Apple muffins

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Muffins will be back in fashion again; hard to believe, but it will happen. When it does these muffins should go near the top of your ‘muffins to make’ list. Packed full of cubes of slightly crisp apple, these rich and spiced muffins are a delicious and very easy thing to make for morning tea or a weekend breakfast.

Apple muffins (Good Food, p. 126)

4 medium apples, peeled and diced

1 cup brown sugar

100g butter, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the apples and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. In a smaller bowl whisk together the melted butter, eggs and vanilla and then stir into the apple and sugar. Sift the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into the bowl on top of this mixture and fold together very lightly; try not to over mix as it doesn’t need to be smooth. Spoon into a greased muffin tray and bake at 160°C for 30 minutes until golden on top. Muffins freeze incredibly well: wait until they have cooled and then pop into a freezer bag. A muffin removed from the freezer before you head to work will be thawed in time for morning tea.

Anzacs

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The way that recipes change over time and through repeated making is something that Lois and I have spoken about a couple of times. Favourite recipes are seldom made exactly as the original source specified; as cooks make and remake a recipe a little less sugar might be added, a handful of sunflower seeds sprinkled in, the baking time adjusted. It’s often only when you go to write down the recipe, perhaps to give to a friend, that you discover that you have drifted away from the original recipe without even realising it.

There is the personal history of recipes and then there are recipes that live in the public realm, such as Anzac biscuits. Lois wrote a very interesting article which explores how the recipe for Anzac biscuits has changed over time, which you can read here. There are two types of Anzac biscuits currently in the popular vernacular: one is thicker, crumblier cookie sometimes with sunflower seeds and dried fruit added; the other is a crispy and chewy thin disc. Both are good, but the latter really is something special. Lois’ recipe is for the thinner, chewier sort.

Lois’ Anzacs (recipe from Lyndie Pillar)

100g butter

3 tablespoon golden syrup

¼ cup boiling water

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

100g flour

150g sugar

100g rolled oats 

75g coconut (I used long thread, but you could also use desiccated)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Pour the boiling water into a cup and dissolve the soda. Mix the flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut together in a large bowl. Add the soda and water to the melted butter and syrup and immediately pour the foaming mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Cover two baking trays with baking paper. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared trays, leaving room for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits have melted flat and baked to a rich brown. Keep a very close eye on the biscuits from the 10 minute mark; they go from perfect to burnt very quickly! Leave the biscuits to cool slightly on the oven trays before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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Spinach frittata

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I’ve just arrived back from a lovely visit to Mum’s where we spent some happy hours poring through her folders of collected recipes, many of which are Lois’ old NZ Listener columns. While the appearance of the columns changed every couple of years, the style of the food remained constant: seasonal, fresh, and simple. Recipes from 1996 are as enticing as recipes from 2007.

Lois’ columns are an absorbing read interspersed with personal anecdotes and references to food writers, colleagues or friends from whom she had sourced the recipe or inspiration. Lois often mentions River Cafe (Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) whose modern Italian recipes make the best use of seasonal produce cooked in simple ways – much like Lois herself.

Lois gave Listener readers River Cafe’s recipe for spinach frittata back in 2000. We made it for dinner last Friday evening as a light supper (after a not-so light lunch) and it was perfection. I may very well make it again this Friday.

Spinach frittata (Lois Daish, Listener, August 19 2000)

500g fresh spinach, tough stalks removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g butter, cut into small cubes

4 eggs

50g parmesan, freshly grated

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 slices prosciutto (optional)

Preheat your oven grill to its maximum setting. Blanch the spinach briefly in boiling salted water. Drain in a colander and push down with a large spoon or spatula to squeeze out most of the water. Put into a bowl and dot with half of the butter cubes and grind over some salt and pepper. Break the eggs into a medium-sized bowel and beat lightly. Add the spinach and half of the grated parmesan and a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Take a large 20-30cm fry pan with an ovenproof handle. Add the oil to the fry pan and heat on the stove top over a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture, using a spatula to spread out the spinach evenly. Give the pan a jiggle and leave to cook for a few minutes. Dot the rest of the butter and parmesan over the top of the frittata and put under the grill for a couple of minutes until the top begins to rise and it turns crispy around the edges. Remove from oven (remembering that the pan handle will be hot!), cut into quarters and serve with prosciutto or, like we did with a salad of chopped tomatoes, torn basil, olive oil and salt and pepper.

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Lois & Marc Weir (and Lois’ thin crackers)

Marc Weir is Wellington food scene royalty as one of the visionary and enormously hardworking co-owners of Floriditas and more recently, Loretta. When I first started posting photos of Lois Daish recipes online, Marc responded and told me that one of his first jobs in hospitality was at Lois’ much-loved Brooklyn Cafe & Grill in the 1980s.

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Marc credits Lois with giving him a strong foundation in the restaurant business, which has stood him in good stead for his career in the industry. Both Marc and Lois say that they were so inspired by each other during their time together in Brooklyn. Lois’ unwavering dedication to ‘good food done well with quality ingredients’ is something which is echoed in Marc’s approach. Marc recalls that Lois used herbs as an ingredient, never a garnish, something now commonplace in contemporary cooking, but not in 1980s New Zealand.

I met with Marc one afternoon at Loretta and he had with him his worn copy of Lois’ book Good Food, the pages slightly stained and marked with use. Marc flicked through to show me his favourite and most regularly used Lois recipes, which he continues to make today. One of these recipes is for thin crackers, which are still made at Loretta & Floriditas today. As Marc put it, he just hasn’t found a better cracker recipe in all these years.

Lois’ thin crackers (Good Food, p. 176)

150g plain flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

15g butter

100ml milk (approximately – you may need more/less)

extra milk for brushing the tops of the crackers

Preheat your oven to 180°C. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and salt and rub in the butter until the mixture looks crumbly. Using a blunt knife, stir in enough milk to make a stiff dough. Leave to sit for ten minutes before turning out onto a floured bench. Roll the dough thinly – think paper-thin but not see-through. Cut out the crackers using a cookie cutter/up-turned glass/measuring cup (whatever size or shape you like). Leave to sit for another ten minutes before transferring onto a flat tray lined with baking paper. Brush the tops of the crackers with milk and bake for 10 – 15 minutes but make sure you start checking them from the ten minute mark. Remove from the tray and put on to a cooling rack.

creme fraiche pasta, blueberry scones and trademe 022