Posts by Frances Speer

I eat pieces of cake for breakfast. Not every day, but when the opportunity arises I say yes to cake. I write and photograph recipes for my food blog Cake for Breakfast (http://cakeforbreakfast.me) which is all about enjoying food in a balanced way. For me cooking and eating is a good time and I want it to be a good time for my readers, too.

Asparagus carbonara

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Lois’ ingenious idea: use the tough, woody ends of the asparagus to flavour the pasta cooking water to make this dish taste even more asparagus-y. You’ll also be making use of the whole asparagus spear and minimising food waste. Once again so on trend it’s ridiculous, Lois.

This will make enough for two.

Asparagus carbonara (Lois Daish, A Good Year, p.123)

1 free-range egg

1 free-range egg yolk

2 tablespoons cream

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

200g spaghetti

12 thin asparagus spears

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Snap the woody ends off the asparargus and place in a large pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes before scooping out the asparagus ends (discard these). Salt the water and add the spaghetti.

Chop the asparagus spears into thick slanted slices. Combine the egg, egg yolk, cream, salt, pepper and cheese together in a small bowl and set aside.

When the pasta is almost cooked, add the asparagus. When both are tender, drain into a sieve, using the cooking liquid to heat a large serving bowl. Tip out the liquid and add the spaghetti and asparagus to the bowl. Toss with the oil and pour on the egg and cream mixture. Toss together and eat immediately. As if you needed telling.

Apple & almond cake

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This recipe contains only a small amount of flour, so you can easily sub in some gluten-free flour to make a gluten-free cake if that’s what you’re into; it’s already dairy-free just the way it is. Lois suggests baking the cake in two tins and then sandwiching the thin layers with some whipped cream, which sounds like a bloody excellent idea to me.

Apple & almond cake (Lois Daish, Good Food, p. 114)

3 free-range eggs

150g caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar; I keep a vanilla pod in a jar of caster sugar to gently infuse it)

50g flour (can use a gluten-free flour here)

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

170g ground almonds

2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla paste)

1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling on top 

Preheat oven to 160˚C and line a 22cm loose-bottom cake tin with baking paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture turns light in colour and thickens. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds and then fold this mixture into the eggs. Stir in the chopped apples and vanilla. Scrape mixture into tin, smooth the top, sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar and bake for 35 minutes until browned on top and firm to touch.

Note: I baked this cake using a conventional oven and when I checked it after 30 minutes the cake was still pale on top, so I turned the oven to fan bake and left the cake for another 5-7 minutes.

Good bacon & egg pie

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‘Good bacon & egg pie’ is Lois’ own title for this recipe. Less shameless self-promotion and more helpful categorisation on Lois’ part; no one should waste their time making or eating a bad bacon & egg pie.

This recipe was printed in one of Lois’ Listener columns in which she advises that if you are investing in an encyclopedic food bible cookbook (of the Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion ilk), that a good way to decide whether the cook has your own food style at heart is to look at the bacon & egg pie recipe.

I made this pie for a Labour weekend picnic with lovely friends in the Wairarapa. Perfect for a picnic, this pie can be made the day before and is easy to transport and eat without cutlery. Lois is right: it’s good.

Good bacon & egg pie (Lois Daish, Listener, 28 October, 2006, p. 60-61)

Pastry:

300g plain flour

150g butter, cold from the fridge

1 free-range egg, whisked and halved

3 tablespoons ice-cold water

Filling:

180g streaky bacon

6 free-range eggs

cut chives or finely chopped parsley

1/4 cup cream

salt, pepper and a grinding of nutmeg

1 cup baby peas, cooked and drained (optional)

To make the pastry:

Put the flour into a food processor bowl and add the diced cold butter. Process until the butter is finely chopped into the flour/ Put half the whisked egg into a small bowl and add the ice-cold water. Stir and add to the flour mixture through the food processor feed tube while pulsing the mixture. Tip into a bowl and use your hands to form into a smooth ball. Add a few more drops of water if the mixture refuses to come together. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

To assemble and bake the pie:

Divide the pastry in half. Sprinkle a little flour on a bench a roll out one half to line a loose-bottomed 23cm pie or cake tin. Roll out the other half to a similar size to make a lid. Prick the lid lightly with a fork.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Put the bacon into a heavy frying pan and cook until brown, then lift out and place on a paper towel to drain. Cut into 2cm lengths. Scatter the bacon pieces over the pastry base and sprinkle over the peas (if using). Carefully crack the eggs over the bacon, trying not to break the yolks. Sprinkle the herbs over the eggs and season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.

Brush a little of the egg glaze around the edge of the base base and lower the top on. Use a knife or scissors to cut away any excess pastry, then use your fingers to crimp the edges of the two layers of pastry together. Brush the top of the pie lightly with the egg glaze and place into the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top.

Strawberry & rhubarb shortcake

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It might seem extravagant to use a punnet of new seasons strawberries for cooking rather than just enjoying as they are. My solution is to buy two punnets, eat one straight and use the other to make a shortcake. Do not underestimate how sensational cooked strawberries and rhubarb are together; your kitchen will smell like something out of a fairy tale.

Strawberry & rhubarb shortcake (Lois Daish, A Treasury of New Zealand Baking, Random House, 2009, p.182)

Fruit:

4 stalks of rhubarb

3 tablespoons sugar

1 punnet of strawberries

Shortcake:

125g butter, softened

125g sugar

1 egg

225g plain flour

25g cornflour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the fruit:

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut into 1cm pieces. Put onto a baking tray and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the rhubarb for 15 minutes. While the rhubarb is baking, hull the strawberries and cut in half. Once the 15 minutes is up, add the strawberries and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the shortcake:

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the egg and continue to beat until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Line whatever tin you’d like to use (a round 22cm tin works, as does a 20 x 10cm loaf tin) with baking paper. Put two thirds of the shortcake mixture into the lined base of the tin. Spread over the fruit mixture and then put dollops of the remaining shortcake mixture over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Flapjack

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Lois’ flapjack is basically a giant Anzac biscuit baked in a tin. Perfect for those times when you have the mental capacity for weighing, melting, stirring, pouring, and baking, but shaping individual biscuits is a bridge too far.

Lois’ original recipe calls for the addition of sultanas or raisins, but I used dates as their chewy caramel-ness is perfect with oats and coconut. I think this recipe would also benefit from a sprinkling of pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds.

Flapjack (Lois Daish, Fuss-Free Food for Two, 1997, p.59)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup dessicated coconut

1 cup sugar (I reduced this to 3/4 cup and it worked fine)

1 cup flour (I used wholemeal flour)

100g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons boiling water

1 cup raisins, sultanas OR 1/2 cup chopped dates and 1/2 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 170°C and line a baking tin (mine was 20cm x 20cm) with baking paper. In a large bowl stir together the rolled oats, coconut, sugar and flour. Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a small pot. Put the baking soda in a cup and add the boiling water. Pour this into the melted butter mixture and stir before pouring over the dry ingredients. Add the raisins or sultanas or date and seed mixture and stir thoroughly. The mixture will look a little crumbly. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, push down and flatten out evenly and bake for 20 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm.

Mashed white cheese spread

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Lois’ mashed white cheese spread tastes like an upmarket version of the old favourite reduced-cream-and-onion-soup mix dip. I made it to accompany some snacks to serve to friends at our house warming drinks and it was a raging success.

The dip can be made a day ahead and the quantities can easily be doubled or even tripled. When I made a triple batch of this dip I used a medium-sized onion, but you can add as much or as little as you like.

Mashed white cheese spread (Lois Daish, Cuisine, May 2009 Issue 134, p.91).

3 tablespoons cottage cheese

2 tablespoons cream cheese

2 tablespoons creamy feta

1 tablespoon thick plan yoghurt

juice of a small lemon

1 small onion, peeled

Put the cheeses and yoghurt in a small bowl and add the lemon juice. Grate the onion on the large-holed side of a grater to produce a small quantity of pulpy juice. Add this to the cheese mixture and use a fork to mash all the ingredients together to form a course-textured spread. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt if needed. Cover and set aside in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Summer fish bowl

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Despite the summery ambition in its title, this is the perfect spring dinner. It’s a wonderful way to use new season potatoes and asparagus. It’s light and fresh-tasting, yet still substantial. I can see this becoming a regular weeknight dinner at my place.

Summer fish bowl (adapted from Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 31)

2 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3-4cm pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, thinly slicely

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1/2 cup white wine (dry riesling or sauvignon blanc)

6-8 low acid tomatoes (when tomatoes aren’t in season, substitute a can of tomatoes, drained of juice)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch saffron stamens

pinch cayenne pepper

fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 cups fish stock, chicken stock or water with a splash of fish sauce

bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and the spears cut into lengths

chopped fresh leafy herbs, such as parsley and oregano

500g fresh fish

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place potato cubes into a pot and over with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the onion, carrot, celery and fennel. Fry gently for about ten minutes until starting to caramelise, then add the garlic. Fry again briefly and pour on the wine. Allow to bubble up for 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, seasonings and thyme. Cook for a few minutes more, then add the liquid and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tender. Check to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Add the asparagus spears and continue to simmer gently while you grill the fish.

Preheat your oven grill. Prepare the fish by cutting into large pieces. Place in a rimmed baking dish, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slide the fish under the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely opaque right through. Transfer the fish into a shallow heated bowl, add the cooked potatoes, pour over any juices from the pan into the pot of sauce and ladle the sauce over the top.