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.

Ingredients
Water
Salt

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.

Ingredients
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 ©

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Vegan and gluten free chocolate pudding



This is sooooo yummy, it reminds me of those soy chocolate puddings that you can buy in the fridge compartment of many organic-vegetarian stores (and now in some supermarkets too) but it is homemade and therefore even tastier.

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)

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.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kashmiri Masala chickpeas and potatoes made with a left ore juice from peperonata


Manu invited me to a 'Swap' on her blog, and my swapping partner is Billie from Scotland. We had to send each other an ingredient and then make a recipe with it. I sent Billie the Fresh As raspberry powder, and I look forward to see what she will do with it! She sent me some Kasmiri Masala, but because I got it late (I forgot to tell Billie my address, silly me, but fortunately she copied it from the parcel I sent her!). The best thing about a Masala is that you don't have to sizzle all the spices at the beginning and work out the doses, in fact a masala should be added at the very end, to enjoy the fragrances of the aromatic spices (and the Kashmiri Masala is definitely very aromatic!!). So even if I was running around like mad I managed to throw together something starting with the leftover juice of a peperonata (stewed capsicums with celery, carrot, and garlic).


I had all that wonderful bell pepper's stock left from the night before (we ate all the capsicums and veggies), so I just peeled and cut 5 large potatoes, added the content of one can of chickpeas, and some cherry tomatoes from the garden (make an incision with a knife so that they don't 'explode' during cooking). I added a little salt and then simmered everything until the potatoes were soft. I adjusted for salt and added one tsp of Kashmiri Masala, put the lid on for 2 more minutes on low. The only problem is that I don't have a last photo! We ate too quickly before remembering to take one! :-) But I hope that you will like the recipe, and it is super simple! Serve with basmati rice and roti.




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, May 22, 2015

Celery, cucumber and coriander juice

Green, cleansing and refreshing! 


Celery stalks and leaves, cucumber, and a few sprigs and leaves of coriander (to taste, it can be really strong).

Happy detoxing!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Vegan Sushi and onigiri (rice balls)


The weather has been beautiful, and it is still possible to eat outside, especially fresh things like this vegan sushi. Note that fish sushi is not traditionally eaten in summer in Japan, although thanks to refrigeration now many do, but some 'traditionalists' refuse. Vegan sushi on the other hand, like inari and norimaki (nori rolls), as well as onigiri (rice balls) are all great summer options.


Let's start with the onigiri. 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. At this stage I took some rice aside to make onigiri and used the rest for sushi (see below). Rub your hands with salt and shape the rice into balls. I added some salted sakura blossoms on top to make pretty onigiri, and then I made some miniature ones (last photo) which I sprinkled with fresh chives.


To the remaining rice I added some ready made sushi vinegar, about 2 tablespoons, but this is my personal taste. If I don't have sushi vinegar I use 2 tbsp of rice vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt (to taste, and I don't like to use too much sugar or salt!). Roll your norimaki with the filling of your choice (I used takuan, cucumber and busy lizzie flowers). Or use the rice to fill inari (tofu) sachets, and then top them with herbs, flowers, veggies and pickles. So refreshing.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vermicelli in coconut and veggie broth with tofu and Asian fragrances


This is an aromatic vegan and gluten free soup, light and delicious.


500 ml vegetable stock
1 can coconut cream or milk + one can of water (rinsing the coconut cream)
1 large yellow courgette (zucchini)
2 fresh red chilies
1 block of tofu
a pinch of freshly grated ginger
1 stalk lemon grass
Vermicelli
a few coriander leaves
a few cherry tomatoes

Simmer all together for a few minutes until the zucchini are soft but not mushy.

In the meantime soak the vermicelli in hot water until soft then divide between 6 bowls.
chop a few cherry tomatoes, and wash some fresh basil and some thai mint

Pour the hot soup over the vermicelli, making sure that each dish has equal parts of tofu and veggies.
Decorate with the tomatoes, basil and Thai mint and serve immediately.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grape juice


There are some beautiful grapes on sale at the Dragicevich Orchard in Oratia, those old fashion grapes that really smell and taste like grapes (not like the stuff that you find in supermarkets). And they make a wonderful juice. Apparently grape juice has antioxidant effects, well, this would be a bonus, but the only thing that I can say so far is that it is delicious, and the aroma brings back happy childhood memories of picking grapes at my Grandma's in Italy. Yes, memories in a small glass! 




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles



Yes these are raw, vegan, sugar free and gluten free chocolate truffles, but what's more they are made using only 4 Fair Trade ingredients: Trade Aid Palestinian almonds, Trade Aid cinnamon, Trade Aid Madjoul dates, and Trade Aid baking cocoa,  plus one local ingredient, Hazelz hazelnut flour from Canterbury. There is no sugar, no dairy product, and no need for cooking. 


I like using Fair Trade products because they are in line with the Slow Food principles of Good, Clean and Fair food. And with my philosophy. Furthermore the quality is really good! Take the Medjoul dates for example, they are so sweet and delicious, they can substitute sugar in many preparations. The baking cocoa is so good that you don't need to use it just for baking, it is perfect for puddings and hot chocolate too. The Palestinian almonds are different from my favourite Italian almonds, but they are quite unique, a bit spicy in fact. The cinnamon really aromatic, you need just a tiny bit, I like to say 'a hint' :-). And the hazelnut flour is what's keep everything together so nicely! 



Ingredients:

4 Trade Aid Madjoul dates
20 Trade Aid Palestinian almonds
50 ml water
1 hint (i.e. a tiny pinch) Trade Aid cinnamon
1 tbsp Trade Aid baking cocoa, plus more to dust
2 tbsp Hazelz hazelnut powder, plus more to dust

Makes 12 truffles

Remove the stone from the dates and break up in rough pieces. Place in a cup with the almonds and 50 ml of water. Wait for 30 minutes to let the fruit soften a little and then blend with an immersion blender. 
Add the cinnamon, cocoa and hazelnut powder and mix with a spoon. Shape into 12 balls and roll half in cocoa and half in hazelnut flour. The best way to do this is roll the truffles first in cocoa or hazelnut flour, and then pass them between the palms of your hands quickly a few times so that you will get an even coating, and not too much of it, just the right amount. No need to refrigerate, just let them dry a bit on a tray before piling them into a serving bowl or glass.




 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Raspberry agar agar vegan jelly



Agar agar must be the easiest pudding ever, and it is vegan and gluten free. Also, if you don't use too much sugar it will be low in calories (and no fat, I guess…). 

For 4 serving I use 500ml of water, half tsp of agar agar powder (usually I use 1 tsp, but I wanted a softer and more wobbly jelly) and 1 tbsp of sugar (here too, personal taste!). For the Fresh As fruit powder dosage, it depends on your taste; for most fruit (like pineapple) I use 1 tbsp, or 1 and half tbsp (like passion fruit), but the raspberry powder is so intense that half tbsp with suffice, using the other half just to sprinkle on the jelly when is set. Bring to boil and pour into 4 jelly moulds. Let it cool down, refrigerate, and serve (with more Fresh As powder sprinkled on top). 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Vegan Rice Paper Rolls with vermicelli, salad and fake meat


Something filling yet light, done in a jiffy! I had very little left in the fridge, just a bit of salad mix, but in the pantry I had some rice paper, vermicelli and dried gluten meat. So I put the 'fake' meat in a pot with a little vegetable stock (made with an organic veggie cube) and cooked it until soft. Then I cut it into little strips (actually, Arantxa did it - see photo).  I soaked the vermicelli in boiling water and then drained and rinsed them. To assemble the rice paper rolls you will need to line the table with clean tea towels, then soak the rice paper in hot water until soft, top with salad, the vermicelli and the gluten meat strips.



 To see how to fold the rolls (step by step) you can have a look here. If you have time you can fold the rolls adding herb leaves and flowers. Keep the rolls covered with a tea towel until ready to eat. Serve with soy sauce or sweet chili sauce.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fresh juice using beetroot stalks and leaves, carrots, apples and ginger


… plus beetroots from the garden, carrots, apples, and a little ginger. For five juices I used about 1.5 kg of carrots, plus a few local apples, and i picked two beetroots from my veggie garden, they were small but the leaves and stalks are perfect for juicing too (of salad) so nothing get wasted. I used just a little ginger (not all the piece in the photo) to give the juice a little zest. It was really sweet and delicious!




 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Zucchine ripiene - Stuffed zucchini


I have two zucchini plants in the garden, one yellow and one green. They produce a lot, the yellow three times more than the green (I don't know why) and we have been eating zucchini in 100 different ways: grilled, sautéed, fried and tempura, in soups, with pasta… fortunately they are very versatile!
Here I had a few big ones (sometimes I don't pick them for a day and they double overnight! But the important thing is that they don't get to the 'marrow' state - too big and bitter) so I decided to stuff them.
I cut them into two and scooped out the flesh. Then I baked the shells upside down with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil for 15 minutes. In the meantime I blended the zucchini flesh and then added chopped parsley and chives (about 1 tbsp), salt and pepper, a tbsp of olive oil and enough breadcrumbs to make a stuffing (add the breadcrumb one tbsp at the time so that you don't add too much). The zucchini were fresh from the garden and therefore they were very moist, so I needed more breadcrumbs, but if you buy them they may be a few days old and more dry, so less breadcrumbs are needed. I removed the zucchini from the oven, turned them up and filled them tightly with the stuffing. 
In the tray you can see also some zucchini slices, these where from 'regular' size zucchini, and I used them as side veggies.


Bake everything until the stuffing has a nice golden crust and serve.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Plum Jam (using much less sugar that the traditional 'Anglo' recipes)




Jam made with plums from Oratia. I removed the stone and cooked the plums with a little water and some jam setting sugar (this was a present, and I wanted to try it). The NZ jam tradition seems to be 1kg of sugar for 1 kg of fruit (or even more sugar if you make raspberry jam) for an Italian this is too much. I go for 40 to 60%, with the latter being my preference if I need to preserve the jam for a long time (it helps agains botulin). You can taste the fruit better with less sugar :-).





And our cats, Nikita (left) and Marameo (right) are also enjoying the last of the sun, sleeping outdoors all day long! Marameo is 18 now, an old lady cat 


 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©