Chocolate coconut rough

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Traditional home baking in New Zealand is an ongoing fascination for Lois. These are recipes that were shared between friends, published in fundraising cookbooks, and handed down through families in cursive handwriting on pieces of notepaper. These are recipes that are a part of our food history but have fallen out of fashion and are now often only found in bakeries and lunch bars made with inferior ingredients. Made with love, butter (always butter), good-quality coconut and cocoa, old favourite chocolate coconut rough is a thing is beauty.

Chocolate coconut rough (Lois Daish, Listener, April 7 2001)

Base:

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup coconut, long thread or desiccated

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 heaped tablespoon cocoa

100g butter, melted (add a pinch of salt if you are using unsalted butter)

Icing:

30gm butter, melted

1/2 cup coconut, long thread or desiccated

1 cup icing sugar

1 heaped tablespoon cocoa

boiling water

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and pour over the melted butter. Stir to combine thoroughly and then tip into a lined or buttered baking tin and push down evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes until you can smell the coconut toasting. While the base bakes, make the icing by melting the butter in a small saucepan and adding the coconut, icing sugar and cocoa. Add enough boiling water to make a sloppy icing and pour over the base while it is still hot from the oven. Cut into bars while still warm.

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Beetroot, yoghurt, mint & walnut salad

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I’ve recently been talking to chefs, cooks, and food writers who have been influenced in one way or another by Lois Daish. I’ve been particularly interested in how they characterise Lois’ approach to food and what sets her apart from other cooks and food writers. Ginny Grant sums it up very well:

Lois’s food [has] an honest simplicity where flavour is paramount.  There are no unnecessary embellishments in her cooking, everything that is in a recipe is there because it is needed.

I had this in mind as I made Lois’ beetroot, yoghurt, mint, and walnut salad at the weekend. Less of a recipe and more of a combination of four ingredients that go well together, there was a temptation to add more; black pepper at least, but I also thought about adding feta. Instead I followed Lois’ instructions and ended up with a salad that was perfectly balanced and lovely, just the way Lois intended.

Beetroot, yoghurt, mint & walnut salad (Lois Daish, Listener, January 2 1999)

4 medium beetroot

1/2 cup plain yoghurt

sea salt 

chopped mint leaves

handful freshly cracked walnuts

Scrub the beetroot and boil whole until very tender. Cool, peel, and cut into wedges. Mix with the yoghurt, salt, mint, and walnuts. Serve.

Crisp & puffy pancakes

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Weekend breakfast pancakes were a big thing in my family when I was growing up. There were two recipes that we alternated between: ‘American-style’ fluffy pancakes and oaty pancakes, and we happily ate either variety with maple syrup and a jar of mum’s preserved Central Otago peaches.

It seems that pancakes were taken seriously at Lois’ house too; Good Food includes two recipes: one for crisp and puffy pancakes and another for soft and puffy pancakes. This is one of the reasons I love Lois; who else would make this careful but important distinction?

In case you are wondering what the difference between the two is, it’s in the cooking method. Using a more generous amount of butter to cook the pancakes results in a crisp and puffy pancake, while a soft and puffy pancake is produced by merely wiping the pan with some butter paper to ensure that the pancakes don’t stick.

Crisp & puffy pancakes (Lois Daish, Good Food, p. 52)

2 free-range eggs

2 cups milk

4 tablespoons melted butter (melted in the pan that you are going to cook the pancakes in)

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon caster sugar

butter for frying (add a splotch of cooking oil to prevent it from burning)

Separate the eggs; put the yolks in a large bowl and the whites into a medium-sized one. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the milk and melted butter to the yolks. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and sugar and stir into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the egg whites.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat; you may need to keep adjusting the temperature of the pan to ensure that it doesn’t get too hot. Add a small nob of butter and small splash of cooking oil to the pan (this will help to prevent the butter burning). Use a small measuring cup to drop a circle of batter into the pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and remain open without closing over again. Flip over, and cook until the pancake is firm in the middle. Best eaten straight from the pan, but you can also stack cooked pancakes on a plate in a low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.

Meatloaf baked in tomato sauce

 

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As fellow Lois Daish fan Lucy Corry recently pointed out in her excellent ‘Three ways with…’ column in the Dominion Post, meatloaf is well overdue for a comeback “not least because a cold meatloaf and chutney sandwich is one of the world’s greatest culinary pleasures.” The joy of Lois’ baked meatloaf in tomato sauce is that you don’t even need the chutney; place slices of leftover meatloaf along with some of the tomato sauce between slices of fresh bread and you’ve got yourself a top rate sandwich.

As well as providing excellent leftovers, Lois’ meatloaf makes a lovely hearty dinner which could be served with some spinach, wilted in a pan and then tossed with extra virgin olive oil. Seeing as you’ve got the oven on already, you could easily bake a couple of Agria potatoes in their skins (scrubbed thoroughly and pricked with a fork) or roast some yams to go alongside.

Meatloaf baked in tomato sauce (adapted slightly from Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p. 43)

Meatloaf:

2 free-range eggs

500g beef, lamb or a combination of beef and pork mince

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

2 tablespoon grated parmesan 

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cooking oil

Tomato sauce:

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

500gm fresh tomatoes or 2 x cans of tomatoes (if using canned tomatoes add a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)

couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (or if making in summer, use a handful of basil leaves)

pinch chilli flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Put the minced meat together with the breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan, salt, and pepper into a large bowl and use your hands to evenly combine. Add the beaten eggs and mix it through. Shape the mixture into four or five small loaves or one large one. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the loaves all over. Carefully lift into a lidded casserole dish.

Make the tomato sauce by gently frying the onion and garlic together until softened. If using fresh tomatoes, you’ll need to blanch the tomatoes in hot water and peel off the skins. If using canned tomatoes, use a potato masher to break them up once you’ve added them to the onions and garlic along with a little sugar. Add the basil or thyme, chilli flakes, a little salt and pepper and simmer for ten minutes before pouring the sauce over the meat loaves. Place the lid on the casserole and bake for 40 minutes, removing the lid after 20 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Cauliflower dressed with olive oil, lemon juice & black pepper

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When writing about food the current tendency is towards hyperbole: ‘the best’, ‘the most delicious/amazing/incredible’. If a recipe doesn’t promise to change your life it probably isn’t worth making. Lois had quite a different approach to presenting her recipes to the reader: she let the food speak for itself.

Lois’ approach was a gentle one; each of her Listener columns have a central narrative of which the recipes are characters, used to show certain attributes or qualities. Prefaces to recipes in her Listener columns often talk about the source of the recipe or some suggestions on what to serve it with. Sometimes her weekly column didn’t have a single recipe in it, which goes to show just how good Lois’ writing is.

Every now and again Lois will mention that a certain recipe is her favourite way of preparing a particular ingredient, such as this simple recipe for cauliflower with a Meyer lemon dressing. You know instantly that it is going to be good.

Cauliflower dressed with olive oil, lemon juice & black pepper (Lois Daish, Listener, July 27 1996)

1 small head cauliflower

juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt 

freshly ground black pepper

handful of freshly chopped green herbs, such as coriander, chives, mint or parsley

Cut the cauliflower into florets by cutting off the stem and outside leaves. Use your hands to break the cauliflower into florets, then cut each of these into bite-sized pieces. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and add a squeeze of lemon juice and the cauliflower. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, which will take about 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Mix together the rest of the lemon juice, the vinegar, olive oil and salt in a small jar. Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine. Pour over the hot cauliflower and grind a generous amount of black pepper over the top. If you intend to serve the cauliflower hot, sprinkle the herbs over just before you serve it. For a cool salad, add the herbs once the cauliflower has cooled to retain their bright colour.

Baked rice pudding

Detail of illustration by Geoffery Notman, Dinner at Home, 1993, p. 89.

Detail of illustration by Geoffery Notman, Dinner at Home, 1993, p. 89.

There’s an art to making a pudding out of a few simple ingredients. Baked rice pudding is what Lois Daish categorises as a ‘milk pudding’; an endearing term with a cosy nursery supper time feel to it. Other milk puddings include bread and butter pudding, lemon delicious, and rhubarb fool. These old-fashioned style puddings are exactly what I feel like eating in the depths of winter.

The main (but unlisted) ingredient for Lois’ baked rice pudding is time. Preparation takes minutes; the baking takes hours. However these are hours you can spend doing something else, warm in the knowledge that rice pudding is imminent.

Baked rice pudding (Lois Daish, Listener, August 13 2005)

3 cups milk (not trim milk)

3 tablespoons calrose or arborio rice

3 tablespoons caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or half a vanilla pod

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 150°C (not fan bake). Put all ingredients into a deep baking dish with a capacity of one litre and give it a stir. Place in the oven and bake for 2 1/2 hours, stirring the pudding three times during the first hour and then leaving it undisturbed for the remainder of the cooking time. The pudding will develop a golden skin on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. Serves 2-3 generously and any cold leftovers are a thing of joy the next day.

Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice

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Lois had an academic approach to curating recipes for her Listener column. Often not content with picking up ‘second hand’ recipes, Lois would try and get as close to the source of a recipe as possible. Lois would seek out books on traditional cookery from particular countries and cultural groups, and try out recipes she came across in historical accounts or memoirs. Conversations with friends, neighbours and colleagues about their own food culture was another source of inspiration for Lois, and this Hungarian-derived recipe for layered savoy cabbage with mince and rice came by way of her friend Klara.

Savoy cabbages are such a visually beautiful winter vegetable and in this dish they are really given a starring role. Layers of cabbage are alternated with layers of a gently spiced rice and mince mixture and then baked in the oven until the top layer of cabbage turns deliciously dark brown and crunchy. Once baked, it is served with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of yoghurt on top to make a perfectly balanced ‘one bowl’ dinner.

Layered Savoy cabbage, mince & rice (Klara do Toit & Lois Daish, Listener, July 18 1998)

1 medium Savoy cabbage (about 1kg)

3/4 cup long grain rice

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

300g good quality beef mince

2 teaspoons paprika

generous pinch of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup beef stock or water

oil for greasing baking dish

1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs

For serving:

plain unsweetened yoghurt (I use The Collective)

a lemon, cut into quarters

Cut out the core of the cabbage by turning it upside down and cutting in a circle around the core with a small knife. As you do this the outside leaves of the cabbage will fall off. Carry on pulling off the leaves until you get down to the small tight core of the cabbage which can be discarded. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the cabbage leaves (do this in batches if your pot isn’t large enough). Use a spoon to push the leaves down into the water and and place the lid back on. Once the cabbage leaves have softened (about 3-4 minutes), remove from the water and drain in a colander.

Wash the rice in a sieve and put in a covered saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and then turn right down to low and cook until all of the water is absorbed; about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice on the still warm element.

Preheat oven to 190°C (fan bake setting). Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding the beef mince. Continue to cook (stirring to break up any lumps) until the beef is no longer pink, then add the paprika, caraway seeds, salt and pepper. Add the beef stock and cook until it has been absorbed – this will take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Brush an ovenware dish (approximately 25 x 18cm) with oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Spread a double layer of cabbage leaves in the dish, then a thin layer of the rice mixture. Repeat the layering two or three times finishing with cabbage leaves on top. Bake for about 45 minutes. To serve, cut into squares and serve with a dollop of yoghurt on top and a wedge of lemon on the side to squeeze over top.