Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cannelloni di Paccheri


To do this you need an afternoon, as it is not a quick dinner! On the other hand, you could make it the day before, which is actually better, but I will tell you later about that. To start I cooked a pack of paccheri from Italian Foodies, then I drained them and cooled them under cold water.


In the meantime I made a vegetarian ragù, starting with a soffritto: finely chop 1 onion, 1carrot, 1 garlic clove, 2 stalks of celery with leaves and some Italian parsley. Sauté the vegetables with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.


Then add soy mince, vegetable stock and tomato passata and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick.
Make a white sauce (Besciamella) with milk, flour, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg: melt 100 g of salted butter in a saucepan, then add 100 g of plain flour and stir. Add 1.5 l of milk slowly (this needs more milk than usual as it needs to be a little runny), stirring constantly without making lumps, then simmer until the sauce thickens. At the end add freshly grated nutmeg, white pepper, and salt to taste. 


Put the paccheri in a lasagna dish facing up and fill them with the ragù. I started from the centre to get them to stand up against each others, and yes, this is a bit fiddly!


Pour the white sauce on top of each tube.



Like this:


Keep filling all the pasta, keeping the broken bits for the sides so that they can be rolled around whole paccheri.


Cover with the remaining sauce and plenty of freshly grated parmigiano.


Bake like for lasagne, and until golden on top, then serve! 


When freshly made the paccheri will be soft and bend in the plates, (see photos) but if you leave them to cool and then heat them again the day after they will have more of a 'pie' consistency and can even be cut with a knife. Anyway, it doesn't matter how and when you eat them, they taste amazing!


Have a happy weekend!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cioccolatini ripeni alla crema di pistacchio e mandorla- Chocolates filled with pistachio and almond cream


I have already made these using hazelnut (see recipe here), once again you just need two ingredients: dark chocolate and pistachio or almond cream from Italian Foodies.


Step 1
Melt the chocolate at bain Marie and line the chocolate moulds (I used silicone moulds). For each mould you will probably need about 1 or 2 tsp of chocolate, let it run to cover the bottom and sides of the moulds and then place the mould in the fridge IMMEDIATELY so that the chocolate sets quickly (you don't want it to roll down the sides and just fill the bottom of the moulds). Use only half of the chocolate, leave the rest in the bowl and keep warm (so it won't solidify). 



Step 2
After 15 or 20 remove the moulds from the fridge and fill with the nut paste, then cover with the remaining melted chocolate. Refrigerate.

Step 3
Before serving remove from ridge, tip the chocolates out of the moulds and serve. Better to store in the fridge if it is a hot day.



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Brussels sprouts taste better in a soup


Yes they do! I have a few recipes with Brussels, and I talked about my 'relationship' with the 'challenging' vegetable here, where I also published my favourite Brussels sprout cheese quiche.
But the easiest way to cook them is in a soup, a bit like a minestrone, so that all the flavors from the other vegetables, plus the starch of pasta, 'improve' the distinctive taste of Brussels sprouts.

Chop one onion, half a carrot and one celery stalk with leaves, sauté with a tbsp of olive oil and then add 1.5 l of vegetable stock. Simmer until the carrots are soft and then add the Brussel sprouts, a cube of frozen spinach and a handful of small pasta (like stelline). Simmer until the pasta and Brussels sprouts are cooked, add a little more extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to taste. Easy and yum!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lenticchie in umido - Brown lentils Italian style

I love a nice big pot of lentils, preferibly with some oven fresh crusty bread or a slice of polenta or creamy mushed potatoes. But also as pie fillers, for lasagne, or as a side dish, especially now that the weather is cold in New Zealand. For this recipes wash, soak and rinse 500 g of brown lentils, and then boil them in water with just a pinch of salt until cooked but not too soft or mushy. 


In the meantime roughly chop one peeled carrot, one peeled onion, one peeled garlic clove and one stalk of celery with leaves and a few leaves of Italian parsley. This time I also added one green pepper because it was all alone in the fridge, but this is not necessary.


Sizzle the vegetables with two tbsp of olive oil until the onions are soft, then add 1 tbsp of tomato puree, and if you like a little smoked paprika or a chili. Stir and sizzle for one minute.


Add the lentils and their water and more salt to taste, but not too much as the water will reduce.
Cover and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and you are happy with the consistency of your lentils. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and serve.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Quince jelly


I love quince jelly, lovely project for rainy days! Wash and quarter some quinces, removing the pips, then boil the lot with lemon juice and a little water until the fruit is soft and mushy. 


Put the pulp inside a jelly bag, cheaper if you just use a clean pillowcase (I have one which I use just for jellies) and hung it over a bowl (using a broom and two chairs) for a day and night.


This way the juice will drop into the bowl. As a rule if you like a clear jelly do not squeeze the bag! But I confess that I gave it a little squeeze… I wanted to get more out of it!


Measure the juice and add the same amount of sugar, then boil again.


I had lots, so I put half in a container to set, and added Fresh As Raspberry powder to the other half for a quick raspberry jelly. Delicious!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cherry tomatoes with raw nut cheese and edible flowers



After the raw vegan mushroom and nut macaroons here is another cute raw vegan appetizer! Make a cross incision at the base of cherry tomatoes, stuff with some raw vegan nut cheese (recipe here) and decorate with herbs and edible flowers. They taste so good and are incredibly pretty!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Raw Vegan Mushroom and nut 'macarons'


White button mushrooms are delicious raw, and they are vitamin rich, apparently they even have vitamin B12. These little savoury mushrooms 'macarons' make a tasty appetizer, and they look really fancy! All you need is mushrooms and some raw vegan nut cheese (recipe here). Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and peel off the top 'skin', the clean them well with a damp paper towel (do not wash). Fill with a little vegan nut cheese and close together like a macaron.  



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Raw Vegan Nut Cheese


This is commonly called Vegan cheese or nut cheese, although to me it feels more like a very 'intense' dip. Full of protein and spreadable, it stores well for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Ingredients:
120 g cashews
80 g macadamia
1 small shallot
2 tbsp lemon juice
water (just enough to blend the nuts)
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the cashews for 4 hours, drain and place in a food processor (or use an immersion blender). Add the shallot, peeled and chopped, lemon juice and a little water. Blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste (I do this little by little while blending).

Store in the fridge.

Happy Weekend!



Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Plant based recipes for an Autumn evening


Brrrrr it is getting cold! Time to prepare some filling, comforting and easy dinners :-).
Greg gave us a long pumpkin from his garden, I love it as you just need to slice it and peel it and you have a nice pumpkin medallion!

Roasted pumpkin medallions with pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Slice, peel and place onto an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil, salt, smoked paprika, garlic and crushed cumin seeds. Roast until tender. Toast a few pumpkin and sunflower seeds the oven and sprinkle on the pumpkin medallions before serving.

In addition I had the last zucchini in the garden, not quite a marrow but quite big, so I sliced it and baked it too:

Baked zucchini

Wash and slice lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and salt, bake. That all!

To serve I added some basmati and lentils

Lemon basmati and lentils

Wash and cook the basmati with a small pinch of salt, open a can of lentils, drain from the water and pour the lentils on top of the rice during the last five minutes of cooking. Turn off the heat, add two tbsp of lemon juice and stir.

And to top some instant hummus with almond dukka:

Instant hummus

Open a can of chickpeas, drain and keep half of its water. Blend the chickpeas, water, two peeled garlic cloves and the juice of half a lemon until smooth. Add salt to taste and a little olive oil.

Almond dukka

Toast half a cup of almond, a few sunflower and pumpkin seeds and 1 tsp of cumin seeds. Add a little rock salt, a pinch of paprika or the spice of your choice. Grind and use to top the Hummus.


Well, that was easy, the kids loved it and got eaten in no time!

And remember that May 15 is Food Revolution Day! Sign the petition here!
#FoodRevolutionDay

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Gluten free, fat free, sugar free, vegan chestnut and cocoa cakes


Well, mini cakes, heart shaped for Mother's Day. I used one cup of chestnut flour, 2 tsp cocoa, a few sultanas and enough water to make a batter. I poured the batter in silicone moulds and baked for about 20 minutes (until a toothpick came out clean). Very yummy, incredibly filling, and healthy too.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, May 1, 2015

Bread stuffed cabbage leaves, step by step



Cabbages are cheap and healthy, and when I buy one I can cook with it for a family of four for three days! Usually I start with cabbage rolls, to use the larger leaves, and these can be done in a zillion ways! I have another  good Vegan recipe here, but today for the filling I used stale bread. But first thing first:

Wash the cabbage leaves (the bigger outer leaves, about 15, and steam or boil until soft but not too soft! In the meantime put one onion, one carrot, two celery sticks with leaves and a little parsley in the food processor and mince.


Heat two tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the vegetables, stirring often, for 10 minutes.


Soak some old bread in water, doesn't matter what kind of bread, I had two white bread rolls and some seed sourdough, so I used those. 


Squeeze the water out of the bread and crumble it into the pot with the cooking vegetables. Add a little vegetable stock if necessary and cook everything for about 15 minutes. Stir often and make sure that the mixture is quite thick and not too watery or runny. Adjust with salt and pepper (I quite like to use smoked salt here).


Spread the cooked cabbage leaves on clean tea towels.


Divide the vegetable and bread mixture between the leaves.


Roll up the leaves.


They look so pretty!!


In a capable pan heat some olive oil (about 3-4 tbsp) and sizzle a couple of garlic cloves and 1 heap tbsp of tomato puree.


Pack the cabbage rolls in the pot tightly,


 if there is not enough space put some on top, during cooking they will 'reduce' and you will be able to move them down into a single layer.


Add about half a litre of vegetable stock, cover and simmer on low for about 40 minutes.


Serve hot (I had mine on polenta!)


The leftovers rolls and sauce I wrapped in filo pastry and made a pie for the second day, and on the third day I still had the centre of the cabbage to use (quite a lot in fact, I had it after a few days though, for variety) for a Vegan Cabbage Bolognese Sauce.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mandarin and blueberry chocolates


I made these with my daughter, we used Fresh As freeze dried mandarins and blueberries, plus some dark chocolate (the darkest the better for me, and chose a non-dairy one for vegan chocolate). Just need to melt the chocolate and then half dip the mandarin slices. The freeze dried blueberries… sorry but you cannot see them… but we just added a few to the remaining chocolate (after we used all the mandarin slices) and then poured the mixture in chocolate molds. So easy, quick, and petty too!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Raw and Vegan Lunch by Megan May of Little Bird Unbakery and Vitamix


Yesterday I attended a lovely raw vegan lunch hosted by Vitamix for the launch of the Professional Series 750. As a vegetarian I rarely go to these events as they tend to be sponsored by meat and fish brands (especially here in NZ) but this time the menu was designed by the NZ queen of raw food, chef Megan May of Little Bird, so thank you Vitamix for the invite, finally an event I could attend (and eat everything!). Megan also demonstrated three recipes with Vitamix, my favourite was the nut cheese (pictured below on the raw cracker) made with soaked cashews, macadamia, water, onion, salt and lemon, plus some herbs (parsley, chives and dill) added after the blending of nuts.  


The first time I got into raw food was in 1991, I was living in London then, and I had been a vegetarian for a few years already. A friend suggested this book, which was already old by then, I immediately got it from the library and read it cover to cover in no time. The appeal then was never a complete raw diet for me, but just the fact that I felt that the local (British) vegetarians didn't eat enough raw salads, fruit and veggies, while I was looking for something more. In fact the local vegetarians seemed to eat even less vegetables than a carnivorous Italian male would! If I was eating a salad people would come up to me and say that my meal was wrong because it lacked protein, while their baked beans on toast were perfectly balanced. I just could not accept this, a part from the fact that canned baked beans on toast do not appeal to fussy Italians like me, I felt that this obsession with certain types of protein in every meal was too heavy on my stomach, and that greens gave me something more, like a 'life force'. The book, entitled Raw Energy, had some good points, but sadly the recipes were not my cup of tea - they lacked fantasy and taste, and I didn't see the point in most of them. 


Raw food has definitely developed since then, and there are more ingredients available now. Still, before launching myself on the platter of starters that reached out table yesterday I did ask around if there was any meat or fish in them, a sad by necessary habit of mine, and one of the diners told me, matter-of-fact, that it was all raw, i.e. vegan. This proved to me that there are still a few misconceptions about the raw diet: raw veganism may be the trend now, but I have met raw foodists who eat (raw) meat and fish. Raw food is not uniquely vegan or vegetarian. But fortunately for me Little Bird's food is, in fact, all vegan, and organic too!


And of course raw food is not just salads and juices, as Megan showed us on the day. At the end of the meal I was so full that I didn't need dinner, just one of the dishes, or even the opening smoothie (which I forgot to photograph) would have been enough for me, since I don't eat that much. But I just had to try everything and then wait for dessert, a luscious chocolate and hazelnut tart!


These days there is plenty of raw food on my table, (if you are looking for raw vegan recipes click here) but I don't use a dehydrator or practice low temperature cooking; when I cook I cook (and bake and fry and all that) and when I don't I am all for salads, dips, juices and smoothies and raw desserts that tend to be more like traditional raw recipes, and mostly made with cheap everyday seasonal local produce, rather than anything fancy. And like most people I have a juicer, a blender, knives and mortar and pestle, although now I may just need a Vitamix to make that nut cheese :-)!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

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