Monday, December 19, 2011

Roasted New Zealand Yams

Sometimes I am really happy to be a vegetarian: it means that I don't have to try wild specialties like huhu grubs. Not that many New Zealaders would either, you can't buy them in shops (I think) and you have to forage for them in the bush (they eat rotten wood) or go to special wild food festivals like the Hokitika Wild Food Festival. But I found a better, and vegetable alternative, with New Zealand yams.

Yam are much bigger than huhu grubs, and I got the red and the apricot colour varieties, I thought that they looked really pretty. After boiling them the colours had faded, a lot, and the look was... well, like in the photo above. I left them on the kitchen bench and went to get the kids from school. As soon as they arrived home the went" "Huhu grubs????". No, they have never eaten them, but they saw them and know what they look like. They giggled a lot, they said that yams really looked like gigantic huhu grubs.

Just boiled they didn't appeal to me, so I roasted them with olive oil, smoked garlic, smoked salt, coriander seeds and a few chili flakes, and they went down a treat. In this household my husband is the only one that has ever eaten huhu grubs, I asked him if the flavour was similar to these yams, he said: "No, these  taste much better!"

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Make (Vegan) Hazelnut Turkish Delights, and pistachio, and lavender, and...

I have already explained how to make Rose Turkish Delight (Lokum) at home, it is pretty and pink, but I must confess that my favourite Lokum of all is hazelnut, so today I will show you this variations, and a few more. To start follow the recipe here.

Rose Turkish Delight

While the cornflour and sugar syrup are cooking shell and toast a couple of handfuls of hazelnuts. It is better to use fresh hazelnuts and toast them just before making Lokum, for a full hazelnut flavour. Years ago I also had a hazelnut essence which was great, but I cannot find it here, I think that one of the best places to buy it would be in Piedmont, in Italy. Anyway, even without hazelnut essence you can get the best out of hazelnuts if you toast them and use them within a few days. When they are still hot from the oven put them in a clean tea towel and shake and rub them well so as to discard the peel. If some peel stays on don't worry, it is edible, just not as nice. Crush the nuts roughly (I have a nut crusher that my Mother-in-law gave me as a present, very handy for these jobs), and when the Turkish Delight mixture is ready, instead of adding rose water and berries, add the chopped nuts. Mix well and then follow the same steps as for the basic recipe.

A few variations:

Pistachio: same as hazelnuts, but it is also possible to blanch the nuts to remove the skin (for greener pistachio). Almonds could go too!

Orange Blossom: Same as Rose, but add Orange Blossom Water instead or Rose Water, and no need to add berries to colour these: they should be clear.

Lavender: when you make the syrup add a few lavender leaves (yes leaves) and then remove them before pouring the syrup into the cornflour mixture. Your Turkish Delights will smell and taste like lavender. For colours add a few blueberries, they will melt in the hot mixture and give you a light lavender colour.

Lemon and other citruses: Easy, add lots of lemon juice and/or zest (or the juice of your favourite citrus fruit) when you make the sugar syrup (there is also lemon essence, if you like).

And then... endless, there is mint (but I am not keen on that one) and so many more, let me know if you make a special one.

Hazelnut Turkish Delight

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to make (Vegan) Rose Turkish Delights (Lokum) step by step

Before I start I would like to say that I don't have a sugar thermometer, essential if you are really into confectionery, and that I didn't use much sugar for these Turkish delights. Many recipes use much more sugar, and it is not that I wanted to make a low sugar treat here (it is still pretty sweet), it is just that making it at home really makes me realize how much sugar there is already in my diet, and if I can have something with a little less... well, why not!

This method is 'home friendly' i.e. these can be made at home with very little effort and equipment, and the recipe comes from my book Sweet As... where I also have the recipe for lavender and orange blossom Turkish Delights.


1 l water
300 g sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
100 g cornflour
1 tbsp frozen raspberries
1 tbsp rose water
icing sugar (very little) and cornflour (lots) to dust.

In a pot put half of the water (500 ml) with the sugar and lemon juice and bring to the boil. Boil it down until you get a light syrup (here those with the sugar thermometer will go to about 240 degrees, I just waited for the mixture to thicken a little). In another pot mix the remaining water with the cornflour, then bring to the boil and simmer, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Add the hot sugar syrup and stir well.

Now let the pot simmer, without stirring, for at least 30 minutes. More would be good, if you are patient, 45 minutes to one hour is more like the shops do it, but in a home kitchen looking at a bubbling mixture is a little worrying. Still, the more you cook it the harder your Turkish Delights. At the end add a tbsp of rose water, and to colour it, since I try not to use artificial colouring, a few raspberries. The berries will 'melt' in the hot mixture and the little seeds are quite pretty, I think. If you don't like the seeds, just pass the berries through a sieve, and adde the juice only. Pour the hot mixture into a square or rectangular tupperware or similar plastic container (easy to detach the solid block after it sets) and let it cool down and set overnight.

The day after tip out your 'candy' block and cut into pieces. I now understand why when you buy lokum it is full of white powder: it takes lots of cornflour to keep it! To dust it I use a mixture of cornflour and very little icing sugar: if you use too much icing sugar the sweet may 'sweat' and become all sticky! Another problem is humidity: it is very humid here in the Auckland bush, if your sweets seems too 'wet' after cutting them, place them on a oven tray and bake them at 50 on fan for a little to dry. Store them in layers divided with paper, and dust regularly with a mixture of cornflour and icing sugar to keep them dry. Eat within a few days. Turkish Delights are Vegan and Gluten Free. Next post will be about hazelnut Turkish delights :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©