Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Plantbased recipes with foraged weeds, including chickweed

 


Those who know me also know that I like foraging and to eat a variety of wild food, weeds and flowers. I used to do this a lot as a child, and foraged food was a big part of my diet, but these day I do it mostly for fun, for taste, and for health.  This week I have been back to foraging for necessity, which is the best purpose to forage after all. Strictly this has not been 'foraging' though, but more like weeding. My salad leaves are growing at such a slow speed now that it is painful to watch (and yes, I go and watch them every day!!!) but what is growing in the salad bed at remarkable speed is chickweed! This little weed tends to cover the ground in no time, but it is also yummy, especially the young sprouts, and apparently has plenty of vitamin C, A and Bs. It can be cooked, but I prefer it raw, so here are a few ideas, in case you feel like weeding the garden too!


I made a smoothie with chickweed, feijoas and frozen banana (both the feijoas and banana also came from my garden) and some coconut water as a base. It tasted great and very healthy, similar to a smoothie with fruit and spinach. Ahhh but the satisfaction of having used a weed instead!!



Then, recovering a few salad leaves, and equal part (or more...) of chickweed, I had enough for a salad. I also added a few of the youngest leaves of nasturtium plus some flowers and buds, marigold petals and dianthus. This salad went straight into salad rolls, so it didn't need dressing, but if serving it as a side salad just add a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

And here another serving idea: bagel with nut cheese and weeds! Chickweed, wild cress and onion weed, all growing wildly in my backyard! So, if we really get into dire straits at least you can say that I taught you how to pick weeds and eat them! 🌱🌿




Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Easy vegan custard slice with Spanish Tortas de Aceite, step by step

 


Thanks to my friend Ray I have recently discovered these sweet Spanish Ines Rosales' tortas (there is also a savoury version). And noticing that they are vegan I thought of making a quick dessert, a bit like a custard slice, which I love, with them!


For the custard I used oat milk (barista style).

Ingredients:
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
250 ml oat milk
a few drops of vanilla essence
2 sweet Ines Rosales pastries
Amarena cherries (optional)
Icing sugar to sprinkle
Fresh Fruit to serve (optional)



Mix the first three ingredients together and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla at the end. You should cook this custard until it is quite thick, and then keep stirring after cooking until it is lukewarm and no more steam comes out. Make sure that is thick, not runny!


Pile the custard on one of the pastry


I had some amarena cherries so I though of adding 4 to the custard, but any fresh or preserved fruit would work too. Just don't add too much 'juice'.



Place the second pastry on top and press lightly, smoothing the custard on the sides with a small spoon, if necessary. Sprinkle with icing sugar and refrigerate for a few hours.


This actually served three people, and we had fresh cherries on the side. I'll definitely make it again, probably with berries or with fruit preserved in alcohol! Yum! A real treat!


 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, March 19, 2022

Zucchini with marigold vinegar and marigold fresh petals

 


This is a delicious starter or side dish. Cut the zucchini in thin long strips and pan fry with olive oil on both sides for just a minute (don't let them brown, they just need to soften). Chop plenty of Italian parsley and garlic with a pinch of salt and add to the zucchini, with a tbsp or two of marigold vinegar (recipe here). If you don't have marigold vinegar just use some white balsamic or white wine vinegar (but consider making marigold vinegar too!). Let the zucchini marinate for at least two hours, more if possible, then lay on a serving platter and sprinkle with fresh marigold petals. Serve at room temperature of chilled.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Vegan coconut and blueberry puddings with lavender and nata de coco

 


 Ingredients: 

A cup of frozen blueberries 
a few cubes of nata de coco in syrup
lavender petals 
2 tbsp sugar
1x400ml can coconut cream +
same amount in boiling water to rinse the can
1 tsp agar agar
 

Place the blueberries and nata de coco in a bowl, add a few petals of lavender and let it defrost.

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.  Add the sugar a tsp of agar agar and bring to the boil stirring constantly. When it boils add half of the blueberries (but not the nata de coco) and their juice. Fill 4 to 6 glasses and let it set. Then add the rest of the blueberries and nata de coco (it will have changed colour from translucent to purple) and decorate with lavender petals. refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Raw banana blossom and carrot salad

 


I usually just have the banana blossom 'heart' for salads, but this time I have included a few of the little flowers that are found under the Petals. Cut the banana blossom from the bunch of bananas (leave them on the tree if they are still green) and peel off the outer pink petals, collecting the little blossoms and dropping them in cold water and lemon juice (I added some to the sink). 


Prepare another bowl with water and lemon juice and cut the banana 'heart' into small slices, dropping them quickly into the lemon water so that they don't brown. If you want to add the flowers you will need to remove the style and stigma, and the papery outer part of the flower. This takes a long time and this is why I only do it for a few of the most tender flowers. The more central flowers, which are completely white (no pink) can be eaten whole.



Rinse well and drain, then place in a bowl and add lemon or lime juice, about 2 tbsp, soy sauce (tamari for gluten free), about 1 tbsp, and half a tsp of grated ginger. Press down with a plate or a second bowl and place a weigh on top (you can find an image in this recipe here). Leave overnight, or even a couple of days (like I did, it was perfectly fine!), then rinse under cold water, shake well and place in a clean bowl. Grate one large carrot and dress with lemon juice, salt and olive oil, then fold in the banana flowers. Mix well, taste for salt, and scoop into the banana petals for serving. I also decorated mine with Vietnamese mint flowers. 

It was very good, but next time, if I have the patience and time to clean all the little flowers, I'll tray to cook them. The 'heart' is definitely much nicer! 

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Vegan pumpkin red curry with Vietnamese mint flowers (and a soup with the leftovers)

 



Bake the whole pumpkin in the oven and then slice and remove the outer peel and centre, slice and set aside. Chop two shallots and one green pepper and sauté with a little vegetable oil,  then add red curry paste (as much as your taste buds suggest) and a can of coconut cream, plus the water from rinsing out the can. Bring to a simmer, then add the sliced pumpkin and some Vietnamese mint leaves and flowers, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Top with fresh Vietnamese mint flowers, and also chopped coriander and Thai or lemon basil. Serve with rice, it is delicious!

If you have made a lot you can also blend it into a soup, easy as!


  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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 ©