Monday, May 2, 2016

Risotto with hop shoots step by step

Hops grow wild at my Aunt Alice's in the North of Veneto

Pick the new shoots and wash well, then chop.

Add a small chopped onion and then sauté with butter or olive oil (if making a vegan risotto).

Add carnaroli or another risotto rice and then, when the rice is hot, vegetable stock, ladle by ladle.

Keep stirring and adding stock (we made this over a wood fired kitchen, it didn't take long!)

Serve, by itself or with Parmigiano Reggiano

Flowers for Pinterest

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Avocado and celery cocktails with vegan mayo and edible flowers

This is a delicious raw and vegan dish, serves 4 as a starter or side salad, and 2 as a main


2 avocados
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 crunchy legs of celery
2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
cherry tomatoes and edible flowers to decorate

Cut the avocados and remove stones, drizzle with lemon juice. Clean the celery legs and remove the strings (I use a carrot peeler for this). Cut into small bite sizes and mix with the vegan mayonnaise (click here for the recipe). Fill the avocados with the celery and decorate with cherry tomatoes and edible flowers.
Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quince and kahikatea berry tart

The Kahikatea trees in the bush are full of berries, and birds are singing happily. The berries (koroī) are edible, but the trees are too high to climb for me, so I can only pick what falls on the forest floor. It takes time, but foraging runs in my veins, plus it is a good squatting exercise! After picking you need to wash the berries well and remove the hard blue seeds, another time consuming job! After all this you are left with an handful of berries so it is easy to understand why you don't see koroī jam around! In fact there are not many recipes with these berries, and this is my third one only (the other two are Flan with Kawakawa cream and Kahikatea berries, and Kahikatea Cupcakes

The berries don't have much taste so I added one tsp of sugar and a tbsp of lemon juice and I let them marinate overnight. They day after they were yummy and ready to put on cereals, but I preferred  making a tart. I use quinces from Oratia, in season now. I peeled two big quinces and cut them into slices. Then I melted 50 g of butter and two tbsp of sugar in a iron skillet and sautéd the quinces for two minutes. After that I added a small glass of grappa (I used this aged Prosecco Grappa by Bottega). As soon as you pour the grappa over the hot quinces the kitchen fills with a wonderful aroma and you could eat the quinces just like that, maybe with some ice cream on the side. After most of the liquid had evaporated I added 2 tsp of corn flour diluted with a little water to make a paste. I stirred well and positioned all the quince slices neatly on the bottom of the pan. Then I added the kahikatea berries, keeping just a few aside for decoration.

I cut a circle of puff pastry (I used Paneton) and fitted it over the fruit and then baked the lot until the pastry looked golden and puffy. Then I carefully reversed the pan over a serving plate and let the tart slip down (by itself) onto the plate. I added the remaining berries and took a few photos! The tart was very good, you don't have to use quinces, apples and pears are good too, and the berries are just a fancy addition, but what a satisfaction! Today I am going to ask the kids to do a bit of foraging for me, it is a good skill to learn after all, and since it is Easter Sunday in New Zealand, they will be excited after that other form of 'foraging' that happens here: the Easter eggs hunt! In fact here they are coming down now, I'll better go and enjoy this!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wholemeal Penne with Borage, gorgonzola and walnuts - Penne integrali con borragine, gorgonzola e noci

Borage is a great plant, you can eat the flowers, stems and leaves, but I prefer to stick just to the top 10 cm of the plant, when the leaves are soft. Don't worry if they are prickly: this goes away with cooking.

For this dish:
Pick the fresh tips of borage flowers, with a few flowers and buds, plus tender leaves (but before they have seeds, these are quite hard!). Wash well, keep some flowers aside and then through the rest in a pot with a tbsp of butter. Sizzle, then add a little water and salt, cover and simmer until the greens are tender. In the meantime cook the wholemeal penne al dente. When the borage tips are cooked add a few walnut kernels and then a slice of gorgonzola or other blue cheese. Stir and melt the cheese, adding a little water from the cooking pasta from time to time to make a creamy sauce. Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce, decorate with borage flowers and serve.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More healthy: smoothie: green, croquettes: baked!

Nothing beats a green green green smoothie! Kale, spinach, banana, frozen mango, and coconut water as a base.  The croquettes are zucchini (raw and grated) mixed with feta, eggs, herbs and bread (stale bread soaked and crushed) and instead of frying them, as I usually do, I just drizzled them with olive oil and place them in the oven. Turn over halfway through baking and add more oil in necessary, you will be happy for how good they taste, even if they are not fried!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Using vegetables from the garden, plus grissini

I love summer and the smell of my veggie garden! It is a bit like a jungle now and we are towards the end of the season so there are more weeds than veggies, but what a joy! One of the best things for me is to make minestrone soup with whatever I can pick on the day, even when it is hot (and then you can have it warm). And I am saving some for winter in some old ice cream containers. So funny, my boy opened the freezer the other day and was excited seeing boxes and boxes of ice cream, I felt a bit mean telling him what they actually contained...

Then I like to put veggies on focaccia and pizza, yellow and green zucchini slices look good and taste even better!

Ok, this is nothing to do with veggies, but it is so cool to make grissini, I just use some basic bread dough (500g high grade flour, 2 tbsp gluten flour, 300ml water, pinch of salt, brewer yeast and pinch of sugar), add a bit of olive oil and stretch out long grissini which I roll in polenta flour before baking.

And now for my flower Pinterest board: my pride and joy orchid, which gave me 14 flowers this time.
Happy weekend!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sushi with flowers

Here is an idea, just for variety, instead of rolling all the norimaki with seaweed leave some without and then stick on some flower petals (find out here what flowers you can eat here) I used impatiens here, not many people know that you can eat them, they taste a little like rocket salad.

And if rolling the sushi in petals is too hard you can always put the flowers on the top. Below vegan norimaki with fresh borage flowers and salted sakura (cherry blossoms). 

And here a couple of pics of the lovely black sand of Te Henga (Bethells beach)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Noodles with banana blossom and tofu

I have three banana plants with flowers this year, so I know that I will be eating banana flowers at least three times! Such a satisfaction! How to prepare a banana blossom for eating? First you need to remove the pink/mauve petals (and small banana florets under each petal) from the blossom until you get to the pale centre. Keep the petals though, they are good as containers or decorations. You can find the step by step photos on how to peel and cut a banana blossom here. Then cut the centre and mix immediately with lemon juice. Put into a bowl and add more lemon juice and a couple of tbsp of Japanese soy sauce. Put another bowl on top (inside the first one to press down the content) and fill the second bowl with something heavy (a rock, for example). Keep the cut blossom pressed in this marinade overnight, in the fridge. This is necessary or the banana blossom will taste too astringent.
The day after, cook the noodles and drain. Rinse under cold water, and place into a bowl. Cut the tofu into squares and fry in a mixture of sesame oil and vegetable oil until golden, then add a tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tbsp of Japanese soy sauce, sizzle quickly and toss with the noodles. Squeeze the banana blossom from excess liquid and add to the noodles. Mix well and serve at room temperature, decorated with some Thai mint or coriander. This noodle salad was delicious and I will make it again, in fact so far this has been my favourite recipe with banana blossoms.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Vegan mayonnaise, 4 ingredients and 2 minutes

Well, after making pavlova, meringues and pasta with aquafaba (brine from a can of chickpeas) I am convinced that it really works like eggs, so why not try mayonnaise too? This is my own recipe, it tastes great and it is easy to make!

2 tbsp aquafaba (brine from a can of chickpeas)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pinch salt
about half a cup vegetable oil

Place the first three ingredients in a tall thin container or glass and start blending with an immersion blender, add the oil slowly and see your mayonnaise form! It takes two minutes for half a cup of fresh lemon mayo!

For variation: add a little mustard or wasabi or capers, or garlic (my favourite!) or anything. Store in the fridge.

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 22, 2016

“Use Your Melon” for NZ WATERMELON MONTH: Watermelon juice with lemongrass and mint

It is lovely and hot in New Zealand now, the perfect time for watermelon and for fresh juices, and this one is so refreshing! 


Fresh lemon grass
Fresh mint

Blend the watermelon flesh with ice and a a little bit of water  (just to get the blender moving) and then pass the juice through a sieve (not too fine, just enough to keep the seed pieces out). Pour into a jag and then stir with a stick of lemongrass (best if you can leave the juice in the fridge with the lemongrass for at least 30 minutes). The mint is from my garden and it is quite strong, so I added it only at the end, for decoration and a hint of fragrance. 
Serve with more ice if you like.

I am sure that there will be readers that will think of vodka and other boozes, so a little tip is that this drink is is also good mixed with Prosecco!

Kiwi bloggers, if you have some have some watermelon recipes and you would like to take part in NZ Watermelon Month (there are prizes!) all you have to do is to post them with an accompanying photo on your blog. You can email the link to or simply tag LeaderBrand if you choose to post your blog link on social media.
#NZWatermelonMonth #LeaderBrand

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 15, 2016

Frutta sotto spirito

The easiest way to preserve fruit, if you like alcoholic fruit, that is! The Cape gooseberries are with whisky, and the cherries and plums with Cognac (I added a bit of sugar to the plums because they were a little sour). I will try them soon!!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, February 12, 2016

La canzone Bocca Di Rosa rivisitata al femminile

Presto è San Valentino, festa romantica (e poi mi piace la cioccolata!) ma anche piena di stereotipi. Allora ragazze e donne, proviamo ammettere un po' le cose in prospettiva, immaginiamo per esempio che Bocca di Rosa (quella della canzone di De Andrè, bellissima fra l'altro) fosse stato un bel ragazzo.

Bocca di Rosa per le donne

Liriche adattate al femminile dalla canzone Bocca Di Rosa
di Fabrizio De Andrè

Lo chiamavano bocca di rosa
metteva l'amore, metteva l'amore,
lo chiamavano bocca di rosa
metteva l'amore sopra ogni cosa.

Appena scese alla stazione
nel paesino di Sant'Ilario
tutte si accorsero con uno sguardo
che non si trattava di un missionario.

C'è chi l'amore lo fa per noia
chi se lo sceglie per professione
bocca di rosa né l'uno né l'altro
lui lo faceva per passione.

Ma la passione spesso conduce
a soddisfare le proprie voglie
senza indagare se la concupita
ha il cuore libero oppure è moglie.

E fu così che da un giorno all'altro
bocca di rosa si tirò addosso
l'ira funesta dei bastardini
a cui aveva sottratto l'osso.

Ma i compari di un paesino
non brillano certo in iniziativa
le contromisure fino a quel punto
si limitavano all'invettiva.

Si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
sentendosi come Gesù nel tempio,
si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
se non può più dare cattivo esempio.

Così un vecchio mai avuta moglie
senza mai figli, senza più voglie,
si prese la briga e di certo il gusto
di dare a tutti il consiglio giusto.

E rivolgendosi ai cornuti
li apostrofò con discorsi arguti:
"il furto d'amore sarà punito-
disse- dall'ordine costituito".

E quelli andarono dal commissario
e dissero senza parafrasare:
"quello schifoso ha già troppe clienti
più di un consorzio alimentare".

E arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi con i pennacchi
e arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi e con le armi.

Spesso gli sbirri e i carabinieri
al proprio dovere vengono meno
ma non quando sono in alta uniforme
e lo accompagnarono al primo treno

Alla stazione c'erano tutte
Dalla perpetua alla maestra
alla stazione c'erano tutte
con gli occhi rossi e i fiori in testa

a salutare chi per un poco
senza pretese, senza pretese,
a salutare chi per un poco
portò l'amore nel paese.

C'era un cartello giallo
con una scritta nera
diceva "Addio bocca di rosa
con te se ne parte la primavera".

Ma una notizia un po' originale
non ha bisogno di alcun giornale
come una freccia dall'arco scocca
vola veloce di bocca in bocca.

E alla stazione successiva
molta più gente di quando partiva
chi mandò un bacio, chi gettò un fiore
chi si prenota per due ore.

Persino il parroco che non disprezza
fra un miserere e un'estrema unzione
il bene effimero della bellezza
lo vuole accanto in processione.

E con il Cristo in prima fila
e bocca di rosa poco lontano
si porta a spasso per il paese

l'amore sacro e l'amor profano.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Festival Italiano Auckland Youtube Video

Youtube video of the Festival Italiano 2015
Filming and editing by Duncan Eastwood 

playing 'Maria Mari' by Eduardo Di Capua

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vegetarians traveling in Melbourne

You won't starve in Melbourne, a cosmopolitan city which offers many types of cuisines, but you may end up spending quite a bit… food is not cheap here! If you are able to cater for yourself try to visit the Victoria Market and stock up with fresh produce and seasonal fruit: we found excellent (and cheap) mangos and figs, things that you don't often find in markets in New Zealand. While in the city centre we also oped for smaller cafes, a lot of them have specials like vegetarian wraps and bottled water or coffee for around $8. No need to mention any place in particular as there are many in the small side streets between Burke and Collins Streets, and the food is pretty much the same, nice and filling, and the coffee generally good. And if you need a real Vegan treat go to Supercharger!

The smoothies and desserts are excellent!

But my best Vegan experience was in a Vietnamese restaurant! There is a large Vietnamese community in the city and if you head out from the centre and go to Richmond St you will find a long line of restaurants, and a few Vegan too! The frappes here may not be everyone taste, but the fresh cane juice I had was great.

The menu is extensive and with pictures (but don't look at these too closely, they may differ quite a bit in presentation from the real thing), and full of tofu and fake meat and fish, vegan omelette and, in true Vietnamese style, lots of fresh greens and herbs. Portions are generous and prices quite low, we ate well and had a good night with our cousins sharing all sort of dishes.

Another popular cuisine in the city is Italian, so off we went to Lygon St (where there is also a vegetarian cafe, but we wanted pizza and gnocchi). Personally I found the place a bit too touristic, and after walking up and down the street with staff trying to convince to enter their establishments we settled in for place that looked more or less like all the others. Nothing special but not expensive either, cheerful and lively, like the whole street.

For dessert we went to the famous Pidapipo, the queue was long so we were hopeful, and the ice cream was ok (lots of vegan sorbets too), but not what I had hoped for: there was an aftertaste… this was not an artisan ice-cream, and was definitely make with powders… not as good as our Auckland's Giapo!

But one place you have to try in Lygon St is the big Italian cafe Brunetti (and they also have ice cream, a bakery and some savoury food). Our pastries were so filling that we didn't need lunch later!

And talking about Italians in Australia, and sweet things, if you like patisserie and colours you must check out Adriano Zumbo. Well, we were there for Australia Day so some of the cakes were very 'patriotic', but they were fun to photograph, and if you want to take some of Zumbo's delicacies over the ditch but are worried about customs (fresh food is not allowed into New Zealand), you can always go to the supermarket and get some Zumbo's Tim Tam biscuits. There are 4 flavours, we tried the coconut and they are very rich, like a mini cake!

I have more pictures of Melbourne (and food) here, we did eat plenty (but I have to say that there was hardly any vegetarian food at the Australian Open) and also managed to snack happily with good Australian beer and Tasmanian cheese. We didn't go to any really expensive restaurant this time, so sorry if these are missing from this post, but Melbourne is only 3 and a half hours away, and I am sure that we will be back!

Photos  by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Related Posts with Thumbnails