Monday, June 27, 2011

Cape Gooseberry Jam

Last Summer I went on a two weeks holiday and upon my return I found that I didn't have a veggie garden but a forest of leaves and bugs! We had so much rain when I was away, and I could hardly see the tomatoes on the plants (full of leaves), the zucchini plants were rotten while pumpkins were crawling everywhere, and golly, the Cape gooseberries were out of control!

My problem is that I am not very good at 'thinning' plants. I don't have the courage of killing a seedling just because it gets to close to another one... and the result is this: a mess! I almost felt like removing all the cape gooseberry plants at once, but then I remember the Italian bloggers saying that cape gooseberries are so expensive in Europe... so I picked some and made a jam, on the same afternoon that I got home, even if I was tired from the trip.


700 g cape gooseberries
Juice of half a lemon
500 g sugar (I used caster sugar simply because I just had that in the pantry, having being away so long!)
1 big apple

Wash the freshly picked fruit and place in a large saucepan with a little water and the lemon juice. Bring the fruit to a gentle boil. When the fruit is simmering add the apple, cut and cored but not peeled (the peel contain pectin, which will help your jam set) and the sugar. Stir often and cook for 30 minutes, then blend with an immersion blender. Cook for 10 more minutes, at this point the jam should start setting (check by picking up a little with a metal spoon).

Place the hot jam in sterilised jars, dried in the oven. Either seal the jars with cellophane covers (available in all supermarkets) and secure with an elastic band, or use capsule lids (I use Quattro Stagioni brand).
If using capsule lids, seal the jars well, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the jars. Let the jars cool down in the pot overnight and when they are cold make sure that the capsule has popped by pressing gently on the lid. Properly sterilised jars will keep for over a year.

The jam turned out to be great, possibly one of the best jams I have made during the Summer :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pilaf rice with Chickpeas

I am still very ‘timid’ when it comes to Indian spices: I am always scared to burn them, or to use too much, or too little. In particular I am so used to have cloves and cinnamon in sweet dishes that I never know how much to use in savoury dishes.
For this pilaf I just filled up a tbsp of spices, as you can see there are plenty of cumin seeds, but just a little cinnamon and a few cloves, plus a few cardamom pods), still, just the right amount for me to flavour a pilaf for four.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mixed whole spices (cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 generous pinch of salt
300 g basmati rice
1 can chickpeas, drained

1 Wash the rice and soak for 30 minutes.
2 Heat 1 tbsp of oil, sizzle the whole spices and garlic.

3 Add turmeric and salt.
4 Add rice, chickpeas and water (just enough water to cook the rice by absorption)
5 Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stir-fry with marinated tofu

Usually I don't buy ready made products like this, i rather buy the plain tofu and marinate it myself, but sometime I am pressed for time, so I tried this one from Bean Supreme.

Really nice! I made a quick stir fry with noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and carrots.
It was like food in a minute!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cauliflower and Borage Curry

This turned out to be a fantastic vegan curry, and quite innovative too: I have never seen a curry made with borage!!!

Borage is a beautiful plant to have in the garden, loved by the bees and with pretty blue flowers. It is also versatile: you can eat the flowers, the stems and the leaves. It is prickly, but that goes away with cooking. If you don't have a garden sometimes you can find borage growing wild in meadows, and forage it.

The only thing to remember is to discard the pods with the seeds that have already formed (they are too hard), like the one in the photo below. Flowers and flower buds are soft, and can be cooked.

Sizzle one tsp of fenugreek seeds and one green chili with one tbsp of vegetable oil.

Add one small tsp each of turmeric, ground coriander, ground fennel and paprika, and also a good pinch of salt.

Add one onion, chopped, and sizzle for two minutes, and then add half cauliflower, cut into florettes. Coat the cauliflower well with the spices.

Add one can of coconut milk, and then one can of water (to rinse the coconut milk can). Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the borage, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add one tsp of masala powder and simmer for other five minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft. At the end decorate with fresh borage flowers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My daily bread: Pane

I rarely measure doses for bread now. I just put a little yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar, wait for 5 minutes and then add flour and a pinch of salt. Sometimes I feel like making soft bread, or ciabatta, so I add less flour. Other times I feel like thick country bread, and add more flour. I am never fussed, mostly I just follow my instinct with bread now, maybe because I have done it so many times, and in so many different ways.

Pane is always good! Do you bake your own bread?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gnocco Fritto, Fried Bread from my village in Italy

Gnocco fritto is a fried bread they make in Emilia Romagna. The gnocco fritto form my village is particularly nice, sometimes I think that this is because it is high in the mountains, and the water is better... but on the other hand it could just be that my memory of it is better.

My husband feel in love with gnocco fritto the first time he visited my village, and my kids love it too (of course, it is utterly delicious!!!): if it was for them we would have it every week! Instead I try to limit fried food, and so I just make it 3-4 times per year. For the dough I just use my pizza dough recipe (but I don't really check on quantities). I just use flour, water, salt and yeast. Let the dough rise for a couple of hours before rolling it out.

Roll out the dough

I like the round gnocco fritto, so I cut it with a bowl (and the centre with a smaller bowl).

I used rice bran oil for frying.

Then I fry the centre holes, the kids love them!!!

The rest I cut into squares.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini and Aranxta Zecchini Dowling©

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rocket and Cashew Dip

Rocket, roasted cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. The easiest dip ever!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

almond, sesame, cumin, smoked paprika, and fennel dukka

I love dukka, my base recipe is in my book Savour, yet the beauty with dukka is that it can be personalized each time, and it is always good. For this one I toasted 100 g of almonds (not blanched) in the oven for 10 minutes, then I added one tbsp of sesame seed, one tsp of cumin seeds and half tsp of fennel seeds and put everything back into the oven for 4-5 more minutes.

All in the food processor, and then grind until fine but still a little chunky.

At the end I added some smoked paprika and some salt. Dukka can be used as a rub, a topping (great on hummus) and as a dip. And it can be made with a variety of nuts, seeds and spices.
The best way to eat it, for me, is to use it with bread: dip some bread in extra virgin olive oil first...

And then in the dukka!. Quite addictive, and the perfect party food. It lasts a few days in a sealed tin container.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©