Grilled fennel

fennel

When seemingly simple recipes require two different methods of cooking I have been known to keep on turning the pages of the recipe book. Despite involving both boiling and grilling, I decided to give Lois’ grilled fennel a try, as I’ve learnt from Lois’ recipes this year is that every one of her instructions is there for a reason. As Ginny Grant wrote to me, with Lois ‘[t]here are no unnecessary embellishments in her cooking, everything that is in a recipe is there because it is needed.’ With this is in mind, I encourage you to give this recipe a go. It’s a lovely side which becomes the focus of the meal when paired with some grilled salmon and some boiled new potatoes; any extra sauce can be poured over top.

Grilled Fennel (Lois Daish, Listener, 19 February, 2000)

2 whole Florence fennel bulbs

olive oil

Dressing:

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoon cream or creme fraiche

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the tops of the fennel bulbs. Fill a large pot with water, submerge the fennel bulbs and bring to the boil. Simmer until the bulbs are tender all the way through. Drain and cut into thick slices. Preheat your oven using the grill function. Brush the pieces of fennel with olive oil and place on a tray and grill until browned.

Make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl or shaking together in a jar. Pour over the grilled fennel and serve.

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Golden pear pie

golden pear pie

When Marc Weir announced his second annual #mwdeliciouspiemovement competition it seemed only right to use a Lois Daish recipe for my pie entry. Marc worked for Lois at the Brooklyn Cafe & Grill for many years and describes her as one of his strong food influences.

For this golden pear pie I used Lois’ recipe for a pear galette, but baked it in a traditional pie tin; if you prefer you could make the pie as a free-form galette. This is an exceptionally good pie: the pastry is very flaky and the cream cheese adds a delicious tang. Pre-baking the pears with butter and sugar makes them taste even more pear-like and allows you to drain off any excess juice before putting them into the pie crust to prevent the base going soggy.

Golden pear pie (Lois Daish, Listener, 10 April 2004)

Flaky cream cheese pastry:

250g standard flour

pinch baking powder

110g standard cream cheese

150g butter, fridge cold and cut into small cubes (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt)

2 1/2 tablespoon cold water

2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

Put the flour and baking powder into a food processor bowl and add the cream cheese. Pulse to form a fine, mealy texture. Add the cubed butter and pulse just long enough for the butter to coated in flour and beginning to be chopped up. Stop the processor when the lumps of butter are the size of peas. Add the cold water and lemon juice and pulse briefly. The mixture will be crumbly and will not be holding together in a ball. Tip the mixture into a bowl and use your hands to press into a ball (use your fingers to flick over a little more water if it is too crumbly to come together). Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 20 minutes before using. The pastry can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Pear filling:

4-5 pears (or apples)

juice of 1 small lemon

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel, quarter and core the pears and cut into thin slices. Place into a large shallow baking dish with the lemon juice, sugar and butter and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the pears a couple of times while they bake to coat them in the juices which will exude from the pears. Remove from the oven and leave them to cool before using them to fill the galette (if there’s lots of excess juice then drain it off). The pears may be baked the day before you need them.

Putting together the pie:

Preheat oven to 180°C Remove pastry from the fridge and cut into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Sprinkle flour over a large clean bench and use a rolling pin to roll out the larger piece of pastry to fit a loose-bottomed metal pie tin. Transfer the pastry to the pie tin and gently push down to fit.

Roll the second piece of pastry into a round that is slightly larger than the circumference of the pie dish. Spread the pears over the pastry base and lower the pastry top on top. You want both layers of pastry to overlap the edge of the tin by about 2cm; cut off any excess and use this to make decorations for the top of the pie. Gently fold the bottom layer of pastry over the top layer and use the back of your index finger to push and crimp against the side of the tin. Brush with some milk or beaten egg and bake until golden brown (about 30 minutes).

Rich Madeira cake

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Now is the perfect time to make a Madeira cake, with New Zealand navel oranges being at their best and cheapest. Here’s Lois’ preface to her Madeira cake recipe:

‘But beware. The great British baker Maria Floris had this to say about Madeira cake. Unless well made, it is the dullest cake you could possibly eat’. The butter, sugar, and eggs all need to be warm room temperature before you start, and it is best to use an electric beater. This type of cake is too buttery to eat warm, and is at its best when cut into thin slices a day or two after baking.’

Rich Madeira cake (Lois Daish, Listener, September 11, 2004)

250g butter, softened (add 1/4 teaspoon salt if you are using unsalted butter)

250g caster sugar

finely grated zest one large navel orange or lemon

4 large free-range eggs, at room temperature

250g standard flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Line the base and sides of a deep, round 18cm cake tin with paper, making sure that the paper extends a little above the top of the tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C (not fan-bake). Using an electric beater, cream butter and sugar until very pale and soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Beat into the mixture with the milk, stirring just long enough to thoroughly amalgamate the ingredients. Scoop into the cake tin, flatten the top and sprinkle with caster sugar. Place in the oven (Lois suggests using a shelf closer to the bottom of the oven). Bake for about an hour until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes away clean. Cool in the tin for ten minutes below turning out onto a rack.

Italian-style coleslaw

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This is one of the most simple recipes I’ve come across for ‘slaw’ and one of the most tasty. It is comprised simply of green or Savoy cabbage, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. It’s the perfect thing to accompany a roasted chicken and some roasted pumpkin, or as a palate cleanser after a hearty bowl of pasta.

Italian-style coleslaw (Lois Daish, Listener, May 21, 2005, p. 60-61)

A small green cabbage or half a large Savoy cabbage

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

freshly grated parmesan

Here are Lois’ instructions for making the coleslaw:

‘Finely shred the cabbage one small green cabbage or half a large Savoy cabbage. Put in a large bowl and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar at a ratio of three parts oil to one part vinegar. Start to toss the cabbage. Don’t add so much dressing that it becomes wet, it should be just enough to moisten. Toss through as much shaved parmesan as you like. I like a lot. Place on four small plates as a starter, or place on a large platter and serve as a shared starter or salad with the main.’ 

Lentil, barley, and rice soup

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Kelda Hains described this soup as the sort of recipe you keep tucked away for times when the cupboard is almost bare but you are in need of something nourishing and substantial. From a cup of lentils, a couple of tablespoons of rice and barley, plus the usual suspects of onion, carrot, and celery, comes a soup that makes you pause after the first spoonful to either pat yourself on the back for making it or compliment the cook on their truly good work.

Lentil, barley, and rice soup (Lois Daish, Listener, April 29, 2006, p.61)

8 cups (2 litres) of light beef or chicken stock or water (I used water)

1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste

3/4 cup red lentils

2 tablespoons arborio or other short-grain rice

2 tablespoons pearl barley

3 tablespoons oil

3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste (will be much tastier if you toast whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and then grind them in a mortar and pestle)

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Put the stock or water into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and add the tomato paste, lentils, barley and rice. Bring back the boil and then lower the heat and simmer while you prepare the vegetables.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and add the carrots, celery and onions. Season with salt and pepper and gently fry until the onion starts to soften. Sprinkle with the cumin and transfer the contents of the frying pan to the saucepan of soup. Continue to simmer the soup until the grains and vegetables are very tender – about 45 minutes. Add more water to the soup if it is very thick. Taste the soup and add more salt, pepper and cumin if needed and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice to add a delicate tang.

Chocolate, date & walnut kisses

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Lois & Me is about drawing attention to Lois Daish and her contribution to the history of food and cooking in New Zealand. But as well as adding to this history, Lois is fascinated by it and her Listener columns would often include historical research into particular aspects of New Zealand’s culinary history, particularly our baking tradition. Kelda Hains describes Lois’ approach to recipe development as ‘scholarly’ as it was often based on a good deal of reading and research. In this way, Lois’ Listener columns are ‘curated’; they may not always be recipes of her own devising, but they always involve her careful selection and testing.

I get so much enjoyment from reading through Lois’ Listener articles and wish that more people had ready access to these well-crafted and fascinating pieces of writing. Here is an excerpt from Lois’ October 2003 column entitled ‘Give us a kiss’:

‘Perhaps this is what happened. A cook made a tray of small drop biscuits, and thought they looked a bit meager and decided to join them in pairs with butter icing. The idea wasn’t entirely new. Flat biscuits, cut into rounds with a cookie cutter, had long been made into jam sandwiches that went by various names such as Shrewsbury, Belgian or German. What was new was the idea of joining biscuits that had been dropped from a spoon, or rolled into balls and then pressed with a fork. And these pairs of biscuits were given the name “kisses”, a term that had previously been used for small sweetmeats and which still persists in Hershey’s chocolate kisses. More interestingly for us is that, according to the Oxford Dictionary of New Zealand English, the first recorded use of the term “kiss” for a pair of biscuits was in New Zealand in the 1936 edition of the Women’s Institute Cookbook. Before long, community fundraising cookbooks included recipes for ginger kisses, coconut kisses, sponge kisses and, perhaps the best-known of all, Maori kisses, which was used for several types of kisses that had cocoa in the recipe, the most popular also including finely chopped dates and walnuts.’

Chocolate, date & walnut kisses (Lois Daish, Listener, October 25 2003, p.42-43)

85g soft butter

85g brown sugar

115g flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 cup chopped fresh walnuts

1 cup finely chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut a length of baking paper to cover a flat baking tray. Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa and add to the butter mixture along with the milk. Add the walnuts and dates and mix thoroughly. Roll balls of mixture (Lois suggests half the size of a walnut; I made mine into balls weighing 15g each). Place balls of dough onto the baking tray and push down lightly with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits are firm at the edges but still slightly soft in the middle. Place on a rack to cool. Once cool, join the biscuits in pairs with vanilla buttercream icing. Makes around 15 kisses.

Vanilla buttercream icing

125g unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons milk, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or 2 teaspoons cocoa

Cream the butter with an electric beater or food processor until very pale. Add half the icing sugar and while beating add the milk. Add the remaining icing sugar and vanilla or cocoa.

Curry of chickpeas, potatoes & currants

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Detail of a Geoffrey Notman illustration from Lois Daish ‘Dinner at Home’

Lois’ chickpea, potato and currant curry is quick to prepare and makes an excellent weeknight dinner. Serve it with some basmati rice, some buttered spinach and a dollop of yoghurt on top. This recipe makes enough for two, but can be easily doubled.

Curry of chickpeas, potatoes & currants (Lois Daish, Listener, June 7 2003, p.45)

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle

1 large red-skinned potato, skin scrubbed and diced

1 cup water

2 tablespoon dried currants 

300g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 250g home-cooked chickpeas

large bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan or pot and add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook until the onion starts to colour. Add the curry powder and cumin and cook for a further minute then add the potato, water and currants. Season with a little salt, cover the pan with a lid and cook at a gentle simmer until the potato is tender; this will take about 20 minutes. Stir the mixture from time to time and add more water if is starting to stick and the potato isn’t cooked through yet. Once the potato is tender, add the chickpeas and simmer again for a few minutes. Stir through the coriander and serve.