Monday, November 28, 2011

Italian style mixed mushrooms with tomato sauce

I like mushrooms but I find than champignons have very little taste. I guess that I grew up with wild mushrooms (and lots of porcini) so maybe I am a bit of a snob... still, champignons are easy to find and I tend to use them as a 'base', adding other dried mushrooms for extra flavour.

I had a handful of dried porcini and another of dried Chinese black mushrooms, and I soak them in water for 30 minutes. In the meantime I cleaned and chopped 400 g of champignons (I tend to discard the stalks of the champignons, not sure why, but I learned to do it ages ago in Italy and I keep doing it).

I heated some olive oil with a few cloves of garlic, then I added the champignons and some salt. I cooked the mushrooms until all their water was gone (abut 20 minutes) then I added the dried mushrooms and their soaking water. 

After 5 minutes I added the content of a can of finely chopped Italian tomatoes, and some more water from rinsing the can (another 400 ml).

I let the mushrooms simmer, covered, for about one hour (yes that long) until almost all the liquid was gone. It may seem like a long cooking time, but it is winter after all, and it is nice to have a pot simmering on the stove :-).

At the end I added some fresh Italian parsley chopped with a clove of garlic, (about one tbsp in all).  You can use these mushrooms with polenta, pasta, and even couscous, or as a side dish, and they are wonderful as pie filler and to make mushrooms lasagna. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegan sweet bites

I enter this post to the November edition of the blogging event Sweet New Zealand, hosted by Mairi of Taost

Mango Agar Agar Flowers

Mango pudding is a staple at home, and the kids like to take it to school for lunch. For the lunch boxes I usually cut it into squares, but just for fun this time I used some little flower cutters. Agar agar is easier to shape and cut than jelly, and it is healthier too. The basic recipe for mango agar agar pudding is here.

Hazelnut Gold Chocolates

Toast some hazelnuts and remove the skins, then drop into some melted dairy free chocolate, the darker the better. Collect 3 hazelnuts at the time and let them set together (I also spoon just a little more chocolate on top to make it more like a proper chocolate). I had a very little edible gold paper left from an old job, so I sprinkled some on the chocolates. It didn't give it any particular flavour, I must say (maybe I had too little?), but it looked pretty and sophisticated :-). Unfortunately is was dark by then and the photo is not too clear, the flash also made the chocolate look less dark that it actually was. Still, everything got eaten pretty happily!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spicy Chickpea Snack

I am used to Italian cats eating almost anything, but New Zealand cats seem to be fussier, so I was very surprised when Marameo jumped on the bench to grab the cooked chickpeas that I was rinsing. I had to give her some, she could not wait, and ate them all. I gave them seconds and then she stopped bothering me. Strange cat! 

With my remaining chickpeas, I wanted to make a spicy snack: this one from the blog of Araba Felice.

Smoked Paprika Chickpea Snack

The original recipe calls for:
400 g can of chickpeas,
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp sweet paprika, or your favourite spice (in my variation I used smoked paprika instead)
1 tsp salt, about
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
I also added a few cumin seeds.

Rinse and pat dry the chickpeas, and mix with the other dried ingredients until the chickpeas are nicely coated. At this point I left the chickpeas in the bowl for about 30 minutes so that the flour and spices could really get 'caked' around each chickpea.

Pour the olive oil on a baking tray (no baking paper), add the chickpeas and roll them around so that they are not one on top of the other. Bake at 200°C, rolling them on the tray again from time to time to make sure that they get crispy all over. The original recipe says 30 minutes, but my canned chickpeas were quite small, I though, so 20 minutes were sufficient. Serve as a snack, warm or even cold (I think that they will go well with beer so I will make them again when my husband is back!)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Salad rolls with rice paper

Bored with the same side salad? Can’t get the kids to eat it? Maybe you need to roll it up! I did this because I had a few sheet of rice paper to use, just about a dozen, not enough to make a meal, but enough for some fun side veggies.

Cooked green beans
Cooked carrot sticks
Mesclun salad
Rice paper
Sweet chili sauce to serve

Follow the instructions on how to soften, fill and roll the rice papers here.

Btw, these were a hit with the kids, they like salad, but they had more fun eating it this way.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cooking Florence Fennel and Bok Choy together

I have a few fennels growing in the garden and the other day only two were big enough to pick. They were certainly bigger than those 'bambino' fennels I see in the supermarkets here in New Zealand, but not as big as the ones I used to get in the markets in Italy. I had to find a way to make them go ... further! So I decided to cook them with bok choy (the only other vegetable really 'active' in my veggie garden), hoping that the strong fennel taste would take over. 

Go Further Fennels

Surprisingly enough it worked! I guess that this was a sort of 'Fusion' experiment for me, and I wonder if in Chinese cuisine fennels are ever paired with bok choy. Do you Know??

Anyway, for the recipe: I washed and cut the 2 fennels and 1 bok choy and cook them in a pan with just a little margarine, (not olive oil for this dish) then I added some vegetable stock, covered them with a lid and let them simmer on very low for quite a long time. About one hour. Slow cooking is best with fennel (unless you eat them raw), they have to become really really soft, and the bok choy kind of took in the good flavours too. 
Serve hot, as a side vegetable.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Swede and parsnip (and other vegetables) creamy soup

I got some potatoes from the garden and I wanted to make a potage soup with other winter vegetables: onions, carrots and celery, coriander (before it dies completely!), and then some not so popular vegetables: swede and parsnip. Once again my husband reacted like for the brussels sprouts: it seems like swede and parsnip have a bad reputation too! Not my favourite veggies either, I would not bother growing them since I am happy to have them just once a year.

After chopping all the veggies I felt that they didn't look bad: at least there was colour there! But not for long. After cooking everything with some vegetable stock, and blending it into a creamy soup, I had a strange yellow colour.

But the soup was good (I think that the coriander really works here)! The kids tried to guess: pumpkin? No. Kumara? No. I realized that they didn't remember what swedes and parsnips were! I think that the last time we had them (in a soup, as always) it was about 2 years ago!! And my husband? He liked the soup and said that it did not particularly taste of swede or parsnip anyway, and this, apparently, was a good thing :-).

Do you eat swedes and parsnip?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©