Monday, July 26, 2021

Make your own ciabatta bread

  


This is my recipe for a simple yet foolproof ciabatta bread loaf, one of my favourite loaves! The recipe is straight from my book Savour (now available as an ebook from Kobo and from Barnes & Noble, and also from Amazon for Kindle), where there are many more bread recipes, and more. In the meantime enjoy this one!
  

Ciabatta 

Ingredients

300ml warm water

2 teaspoons active yeast granules

14⁄teaspoon sugar

300g high-grade flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt 

Makes 1 loaf

Place the warm water in a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. When the yeast starts to bubble, add the flour and salt and work into a dough for about 5 minutes using your fingers. This dough will be too sticky to roll on the bench or table so knead it in the bowl (although it feels more like mixing). Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and turn out the risen dough onto the tray bottom-side up. The dough will be sticky so you will need to scrape it from the sides of the bowl; it is also likely to be runny – prop up the outside edges of the baking paper with a couple of small ovenproof ramekins to avoid ending up with an extremely large flat loaf (the ramekins can be filled with water to create a steam oven effect - image 1)). Dust the top of the loaf with the extra flour. Bake in a preheated 180 ̊C (350 ̊F) oven for 25–30 minutes.

 Remove the bread from the oven, wrap in a tea towel, then place in a plastic bag and seal. Leave the bread in the bag for 30 minutes so that the steam will cook it further and make it soft and deliciously chewy. If you prefer a ciabatta with a crunchy crust, eat it while it’s still warm – yum!

 

 

Tips and variations

Although some recipes add 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough, I prefer an oil-free version so I can drizzle olive oil on it when it is freshly cut and ready to eat. I also like to dip ciabatta slices in a little oil flavoured with crushed cumin seeds and salt or basil leaves.



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Beautiful Brown Lentil Salad with Edible Flowers

 



Ingredients

500 g brown lentils
1 leaf bay
water and salt for boiling
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
salt to taste
Cucumber, half
Rocket salad
Edible flowers 


A fresh lentil salad for summer! Soak the lentil overnight, then rinse well, add plenty of water, a bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook until 'al dente', or as soft as you like (but not mushy). Drain and briefly rinse under cold water. Place in a mixing bowl, add extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt to taste, and half a cucumber chopped into small pieces. Mix well. Line a serving plate or large shallow bowl with rocket salad leaves, spoon the lentils on top, then sprinkle with petals and small edible flowers (I used borage, verbena, dianthus, calendula and cornflowers).
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 8, 2021

Vegan Inari-san sushi with flowers

 



Wash the sushi rice (or Japanese rice) several times in cold water, until the water runs clear, and then cook it by absorption. The doses are about 1 and 3/4 (three quarters) cups of sushi rice for 2 cups of water, but that depends on the type of pot. You need a pot with a good lid, or you will loose too much steam. I kind of regulate myself by ear now, since I know my pots and pans. Bring the pot to boiling point, lower the heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Once the rice is ready pour it into a bowl and stir it with a wooden spatula, cooling it with a fan if you can. 

This was for a large party so I cooked 1 kg of rice. I divided the cooked rice into 4, to one I added Japanese preserved mushrooms, to the second toasted black sesame seeds and salt, to the third sakura furikake, and to the fourth shiso furikake. But you can just add sushi vinegar if you don't have furikake or other ingredients. Then I used the rice to fill inari pockets (available in Japanese and Asian store, and many supermarkets. I decorated the sushi pockets with dianthus, calendula, cornflower and violets. I also added some cutting of carrot paper (like nori sheet, but made of carrots), chives, and little mushrooms. I also added some calendula petals to the soy sauce. 




 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Two layers Vegan Chocolate Soy Cream Pudding


In Italy I found a really delicious soy cream which inspired me to make a rich chocolate pudding.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp raw sugar
500ml soy milk
120 g best quality dark chocolate
(plus some to grate)
200ml soy cream


Mix the flour and sugar, add the soy milk slowly and then bring to the boil. Add the dark chocolate and stir until thick. Pour half of the mixture into the bottom of for dessert bowl (better if glass, so you will be able to see the two different chocolate layers - alternatively you can use some pretty glasses).


Let the chocolate pudding in the bowl cool down and set, in the meantime stir the remaining chocolate (still in the pot) until cool, then add 3/4 of the soy cream and mix well. Divide between the 4 serving bowls, then top with a dollop of cream, swirl it with a spoon or a toothpick and finish with grated chocolate.


Can you see the two layers in the last photos? Still intense chocolate, but with a creamy heart! Refrigerate and serve, everyone will love it!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, November 1, 2019

Stufato di verdura - vegetable stew


I love chopping colourful veggies, what a treat! 

For this stufato (like a casserole) I used red onions, celery, red, green and yellow capsicums and carrots. Gently sauté the vegetables with olive oil, then add plenty of tomato passata and salt to taste (or an organic vegetable stock cube). Cover and simmer on low for a long time (the longer the better), adding a little water if needed.


A couple of minutes before turning off the heat add some fresh basil leaves and a little more olive oil, plus salt to taste. Enjoy hot or cold.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Friday, September 20, 2019

Fresh As freeze dried herbs and spices for some Thai inspired Vegan curries


These were soooooo delicious!!! I made the side dish just with onion, tomato, green beans, Fresh As Chili Powder (plus a little oil for frying the onion and salt to taste. The 'main' green curry had all the others Fresh As powders (plus some chili): lemon grass, coriander, ginger, sweet basil and kaffir lime.  The kaffir lime was my favourite! I also added some Vietnamese mint from the garden.  It had tofu, potatoes, carrots, beans, onions and coconut milk, plus organic vegetable stock for seasoning. Served with rice. Amazing!

Thank you Fresh As





Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Potato salad with Fresh As Tarragon, capers and Friarielli flowers, plus focaccia and eggplants with Fresh As herbs - plant based paradise!


I have been trying a few freeze dried herbs from Fresh As and this potato salad is definitely a winner.

Boil the potatoes and peel, then cut and mix with vegan mayo and capers. Sprinkle with Fresh As French Tarragon. I also added some edible flowers from my friarielli (cime di rapa) plants.



The friarielli seeds come for Italian Seeds Pronto, such a great winter crop! Eat the leaves, tips and flowers!


I also tried other Fresh As powders: chili, garlic, oregano, basil and rosemary (plus the French Tarragon) on focaccia. I used letter stencils before adding the powders, just to record what went where. FYI, the garlic becomes orange after baking.





Delicious, and also pretty in a bread basket!


And on some fried eggplants (added after frying, with salt).












 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 16, 2019

Niue, eating vegetarian from a plantation - plant based paradise



Last month we returned to Niue for a holiday, and one of the first things we did was a Plantation Tour with Tony, like seven year ago, to stock up with local produce for a plant based diet. Naturally we started with some fresh coconut to drink.



And some marshmallow coconut to eat. 


We took back quite a lot of young coconuts, from a small one I could get two big glasses of coconut water, if it was a bit bigger two and an half glasses.


After drinking we used the tender flesh, you can just eat it as it is, or use it in cooking (the best was to pan-fry it with olive oil and smoked salt and eat it as 'vegan bacon'. Then we gave the shells to the cat and it cleaned it up! Never seen a cat eating coconut!



Click here for more coconut recipes and creations in Niue.


Next was taro, so much taro, white and pink!






And cassava, a white and a yellow type (I prefer the yellow).



And a type of wild spring onion, very tasty. We also got some basil.


Ginger abounds too, if you are keen.


And this is our bounty!


Taro is very starchy and filling, I made some salads, one with boiled taro, olive oil, salt, basil and spring onions. 


And one with boiled taro, vegan mayo and spring onions.


I also boiled the cassava and then roasted half with olive oil and salt, while the other half I mushed and mixed with falafel mix to make veggie burgers (ok, they don't look 'pretty' but they were pretty good). More recipes here.


No much tropical fruit around a part from bananas, papaya and coconut, but I loved the papayas with a drizzle of Niue Honey and lime or lemon juice.



And for dessert: papaya, banana and young coconut flesh fruit salad, with rum and a little sugar. 


And here something we DIDN"T eat: Uga crab.


And some pretty fish!




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, August 2, 2019

Pitako - coconut and banana bread from Niue



I have been attending Niue language classes at the Pasifika Education Centre in Auckland, and a few weeks back we also learned to cook Pitako, a type of 'bread' made with grated coconut and bananas (green and ripe) - only! Obviously vegan, sugar and gluten free, very Paleo :-). 


Ingredients: fresh coconut to grate, green bananas, ripe bananas.



Volu e niu ke he apa
Grate the coconut 


Fakapelapela e tau fua futi momoho, fole e tau fua futi ti holo kehe apa.
Mash the ripe banana, peel and grate the green banana into a large bowl.





Lafi fakalataha e futi holo mo e futi momoho mo e niu volo.
Mix the grated green banana, mashed ripe banana and grated coconut.
(for a sweeter pitako add more mashed banana, add more green banana for a less sweet Pitako, I also put a few drops of lemon juice, and next time I will add a pinch of salt - these are not in the recipe but my own additions).


Loegi e laufuti mo e fakatoka e foila mo e taga tao kai.
Hafi e Pitako.
Prepare oven bag and foil or banana leaf. 
Wrap.
In class we used tin foil and baking paper, but at home I had banana leaves (need to be washed and scorched over a flame to soften and remove the central vein to soften. I used the banana leaves to wrap, and then also tin foil on the outside.



Tao ke taha moe hafa kehe ua e tala.
Bake for 2 and an half hours.
(I baked for one hour at 180C, then turned the oven off and left inside for the night, it turned out fine!)


Kai vela poke kai momoko, hahau.
Take out, eat hot or cold.


Taumofa!
Dig in!




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©