetable broth
Salt to taste

If you freeze the tofu and then defrost it it becomes porous and easy to cook in stew without breaking up. Also it will absorb flavors really well! Once the tofu is defrosted cut it in big cubes. Chop the onion and sauté with the olive oil. When the onion is translucent add the paprika, the sweet paprika will give flavour, and the hot one… heat, so use this according to taste. Then add the tofu cubes and stir well. Add the vegetables and the hot vegetable broth. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are ready, but before the potatoes start to break up. Goulash is more like a soup than a stew. If you prefer a thicker stew just cook it for longer, stirring often and breaking up the potatoes. Add salt to taste (no necessary if the broth is salty enough).

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, October 10, 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 ©

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vegan meringues with chickpea brine (Aquafaba)

After making Aquafaba Vegan Pavlova I tried to make meringues. I changed the recipe only a little, and used less sugar (still experimenting though!). Here is the recipe:

Tuesday, October 6, 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 ©

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Famous Aquafaba meringue makes a good Vegan 'Pavlova'

First a confession: I am not a fan of Pavlovas, not at all. But I love meringues, and ever since I have heard of the aquafaba meringue, or meringue made with the water from a can of chickpeas (very popular in Italian blogs, and not necessarily Vegan blogs, everyone is making it!) I couldn't stop thinking about it! 

"Vegan baker Goose Wohlt coined the term aquafaba ("bean liquid") to describe the liquid, which French chef Joël Roessel discovered could be used in recipes much like egg whites."
Source; Wikipedia

 Well, what a success!! Basically all you need to do is to drain a can of chickpeas, keep the liquid and then beat it. Don't do it by hand though, unless you have strong harms, it takes longer that egg whites. But wow doesn't it peak! And white and fluffy too! I got quite emotional seeing it, like a wonderful chemistry experiment.

After beating for 3-5minutes
After 7-8 minutes
After adding sugar and cornflour
But what to make first?  I was tempted to make an Italian meringue, but didn't want to add hot syrup to my new discovery, in case the magic stopped! No, I decided, I'll do that next time and stick to a easy icing sugar meringue.

There are plenty of recipes online to chose from, and then I saw one for a Vegan Pavlova, Pavlova of course being a loose term overseas, but there you go Kiwis, karma for having far too loosely reinterpreted too many Italian (and other nations) traditional recipes! This particular recipe was my top choice and had nice photos, but looked like a tree-layer meringue to me. Also I changed a couple of ingredients and quantities, and recorded:


1 Can of chickpeas (just the brine - i.e. water, which already has salt)
250 g icing sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp white vinegar
a few drops of vanilla essence

1 can coconut cream
1 tsp golden syrup
a few drops of vanilla essence
Green and gold kiwi fruit and strawberries (out of season, but I saw two punnets for $7 and wanted them for the photo!)

Beat the brine first, then when it is nice and peaky add the sugar, one tbsp at the time, and the cornflour. Add the vinegar and vanilla at the end and beat some more.

Not confident enough to try a single Pavlova I made two disks, plus some little ones to see how they baked. I had the oven on first very hot, and the at about 75°C fan for about three hours, actually more, it seemed to take forever! In the meantime I also whipped some coconut cream (Vegan Pavlova, remember?), I find that the Family Choice coconut cream has the thickest cream of all, in fact so thick that you don't need to refrigerate the can first, and can use the liquid a the bottom of the can to thin it down. I added a tsp of golden syrup (Maple syrup is good too) and a few drops of vanilla, and then set the cream aside in the fridge.

Coconut cream
 I didn't end up assembling the 'Pavlova' until the day after, but the meringue was still good and the cream nice and stiff. I only put fruit in between the two layers, and reserved the cream only for the top. Possibly the disks were too large and they cracked a little, the smaller meringues looked great and made me plan for macaroons.  

The taste

Ok, I don't like Pavlova… but I loved this one!!!! Wowowowow! My daughter loves Pavlova, yet she found this version to be better, and my husband liked it and thought that it was less sweet that regular Pavlova (I can hardly believe it, with 250g of icing sugar??? Really? I was already planning to experiment with less sugar….). Also the texture, no, not a crunchy meringue all way through, but a soft marshmelloy centre, and even if it was in two disks it still tasted more like a Pavlova than a meringue cake.
But there will be more experiments, for sure!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 14, 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 sugar or 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!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, August 10, 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 ©

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tip for peeling ginger

This I discovered by chance, and I am sharing because I love grated ginger but I never knew how to peel it, except with a knife. But this only works with frozen ginger. I always have frozen ginger, when I buy some I use a bit and then I put the rest in the freezer and break out what I need from time to time (broken roots in the fridge dry up, and in my kitchen sprout, so the freezer is my only option). Today I took out a piece and I made an incision with a knife to break it. But because it was so hard and frozen I threw it in a bowl of water where I was soaking some mushrooms and dried tofu. After five minutes I took it out and the peel just started came off!
I could not believe how easy it was, this is going to be my frozen ginger peeling method from now on (just water, I don't think that the mushrooms and tofu had anything to do with it!)
This is also great for juices :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 18, 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 ©

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Arrabbiata sauce

 Please note that the chilies here are not mine except for the fat black one (I had two, a couple more still on the plant, not sure if I will ever harvest them though…). 

My son Max loves arrabbiata, one of his favourite sauces, as long as it is not toooo hot. So I just used one chili and put it in the pot with the cut up tomatoes. I cooked the lot until the tomatoes where mashy (most were cherry tomatoes so it didn't take long!), then I put the tomatoes through a sieve and collected the pulp minus seeds and peels. I cooked this until thick, added olive oil and salt, and the sauce was ready. Another way would have been to cook the tomatoes first and then add the chili to the tomato pulp, but this worked well. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Picking, treating and preserving olives in brine, and olives marinated in olive oil and herbs

Preserving olives is a rewarding experience. If you don’t have an olive tree you may be able to forage olives from trees in community gardens and in parks.  Usually olives are ready around April-May (in New Zealand).
Pick the olives from the tree (never from the ground) and wash well in cold water. If you prefer sweet-tasting olives you can put them in a bucket of water for up to 40 days, or 20-30 days for very small olives, changing the water every 24 hours; the olives will become brownish in colour, and lose a lot of bitterness. After this period make a brine (recipe follows) and bttle your olives. If you prefer crispy green olives with a peppery taste, just wash them and soak them for a day, then preserve them in brine.

Brine for preserving olives

Before making the brine, be sure to have plenty of glass jars with lids, sterilised and completely dry.


Prepare 10% salt brine (100 g of salt for every litre of water) by placing in a saucepan the water and salt.  Simmer until the salt is completely dissolved. Once the brine is cold place the olives into clean sterilised jars and cover completely with the brine.

To each jar add one more clove of garlic, a fresh bay leaf, a chilli pepper, or a fresh sprig of thyme.  Seal and put away in a dark place for three months. After this period the olives can be used in cooking or can be marinated with olive oil and your favourite herbs.
If you’d like to keep the olives for longer, prepare a new brine with an 8% solution (80 g of salt every for every litre of water) and put the olives into new jars with the fresh brine. Olives stored this way, and completely covered with brine, will last up to one year. Don't worry if you see white spots forming at the top of the brine, as this is natural — just remove them every time you open the jar, and always rinse the olives before using. Below is a recipe for marinating your preserved olives with olive oil and herbs, starting with your olives in brine.

Olives marinated in olive oil and herbs

I suggest you use a delicate olive oil for this recipe, like an extra virgin olive oil from the supermarket. Expensive olive oil is far too precious to marinate olives, unless you have your own press.

300 g olives in brine (green or dark)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 peppercorns
200 ml extra virgin olive oil

Drain the olives well from the brine, and give them a little rinse if necessary. Place in a large jar, add the herbs and pepper corns, and cover with the oil. Leave to rest for at least one day, and then serve. Store in a cool place and use within two weeks.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©