Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet

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‘While it might take the bluest of moods to make you sit down to a plate of plain mashed potatoes for dinner, a bowl of potato soup tells a more cheerful story.’

Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50

The cheerful story is this: from the most simple and inexpensive ingredients a soup can be made that is delicious, good for you, and very good for your state of mind. Lois gives a basic potato soup recipe which can then be added to with roasted garlic, winter greens (cavolo nero, silverbeet), leeks or smoked fish. I chose roasted garlic and silverbeet which I will give the method for below. With enough leftover for a second meal, I turned the remainders into a satisfying dinner for two by flaking over some smoked fish.

This recipe will make enough for three people; Lois gives a helpful guideline of one medium-sized potato per serving of soup and increase the other ingredients correspondingly.

Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet (Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50-51)

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 medium-sized floury potatoes (I used Agria)

salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

1 small bayleaf

water or chicken stock

milk or cream

soft green herbs such as parsley, dill, chervil, chives (optional)

The optional extras:

A bunch of silverbeet

2 bulbs garlic

Roasting the garlic:

Put the garlic on to roast before you start the soup. Heat oven to 190°C. Prepare the garlic by slicing off the tip of the bulb to expose the ends of the cloves within. Place inside a piece of tinfoil, sprinkle with a little olive oil and water and seal up the package. Place onto a little oven tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cloves are very tender and your kitchen is filled with the sweet smell of caramelised garlic. Leave the bulbs to cool and then squeeze out the insides of the cloves and set aside.

The soup base:

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook very gently until the onion has softened. While the onions cook, peel the potatoes and slice into thin slices (cut in half, place cut side down and then slice). Add the potato to the pan and cook until they start to stick to the bottom but have not started to colour. Add enough water or stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

The silverbeet:

While the soup is simmering, prepare the silverbeet. Wash the leaves to remove any dirt or wildlife and strip the green leaves away from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and put into a bowl, then finely slice the leaves and keep them separate from the stalks. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the silverbeet stalks; bring back to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the silverbeet leaves and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Finishing the soup:

Remove the bayleaf from the pot and add the roasted garlic. Purée the soup using a handheld stick blender or food processor bowl; do this in short bursts as quickly as possible as this will help to prevent a gluey texture caused by over-processing. Add the silverbeet and chopped green herb (if using) to the smooth soup base and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Number 9 fruit loaf

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At Number 9, Lois’ first cafe on the corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen Street, this fruit loaf was so popular that they would bake three loaves at a time. Fruit loaves are currently so deeply unfashionable that I feel that it’s only a matter of time before they become the next baking trend at hipster coffee shops. Toasted and smeared with some Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt or cream cheese, fruit loaf has the makings of an excellent (and most importantly for some, Instagrammable) breakfast.

Number 9 Fruit Loaf (Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 86)

450g dried fruit (currants, raisins, and sultanas; I used a mixture of golden sultanas and currants)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

250ml hot tea (Earl Grey or English Breakfast)

1 egg

2 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Put the dried fruit in a bowl with brown and white sugar, pour over the hot tea and stir. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes, but preferably several hours.

Preheat oven to 160°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. The best way to do this is to tear off a sheet of baking paper and run it under the tap while you gently scrunch it up. Shake off the excess water, smooth it out and dry it with a tea towel; the paper will now be easy to mold to the shape of the tin.

Whisk the egg and add it to the soaked fruit. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and beat into the fruit mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared loaf tin and bake for at least one hour (mine took one hour and fifteen minutes). Use the skewer test to check if it’s done (insert a skewer at an angle into centre of the loaf and slowly remove; it should be clean with no sticky batter adhered to it).

Tips from Lois: the loaf will be easier to slice if you leave it overnight before cutting it; you can also freeze slices of loaf and defrost as needed.

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Chicken sauté with caramel and lemon

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This recipe comes from a chapter memorably titled ‘The Many Moods of a Chicken Sauté’ from Lois’ book Dinner at Home (my most recent Lois acquisition). Using the same basic cooking method Lois creates six different chicken dishes with quite different attitudes.

As well as carefully selecting from what is in season and at its best, Lois also carefully thinks about the way she will cook each dish to bring out the best of the ingredients. This doesn’t involve complicated methods or equipment, but just time and attention.

I served the chicken sauté with caramel and lemon with cavolo nero with fennel seeds and a potato, onion and garlic gratin, which made for a lovely almost-winter Sunday supper.

Chicken sauté with caramel and lemon (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.17-18)

6 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed or left on according to your preference

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons oil

zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup chicken stock or water

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 tablespoon water

handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Put the lemon zest and sugar into a small saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until the sugar melts and caramelises. Remove the pot from the heat and immediately squeeze in the lemon juice. Add the chicken stock or water and return to the heat to melt the caramel. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly, then mix the cornflour and water together and add this to the sauce. Set aside while you cook the chicken. Note: this sauce can be made ahead of time.

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper while you heat up the oil in a frying pan. Add the chicken pieces and brown well on one side, then turn over and brown the other side. Cover the pan and continue to cook for a few more minutes until the chicken is cooked (check this by piercing a piece with a skewer or small knife and the juices should run clear).

Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pan and place onto a serving dish. Tip any excess oil out of the frying pan and add the caramel lemon sauce to the pan. Scrape up any delicious crunchy bits from the pan into the sauce and then pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.

Potato, onion and garlic gratin

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This is a seriously good potato dish. It’s also very easy and only has three ingredients (well, four if you count the oil). It can be prepped for the oven in around 15 minutes and then it will happily bake away while you prepare whatever else you’re going to serve with it (might I suggest chicken sauté with caramel and lemon and cavolo nero with fennel seeds).

This dish tastes simply and delightfully of the ingredients that comprise it. The onions impart a sweetness and silky texture, the potatoes become tender and creamy (with bonus crunchy bits around the edges), and the garlic is a lovely background note.

Potato, onion and garlic gratin (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.118)

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons oil

1 kg large potatoes

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan until moderately hot and then add the onion and garlic; fry until golden. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into 5mm rounds. Put the potatoes into a wide baking dish (if you have one with a lid, such as a Le Creuset, use that). Pour over the onions, garlic and oil and turn the potatoes slices over and over so that they are coated with the oil. Cover the dish with its lid or aluminium foil and bake at 200°C for about an hour, until the potatoes are very tender.

Classic chocolate cake

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This is an old-school style of chocolate cake; descriptors such as mousse-like and fudgey have no place here. Lois’ classic chocolate cake has a lovely chocolate flavour and is moist but not dense. It’s not overly decadent or indulgent and you won’t need a lie down after eating a slice. Made with simple ingredients that you are likely to have already have on hand, this cake is a perfect cake to have for morning or afternoon tea with a cuppa.

Classic chocolate cake (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.160)

150g butter, softened or at room temperature

150g brown sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup

2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature (placing whole eggs into a bowl of warm water quickly brings them to room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I use vanilla paste)

150g plain flour

1/3 cup cocoa (I use Blooker Cacao brand)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

125ml milk

Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the golden syrup, eggs and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and add to the creamed ingredients alternately with the milk, and mix until smooth and lump-free. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes (use the skewer test to decide if the cake is done; a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should have a few crumbs stuck to it when pulled back out of the cake).

Chocolate glaze (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.161)

2 tablespoons caster sugar

25g butter

2 tablespoons water

50g icing sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

Put the caster sugar, butter and water into a small pot and heat gently until it boils. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and pour the boiling syrup on top. Stir until smooth and pour over the cake while the mixture is still warm but the cake has cooled.

Cavolo nero with fennel seeds


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Cavolo nero is one of my favourite winter vegetables and not just because of its seductive Italian name and dark good looks. I infinitely prefer cavolo nero to curly kale which I find a bit tough and raspy to eat even after being blanched in boiling water and then sautéed. Cavolo nero retains a bite once cooked but is still lovely to eat. This brassica is very on trend currently but fashion-forward Lois was cooking it in the 1990s with this recipe which she picked up from a River Cafe cookbook.

Cavolo nero with fennel seeds (Lois Daish, Listener, July 3 1999)

bunch of cavolo nero

extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Strip the leaves from the cavolo nero. I find the best way to do this is to grip the cut end of the stalk and run your thumb and forefinger along the length of the stem to pull the green leaves away. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the cavolo nero leaves for about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and put the pot back on the stove. Slosh in some olive oil and add the garlic and fennel seeds. Stir for a couple of minutes until fragrant and then add the cavolo nero back into the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes. Put into a warmed serving bowl and drizzle with more olive oil.

Gingernuts

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This is home baking at its most simple and straight forward. These biscuits are made from inexpensive ingredients that you are likely to already have at home. Making these gingernuts helped to remind me that baking doesn’t need to be complicated, use flashy ingredients or be particularly excessive. A simple batch of homemade biscuits really doesn’t take much time and will be enthusiastically devoured by flatmates and colleagues, or just keep them for yourself as a wee treat to have with coffee at morning tea time.

Wanaka gingernuts (Lois Daish, Listener, August 29 1998)

100g butter

225g sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon golden syrup

250g flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat oven to 170°C (I prefer not to use fan bake) and line a flat baking with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and golden syrup. Beat again and then added the sifted dry ingredients (important to sift to ensure no lumps of baking soda). Roll the dough into balls (about 20g makes a good size of biscuit) and place onto the baking tray with space for the biscuits to spread; don’t press the biscuits down. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown; keep a close eye on them from the 20 minute mark.