IN THE KITCHEN: Arantxa Zecchini-Dowling and her mother Alessandra Zecchini.
FULL GLORY: Mimosa cake is so simple even a 12-year-old can make it.
PACKED LUNCH: A Japanese lunchbox.
REFRESHER COURSE: Enjoying some iced peach tea.
At 12, Arantxa Zecchini-Dowling has very clear ideas on what she likes and doesn't like when it comes to parties. So when she couldn't find a decent book to help her make things that met her criteria, she decided to write one herself.
"I really like organising my own parties, but I didn't really have anything like it [the book] for girls my age, everything was too childish or too difficult."
Arantxa, who is in year eight, had help from her mother, Auckland food writer Alessandra Zecchini, and they worked on creating the recipes during a seven-month stint in Italy last year. The result is Party Food For Girls, an undeniably girly book full of adorably pretty things to make. There are lots of projects to keep young hands busy for hours - delicate petits fours and meringue wreaths, a fairytale cookie house and a much-simplified version of the Italian mimosa cake that is traditionally given to women on Women's Day (March 8).
But there are also recipes for more every day food - with high fruit and vegetable content - to please parents.
"Mum and I would try the recipes together, then I would try it out by myself to see if it worked," Arantxa says. "I'm not a fussy eater and I like most things."
The budding cook says the secret to having fun in the kitchen is to "enjoy yourself".
"Just relax and have fun, and cook things that you know people will like."
This is a spectacular cake that even younger children can make. This is more like a fun assembling project, which can be done in a short time and with spectacular results. It is called "mimosa" because it resembles the mimosa flower. You can also make a pineapple mimosa variation by adding canned pineapple pieces to the filling. Serves 8-10.
300ml whipping cream
2 Tbsp icing sugar
500ml custard or creme anglaise
2 x 20cm round sponge cakes
an electric beater, whip the cream until light and foamy. Add the icing sugar and fold in. Add half the whipped cream to the custard or creme anglaise and fold gently. Place both the custard and the rest of the cream in the fridge.
Using a bread knife, carefully remove the entire golden crust from the top, the bottom and the sides of the sponges. Slice one of the sponge cakes across the middle to make two discs (some ready-made sponge cakes are sold already cut).
Place the first disc on a very large serving plate - you will need to leave quite a bit of space around the borders, because the sponge will eventually become a larger dome-shaped cake.
Spread two tablespoons of the custard over one of the sponge halves, then top with half the cream. Cover with the other half sponge, and spread the top with the rest of the cream.
Take the other sponge cake, cut into two discs, then cut one disc into a smaller round cake, about 10 centimetres in diameter.
Place the smaller disc on top of the cake, in the centre, then spread all the remaining custard evenly around the sides and the top of the cake stack.
Cut all the remaining sponge into strips, and then into cubes about 2cm thick. Assemble the sponge cubes and any crumbs all over the cake, covering its entire surface and shaping it into a dome by pressing the sponge cubes down gently with your fingers. The custard will act as glue, keeping the sponge cubes in place. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
These lunchboxes are easy to prepare and perfect for school, picnics or a quick Japanese meal. Serves 4.
2 sheets nori seaweed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch salt
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
cucumber slices to decorate (optional)
soy sauce to serve (optional)
the rice according to packet instructions.
In the meantime, cut the nori seaweed into very small strips (about 2cm long and 0.5cm wide) with a pair of scissors. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Break the eggs one by one into the pan and add a pinch of salt. Stir the eggs while they are cooking, and keep stirring so that they don't stick to the pan. They should become quite dry. Set aside.
Divide the rice between four small containers that can be closed with a lid and press down well. Top with the scrambled egg and press down to cover the entire surface of the rice. Sprinkle with the nori and sesame seeds and, if you like, decorate with cucumber slices.
This dish is good served at room temperature or cold, but do not refrigerate for too many hours or the rice will become hard. You can serve it with a little soy sauce if you wish.
With this recipe you can also make simple cut-sushi squares. Press all the rice into a square or rectangular container, cover the rice with the scrambled egg. Compact the rice and eggs down with your fingers. Refrigerate for one hour, then cut into small squares that you can lift out. Top each sushi square with cut nori and sesame seeds.
ICED PEACH TEA
Try this iced tea if you like a refreshing drink that isn't too sugary or fizzy. You can serve it at your next garden party, or use it to fill your drink bottle for school or outings. Makes one litre.
teabags (regular or herbal tea, we suggest lemon and ginger or apple)
500ml boiling water
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
500ml cold water
the teabags in a jug and cover with boiling water. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir. Cut the peaches in half, remove stones, then place the fruit in the hot tea.
Leave to stand for about 10 minutes, then remove the teabags. Add the cold water and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Discard the peaches before serving, or eat them if you like - they taste quite good with icecream.
If you prefer, use honey instead of sugar. Try experimenting with different-flavoured herbal teas. Fill your drink bottle with iced tea and store it in the freezer overnight for a refreshing drink on a hot school day.
Recipes extracted with kind permission from Party Food for Girls by Alessandra Zecchini and Arantxa Zecchini Dowling, with photography by Shaun Cato-Symonds (New Holland, RRP $29.99).
- The Dominion Post
Orignal From: Easy party food for kids