Roasted pumpkin & feta frittata

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I have a friend who refuses to eat pumpkin, still scarred from his cafe experiences of the early 2000s when all manner of savoury counter food contained roasted pumpkin. When Lois published a recipe for roasted pumpkin and feta frittata in her Listener column in October 2001, she may well have been ahead of ‘peak pumpkin’.

I’ve always loved pumpkin and have no qualms about eating it at home or in a cafe, however I will never order pre-made frittata in a cafe. Frittata can be delightful but it needs to be made with care and I’d prefer to make it myself. This is a particularly lovely version; the coriander stalks add freshness and the sweet pumpkin and salty feta may well be a cliché, but what a delicious one.

Roasted pumpkin & feta frittata (Ray McVinnie & Lois Daish, October 13, 2001)

Roasted pumpkin:

500g seeded and peeled pumpkin

3 tablespoons oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Frittata:

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped coriander stalks, finely chopped

6 tablespoons oil

200g feta

6 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 200°C. Put the oil into a baking dish and place in the oven to warm up. Cut the pumpkin into 3cm chunks. Remove baking dish from oven and add the pumpkin, place back into the oven and roast until well-cooked and browned; about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over a moderate heat until they have ‘popped’. Gently sauté the onion, garlic and coriander stalks in 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan you’ll use to cook the frittata (ensure the pan has an oven proof handle). Remove the onion mixture from the pan, give the pan a quick wipe and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and put back on the heat. Once the oil is hot, add the beaten eggs and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the pumpkin, onion mixture and feta over top of the eggs and give the pan a shake. Place the entire frying pan into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the frittata has set and is golden brown and puffed up at the edges.

Oatcakes

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The perfect autumn platter: blue cheese (preferably Whitestone), quince paste, some freshly cracked walnuts and a pile of Lois’ oatcakes. These oatcakes taste very much like those expensive ones that I am always sucked into buying through their clever positioning in the cheese aisle. Lois’ oatcakes contain inexpensive ingredients and are easy and relatively quick to throw together. There is a distinct possibility that making these crackers would take about the same amount of time as driving down to the supermarket for crackers. This theory is completely untested.

Lois’ oatcakes (A Good Year, p.85)

1 cup white flour

1 cup rolled oats,
pulsed in a food processor

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

50g butter melted in 1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 170°C. Put all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and pour in the butter and hot water. Knead together in the bowl until the mixture holds together. Lightly flour a large clean bench and tip out the dough. Knead a few more times before rolling out thinly. Use a knife to cut into shapes – I went with slender rectangles (or rather, attempted). Use a metal spatula to transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until brown and crisp. Keep a close eye on them – you may need to move the crackers around if the ones on the edges are browning more quickly than the rest. Leave to cool on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container. They keep for around two weeks (maybe even longer if they get the opportunity).

Spaghetti with cauliflower, almonds & currants

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This is one Lois recipe that I did end up changing quite a bit. The original recipe calls for pinenuts and raisins which I substituted for almonds and currants. I also added some anchovies and flat leaf parsley and cooked the cauliflower for a shorter period of time, so it retained a slight bit of bite. This recipe really was a combination of Lois and me. Makes enough for a delicious lunch for two or a light supper.

Spaghetti with cauliflower, almonds and currants (adapted slightly from Lois’ recipe published in the NZ Listener, August 9 2003).

Half a small cauliflower

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 medium onion or a couple of shallots, finely diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons currants (or raisins)

small handful of chopped almonds, toasted in a pan with some oil

2-3 anchovies, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

big handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

250g dried spaghetti

extra virgin olive oil

Cut the cauliflower into quarters and cook in a big pot of salted water (the same pot you’ll cook the pasta in). Cook the cauliflower until it is tender and can be pierced with a knife. Lift the cauliflower out of the water and chop into small florets. Scoop out 3/4 cup of the cauliflower cooking water, top up the pot with a bit of more water and bring back to the boil to cook the pasta.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized frying pan and saute the onion for about 5 minutes, then add a couple of tablespoons of the cauliflower cooking liquid and continue cooking until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and another half cup of the cooking liquid, plus the chopped cauliflower, currants, almonds, anchovies and parsley. Grind over lots of pepper and a sprinkle of salt and simmer gently while you cook the pasta. Once cooked, drain the pasta, tip into the cauliflower mixture, drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and serve it up.

Apple muffins

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Muffins will be back in fashion again; hard to believe, but it will happen. When it does these muffins should go near the top of your ‘muffins to make’ list. Packed full of cubes of slightly crisp apple, these rich and spiced muffins are a delicious and very easy thing to make for morning tea or a weekend breakfast.

Apple muffins (Good Food, p. 126)

4 medium apples, peeled and diced

1 cup brown sugar

100g butter, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the apples and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. In a smaller bowl whisk together the melted butter, eggs and vanilla and then stir into the apple and sugar. Sift the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into the bowl on top of this mixture and fold together very lightly; try not to over mix as it doesn’t need to be smooth. Spoon into a greased muffin tray and bake at 160°C for 30 minutes until golden on top. Muffins freeze incredibly well: wait until they have cooled and then pop into a freezer bag. A muffin removed from the freezer before you head to work will be thawed in time for morning tea.

Anzacs

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The way that recipes change over time and through repeated making is something that Lois and I have spoken about a couple of times. Favourite recipes are seldom made exactly as the original source specified; as cooks make and remake a recipe a little less sugar might be added, a handful of sunflower seeds sprinkled in, the baking time adjusted. It’s often only when you go to write down the recipe, perhaps to give to a friend, that you discover that you have drifted away from the original recipe without even realising it.

There is the personal history of recipes and then there are recipes that live in the public realm, such as Anzac biscuits. Lois wrote a very interesting article which explores how the recipe for Anzac biscuits has changed over time, which you can read here. There are two types of Anzac biscuits currently in the popular vernacular: one is thicker, crumblier cookie sometimes with sunflower seeds and dried fruit added; the other is a crispy and chewy thin disc. Both are good, but the latter really is something special. Lois’ recipe is for the thinner, chewier sort.

Lois’ Anzacs (recipe from Lyndie Pillar)

100g butter

3 tablespoon golden syrup

¼ cup boiling water

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

100g flour

150g sugar

100g rolled oats 

75g coconut (I used long thread, but you could also use desiccated)

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Pour the boiling water into a cup and dissolve the soda. Mix the flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut together in a large bowl. Add the soda and water to the melted butter and syrup and immediately pour the foaming mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Cover two baking trays with baking paper. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared trays, leaving room for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits have melted flat and baked to a rich brown. Keep a very close eye on the biscuits from the 10 minute mark; they go from perfect to burnt very quickly! Leave the biscuits to cool slightly on the oven trays before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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Blueberry & yoghurt scones

 

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Baking morning tea for Lois Daish using one of her own recipes sounds like a challenge round in The Great New Zealand Bake Off (which doesn’t exist, but it should and it needs to be hosted by Jaquie Brown and feature Lois Daish and Dean Brettschneider as the baking pros; I’ve clearly given this some thought before!). Rather than top-quality reality television, this is actually how I spent last Sunday morning, baking blueberry and yoghurt scones to take around to Lois’ place for morning tea.

I am very lucky to have met Lois through her daughter, Mary, a talented architect (and lovely friend of mine) who designed the fit-out for Little, a cafe which I set-up and now manage in Lower Hutt. Lois has been out to visit me at Little a number of times and we have become friends. We spent a very nice time together on Sunday morning eating scones, drinking expertly-made Supreme coffee from her little Rocket espresso machine and talking about recipes, books and her restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Sunday morning.

Blueberry & yoghurt scones (Lois’ recipe as published in A Treasury of New Zealand Baking, ed. Lauraine Jacobs, 2009)

2 cups plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons caster sugar

80g butter, cubed

1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup natural yoghurt

3/4 cup full-cream milk, more if needed

milk and sugar for the topping

Preheat oven to 200°c and cover a flat tray with baking paper. Using a food processor or stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs – it’s fine if there are flakes of butter visible. Tip into a large mixing bowl and stir through the blueberries.

Put the yoghurt in a small bowl, add the milk and whisk together. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and use a knife to mix into a soft, slightly sticky dough. Add more milk if needed.

Lightly flour a bench and tip out the dough. Pat into log about 2-3 cm thick and cut into 9 pieces. Pop the scones onto the prepared tray, brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

Braised chicken thighs with sauerkraut & bacon

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An illustration by Barbara Henderson from Good Food, p. 50

 

The most comforting and delicious food is often not the most photogenic. Despite having filled your kitchen will the most amazing smells, when it comes time to take a photograph the result is… a bit beige and uninspiring actually. Lois avoids this issue by not including photographs in Good Food, just simple line drawings of ingredients by Barbara Henderson.

Lois’ recipe for chicken thighs braised with sauerkraut is an unphotogenic recipe. I didn’t even bother taking a photo; instead we just tucked in. The sauerkraut and bacon gives the rich flavour of a slow-cooked dish, though this is a meal that can be put together pretty quickly for a weeknight dinner.

Chicken thighs braised with sauerkraut (Good Food, p.44-45)

8 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 rashers bacon, cut into slivers

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

fresh thyme

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup water

1 cup of sauerkraut

freshly-ground black pepper

parsley, chopped

Over a medium heat the oil in a cast-iron casserole dish (or similar) and add the onions, bacon, and garlic. Fry gently until the onions are soft and starting to caramelise. Remove the mixture from the pan into a bowl. Add enough oil to lightly coat the base of the casserole dish and brown the chicken thighs on both sides; do this in batches if your dish isn’t large enough to accommodate them all.

Once the chicken thighs have all been browned, add the onion mixture back to the pan as well as the flour, tomato paste, water, and wine. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and sprinkle over the sauerkraut. Season with black pepper and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Very good eaten with baked potato or kumara and steamed broccoli. To bake a potato or kumara, choose small to medium-sized potatoes or kumara and wash the skins in cold water thoroughly. Pierce the skin of each potato in a couple of places with a skewer and place in a 180°C oven for about 30 minutes or until you can push a skewer easily through.