Saturday, July 18, 2015

Crema di nocciola e vaniglia con gelatina di cotogne, fichi e alchechengi - Hazelnut and vanilla verrines with quince jelly, figs and cape gooseberry… or with alpine strawberries

Crema di nocciola e vaniglia con gelatina di cotogne, fichi e alchechengi


A few days ago I was in Christchurch where I bought some hazelnut flour (Hazelz). I love hazelnuts!
For 4 verrines I used:

2 eggs
3 tbps sugar
1 tbsp (level) cornflour
400 ml full cream milk
1 drop real vanilla essence
1 tbsp (heap) hazelnut flour

for the topping
4-8 tbsp quince jelly (see below)
figs and cape gooseberries to decorate

In a pot mix the eggs with sugar and cornflour and add the milk little by little. Simmer stirring constantly until a custard form, then add the vanilla essence. Pour 200 ml of this custard into a measuring jug (I used the same one I used for the milk) and set aside, then put the hazelnut flour and Frangelico into the remaining custard and stir well. Fill four verrines or glasses with the hazelnut cream (this will be quite thick) and then pour the (thinner) vanilla custard on top. Let it cool down then add the quince jelly. I made the quince jelly by cooking the quinces and then straining the juice overnight in a jelly bag (actually, I use a clean pillowcase that I keep just for jellies) hung over a bowl. Don't squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. Usually for thick jellies I measure the liquid, add the same amount of sugar and bring back to the boil, but here I only used half the quantity of sugar and I got a soft, almost 'liquid' jelly, good to pour over desserts like this. A tbsp or two per glass will give you a nice covering. Refrigerate. Before serving decorate with slices of figs and cape gooseberries.


For this dessert instead I didn't use quince jelly but I just added some alpine strawberries and some Fresh As raspberry powder. For decorations I used some (edible) pansies. While the first verrines were very 'Autumn', this one was more like a 'fruits of the forest', it reminded me of foraging in the mountains in Italy for alpine strawberries, raspberries and hazelnuts. It works really well. 
But who ate what? Max got this one, and we had the other three, all delicious!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Italian tomato passata made with a sieve


After the arrabbiata post I was asked what I mean by 'putting' the tomatoes through a sieve.
Well, traditionally in Italy we put the tomatoes through a vegetable mill, but I don't have one so I use a sieve. The skins and most of the seeds are left behind (or all the seeds, depending on the mesh of your sieve), and the sauce (passata) gets through. This, to me, is the best sauce in the world! Of course you need to cook the tomatoes first (maybe with garlic?) then put the tomato 'mush' through the sieve and back into the pot to cook until thick. Then I just add salt, olive oil and basil and serve, possibly with spaghetti! It takes time, but it is worth it!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Arrabbiata sauce and what works best to stop chili burning


 Please note that the chilies here are not mine except for the fat black one (I had two, a couple more still on the plant, not sure if I will ever harvest them though…). 


My son Max loves arrabbiata, one of his favourite sauces, as long as it is not toooo hot. So I just used one chili and put it in the pot with the cut up tomatoes. I cooked the lot until the tomatoes where mashy (most were cherry tomatoes so it didn't take long!), then I put the tomatoes through a sieve and collected the pulp minus seeds and peels. I cooked this until thick, added olive oil and salt, and the sauce was ready. Another way would have been to cook the tomatoes first and then add the chili to the tomato pulp, but this worked well. 


Max fascination with chili led him to do a science project two years ago (NZ school year 8), and it was very interesting for me too. He bravely tried different chilies several times over a course of a few weeks, looking for the best antidote to spiciness. He was very meticolous, repeating the experiments over and over and even asked some of his friends to try (not very successful here though). For each type of chili he checked how many tbsp of water, apple juice, milk, yogurt or rice were needed to take the heat off.



The juice experiment soon became the hardest, as he quickly worked out that sweet fruit juices don't work! Water didn't help much either, since the capsaicin compound is hydrophobic, but these were all things that he had to work out himself, rather than reading them in books. As to be expected the best antidote in the list was yogurt, followed by milk (just above rice, the only solid food in the experiment).


Yogurt goes well with curry, and we often have a lassi drink or a raita when we eat Indian food, but what if the arrabbiata sauce is too hot? We wouldn't put yogurt here! Fortunately all fats work with capsaicin, and olive oil is one of the best, not good to drink, but perfect on pasta :-)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 5, 2015

Picking, treating and preserving olives in brine, and olives marinated in olive oil and herbs


Preserving olives is a rewarding experience. If you don’t have an olive tree you may be able to forage olives from trees in community gardens and in parks.  Usually olives are ready around April-May (in New Zealand).
Pick the olives from the tree (never from the ground) and wash well in cold water. If you prefer sweet-tasting olives you can put them in a bucket of water for up to 40 days, or 20-30 days for very small olives, changing the water every 24 hours; the olives will become brownish in colour, and lose a lot of bitterness. After this period make a brine (recipe follows) and bttle your olives. If you prefer crispy green olives with a peppery taste, just wash them and soak them for a day, then preserve them in brine.

Brine for preserving olives

Before making the brine, be sure to have plenty of glass jars with lids, sterilised and completely dry.

Ingredients
Water
Salt

Prepare 10% salt brine (100 g of salt for every litre of water) by placing in a saucepan the water and salt.  Simmer until the salt is completely dissolved. Once the brine is cold place the olives into clean sterilised jars and cover completely with the brine.

To each jar add one more clove of garlic, a fresh bay leaf, a chilli pepper, or a fresh sprig of thyme.  Seal and put away in a dark place for three months. After this period the olives can be used in cooking or can be marinated with olive oil and your favourite herbs.
If you’d like to keep the olives for longer, prepare a new brine with an 8% solution (80 g of salt every for every litre of water) and put the olives into new jars with the fresh brine. Olives stored this way, and completely covered with brine, will last up to one year. Don't worry if you see white spots forming at the top of the brine, as this is natural — just remove them every time you open the jar, and always rinse the olives before using. Below is a recipe for marinating your preserved olives with olive oil and herbs, starting with your olives in brine.
  



Olives marinated in olive oil and herbs

I suggest you use a delicate olive oil for this recipe, like an extra virgin olive oil from the supermarket. Expensive olive oil is far too precious to marinate olives, unless you have your own press.

Ingredients
300 g olives in brine (green or dark)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 peppercorns
200 ml extra virgin olive oil


Drain the olives well from the brine, and give them a little rinse if necessary. Place in a large jar, add the herbs and pepper corns, and cover with the oil. Leave to rest for at least one day, and then serve. Store in a cool place and use within two weeks.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fig and yogurt tart



There is a fig tree up the road from my house and every year I can forage a few figs. This year they abound and are small but sweet. The skin is a bit hard though, so they are perfect for baking rather than eating raw.

Fig and yogurt tart

For the base:

- 200g plain flour
- 100g  butter, soft
- 100g sugar
- 1 egg 
- 1 drop vanilla essence

For the filling
- 12/15 figs (depends on size)
- 3 eggs + 2 egg whites
- 100 g raw sugar
- 100 g yogurt
- 1 drop vanilla essence
- Icing sugar to sprinkle

Prepare the base and spread over the base and borders of a 23cm tart dish lined with baking paper. Cut the figs into two and place over the pastry, cut sides up. Whip the eggs and egg whites with the sugar, add the yogurt and vanilla essence and then pour over the figs. Bake for about 45 minutes at 180°C or unit the centre is not wobbly anymore. Dust with icing sugar and let it cool down completely before cutting.



I am in love with lisianthus, especially the light green variety. It would be great to grow them in the garden, anyone out there that knows how? 






Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, May 22, 2015

Vegan and gluten free chocolate pudding



This is sooooo yummy, it reminds me of those soy chocolate puddings that you can buy in the fridge compartment of many organic-vegetarian stores (and now in some supermarkets too) but it is homemade and therefore even tastier.

For 4 puddings:
500 ml oragnic soy milk (I use Vitasoy, either Original, Milky or Calci Plus)
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 heap tbsp cocoa (the better the cocoa the better the flavour, so don't go for cheap baking cocoa, but for 'hot chocolate' quality)
1 tbsp cornflour
Natural Vanilla essence (or a little cinnamon if you prefer)

Dissolve the dried ingredients with a little soy milk to make a paste, then add the rest of the milk and mix well. Put on the stove on low and, always stirring, bring to simmering point. Make sure that you stir well, especially around the borders and bottom of the pot, so that the pudding has a smooth consistency. As soon as it start thickening turn the element off, add the vanilla essence (if using) and keep stirring until it has cooled down a bit. Divide into 4 dessert ramekins or small bowls (or teacups) and refrigerate.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kashmiri Masala chickpeas and potatoes made with a left ore juice from peperonata


Manu invited me to a 'Swap' on her blog, and my swapping partner is Billie from Scotland. We had to send each other an ingredient and then make a recipe with it. I sent Billie the Fresh As raspberry powder, and I look forward to see what she will do with it! She sent me some Kasmiri Masala, but because I got it late (I forgot to tell Billie my address, silly me, but fortunately she copied it from the parcel I sent her!). The best thing about a Masala is that you don't have to sizzle all the spices at the beginning and work out the doses, in fact a masala should be added at the very end, to enjoy the fragrances of the aromatic spices (and the Kashmiri Masala is definitely very aromatic!!). So even if I was running around like mad I managed to throw together something starting with the leftover juice of a peperonata (stewed capsicums with celery, carrot, and garlic).


I had all that wonderful bell pepper's stock left from the night before (we ate all the capsicums and veggies), so I just peeled and cut 5 large potatoes, added the content of one can of chickpeas, and some cherry tomatoes from the garden (make an incision with a knife so that they don't 'explode' during cooking). I added a little salt and then simmered everything until the potatoes were soft. I adjusted for salt and added one tsp of Kashmiri Masala, put the lid on for 2 more minutes on low. The only problem is that I don't have a last photo! We ate too quickly before remembering to take one! :-) But I hope that you will like the recipe, and it is super simple! Serve with basmati rice and roti.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Celery, cucumber and coriander juice

Green, cleansing and refreshing! 


Celery stalks and leaves, cucumber, and a few sprigs and leaves of coriander (to taste, it can be really strong).

Happy detoxing!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vegan Sushi and onigiri


The weather has been beautiful, and it is still possible to eat outside, especially fresh things like this vegan sushi. Note that fish sushi is not traditionally eaten in summer in Japan, although thanks to refrigeration now many do, but some 'traditionalists' refuse. Vegan sushi on the other hand, like inari and norimaki (nori rolls), as well as onigiri (rice balls) are all great summer options.


Let's start with the onigiri. Wash the sushi rice (or Japanese rice) several times in cold water, until the water runs clear, and then cook it by absorption. The doses are about 1 and 3/4 (three quarters) cups of sushi rice for 2 cups of water, but that depends on the type of pot. You need a pot with a good lid, or you will loose too much steam. I kind of regulate myself by ear now, since I know my pots and pans. Bring the pot to boiling point, lower the heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Once the rice is ready pour it into a bowl and stir it with a wooden spatula, cooling it with a fan if you can. At this stage I took some rice aside to make onigiri and used the rest for sushi (see below). Rub your hands with salt and shape the rice into balls. I added some salted sakura blossoms on top to make pretty onigiri, and then I made some miniature ones (last photo) which I sprinkled with fresh chives.


To the remaining rice I added some ready made sushi vinegar, about 2 tablespoons, but this is my personal taste. If I don't have sushi vinegar I use 2 tbsp of rice vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt (to taste, and I don't like to use too much sugar or salt!). Roll your norimaki with the filling of your choice (I used takuan, cucumber and busy lizzie flowers). Or use the rice to fill inari (tofu) sachets, and then top them with herbs, flowers, veggies and pickles. So refreshing.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vermicelli in coconut and veggie broth with tofu and Asian fragrances


This is an aromatic vegan and gluten free soup, light and delicious.


500 ml vegetable stock
1 can coconut cream or milk + one can of water (rinsing the coconut cream)
1 large yellow courgette (zucchini)
2 fresh red chilies
1 block of tofu
a pinch of freshly grated ginger
Vermicelli
1 stalk lemon grass
a few coriander leaves
Cherry tomatoes

Simmer all together for a few minutes until the zucchini are soft but not mushy.

In the meantime soak the vermicelli in hot water until soft then divide between 6 bowls.
chop a few cherry tomatoes, and wash some fresh basil and some thai mint

Pour the hot soup over the vermicelli, making sure that each dish has equal parts of tofu and veggies.
Decorate with the tomatoes, basil and Thai mint and serve immediately.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grape juice


There are some beautiful grapes on sale at the Dragicevich Orchard in Oratia, those old fashion grapes that really smell and taste like grapes (not like the stuff that you find in supermarkets). And they make a wonderful juice. Apparently grape juice has antioxidant effects, well, this would be a bonus, but the only thing that I can say so far is that it is delicious, and the aroma brings back happy childhood memories of picking grapes at my Grandma's in Italy. Yes, memories in a small glass! 


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fresh As raspberry agar agar



Agar agar must be the easiest pudding ever, and it is vegan and gluten free. Also, if you don't use too much sugar it will be low in calories (and no fat, I guess…). 

For 4 serving I use 500ml of water, half tsp of agar agar powder (usually I use 1 tsp, but I wanted a softer and more wobbly jelly) and 1 tbsp of sugar (here too, personal taste!). For the Fresh As fruit powder dosage, it depends on your taste; for most fruit (like pineapple) I use 1 tbsp, or 1 and half tbsp (like passion fruit), but the raspberry powder is so intense that half tbsp with suffice, using the other half just to sprinkle on the jelly when is set. Bring to boil and pour into 4 jelly moulds. Let it cool down, refrigerate, and serve (with more Fresh As powder sprinkled on top). 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Vegan Rice Paper Rolls


Something filling yet light, done in a jiffy! I had very little left in the fridge, just a bit of salad mix, but in the pantry I had some rice paper, vermicelli and dried gluten meat. So I put the 'fake' meat in a pot with a little vegetable stock (made with an organic veggie cube) and cooked it until soft. Then I cut it into little strips (actually, Arantxa did it - see photo).  I soaked the vermicelli in boiling water and then drained and rinsed them. To assemble the rice paper rolls you will need to line the table with clean tea towels, then soak the rice paper in hot water until soft, top with salad, the vermicelli and the gluten meat strips.



 To see how to fold the rolls (step by step) you can have a look here. If you have time you can fold the rolls adding herb leaves and flowers. Keep the rolls covered with a tea towel until ready to eat. Serve with soy sauce or sweet chili sauce.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How to make mascarpone at home


To make mascarpone at home you can use just cream or a mixture of cream and milk, plus citric acid. Lemon juice can be used instead of citric acid, and if you have lemons (preferably not Meyer lemons, but some more acidic lemons)  you can use lemon juice, but citric acid is easy to measure. Some bloggers make a similar recipe and call the result ricotta (or creamy ricotta), but don't be fooled, they are mistaken (or idiots) and this is NOT ricotta, ricotta is a totally different product made in a totally different way and with different ingredients. You can find a recipe for ricotta here or, even better, here

Mascarpone is delicious, rich and fat, it is used in many Italian desserts or cheese dishes (like torta di mascarpone and gorgonzola) and of course the more cream you add the highest the fat content.

I used 300 ml of cream and 200 ml of full fat (grey top) milk and 4-5 g of citric acid diluted in 50 ml of hot water (the lower the dose and the less 'lemony' the taste, but it is difficult to measure 3 or 4 g, just think of half a level tsp - and again, all teaspoons are not the same!). Gently bring the milk and cream to 85°C, and stir with the thermometer for 5 minutes (yes you will need a cheese thermometer), keeping the temperature constant. Add the citric acid and water solution and stir, turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes. Place a sieve over a bowl and line with a clean cotton cloth (or even two if the cloth is too fine - do not use gauze or cheese cloth, you need something with a thicker mesh). Place in the fridge and let it rest overnight to drip the excess liquid away. In the morning the mascarpone will be ready! The longer you leave it the thicker it will become, so you can let it rest for a bit longer if you like, or stir it into a creamy consistency and store in a container with a lid until you are ready to use it (a few days only). 

Just eat it by the spoon with a little cocoa and sugar, or honey, really decadent!


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fresh juice using beetroot stalks and leaves, carrots, apples and ginger


… plus beetroots from the garden, carrots, apples, and a little ginger. For five juices I used about 1.5 kg of carrots, plus a few local apples, and i picked two beetroots from my veggie garden, they were small but the leaves and stalks are perfect for juicing too (of salad) so nothing get wasted. I used just a little ginger (not all the piece in the photo) to give the juice a little zest. It was really sweet and delicious!




 Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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