Blueberry & yoghurt scones

 

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Baking morning tea for Lois Daish using one of her own recipes sounds like a challenge round in The Great New Zealand Bake Off (which doesn’t exist, but it should and it needs to be hosted by Jaquie Brown and feature Lois Daish and Dean Brettschneider as the baking pros; I’ve clearly given this some thought before!). Rather than top-quality reality television, this is actually how I spent last Sunday morning, baking blueberry and yoghurt scones to take around to Lois’ place for morning tea.

I am very lucky to have met Lois through her daughter, Mary, a talented architect (and lovely friend of mine) who designed the fit-out for Little, a cafe which I set-up and now manage in Lower Hutt. Lois has been out to visit me at Little a number of times and we have become friends. We spent a very nice time together on Sunday morning eating scones, drinking expertly-made Supreme coffee from her little Rocket espresso machine and talking about recipes, books and her restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Sunday morning.

Blueberry & yoghurt scones (Lois’ recipe as published in A Treasury of New Zealand Baking, ed. Lauraine Jacobs, 2009)

2 cups plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons caster sugar

80g butter, cubed

1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup natural yoghurt

3/4 cup full-cream milk, more if needed

milk and sugar for the topping

Preheat oven to 200°c and cover a flat tray with baking paper. Using a food processor or stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs – it’s fine if there are flakes of butter visible. Tip into a large mixing bowl and stir through the blueberries.

Put the yoghurt in a small bowl, add the milk and whisk together. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and use a knife to mix into a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add more milk if needed.

Lightly flour a bench and tip out the dough. Pat into log about 2-3 cm thick and cut into 9 pieces. Pop the scones onto the prepared tray, brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

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Dutch caramel cookies

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Leeds Street Bakery salted caramel cookies are justifiably famous. Chewy, dotted with caramel and flecked with sea salt, one of these and a long black is a recipe for never sleeping again. I came across a recipe in Good Food for Dutch caramel cookies and reading through it, I thought that they might just be a little like the famous Leeds Street ones. I quickly ran to the kitchen to find out.

Lois’ Dutch caramel cookies are shorter and slightly less chewy than the Leeds Street ones, but very delicious. I swapped white sugar for brown sugar to add a stronger caramel back note to the cookies and I couldn’t hold myself back from sprinkling the tops with sea salt.

Lois’ original recipe specifies to mix the smashed caramel shards through the cookie dough, but I found this resulted in the caramel at the edges of the biscuits melting and spreading across the tray as they baked. The second time around I sprinkled the caramel in the centre of each flattened ball of cookie dough which worked perfectly.

Salted caramel cookies (adapted from Lois’ recipe for Dutch Caramel Cookies, Good Food, p.169)

100g white sugar

100g butter

100g brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

150g white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons cold water

Sea salt

To make the caramel:

Grease a small tray or baking dish and set aside. Put the white sugar in a small saucepan and put over a medium heat. Heat gently until the sugar turns into a dark amber syrup – you can swirl the pan if there are bits of undissolved sugar, but don’t stir with a spoon. Pour the caramel onto your greased tray and set aside to cool. Once set and cold, smash up into small pieces (not a powder) with the end of rolling pin or wooden spoon.

Biscuit dough:

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Cream butter, brown sugar, and vanilla and then add flour, baking powder and water. Mix until well-combined. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place onto a flat tray lined with baking paper. Flatten the balls with your palm and sprinkle a pile of the caramel shards into the centre of each one. Push the caramel down into the biscuit and finally, sprinkle the tops with sea salt. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown (start checking the biscuits after 15 minutes – I didn’t use the fan bake setting in my oven).

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Braised chicken thighs with sauerkraut & bacon

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An illustration by Barbara Henderson from Good Food, p. 50

 

The most comforting and delicious food is often not the most photogenic. Despite having filled your kitchen will the most amazing smells, when it comes time to take a photograph the result is… a bit beige and uninspiring actually. Lois avoids this issue by not including photographs in Good Food, just simple line drawings of ingredients by Barbara Henderson.

Lois’ recipe for chicken thighs braised with sauerkraut is an unphotogenic recipe. I didn’t even bother taking a photo; instead we just tucked in. The sauerkraut and bacon gives the rich flavour of a slow-cooked dish, though this is a meal that can be put together pretty quickly for a weeknight dinner.

Chicken thighs braised with sauerkraut (Good Food, p.44-45)

8 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 rashers bacon, cut into slivers

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

fresh thyme

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup water

1 cup of sauerkraut

freshly-ground black pepper

parsley, chopped

Over a medium heat the oil in a cast-iron casserole dish (or similar) and add the onions, bacon, and garlic. Fry gently until the onions are soft and starting to caramelise. Remove the mixture from the pan into a bowl. Add enough oil to lightly coat the base of the casserole dish and brown the chicken thighs on both sides; do this in batches if your dish isn’t large enough to accommodate them all.

Once the chicken thighs have all been browned, add the onion mixture back to the pan as well as the flour, tomato paste, water, and wine. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and sprinkle over the sauerkraut. Season with black pepper and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Very good eaten with baked potato or kumara and steamed broccoli. To bake a potato or kumara, choose small to medium-sized potatoes or kumara and wash the skins in cold water thoroughly. Pierce the skin of each potato in a couple of places with a skewer and place in a 180°C oven for about 30 minutes or until you can push a skewer easily through.

Plum cobbler

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Plum cobbler has been the only Lois recipe so far that didn’t work the first time. I used the cobbler recipe from Good Food, which resulted in a cobbler that wasn’t sweet enough and very heavy and scone-like. The second attempt used a recipe from Lois’ book Dinner at Home and produced a lighter and more biscuit-like cobbler topping. The plums bubbled up and formed a jammy-syrup around the cobbles of biscuit dough and looked quite frankly adorable. Most importantly, it tasted sensational; the plums slightly tart and topping had a shortcake quality to it. Sunday night pudding at its finest.

Lois’ original instructions are to roll out the dough, cut into shapes, and layer over the fruit. I don’t doubt that this would look lovely, however to my mind cobbler is in the same pudding genus as crumble, i.e. one that you can throw together at a moment’s pudding whim with a minimum of implements (and therefore dishes) involved. So I simplified things. Plus, with the effort saved on rolling the dough you’ll have time to run up to the dairy for ice cream.

Plum cobbler (adapted from Lois’ recipe in Dinner at Home)

Fruit:

8-10 red fleshed plums, cut in half and stones removed

2-3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon flour

Place fruit into a high-sided baking dish and sprinkle with flour and sugar. Put in 180°C oven and bake for 15 minutes while you make the cobbler topping.

Cobbler:

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

100g butter

1 egg

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until crumbly. Tip mixture into a bowl and knead with your fingers – you should be able to create clumps (cobbles, if you will) of dough that will stick together. Take these clumps and flatten them out slightly in your hands and arrange over the fruit in a fairly messy way with the cobbles overlapping and some bits of fruit sticking out. Neatness is not the point here. Put the cobbler back into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cobbler topping is brown and the plums have bubbled jammy juice around the edges of the dish. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Caribbean pilau

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This is risotto meets tropical heat. It has the lovely comforting feel of a risotto, but the coconut milk and spices keep it nice and light. The fish is marinated in lime juice and added right at the end so is cooked only lightly. I’ve tweaked Lois’ recipe slightly by adding fresh coriander and extra lime at the end.

A sad reminder that this recipe was published in the 1980s is the fish Lois suggests to use; orange roughy is now at the very bottom of the Forest & Bird Best Fish Guide. Choose a firm-fleshed fish with a bit of flavour as there is lots going on in this dish for it to compete with; I used warehou.

Caribbean pilau (Good Food, p. 26)

500gm firm-fleshed fresh fish

juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 onions, finely chopped

1 red pepper, cored, seeded and finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 fresh green or red chilli, chopped (remove seeds if you want to ease the spiciness)

3 teaspoons toasted coriander seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 bay leaf

1 and 1/2 cups long grain rice (I used basmati)

2 and 1/2 cups coconut milk 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sliced spring onions, chopped fresh coriander, and wedges of lime to finish

Cut the fish into 2cm cubes, squeeze over lime juice and set aside in fridge.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan (for which you have a lid) and add the onions, red pepper, garlic and chilli and sauté for a few minutes but do not brown. Stir in the spices and bay leaf and cook for another couple of minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are incorporated with the other ingredients.

Pour in the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer gently until rice is almost cooked. Keep checking it and if you find that the liquid has evaporated but the rice isn’t cooked yet, add a half cup of water. Do this as many times as you need to.

Once the rice is almost cooked but still has a little bite to it, add the fish and juices and cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the spring onion and chopped coriander and serve with a wedge of lime on the side for squeezing. Good served with some lightly steamed broccoli or green beans.

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