Friday, July 22, 2016

Naibalebale village, Viwa Island, Fiji

Viwa is a coral island in the Yasawa Island, Western Fiji. There is only a small resort (11 'bure', for 22 guests) and three villages,  Naibalebale, Yakani and Najia, total population about 500. There are no cars on the island, or roads, only tracks. We visited Naibalebale, at the end of this beautiful long beach. 
Vata's House
The ladies' market, set up for the resort's guests during our visit
The village Bure, really beautiful
Keep both doors open for amazing views
Rebuilt after the cyclone 
Viwa Island School

The highlight of the visit was the local school, the children performed for us to raise money to help repairing the school, damaged after the latest cyclone. A part from the school and the resort five more houses were destroyed by the cyclone, but fortunately there were no casualties.

Children singing and dancing

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Produce Market in Nadi, Fiji, and a few tips for Veg* travelers

If you are a Vegetarian or a Vegan and you travel to the Islands, the best thing for you to do is to go to the market! Hotels, restaurants and resorts have little choice, sadly, with the exception of Indian restaurants which always have some vegetarian dishes. But if you are staying in an apartment or unit with kitchen you can also bring in your own packaged food (cereals, snacks, olive oil, bread, pasta, tofu and other ingredients) and then buy the fresh stuff. We are doing this for a week, and then staying a second one in a island resort (so no kitchen), so some of the vegetables will be ok for cooking, and others can be used for salad anywhere (I always carry a little olive oil…).  Another staple for me is always coconut, a drink and a meal all in one, so filling! And fruit, you can never have enough fruit! Because of the recent bad weather there is less fruit this season in Fiji, and very few bananas, so I didn't get any this time, and also I try to get only local fruit (not imported from Australia or New Zealand!), and cherish the opportunity to talk with the growers and sellers at the market. Here is my shopping:

Taro and coconut
'Older' coconut flesh needs to be scraped with a knife but it is nutty and tasty
Brassica greens, good with rice and noodles
Small papaya and cucumbers
More taro, ask them to peel it for you, and cut it, unless you have a machete...
Tomatoes and mandarins

Yummy eggplants 
I get drinking coconut from bars and cafes, they know how to choose it and cut it.
First you drink the coconut water...
And then you eat the soft flesh. A whole coconut is incredibly filling!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A week of Italian and Māori

Carlo and my friend Suzanne
Yes it was a full week of Italian and Māori things for me! First I got my first case of JK.14 Prosecco and wine delivery, from Veneto to the New Zealand bush! Then Chef Carlo Casoni from Mutti came to NZ (thank you Eurodell for the tickets!), and finally I went to an amazing Italian event organized by Cuisine Magazine at Gusto, with 5 of the most famous chefs in Auckland (Sean, Sergio, Stefania, Giapo and Gaetano).   

Celebrating Cuisine Magazine Italian event!


Māori Language Week/Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is coming to an end, but let us keep the korero alive, and learn the meaning of Māori place names with Oratia Books fully revised edition of A.W. Reed’s classic Māori Place Names.
This fourth edition gives meanings and origins of over 2300 of the most important and widespread Māori names, and includes the original illustrations by celebrated artist James Berry featured in the early editions of the book.

A bit of fun: the movie Poi E, based on the making of the famous hit by the same name, is coming out soon. So I grabbed my 'Italian' poi and went over to the Corban Art Centre for a lesson on poi dancing (and Poi E singing). So cool! I even ended up in the News  

The original Poi E video 

Happy weekend everyone!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vitamin smoothie: Kiwi, spinach and berries - and a few of my favourite things right now

So yummy: Kiwi, baby spinach leaves and frozen mixed berries, plus some coconut water.

And now some photos of favourite things right now:

Eating gelato at Giapo

Eating dinner in the Japanese room, with feet under the warm Kotatsu (Japanese heated table)

Collecting small things

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


One of my favourite dishes from my village in Italy, borlenghi or berleghi. A bit like a savoury crepe, made with a simple batter, just flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to thin it down to a glue consistency (in fact the batter is called colla, i.e. glue!). Then it is cooked between two very hot and greased flat iron plates called cotte and turned several times until cooked (still flexible and soft but a little crispy on the borders). For the dressing traditionally lard is used, but since I don't eat meat I use salted butter mixed with finely chopped fresh rosemary and garlic. Then add parmigiano reggiano and fold. Eat immediately, and patiently wait for another one! 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Kiwi smoothie

Time for vitamin C! This smoothie is just kiwi, banana and coconut water, a real meal in a glass!

And look what I found in the garden! Full of rain poor pumpkin, very heavy and now drying on the windowsill.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sun-dried Tomato Bacon, Vegan - step by step instructions

This vegan bacon recipe can be life-changing for those former bacon lovers and for new vegans. This is the best recipe so far, considering also that it looks like the real thing in quite a spooky way (with those white stripes and all), and requires just a few easy to find ingredients.

The first 'secret' ingredient (and this is my first very own input) is sun-dried (or semi dried) tomatoes, which I soaked in a little hot water for 5 minutes. Then I added a tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, half tsp of salt and a little aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas). I blended everything into a paste (using the nutribullet). The resulting paste should have the consistency of a spread, so add more aquafaba if it is too thick. Don't make it runny.

Now for the second main ingredient (and here I got the idea from my friend Lucia who has a vegan bacon recipe here): rice paper. I found this to be such a cool idea, plus it is an alternative to gluten meat or tofu. I had a quick look at all the other rice paper bacon (also called vacon) recipes around the internet and I tried a few ways to combine the rice paper with the paste to assemble the 'bacon' slices, but somehow I didn't quite like the idea of cutting the rice paper into strips, nor soaking them with the flavoring paste: they didn't fry well and the result was more like a burned crispy slice, rather than a juicy rasher with fatty white stripes. So I came up with a easy and less messy system, which produced the best results.

Soak the rice paper disks in hot water, just enough to soften them, and then place them on a clean gauze or kitchen towel. Brush the centre with the sun-dried tomato paste and then fold like shown in the photos.

Keep working making more slices until you run out of paste (or rice paper), well at this stage it looks a bit spooky, like real pieces of flesh... not quite something I would like to think about it, but for those who go for the realist look... here you are! 

Now for the most challenging part: frying the vegan bacon: I used extra virgin olive oil and a skillet, wait for the oil to be hot and then add a few slices at the time, fold facing up first. You have to lift the slices delicately with two hands and lower them in the hot oil, so be careful. 

The secret is not to overcook the slices: first they will bubble up a bit, and you want that, get some air in to keep them soft. As soon as you see the edges drying turn over the slices and fry the other side for even less time, otherwise the sun-dried tomato paste will burn. If the oil becomes too contaminated with burned paste you will need to change it.

Place the slices on a serving plate and eat immediately, since bacon is very fat I didn't bother patting the slices with kitchen paper, after all they are delicious also because they are greasy! For a variation you can use coconut oil instead of olive oil, and I want to try liquid smoke too, as soon as I get my hands on some.

The verdict: well, we all liked it! I thought that the best test was to have a bacon sandwich with some good bread and lettuce; my husband found it very realistic and the kids, who never tasted bacon so they could not compare, thought that it was simply really yum! It is also very filling so we had lots left over, I put them in the fridge and then quickly heated up a few slices in the skillet the day after for more sandwiches, and I did the same in the evening with the last slices chopped into small pieces, to make pasta carbonara (the second test). It worked really really well.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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