Tuesday, November 27, 2012

5 Vegan school lunch boxes, mostly raw, eat your colours and 5+ a Day

Carrot and cucumber sticks, grapes, blueberries and Cape gooseberries, Olive focaccia (homemade)

When I was living in Japan I learned to present lunch boxes including a spectrum of at least 5 colours.
I try to do this with the kids' lunch boxes now, and these days the 5 + a Day is also promoting 'colours', which is a good way to make food more interesting. Of course here in NZ lunch boxes are stuffed down the school bag and tossed around, so I could never make them like real Japanese super pretty bentos, (I also wouldn't have the time in the morning or late at night!).

My problem has been trying to have 5 different colours all year round, especially for the blue! Fresh blueberries are easy, but when out of season I have to use frozen, good for smoothies and cereals and desserts, but not school lunches.

Avocado sushi, cherry tomato, banana, kiwi gold, feijoa, mandarin, grapes,  gluten free lunch box

If I don't have blueberries I try to put a few red/black grapes, is a pity that they are all imported, but so are the bananas. For the rest I always try to be seasonable and use fruit and veggies that grow in NZ, the tomato here was from my garden. Sushi only happens if there is some left over after dinner the night before: I could never get up at 5am to make it fresh!

Baguette with green salad and hummus with Dukka, banana, mandarins, kiwi gold, dried prunes

When I don't use grapes I try to add something close to purple/blue, like dried plums. Hummus is also another favourite filling, if they could my kids would have a hummus rolls every day, and they don't seem to be fussed if it smells of garlic.

Baguette with rocket salad, hummus and broad beans, orange, grapes and Cape gooseberries

Hummus again, this was just over a week ago, believe it of not I had broad beans in the garden, not enough for a meal, but enough for a couple of rolls. The Cape gooseberries too are from my garden.

Dolmas (rice wrapped in vine leaves), carrot sticks, cucumber and cherry tomatoes, banana, grapes and mandarin, gluten free lunch box

In Winter the lunch boxes are a bit repetitive: mandarins, banana, carrot sticks and grapes seem to dominate, and I occasionally buy cherry tomatoes even if they are grown in hothouses (but so are most cucumbers, I guess). The dolmas came from a can, a very occasional purchase, but it does add variety and, yes, the kids love those too!

But strawberries and blueberries and plums and colorful capsicums are coming in and the next lunch boxes will be easier to make!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stuffed white cabbage leaves with lentils

This is a first. I like stuffed cabbage leaves but I always use this dark green curly cabbages (like Savoy) to make them, and I never used the round and firm white cabbages that are used to make coleslaw. But I happened to have a big white cabbage and the outer leaves were sort of green... I managed to remove 7 leaves before the cabbage become to compact to pull apart. Then I washed them and boiled them in salted water (which I later used to make vegetable broth for an Asian noodle soup - never waste!). I also boiled a few more cabbage leaves that got broken while I was trying to pull them away: they were going to be used in the filling.

For the filling I used some cooked cabbage leaves, a couple of slices of vegetarian bacon, chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, smoked salt, chili flakes, coriander seeds and smoked garlic. I mushed everything with my hands and divided the filling between the 7 leaves, and then I rolled them up.

I prepared a soffritto with a shallot, half a carrot, a celery stick, and some chopped parsley, all sautéed with a little olive oil. 

I added the cabbage leaves and let them sauté on one side only for a few minutes.

Then I added one cup of tomato passata (Italian tomato sauce) and one cup of vegetable broth. I covered the pot with a lid and let the cabbage rolls simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes I added the content of a can of Italian brown lentils (their water included) and simmered everything for another 30 minutes.

Well, I just managed to taste one, the other six were two each for the kids and the babysitter (I was teaching that night), to be eaten with bruschetta (actually, just a baguette cut into slices and the brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and baked until golden and crispy, the kids just love it!!). The result? I was pleasantly surprised: I am not a fan of white cabbage, but in this way it tasted great! Pity that I could not get more leaves out of it, maybe I need to boil the whole cabbage and then try to pull off the leaves... next time I will try. Or maybe I will just go back to use my usual Savoy cabbages! :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Leek and edamame Vegan risotto

Chop one large leek and wash it, then sauté with olive oil until soft. Add one cup of shelled edamame (I used the frozen ones) and sauté until the edamame are starting to cook. Add 400 g arborio rice and stir, when the rice is hot and starting to toast add a glass of white wine at room temperature (not chilled). Stir and after the wine has been absorbed add about 1 l of vegetable stock, one ladle at the time, stirring often until cooked. 

Serves 4

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pineapple Agar Agar Jellies

We all know of the enzymes of certain raw fruit (pineapple, papaya, kiwi etc) that won't make jelly, or agar agar, set. And also that cooking the fruit first will stop the problem. Or using canned fruit! 
But the only canned fruit I use is mango pulp (to make mango agar agar pudding, in fact) and I was just wondering... wondering... if the Fresh As pineapple powder, having been freeze dried, would still have those enzymes... so I tried. 

I used 500ml of water, boiled it and added 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of Fresh As pineapple powder and 1 level tsp of agar agar. I simmered everything for one minute and then poured it into 4 individual jelly moulds. I used these colorful ones, when the agar is set just remove the lid at the bottom and the jellies should pop down. Should. We actually shook them a bit! The pineapple puddings were fresh and fragrant, not too sweet (the sugar ratio was perfect) and I liked the flavor, although my husband and the kids told me that I could have put in a bit more pineapple powder for more zing! I will try a different Fresh As powder soon for more puddings!!

This is my Vegan entry for this month's Sweet New Zealand, hosted by The Kitchen Maid

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

eggplant and chickpea tajine with cous cous

No fuss eggplant and chickpea tajine

Slice 2 eggplants and sweat them with salt for 1 hour. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive in the tajine pan, and sizzle 2 cloves of garlic (cut into two lengthwise), a few coriander seeds, a few cumin seeds, chili flakes and rock salt. When the spices start to jump around the pan add a roughly chopped onion and when the onion is translucent (not brown) add the eggplant sliced (rinsed). Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring, and then add the content of a can of chickpeas (with their liquid) and a handful of coriander leaves (or parsley, if you don't have/like coriander). 

Now cover with the Tajine top and simmer on the lowest setting for a hour or so. At the end the eggplant will be a mush, and the chickpeas incredibly tasty. Add some smoked paprika if you like it hotter. Serve on couscous dressed with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©