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.
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.