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. 

Ingredients: 

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 ©

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cherry tomatoes with raw nut cheese and edible flowers



After the raw vegan mushroom and nut macaroons here is another cute raw vegan appetizer! Make a cross incision at the base of cherry tomatoes, stuff with some raw vegan nut cheese (recipe here) and decorate with herbs and edible flowers. They taste so good and are incredibly pretty!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Raw Vegan Mushroom and nut 'macarons'


White button mushrooms are delicious raw, and they are vitamin rich, apparently they even have vitamin B12. These little savoury mushrooms 'macarons' make a tasty appetizer, and they look really fancy! All you need is mushrooms and some raw vegan nut cheese (recipe here). Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and peel off the top 'skin', the clean them well with a damp paper towel (do not wash). Fill with a little vegan nut cheese and close together like a macaron.  



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Raw Vegan Nut Cheese


This is commonly called Vegan cheese or nut cheese, although to me it feels more like a very 'intense' dip. Full of protein and spreadable, it stores well for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Ingredients:
120 g cashews
80 g macadamia
1 small shallot
2 tbsp lemon juice
water (just enough to blend the nuts)
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the cashews for 4 hours, drain and place in a food processor (or use an immersion blender). Add the shallot, peeled and chopped, lemon juice and a little water. Blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste (I do this little by little while blending).

Store in the fridge.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Roasted pumpkin medallions with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Baked zucchini, Lemon basmati and lentils, Instant hummus, Almond dukka


Brrrrr it is getting cold! Time to prepare some filling, comforting and easy dinners :-).
Greg gave us a long pumpkin from his garden, I love it as you just need to slice it and peel it and you have a nice pumpkin medallion!

Roasted pumpkin medallions with pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Slice, peel and place onto an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil, salt, smoked paprika, garlic and crushed cumin seeds. Roast until tender. Toast a few pumpkin and sunflower seeds the oven and sprinkle on the pumpkin medallions before serving.

In addition I had the last zucchini in the garden, not quite a marrow but quite big, so I sliced it and baked it too:

Baked zucchini

Wash and slice lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and salt, bake. That all!

To serve I added some basmati and lentils

Lemon basmati and lentils

Wash and cook the basmati with a small pinch of salt, open a can of lentils, drain from the water and pour the lentils on top of the rice during the last five minutes of cooking. Turn off the heat, add two tbsp of lemon juice and stir.

And to top some instant hummus with almond dukka:

Instant hummus

Open a can of chickpeas, drain and keep half of its water. Blend the chickpeas, water, two peeled garlic cloves and the juice of half a lemon until smooth. Add salt to taste and a little olive oil.

Almond dukka

Toast half a cup of almond, a few sunflower and pumpkin seeds and 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Add a little rock salt, a pinch of paprika or the spice of your choice. Grind and use to top the Hummus.


Well, that was easy, the kids loved it and got eaten in no time!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gluten free, fat free, sugar free, vegan chestnut and cocoa cakes


 I used one cup of Italian chestnut flour (only used Italian chestnut flour, the chestnuts have been toasted prior to grinding and have a special sweet taste and lovely texture!), 2 tsp cocoa, a few sultanas and enough water to make a batter. I poured the batter in silicone moulds and baked for about 20 minutes (until a toothpick came out clean). Very yummy, incredibly filling, and healthy too.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bread stuffed cabbage leaves, step by step



Cabbages are cheap and healthy, and when I buy one I can cook with it for a family of four for three days! Usually I start with cabbage rolls, to use the larger leaves, and these can be done in a zillion ways! There is another  good Vegan recipe here, but today for the filling I used stale bread. But first thing first:

Wash the cabbage leaves (the bigger outer leaves, about 15, and steam or boil until soft but not too soft! In the meantime put one onion, one carrot, two celery sticks with leaves and a little parsley in the food processor and mince.


Heat two tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the vegetables, stirring often, for 10 minutes.


Soak some old bread in water, doesn't matter what kind of bread, I had two white bread rolls and some seed sourdough, so I used those. 


Squeeze the water out of the bread and crumble it into the pot with the cooking vegetables. Add a little vegetable stock if necessary and cook everything for about 15 minutes. Stir often and make sure that the mixture is quite thick and not too watery or runny. Adjust with salt and pepper (I quite like to use smoked salt here).


Spread the cooked cabbage leaves on clean tea towels.


Divide the vegetable and bread mixture between the leaves.


Roll up the leaves.


They look so pretty!!


In a capable pan heat some olive oil (about 3-4 tbsp) and sizzle a couple of garlic cloves and 1 heap tbsp of tomato puree.


Pack the cabbage rolls in the pot tightly,


 if there is not enough space put some on top, during cooking they will 'reduce' and you will be able to move them down into a single layer.


Add about half a litre of vegetable stock, cover and simmer on low for about 40 minutes.


Serve hot (I had mine on polenta!)


The leftovers rolls and sauce I wrapped in filo pastry and made a pie for the second day, and on the third day I still had the centre of the cabbage to use (quite a lot in fact, I had it after a few days though, for variety) for a Vegan Cabbage Bolognese Sauce.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©