Monday, February 1, 2016

Vegan chocolate pudding with strawberries and edible flowers


Arantxa picked flowers from the garden: roses, lavender, sage, violets and nasturtiums 
 I made my trusted vegan chocolate pudding, and since we are in season I wanted to top it with some strawberries, and maybe some flowers too? So I asked Arantxa to look after this.


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)
Strawberries and edible flowers to finish (I have lots of strawberries and edible flowers in the garden now!)

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. Cut the strawberries and place over the puddings, then add the petals of edible flowers (I think that maybe there was a bit much here, with lots of lavender, rose and sage aromas… but it was definitely a very perfumed dessert!).




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Israeli cous cous with grilled eggplants and capsicums


  For this dish I cooked a packet of Israeli cous cous (but fregola pasta is perfect too) with just water and salt, then I drained it and rinsed it under cold water to cool it down and separate the 'grains'. I added extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, and finely chopped herbs and garlic. Then I mixed it with the char-grilled eggplants. Finally I filled some char-grilled capsicums with it. It needs to rest for a few hours at room temperature, so that the cous cous gets more flavour. Easy and quick, and it makes such an impression!

And now just some pretty things I saw: loved this wallpaper with plates, + real plates!





Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tofu with onion weeds


In spring I post lots of recipes with onion weed, and why not: it is free, delicious, and you can eat the flowers too! This one uses tofu, so you can be doubly good to the earth: no meat, and at the same time you forage and get rid off a weed from the garden!

Wash and chop the onion weed (bulbs, stems, leaves and flowers). In a fryipan sauté the onion weed (but keep the flowers aside for later) with a little vegetable oil, and when it smells good add the tofu cut into pieces. Sauté on both sides then add a tbsp or two (according to taste) of soy or tamari sauce, and a tbsp of lemon juice. Cook the tofu on both sides for a few more minutes, then add a drop of sesame oil (optional) and the onion weed flowers. Serve hot.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Homemade Vegan meat, Seitan

Easy to make, low cost and versatile, and you can do it at home! The basic ingredient is gluten flour, and with a 500g pack (about $7) you can eat for days and days. I like to make 'fillets' and strips, suitable for different uses. Put the gluten flour in a bowl and add seasoning (a little salt, or herbs, or what you like, even a little olive oil if you like it 'fatter'. Then add the same amount of water and mix with your hand until you get an elastic dough. Squeeze out any excess water (usually just a little if none) and set aside for 10 minutes. Cut into very thin slices with a serrated knife.


Or use scissor for thinner strips.


Place one slice at the time in a large pot of simmering vegetable broth (use plenty of broth for 500g of gluten flour, as it makes many slices and they will grow while simmering). Cook for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.


When the 'meat' is ready pick up piece by piece and place on a couple of clean cotton tea towels to dry for 10-20 minutes. Now it is ready to use for you favourite recipes (use the remaining stock to make soup). If you are not using it straight away place in a sealed glass or plastic container and store in the fridge for up to two weeks (or freeze for longer periods). 


When you need a few slices just take out and sauté with a little oil in a skillet. One of my favourite uses is to brown the slices on both sides and then add some lemon juice and soy sauce and put them in a sandwich, or on top of rice or ramen noodles. More recipes will follow when I get time to photograph and post more :-)


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to make potato and pumpkin gnocchi step by step


To make gnocchi you need big floury potatoes, like agria, wash them and boil them with the skin. Do not peel first! Peel the potatoes only after they have been boiled, then press with a potato ricer. This is very important, if you you a blender or food processer you will not get the right texture.


I added a bit of cooked pumpkin too (not necessary, but I had it!). Then salt, pepper and ground nutmeg. And then a bit of flour, enough to get a workable dough. There is no exact dosage really, it all depends on how floury are your potatoes, and adding pumpkin does require a bit more flour too.


Take a piece of potato dough and roll it into long strips, then cut off the gnocchi.


Shape the gnocchi with the help of a fork to make some incisions on the top.



The gnocchi is ready! Cook in salted boiling water and as they rise to the surface remove with a slotted spoon and place in the pot with the sauce of your choice.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Persimmon agar agar: sugar free, gluten free and vegan, only two ingredients


This dessert is perfect after a Japanese meal, maybe not a traditional Japanese dish (I invented it, after all, like most of the recipes in this blog) but it taste great and and it is made with only two ingredients: persimmons and agar agar (and a little water). So it is sugar free, gluten free and vegan! All you need to do is peel two persimmons and cube them. Put the fruit in a blender with a just enough water to be able to blend it. Mix half tsp of agar agar powder with 50 ml of water and add to the persimmon 'smoothie'. Put everything in a small pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for just one minute then pour into a mould (rectangular is better). Let it cool down and cut into slices.
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, November 21, 2015

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


Ingredients:

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
Taaa-daaa!
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:


Ingredients

Base
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

Topping
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 ©