Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roasted spicy chickpea salad with minty yogurt dressing

1 can chickpeas
1 tbsp Moroccan spices
1 pinch salt
A few cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp natural yogurt
A few mint leaves
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 apple cucumber
80 g mixed salad leaves to finish

Drain the chickpeas and place in a bowl with the Moroccan seasoning and salt, mix well and then place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake on medium for 10 minutes, adding the tomatoes at the last two minutes so that they will just start to roast, but will be still whole. In a serving bowl mix the yogurt with the mint leaves, broken up with your fingers, and the olive oil, add the chickpeas and tomatoes, still hot, then an apple cucumber, peeled and chopped. Fold well and then add the salad leaves, give the salad a last little stir and then serve. Delicious and so quick and easy!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cuisine CheeseFest today at The Langham.

Today I went to the Cuisine CheeseFest at The Langham, New Zealand’s largest cheese event. The event is also open tonight, greatly recommended if you are in Auckland and love cheese. This is a chance to taste our NZ award winning artisan cheeses, and to buy some cheese at great prices (I did!). 

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eating horses and Lies on the Plate, a must read from Slow Food International

Being a vegetarian has many advantages, and one is that I don't eat horse simply because I don't eat beef either (or lamb, or pork, or chicken, or... you name it). Of course you never know these days! I never buy ready made food as I tend to cook from scratch, but I do travel a lot and have to rely on restaurants and already prepared food then. For all I know the vegetarian patties they serve me may be cooked in pork fat or being flavored with chicken feathers, and more than once I detected alien flesh flavors, and felt really upset about the lies.

Anyway, back to horses:

I read many opinions about horse meat in the UK food, ranging for people who say that horse meat is very good and it is stupid to be fussy (good point, after all it becomes pet food, but I bet these people won't eat dog), to those who say that food will cost more money if we were to apply stricter controls (hallo????), and it is all very interesting, but there is only one short piece that I really would like to share with you, as it is something I finally agree with.

Lies on the Plate | Slow Food International - Good, Clean and Fair food.

Although I am a vegetarian I don't judge meat eaters (as I don't want to be discriminated myself for my choices), and whatever is our "food belief" I think that we should always have the right information.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"French" Caprese Salad? Cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and blue borage flowers

I can never get tired of Caprese, the classic tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil salad that represent Italy both in taste and in colour. But just for once, and just for a change, when I picked my cherry tomatoes from the garden I also got a few borage flowers and thought that they may look pretty (and yes, just in case you ask, they are edible), and pretty they did look too! And because this looks more like the French flag than the Italian one, I just called it "French" Caprese.  And I guess it could be a good salad for the 4th of July too if you are in the US. What do you think?

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Un giro nella mia foresta


Post per gli amici italiani che mi hanno chiesto com'è la foresta dove abito. Eccola, foresta nativa, durante gli anni che abbiamo vissuto qui abbiamo costruito alcuni sentieri, e allora vi porto a fare un giro virtuale. Spero che vi piaccia :-)


Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Louise Plum Cupcakes, perfect for summer and Sweet New Zealand

I love summer and stone fruit! The orchard near my house sells a variety of plums, and these Louse plums are just a treat! You could also use some black doris or any free stone plums for this recipe.

120 g butter
3 eggs
130 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200 g self-rising flour
60 ml milk
3 large or 6 small Louise (or other) plums

Makes 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 12-muffin tray with cupcakes paper cups.
Melt the butter in a jug, either in the microwave or in the oven (while the oven is warming up for the cupcakes). Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, until the mixture looks light and pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the melted butter and the lemon zest. Keep beating at a low speed now; add half of the flour followed by half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and milk and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. In the meantime wash the plums and cut into quarters (or halves, depending on the size). Divide the mixture between the 12-cupcake cases and top each cupcake with a slice of plum, skin facing up. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown at the top. You can also check by inserting a toothpick into the cupcakes: if it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool down. 

This recipe is for Sweet New Zealand, the sweet monthly blogging event for Kiwi Bloggers, this month of February 2013 hosted by Michelle from the blog Greedybread

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life is a bowl of (white) cherries

White cherries remind me of the crunchy white 'duroni' cherries I used to eat in Italy as a child. I guess that, like the red ones, the best ones that are grown in NZ are exported, as in the shops we only seem to get seconds, and need to spend quite a bit of time sorting them. In my memories life as a bowl of cherries meant that most were good and occasionally one was bad, but in the supermarkets here you can find boxes full of bad cherries, and occasionally a good one! How can this be possible? 

Pity, they make a great addition to the lunch boxes. 

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vegan pot-sticker dumplings

I love this type of dumplings, for the filling I use what I have at hand really, but generally the base is tofu, Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked and boiled first (keep the broth for later) and fresh coriander. For flavouring I used sesame oil, soy sauce and a little fresh ginger. Blend everything into a smooth paste.

The folding is easy if you are doing it with friends. The fact is that after the first ten I got tired and bored, and I had 50 more to do! So I didn't make some particularly pretty ones to look at! My son loves them, and I wanted to make him fold a few ("so that you can learn darling!"), but he politely declined saying that he was going to take some photos of me making them instead (he is so good at finding explanations!).  One of the things I do when folding the ready bought dumpling disks is to wet the borders with water so that they stick well. And then I dip (lightly) the bottom of each dumpling in a plate lined with vegetable oil. In this way the dumplings don't stick to the tray, and then to the pot (even if they are supposed to be 'pot-stickers'!) 

Easy step by step images (this time by Arantxa, they are from this post)

Place a little filling on each pastry circle

Lightly wet the borders with water

Gently fold the pastry

Pinch the ends well and make sure that there are no air bubbles inside

If you can, try to make them look pretty!


These can also be simmered in broth (I always make a little broth for a just a few, just simmer them until they come to the surface and then they are ready!) or steamed in dumpling baskets. I learned the  pot-sticker method in Japan, where these are called gyoza (but have meat inside). 

Cook the dumpling in a very hot pan, and as soon as the bottom has started to brown turn them and brown both side as well. Then cover with a lid and let the steam finish the cooking for a minute or so. At this stage I do add a spoon or two of water or, even better, the stock left over from cooking the mushrooms.  

Serve them hot! They can be eaten with chopsticks or fingers, dipped in sweet chilli sauce or soy sauce,  Max had about 25!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini and Max and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling©

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

13 February: No Captcha Day

Maybe you were expecting some more Valentine stuff, but no, something different today! I am taking part in the blogging event that aims at removing the "captcha" from the comment forms. No Captcha Day is organized by the Blog of the Alligatore (apparently he is a real alligator, but he can blog) that aims at removing the "captcha" from the comment forms.

I don't know about you, but I do get lots of spam these days. Maybe using a captcha should make a difference, but I don't like to use it myself (and those letters are becoming more difficult to read by the day, and the numbers are increasing fast too!) so I prefer that my readers don't have to use it either.

What do you think? I really would like to know your experiences in regard (especially if you have a captcha in place), and your pearls of wisdom!

Alli, adesso posto, qui è già il 13... :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Japanese gadget for fancy eggs

I brought these egg moulds in Japan, you just need to put inside a boiled egg (peeled), close the mould and place it in a bowl filled wit water (cold) and after 15 minutes your eggs are shaped like a bunny and a teddy bear! So cute! I also got some small ones for quail eggs, can't wait to try them, the kids love them!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A few Heart ideas for St. Valentine, and possibly a way to increase blog visits?

Heart Biscuits for Saint Valentine
These are decorated with fondant icing, just roll the fondant and cut using the same cookie cutter as for the biscuit below. Brush the (baked) biscuit with a little jam and place the cut out fondant on top for a smooth finish. For more ideas click here.

And these are Vegan

Heart Sushi and Onigiri for Saint Valentine

Vegan sushi shaped like hearts (like in this photos, you can find the link here),  

Heart Salad? 
Daikon and beetroot salad, using cookie cutters
Heart Cake Pops

Chocolate fondant heart pops, click here

Inside a Heart 
Or just use a Heart container like for this strawberry pudding


Twilight appetizer and Twilight dessert
click here (Vegan)

Rich Chocolate, and hand made heart flags

From my book Party Food for Girls, Photo by Shaun Cato-Symonds, Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Pinterest for ideas!

Or you can find more hearts, not necessarily edible, on my Pinterest board Hearts

An extra word about Pinterest: I love it and pin for pleasure (quite unrelated to my blog really), and in fact until about three months ago I didn't really noticed much difference to my blog visits, maybe 100 or so more every month. Now this is well over 1000 per month and possibly a big factor in my increased visitors' numbers (in the last month I had 45,622 visits). Pity that the spammers are increasing too...

Do you pin? And is it increasing the number of visit to your blog?

Friday, February 8, 2013

'5+ A Day' and 'Eat Your Colours' lunch boxes in Little Treasure Magazine

Check out the February-March issue of Little Treasures magazine for my healthy and colourful lunch boxes, full of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Waitangi Day Reception at Government House, Auckland

Sandra Fresia and Alessandra Zecchini represented the Dante Alighieri Italian Society of Auckland at The Governor General of New Zealand's Garden Reception for the commemoration of the 173th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It was a lovely afternoon and we would like to thank Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae for the invite.


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