Lois’ recipe for scrambled eggs comes from Kelda Hains, co-owner of Nikau Cafe and conjurer of the best eggs in town. As you may already know, Kelda had her start in the world of food via Lois Daish’s Brooklyn Cafe & Grill.
Kelda recalls that when hopefuls came to the BCG to be interviewed by Lois they would be asked to undergo the ‘egg test’. Lois believed that the best indication of whether someone really understood food was to watch them cook an egg.
The eggs could be cooked in any way: scrambled, poached, fried, turned into an omelette. It wasn’t about creating the most creative or elaborate dish but, rather, a chance for Lois to observe the care and attention that the cook gave to the egg. When even the most simple and everyday of ingredients are accorded with respect and care it results in food that that is more than a sum of its parts. Lois’ approach to food in an eggshell.
Here’s Kelda’s recipe for scrambled eggs for you to try making at home, or go and enjoy them in their most perfected form at Wellington’s Nikau Cafe.
Nikau’s scrambled eggs (Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 111)
6 free-range eggs
1/2 cup cream
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream, salt, and pepper and whisk until the whites and yolks are completely combined. Pour the mixture directly into a cold pan, either a small frying pan or a pot. Put over a moderately high heat and use a wooden spoon to stir constantly until the mixture is hot, but not setting. If you dip your finger into the mixture it should feel hot, rather than warm. Turn the element off (or turn the gas flame as low as it will go), stop stirring and leave the eggs to coddle for a few minutes with the lid on. Use the wooden spoon to push the barely set curds onto a warmed plate and serve with toasted crusty bread. Makes enough for two or three.
A dark ginger cake for a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon. Lois’ dark ginger cake is one of those cakes that gets better with age, but it’s also one of those cakes that is absolutely delightful eaten on the day its baked while the top is still crunchy. The (let’s face it, obscene amount of) treacle imparts a dark bitterness to this very moist and rich cake. A slice of dark ginger cake is perfect with a dollop of Chantilly cream (cream laced with icing sugar and vanilla paste) for dessert.
Dark ginger gake (Lois Daish, Good Food, p.97-98)
200g butter, softened
200g brown sugar
4 free-range eggs
100g raisins or sultanas
100g crystallised ginger, chopped
400g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line the bottom of a 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Pour in the treacle and beat until the mixture turns a deep caramel colour. Add the raisins and crystallised ginger. Sift in the flour and ginger and stir to mix. Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot but not boiling and add the baking soda; stir to dissolve. Add the milk mixture to the cake batter and stir to incorporate. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for at least an hour. If the cake starts to get too dark on top you may need to cover loosely with tin foil. Cool on a cake rack.
Lois’ apple flapjack is like a bowl of stewed apples topped with Anzac biscuit topping. A dream pudding in my book (a dream breakfast, too). Next time I make this I’m going to up the Anzac factor by adding long thread coconut and an extra tablespoon of golden syrup (and not add any sugar to the apples).
Apple flapjack (Lois Daish, Listener, June 4 2005)
80g butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients)
1 heaped tablespoon golden syrup
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup standard flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 large cooking apples
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 170°C. Melt the butter and golden syrup in a medium-sized pan. Once melted, add the dry ingredients and stir to mix. Peel, core and slice the apples. Place into a large baking dish. Sprinkle with water and sugar. Spoon the topping over the apples and bake for about an hour until the apples are tender and the topping is crisp. It goes without saying that this is heavenly with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt.
A bowl of this salad makes a great lunch along with a slice of good sourdough or it would make a lovely accompaniment for some pan-fried fish for dinner. Lois writes that the flavour of the carrots is enhanced if you cook them whole in their skins, but if you’re pressed for time, peel and cut them diagonally before cooking.
Carrot salad with parsley & olives (Lois Daish, as read on National Radio, October 19 2007)
4 medium carrots
handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
grated zest of half a lemon
6 black olives, stoned and sliced, or 1 tablespoon capers
1 large clove garlic, crushed to a paste with salt
a pinch of ground cumin and a pinch of paprika
juice of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
dash of Tabasco or chilli
1/4 cup olive oil
Wash the carrots and put in a pot covered with water. Boil until just tender when poked with a sharp fork. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to pull and scrape off the skins. Slice into a bowl. Put the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to mix. Pour over the carrots while they are still warm. Just before serving, add the parsley leaves, grated lemon zest and optional black olives or capers. May be served warm, at room temperature, or stored in the refrigerator for a day before serving.
Lois’ escabeche is a lovely way to make pan-fried fish just a little bit more interesting. An acidic dressing of lemon and orange juice is combined with white wine, chillies and spring onion. It’s perfect served with some lightly steamed broccoli or new season aspargagus (!!) and steamed or roasted kumara.
Lemon & orange escabeche (Lois Daish, Good Food, 24)
1 small chilli
1 small red onion or 3 spring onions
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g terakihi or gurnard fillets
flour for dusting the fish
oil for frying
Remove the zest from the orange and lemon, cut in half and squeeze out the juice and put together in a bowl. Finely chop the chilli (remove the seeds if you prefer) and onion and add these to the zest and juice, along with the white wine vinegar, wine and water.
Dust the fish fillets in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fillets for a couple of minutes on one side before turning over. Cook for a further minute and then pour over the marinade. Continue to fry for a further couple of minutes until the marinade is bubbling and has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and serve. Remember that the fish will continue to cook once the pan has been removed from the heat – don’t overcook it.
After much searching I’ve finally got a complete set of Lois Daish’s cookbooks, along with an archive of most of her Listener articles. It’s such a joy having so many Lois recipes at my finger tips, but it does making choosing which Lois recipes to make each week slightly more complicated. If you are in the market for some Lois Daish books, Dinner at Home comes up for sale on Trade Me every so often and is a fabulous addition to a home cook’s library.
Dinner at Home has a wonderful chapter entitled ‘The many moods of a chicken sauté’, which this recipe comes from. As Lois writes, ‘Chicken curry isn’t a big deal if you use the basic sauté method’. She’s right. This was curry in a hurry, perfect for a weeknight dinner. This dish doesn’t involve chopping and frying off onions and garlic, which makes it super quick. Put some brown basmati rice on to cook before you get started and you’ll have dinner ready in no time.
Chicken curry sauté with aubergine and coconut cream (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p. 20)
8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon curry powder
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium-sized aubergine, cut into 1cm chunks
2-3 ripe tomatoes, blanched and peeled or a can of tomatoes
1/2 cup coconut cream
freshly squeezed lemon juice
fresh coriander, chopped
Preheat your oven or a warming draw to a low temperature, which you’ll use it to keep the cooked chicken warm while you cook the sauce. Put the chicken thighs in a bowl and sprinkle with the curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan and once it’s hot, add the chicken. Sauté for a couple of minutes before turning over to brown the other side. Add the aubergine and stir to coat it in the spices and oil. Put a lid over the frying pan and leave to cook for about 7 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Remove from the pan and place onto a serving platter and put into the oven or warming drawer. Add the tomatoes to the pan and use a spoon or potato masher to break up. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer and add the coconut cream and reduce down a little to thicken. Add lemon juice to taste to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and aubergine, sprinkle over some chopped coriander and serve.