Monday, May 15, 2017

Smoothie with fresh turmeric (curcuma)

After a few smoothies with turmeric powder (lovely, I must say), I decided to buy the fresh root and give it a try. It is milder (well, I didn't use tons!) and fresher, with a different 'zing', a bit like fresh ginger.

For this smoothie I used a banana, some frozen mango, a kiwi gold (yellow kiwi), a piece of fresh turmeric root (peeled) and coconut water as a base. I was expecting the smoothie to be more yellow, of course not as yellow as with turmeric powder, but at least a bit more than what I got, so more cutting of roots and more 'experiments' are needed :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

White asparagus carpaccio - carpaccio di asparagi bianchi

White asparagus are a real treat, and the most famous are from Bassano, in Veneto. I got a bunch for my birthday, the Bassano bunches are quite big so we made a few meals out of them: I tried the alla Bassanese and also al burro, but nothing beats a carpaccio, simply made with:

raw white asparagus, cleaned and thinly sliced
Rocket salad (rucola)
Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

to dress: extra virgin olive oil, salt and (optional) balsamic vinegar.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Red Beetroot risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, step by step

   This is a super risotto, I am so proud of it!! I made the recipe many years ago for a magazine but I used shaved Parmigiano, but I think that cut into chunks is better. Start like for all good risottos, with plenty of butter and a chopped onion (I used a red one to keep the colour scheme!).

When the onion sizzle add the rice (I used arborio) and stir well: for a good risotto the fat at the beginning is important so make sure that the rice absorbs well the butter. Make really hot to the touch. 

Boil and peeled three small/medium beetroots (or a very large one) and cut into cubes.

Add the cubes to the rice and stir until hot. Remember that the rice has to be hot before you add the stock!

Add the stock (vegetable in my case) ladle by ladle, and stir often, adding more stock when needed.

The risotto is ready! Wow, look at the colour!

Cut the Parimigiano Reggiano into small chunks with a Parmigiano knife. Get your Balsamic ready: this is a 25 years old Tradizionale, truly spectacular!

Dish the risotto, add the Parmigiano and a drizzle of Balsamico.

This was just amazing!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, April 3, 2017

Caprese Salad with red impatiens flower dressing

You know I love eating flowers from my garden (they have to be organic), impatiens have a mild rucola flavour and are perfect for salads. The red ones are the best, I think. 
Pick the flowers and then place in cold water to rinse.

Put them on a tea towel to dry, then mix with extra virgin olive oil and salt to make a dressing. Leave a few for decoration. 

 Assemble your tomato, mozzarella and basil for a nice Caprese salad then drizzle with the dressing. 

Have a great week!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gluten free almond shortbread biscuits - Biscottini al burro e mandorla senza glutine

100 g ground almonds
100 g sugar
100 g butter (at room temperature)
50 g rice flour plus some for dusting
candied cherries (optional)

Mix all the ingredients and make into a dough, then make some small balls, walnut size, roll them in rice flour (otherwise you will get some flat biscuits when they bake in the oven) and place them on a oven tray lined with baking paper. If you like add a piece of candied cherry on top. Bake at 160° for about 20 minutes, but check the oven often as they can bake quickly (depending on size). Let them cool down completely and then enjoy. They keep well in a container, but if you want to store them for longer bake them a few minutes more.

And now the flowers from my garden (old photos, most of these flowers have gone now...)

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Schiacciata con pomodorini - cherry tomatoes schiacciata, and a meal from the garden

I had a great summer of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, the reds are always the best for flavour, but the yellow are pretty to look at and I like a contrast of colour on my plate, so why not! This schiacciata is easy as it doesn't need muck kneading.

For the schiacciata:
Place 300 ml warm water in a large mixing bowl, add 2 tsp active yeast granules and 1/4 tsp raw sugar. Wait 5 minutes then add 500 g high grade flour and 1 tbsp wheat gluten flour, plus a good pinch of salt. Mix well then dust with four, cover with cling film and let it rise for 2 hours. After 2 hours place a little olive oil on your hands and then gently mix the dough, pick it up and place it on a baking sheet cut so that it will fit you over tray (I have a 90cm oven so one long tray is good for me, for a standard oven divide the dough into two pieces). Roll the dough to cover the baking paper and then place on the baking tray. Brush with more oil if you like, then cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and place over the down, pressing them down lightly. Sprinkle with salt and oregano (chopped garlic too if you like).

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200° C for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until you can see that the bread is baked on top and on the bottom (lift to check). Eaten warm is fantastic, but it keeps well for a couple of days, or at least, it would, but we tend to eat it pretty quickly! 

We had it for dinner with a Caprese salad (cherry tomatoes again, mozzarelline, basil and borage flowers) dressed with olive oil and salt, plus flat beans from the garden (teghe) boiled and dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt (my daughter loves these!) and a simple guacamole (avocado, garlic, salt and lemon juice, made in the nutribullet!).

This is a perfect meal for me!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 13, 2017

Eat your colours in a minestrone

Lovely colourful vegetables from the garden (except the red onions), all ready for a minestrone. From the bottom: red onions, rainbow chard, carrots, yellow beans, silverbeet stalks, celery, green beans, flat beans, kale. Just add water and salt.

Wishing you all a colourful week!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, March 10, 2017

Two variations on Caprese Salad

Caprese with edible flowers and Caprese with tree tomatoes and two basils

Caprese is probably one of the world best known salads (and antipasto), and there are many variations, so here a couple more:

Caprese with edible flowers

I used red and yellow cherry tomatoes, and mozzarelline (the cherry size), plus added some edible flowers (borage and dianthus from my garden, organic of course). Add small basil leaves too before serving, if you like. Suitable also for a cocktail party, and ever so pretty!

Caprese with tree tomatoes and two basils

I used a mixture of vine tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and semi-dried tomatoes, mozzarelline (but you can use regular mozzarella cut into slices or pieces) and green basil and purple basil leaves. Dress with olive oil and salt. A filling salad or light lunch.

And now some pictures from my garden!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tofe con friarielli (cime di rapa) - and Lewis Road Creamery Strawberry Ice Cream with Matcha

For the first time in my life I planted friarielli (cime di rapa), I got the seeds from Slow Food Auckland and I was so excited that I didn't wait for Autumn but I planted them straight away. Auckland is hot and wet, so they grew fast and started flowering quickly, I had to pick them before they seeded even if the tops were small. But they were delicious. I also have to confess that I ate some as salad, when the leaves were very young, and they are probably one of the best alternative to rocket salad around.

After I got my first batch I cleaned it and then cooked in a pan with olive oil, garlic and salt. You can add chilli, but I prefer to taste the friarielli rather than the chilli. Simmer them slowly with a lid for 20-30 minutes stirring often, if they are fresh you don't need to add water (mine came directly from the veggie garden!). The best pasta to have them with is orecchiette, but I didn't have any so I used some tofe, which are close enough in shape, but different in flavour! Still, they were great, or maybe it is just me, happy with my new crop of friarielli!

And now for the bouquet of the day from my garden!

and for dessert....

Lewis Road Creamery Strawberry Ice Cream with Matcha

Well, I didn't really make this, but it is a great idea and so I am sharing it: sprinkle a little matcha (Japanese green tea powder) over strawberry ice cream, the two flavours go beautifully together and it looks pretty too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, February 13, 2017

Crema Bruciata, or Crème brûlée, with nectarines, plums and cherries

The original recipes comes from my book Sweet As... ,  my own recipe which doesn't require steam baking in the oven and includes nectarine slices. Plum slices and cherries were also added here, and the result was delicious!  In Italy we also call this crema bruciata, but crème brûlée is most commonly used now as it sounds sophisticated :-).

To make the crème you will need one egg yolk for each 100ml of cream and 1 tbsp of sugar, for this recipes I used 5 egg yolks (thus 500ml cream and 5 tbsp of sugar) and I filled 8 ramekins, plus I had a little left to fill three miniature ones. Of course if you don't put any fruit on the bottom you will need more crème.

It is up to you how much fruit you put in, generally I just line the bottom of the ramekins with 4-5 think slices, this time I think I overdid it (thus the leftover crème) sicne stone fruit season is not long in NZ, and I wanted to use more fruit than crème! Don't use watery fruit and remove any juice from from cutting: you don't want to have a soggy base!

For the crème you need to mix well the egg yolks with sugar, then add the cream and either some vanilla seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or a few drops of pure vanilla essence. If using vanilla essence add it when the crème is thick. A whole pod of vanilla is good too, but I find it to be in the way while stirring the crème!

Put the bowl with the mixture over a saucepan of boiling water and cook at bain-marie stirring constantly. It will take a long time, at least 30 minutes, possibly more, and your wrist will get tired and you will get bored. You can read a book at the same time, as long as you are careful. When you cannot take it any longer the cream will magically thicken, and when it is thick enough (remember that it will need to set in the fridge, not in the oven) and it looks bright yellow, remove from the heat and let it cool down lightly, always stirring.

Then pour over your fruit (or into the ramekins if you don't have any fruit). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, better overnight, or a whole day. One hour before serving spread some brown or sugar over the top and caramelize under the grill, or with a blow-torch. At this stage I realized that I got rid of my old oven upstairs, the one that I never used since moving the kitchen downstairs 16 years ago except for the grill, and crème brûlée. The grill in the downstair kitchen is not as good, the oven is too big and it takes too long, still, I managed to melt the sugar (mostly).

Then refrigerate again for one hour and serve. The top should be crunchy and the centre smooth. It will be more creamy than the standard crème brûlée puddings that we find in restaurants, which have more of a 'set' texture, but if the crème is far too runny it means that you didn't cook it long enough at bain-marie, so you will know next time :-). If the top is not crunchy it means that you have left it in the fridge too long after caramelizing the sugar.
Mine was yummy and delicious, although thinking back at the grilling part (and seeing the details in the photos) I think that is it time for me to get a blow-torch. I never had one, it should be fun!

And the miniature ones? Well, they were so pretty next time I am just going to make a tray of them!

And now for the flowers of the day, all from my garden!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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