Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Plantbased recipes with foraged weeds, including chickweed


Those who know me also know that I like foraging and to eat a variety of wild food, weeds and flowers. I used to do this a lot as a child, and foraged food was a big part of my diet, but these day I do it mostly for fun, for taste, and for health.  This week I have been back to foraging for necessity, which is the best purpose to forage after all. Strictly this has not been 'foraging' though, but more like weeding. My salad leaves are growing at such a slow speed now that it is painful to watch (and yes, I go and watch them every day!!!) but what is growing in the salad bed at remarkable speed is chickweed! This little weed tends to cover the ground in no time, but it is also yummy, especially the young sprouts, and apparently has plenty of vitamin C, A and Bs. It can be cooked, but I prefer it raw, so here are a few ideas, in case you feel like weeding the garden too!

I made a smoothie with chickweed, feijoas and frozen banana (both the feijoas and banana also came from my garden) and some coconut water as a base. It tasted great and very healthy, similar to a smoothie with fruit and spinach. Ahhh but the satisfaction of having used a weed instead!!

Then, recovering a few salad leaves, and equal part (or more...) of chickweed, I had enough for a salad. I also added a few of the youngest leaves of nasturtium plus some flowers and buds, marigold petals and dianthus. This salad went straight into salad rolls, so it didn't need dressing, but if serving it as a side salad just add a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

And here another serving idea: bagel with nut cheese and weeds! Chickweed, wild cress and onion weed, all growing wildly in my backyard! So, if we really get into dire straits at least you can say that I taught you how to pick weeds and eat them! 🌱🌿

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Easy vegan custard slice with Spanish Tortas de Aceite, step by step


Thanks to my friend Ray I have recently discovered these sweet Spanish Ines Rosales' tortas (there is also a savoury version). And noticing that they are vegan I thought of making a quick dessert, a bit like a custard slice, which I love, with them!

For the custard I used oat milk (barista style).

1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
250 ml oat milk
a few drops of vanilla essence
2 sweet Ines Rosales pastries
Amarena cherries (optional)
Icing sugar to sprinkle
Fresh Fruit to serve (optional)

Mix the first three ingredients together and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla at the end. You should cook this custard until it is quite thick, and then keep stirring after cooking until it is lukewarm and no more steam comes out. Make sure that is thick, not runny!

Pile the custard on one of the pastry

I had some amarena cherries so I though of adding 4 to the custard, but any fresh or preserved fruit would work too. Just don't add too much 'juice'.

Place the second pastry on top and press lightly, smoothing the custard on the sides with a small spoon, if necessary. Sprinkle with icing sugar and refrigerate for a few hours.

This actually served three people, and we had fresh cherries on the side. I'll definitely make it again, probably with berries or with fruit preserved in alcohol! Yum! A real treat!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Zucchini with marigold vinegar and marigold fresh petals


This is a delicious starter or side dish. Cut the zucchini in thin long strips and pan fry with olive oil on both sides for just a minute (don't let them brown, they just need to soften). Chop plenty of Italian parsley and garlic with a pinch of salt and add to the zucchini, with a tbsp or two of marigold vinegar (recipe here). If you don't have marigold vinegar just use some white balsamic or white wine vinegar (but consider making marigold vinegar too!). Let the zucchini marinate for at least two hours, more if possible, then lay on a serving platter and sprinkle with fresh marigold petals. Serve at room temperature of chilled.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Vegan coconut and blueberry puddings with lavender and nata de coco



A cup of frozen blueberries 
a few cubes of nata de coco in syrup
lavender petals 
2 tbsp sugar
1x400ml can coconut cream +
same amount in boiling water to rinse the can
1 tsp agar agar

Place the blueberries and nata de coco in a bowl, add a few petals of lavender and let it defrost.

Place the coconut cream in a pot, fill the can with the same amount of boiling water to rinse it and add into the pot.  Add the sugar a tsp of agar agar and bring to the boil stirring constantly. When it boils add half of the blueberries (but not the nata de coco) and their juice. Fill 4 to 6 glasses and let it set. Then add the rest of the blueberries and nata de coco (it will have changed colour from translucent to purple) and decorate with lavender petals. refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Raw banana blossom and carrot salad


I usually just have the banana blossom 'heart' for salads, but this time I have included a few of the little flowers that are found under the Petals. Cut the banana blossom from the bunch of bananas (leave them on the tree if they are still green) and peel off the outer pink petals, collecting the little blossoms and dropping them in cold water and lemon juice (I added some to the sink). 

Prepare another bowl with water and lemon juice and cut the banana 'heart' into small slices, dropping them quickly into the lemon water so that they don't brown. If you want to add the flowers you will need to remove the style and stigma, and the papery outer part of the flower. This takes a long time and this is why I only do it for a few of the most tender flowers. The more central flowers, which are completely white (no pink) can be eaten whole.

Rinse well and drain, then place in a bowl and add lemon or lime juice, about 2 tbsp, soy sauce (tamari for gluten free), about 1 tbsp, and half a tsp of grated ginger. Press down with a plate or a second bowl and place a weigh on top (you can find an image in this recipe here). Leave overnight, or even a couple of days (like I did, it was perfectly fine!), then rinse under cold water, shake well and place in a clean bowl. Grate one large carrot and dress with lemon juice, salt and olive oil, then fold in the banana flowers. Mix well, taste for salt, and scoop into the banana petals for serving. I also decorated mine with Vietnamese mint flowers. 

It was very good, but next time, if I have the patience and time to clean all the little flowers, I'll tray to cook them. The 'heart' is definitely much nicer! 

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Vegan pumpkin red curry with Vietnamese mint flowers (and a soup with the leftovers)


Bake the whole pumpkin in the oven and then slice and remove the outer peel and centre, slice and set aside. Chop two shallots and one green pepper and sauté with a little vegetable oil,  then add red curry paste (as much as your taste buds suggest) and a can of coconut cream, plus the water from rinsing out the can. Bring to a simmer, then add the sliced pumpkin and some Vietnamese mint leaves and flowers, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Top with fresh Vietnamese mint flowers, and also chopped coriander and Thai or lemon basil. Serve with rice, it is delicious!

If you have made a lot you can also blend it into a soup, easy as!

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©