Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quince Jelly

Living in the bush means that I don't have many fruit trees, but from time to time I am lucky enough to get fruit from friend's trees.
One of my favourite has to be quince; it looks so retro and photogenic (ok, I am talking about my dress as well!) and I love quince paste! But this year I decided to make quince jelly, just for a change.

Cut the quinces and remove the pips, add the juice of half a lemon and then place into a pot with a little water. Cook until the quinces are a soft mush. Now you will have to place this 'mass' into a jelly bag or cloth (I use a cotton pillowcase which I bought just to make jellies) and hung it overnight over a bowl to collect the juices. Drip drip drip you will collect some lovely red-orange coloured juice, but do not squeeze the bag, or the jelly will become cloudy!

Measure the juice and add the same amount in sugar. Bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Test to see if the jelly is setting by picking up a little on a teaspoon: if it hardens when cold then the jelly is ready, otherwise boil it a little longer. Once ready pour into a rectangular container. After a few minutes skin the top (this will have all the 'scum' which rises to the surface and needs to be discarded).
Let the jelly set for a few days, then cut into cubes and serve.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plum Paste

I got the plums from Arfi's garden, when I went to her house for an Auckland food bloggers get-together (this was in the Summer, a bit out of season now in NZ, but ok if you are in the Northern Hemisphere).

Wash the plums and place them in a large saucepan with a little water. Bring the fruit to a gentle boil.

Simmer the jam for about 20 minutes and then pass through a sieve, discarding the stones.
Put back into the pot and bring back to the boil. Add the sugar (I used 60% sugar to the weight of the fruit) and stir well. Simmer until you are happy with the consistency (the more you cook it, the thicker the paste. You can also add an apple (not peeled, just chopped and pips removed) for a thicker paste. 

Place the paste into plastic containers, jelly moulds, cups... anywhere you can let it set for a few weeks. I used a silicon muffin tray.

When you need to use the paste tip it over a plate. I did this a bit too early (I couldn't wait to try it) and the top was still soft, but the longer you wait the harder it will become. Arfi calls it Plum Cheese, it is great with bread or crackers.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home made lemon detergent

No food today, but maybe you will like this:

I always use eco cleaning products, or go for the 'home remedies' like baking soda, vinegar and methylated spirit, but I always fantasized about making some myself. I found some good ideas on Galline 2nd Life, a blog that I like very very very much! I was immediately attracted by the washing up and dishwasher detergent, but for a different reason: it reminded me of a beautiful lemon salt scrub for the body that someone presented me years ago. It smelled great and was so nice to use under the shower... it even looked like the one in the picture... So I tried!

Ingredients, as given by Lo in Galline 2nd Life

3 lemons
200 g salt
400 ml water
100 ml white vinegar

Slice the lemons, keeping the peel but discarding the pips. In a food processor blend the lemons as finely as possible with the salt and a little water (taken form the 400ml). Place in a pot, add the rest of the water and the vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Once cold place in a jar.

I tried to use it for the dishes and it works quite well, unless the dishes are really greasy. For the dishwasher Lo suggests to put 2 tbsp in the dishwashing powder compartment, I did and tried at different temperatures, but I think that it works better if doing the dishes by hand.

Lo also says that it can be used for wooden chopping boards, and I used it for the kitchen sink and marble benches (very good, and with a nice lemony smell). Then I took it into the shower and use it on myself! This is where I liked it best: a mild exfoliant, particularly nice for the feet, especially if you are one of those New Zealanders who spend half of their life in jandals or bare-footed!

In a few words: a real multipurpose detergent! Thank you Lo!

Recipe by Lo and Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Agar Agar mango cubes

Agar Agar Mango Cubes

850 ml canned mango pulp (from India)
250 ml water (from the sky)
2 tsp agar agar powder

Mix all the ingredients in a pot, bring to boil and simmer for 2 minutes.
Pour into a rectangular container and let it set (a couple of hours)
Cut into small cubes and decorate with small bamboo leaves.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

This is my entry for the Sweet New Zealand blogging event.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vegan Self-sufficient Vegetable Soup (zuppa dell'orto)

From my garden

This is another post from my Summer diary of garden veggies. It is so cold in Auckland now that I am dreaming of Summer, and planning what to plant in Spring... Spring! I want Spring! 

Anyway, what I used here: yellow and green beans (a few of the yellow beans where overgrown so I collected the big purple beans inside), celery, tomatoes and my first mini pumpkin. All in the pot, with some rain water and rock salt. Yep, rain water, our water comes from the sky and we collect it in a big tank. Can't stop thinking that a soup like this is almost self-sufficient, a part from the salt!

Since my leeks are not ready and I don't have any onions or garlic in the garden, I thought of adding some chives at the end, for that 'oniony' kick. But you know what? When I lifted the lid it smelled like I had just entered a huge veggie garden. The aroma was so strong and perfect that I didn't add anything else.

It was a filling and satisfying garden soup (I called it zuppa dell'orto), you can add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and/or some freshly ground black pepper in the end, or some pasta for a thicker earthier flavour. Sorry I forgot to take a photo when it was in the plates, and it got eaten so quickly!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Potato and Capsicum Curry

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

The colurful curry on the table is Potato and Capsicum:

Peel and cube 4 large potatoes
Wash and cut into large strips 4 capsicums (one green, one yellow, one orange and one red).
In a large pot sizzle half tsp of nigella seeds with two garlic cloves (peeled).
Add half tsp of turmeric, half tsp of coriander powder, half tsp of fennel powder, and half tsp of cumin powder.
Add the potatoes and stir.
Add 1 cup of water, salt to taste, and a tbsp of tomato puree.
Cover and simmer on low until the water has been absorbed.
Add capsicums and stir.
Add one tsp of dried fenugreek leaves, and a little more water if needed.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Check if the potatoes are cooked, then add half tsp of garam masala and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve hot, with rice or flat bread.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chocolate Panforte: Guest Post from a Vegan Author

This wonderful recipe is from Vegan Chef Laurinda Erasmus' book BENESSERE well-being: vegan & sugar-free eating for a healthy life-style, a collection of over 500 vegan recipes, each one with colour photo. 

Laurinda says:

 I encountered this delicious cake in Siena, where entire shops and bakeries are dedicated to making and selling only Panforte. The Italian version was very sweet, with honey, sugar AND glucose syrup. So here is my version of this incredibly tasty cake – filled with lots of different nuts and dried fruit. Only a small amount of apple syrup is used, together with very dark (85%) vegan chocolate and aromatic vanilla-infused oil. Don’t blame yourself if you scoff this in a day or two!

125 g (¾ cup) wholemeal spelt flour

2 tbsp unsweetened pure dark cocoa powder / pure carob powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
70 g each: almonds (6 tbsp), hazelnuts (6½ tbsp), walnuts (6½ tbsp)
300 g (1½ cups) chopped mixed dried fruit, e.g. prunes, figs, sultanas, cherries, apricots
90 g vegan bitter chocolate (85%) / vegan carob buttons
2 tbsp rice syrup
1 tbsp apple / date syrup
70 g (5 tbsp + 1 tsp) vanilla-infused grapeseed / camellia tea / rice bran oil

1 tbsp apple / date syrup  
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg
2 ml ground cloves
4 tsp unsweetened pure dark cocoa powder

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a 1 L baking tin with non-stick baking parchment, or use a silicone dish.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the nuts and dried fruit. Stir well to combine.
3. Heat the chocolate or carob buttons with the syrups and oil in a bowl set over boiling water until molten and smooth. Pour onto the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
4. Spoon into the baking tin, pressing down to remove air pockets and level the surface. Place a sheet of tin foil over the baking tin.
5. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove the tin foil for the last 5 minutes.
6. Remove the Panforte from the oven and cool in the baking tin.
7. Glaze the cake: brush the syrup all over the top. Combine the dry ingredients and sprinkle half over the top. Press down with a spoon to seal in the stickiness.
8. Remove the cooled (and now very firm) Panforte from the baking tin. Peel off the parchment. Roll the sides of the Panforte in the remaining half of the spice mixture to seal.

The cake should last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks – but not in our household! Cut the cake into 16 slices, as it is quite rich.

Recipe and photo provided by Laurinda Erasmus, from her vegan recipe book BENESSERE well-being: vegan & sugar-free eating for a healthy life-style.  Quinoa Publishing.