Slow-cooked beef, carrots, garlic & lemon

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Lois’ slow-cooked beef with carrots, garlic and lemon is perfect for a winter weekend. Late afternoon, when the sun is starting to lower, start braising the beef and carrots and gently softening the onions and garlic. From there it’s basically a matter of putting the dish into a low oven for an hour and half, while you read a book or devour another episode of that television series that you can’t stop watching. Back to the kitchen for some final stages and then for dinner that night you’ll be enjoying one of the cosiest winter meals I can imagine.

Slow-cooked beef, carrots, garlic & lemon (adapted from Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.71)

750g beef blade steak

6 medium carrots

cooking oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, finely sliced

fresh thyme, leaves pulled from stem

fresh parsley, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups beef stock

3 medium-large floury potatoes, such as agria

grated zest and juice of two lemons

chopped flat leaf parsley and zest of one lemon to finish

Preheat oven to 140°C. Trim any fat or silverskin from the meat, but leave in place any seams of gristle in the meat, as these will soften during cooking. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and cut into large chunks. Peel the carrots and cut into pieces of a similar size to the meat. Heat enough oil to coat to the bottom of a large frying pan and brown the meat; it’s probably best to do this in two batches so that you don’t crowd the pan). Brown the meat on at least two sides and remove from pan and put on a plate. Add the carrots to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and again.

While the meat and carrots are browning, take a lidded casserole dish that can be used both on the stove top and in the oven and add the oil and butter and heat over a low-medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onion is soft. Add thyme, parsley and flour and continue to stir until the flour starts to colour. Pour in the stock and lemon juice and grate in the lemon zest, followed by the carrots and browned meat. Pour a little water into the frying pan and return it to the heat and scrape up any sticky bits left in the pan. Add this to the casserole. The meat and carrots should be almost covered by the stock and pan juices. Place the lid on the dish, bring to the boil and transfer into the pre-heated oven for about one and half hours.

After this time has passed, take the casserole out of the oven and place back onto the stove top. Bring to the boil and lower to a steady simmer to reduce the liquid while stirring regularly. Peel the potatoes, chop into 2cm chunks and place in a medium-sized pot of cold water. Bring to the boil, cook until tender and then drain.

Once the slow-cooked beef liquid has reduced and thickened slightly, add the potatoes and turn off the heat. Allow the slow-cooked beef to sit for about ten minutes; this will give the meat time to relax and soak up some more of the delicious sauce. Meanwhile, sauté some greens (such as cavolo nero with fennel seeds) and warm up some bowls in the oven. Just before serving, sprinkle the slow-cooked beef with the chopped parsley and lemon zest.

 

Chicken sauté with caramel and lemon

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This recipe comes from a chapter memorably titled ‘The Many Moods of a Chicken Sauté’ from Lois’ book Dinner at Home (my most recent Lois acquisition). Using the same basic cooking method Lois creates six different chicken dishes with quite different attitudes.

As well as carefully selecting from what is in season and at its best, Lois also carefully thinks about the way she will cook each dish to bring out the best of the ingredients. This doesn’t involve complicated methods or equipment, but just time and attention.

I served the chicken sauté with caramel and lemon with cavolo nero with fennel seeds and a potato, onion and garlic gratin, which made for a lovely almost-winter Sunday supper.

Chicken sauté with caramel and lemon (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.17-18)

6 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed or left on according to your preference

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons oil

zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup chicken stock or water

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 tablespoon water

handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Put the lemon zest and sugar into a small saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until the sugar melts and caramelises. Remove the pot from the heat and immediately squeeze in the lemon juice. Add the chicken stock or water and return to the heat to melt the caramel. Simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly, then mix the cornflour and water together and add this to the sauce. Set aside while you cook the chicken. Note: this sauce can be made ahead of time.

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper while you heat up the oil in a frying pan. Add the chicken pieces and brown well on one side, then turn over and brown the other side. Cover the pan and continue to cook for a few more minutes until the chicken is cooked (check this by piercing a piece with a skewer or small knife and the juices should run clear).

Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pan and place onto a serving dish. Tip any excess oil out of the frying pan and add the caramel lemon sauce to the pan. Scrape up any delicious crunchy bits from the pan into the sauce and then pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.

Potato, onion and garlic gratin

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This is a seriously good potato dish. It’s also very easy and only has three ingredients (well, four if you count the oil). It can be prepped for the oven in around 15 minutes and then it will happily bake away while you prepare whatever else you’re going to serve with it (might I suggest chicken sauté with caramel and lemon and cavolo nero with fennel seeds).

This dish tastes simply and delightfully of the ingredients that comprise it. The onions impart a sweetness and silky texture, the potatoes become tender and creamy (with bonus crunchy bits around the edges), and the garlic is a lovely background note.

Potato, onion and garlic gratin (Lois Daish, Dinner at Home, p.118)

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons oil

1 kg large potatoes

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan until moderately hot and then add the onion and garlic; fry until golden. Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into 5mm rounds. Put the potatoes into a wide baking dish (if you have one with a lid, such as a Le Creuset, use that). Pour over the onions, garlic and oil and turn the potatoes slices over and over so that they are coated with the oil. Cover the dish with its lid or aluminium foil and bake at 200°C for about an hour, until the potatoes are very tender.

Cavolo nero with fennel seeds


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Cavolo nero is one of my favourite winter vegetables and not just because of its seductive Italian name and dark good looks. I infinitely prefer cavolo nero to curly kale which I find a bit tough and raspy to eat even after being blanched in boiling water and then sautéed. Cavolo nero retains a bite once cooked but is still lovely to eat. This brassica is very on trend currently but fashion-forward Lois was cooking it in the 1990s with this recipe which she picked up from a River Cafe cookbook.

Cavolo nero with fennel seeds (Lois Daish, Listener, July 3 1999)

bunch of cavolo nero

extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Strip the leaves from the cavolo nero. I find the best way to do this is to grip the cut end of the stalk and run your thumb and forefinger along the length of the stem to pull the green leaves away. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the cavolo nero leaves for about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and put the pot back on the stove. Slosh in some olive oil and add the garlic and fennel seeds. Stir for a couple of minutes until fragrant and then add the cavolo nero back into the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes. Put into a warmed serving bowl and drizzle with more olive oil.

Spinach frittata

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I’ve just arrived back from a lovely visit to Mum’s where we spent some happy hours poring through her folders of collected recipes, many of which are Lois’ old NZ Listener columns. While the appearance of the columns changed every couple of years, the style of the food remained constant: seasonal, fresh, and simple. Recipes from 1996 are as enticing as recipes from 2007.

Lois’ columns are an absorbing read interspersed with personal anecdotes and references to food writers, colleagues or friends from whom she had sourced the recipe or inspiration. Lois often mentions River Cafe (Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) whose modern Italian recipes make the best use of seasonal produce cooked in simple ways – much like Lois herself.

Lois gave Listener readers River Cafe’s recipe for spinach frittata back in 2000. We made it for dinner last Friday evening as a light supper (after a not-so light lunch) and it was perfection. I may very well make it again this Friday.

Spinach frittata (Lois Daish, Listener, August 19 2000)

500g fresh spinach, tough stalks removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g butter, cut into small cubes

4 eggs

50g parmesan, freshly grated

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 slices prosciutto (optional)

Preheat your oven grill to its maximum setting. Blanch the spinach briefly in boiling salted water. Drain in a colander and push down with a large spoon or spatula to squeeze out most of the water. Put into a bowl and dot with half of the butter cubes and grind over some salt and pepper. Break the eggs into a medium-sized bowel and beat lightly. Add the spinach and half of the grated parmesan and a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Take a large 20-30cm fry pan with an ovenproof handle. Add the oil to the fry pan and heat on the stove top over a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture, using a spatula to spread out the spinach evenly. Give the pan a jiggle and leave to cook for a few minutes. Dot the rest of the butter and parmesan over the top of the frittata and put under the grill for a couple of minutes until the top begins to rise and it turns crispy around the edges. Remove from oven (remembering that the pan handle will be hot!), cut into quarters and serve with prosciutto or, like we did with a salad of chopped tomatoes, torn basil, olive oil and salt and pepper.

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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.

Caribbean pilau

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This is risotto meets tropical heat. It has the lovely comforting feel of a risotto, but the coconut milk and spices keep it nice and light. The fish is marinated in lime juice and added right at the end so is cooked only lightly. I’ve tweaked Lois’ recipe slightly by adding fresh coriander and extra lime at the end.

A sad reminder that this recipe was published in the 1980s is the fish Lois suggests to use; orange roughy is now at the very bottom of the Forest & Bird Best Fish Guide. Choose a firm-fleshed fish with a bit of flavour as there is lots going on in this dish for it to compete with; I used warehou.

Caribbean pilau (Good Food, p. 26)

500gm firm-fleshed fresh fish

juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 onions, finely chopped

1 red pepper, cored, seeded and finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 fresh green or red chilli, chopped (remove seeds if you want to ease the spiciness)

3 teaspoons toasted coriander seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 bay leaf

1 and 1/2 cups long grain rice (I used basmati)

2 and 1/2 cups coconut milk 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sliced spring onions, chopped fresh coriander, and wedges of lime to finish

Cut the fish into 2cm cubes, squeeze over lime juice and set aside in fridge.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan (for which you have a lid) and add the onions, red pepper, garlic and chilli and sauté for a few minutes but do not brown. Stir in the spices and bay leaf and cook for another couple of minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are incorporated with the other ingredients.

Pour in the coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer gently until rice is almost cooked. Keep checking it and if you find that the liquid has evaporated but the rice isn’t cooked yet, add a half cup of water. Do this as many times as you need to.

Once the rice is almost cooked but still has a little bite to it, add the fish and juices and cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the spring onion and chopped coriander and serve with a wedge of lime on the side for squeezing. Good served with some lightly steamed broccoli or green beans.

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Stuffed aubergine en papillote

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Stuffed aubergine en papillote is the perfect thing for vegetarians at a meaty barbecue. Rather than having to hover nearby the barbecue to ensure that your halloumi and zucchini aren’t chucked on the hot plate next to the sausages, here your dinner is sealed in a delightful little parcel, which can happily co-exist on a barbie with any meaty mates.

Stuffed summer vegetables immediately makes me think of marrow: over-inflated and forgotten-about zucchini that have grown into gigantic logs. I have a horror of stuffed marrows, which are so often watery and bland and the only redeeming feature is the stuffing. Eat the stuffing and chuck the marrow into the compost is my advice.

The vital difference between these stuffed aubergine and stuffed marrow is the container is equally as delicious as the filling. I’ve tinkered with Lois’ original recipe here. She stuffed hers with rice, with a footnote saying that the half of the rice could be substituted for chickpeas. I did half and half (but next time would just use entirely chickpeas) and added in loads more mint, sumac and chilli flakes. When I discussed this recipe with Lois she said that if sumac had been available when the recipe was published, it was something she would have definitely added herself.

Stuffed aubergine en papillote with cucumber & yoghurt sauce (Good Food, p.10)

3 medium-sized aubergine

1 onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon allspice

3 cups cooked chickpeas

3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons golden sultanas, soaked in boiling water for couple of minutes and drained 

bunch of fresh mint, chopped

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Leaving the stems on, cut each aubergine in half length-wise. Brush the cut-side with oil and sprinkle with a little salt and put cut-side down into a large frying pan for which you have a lid. Cook for a couple of minutes until starting to brown, then place the lid on top. You may need to do this in one of two batches if your pan isn’t large enough.

Cook until the eggplant is soft enough to scoop out; you can test it as it cooks by inserting a skewer. Once cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out the inside of the aubergine, leaving enough of the flesh intact so that the eggplant can act as a sturdy-ish container for the filling. Roughly chop the scooped-out eggplant and set aside.

Sauté the onion in a splash of oil until it is soft. Add the spices and chickpeas and continue cooking over a low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, soaked sultanas, chopped eggplant, mint, and season well with salt & pepper. Stir well and cook for a couple more minutes.

Place each aubergine half on a square of aluminium foil large enough to wrap it in a secure package. Divide the filling between the six aubergine halves and fold the packages. When ready to heat and serve, place the packages on the outer edges of the barbecue for 15 minutes (these packages can also be baked in a 180°C oven). Serve the eggplant with dollops of cucumber and yoghurt sauce on top.

Cucumber & yoghurt sauce

half of a telegraph cucumber

thick Greek style yoghurt (I used The Collective unsweetened culinary yoghurt)

handful of fresh mint, chopped

sea salt & pepper

Chop the cucumber in half lengthwise, then into thirds lengthwise, and then slice across the width to get small cubes. Mix with the yoghurt, chopped mint and season with salt and pepper.

Summer fritters

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Making Lois’ summer vegetable fritter recipes gave me an unexpected sense of nostalgia, as I remembered that mum had made these fritters for us when I was young. Corn fritters, made with freshly shucked corn off the cob in a light batter, and zucchini fritters with a little mint and some feta. Lois keeps both recipes simple so that the flavour and texture of each vegetable stays the central focus.

I like to serve both fritters with a refreshing salad of raw summer vegetables cut into small cubes; cucumber, corn, fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, mixed with chopped mint, Italian parsley, or coriander, a squeeze of lemon, a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper and sea salt. Serve each person a small pile of fritters, with some salad and dollop of thick Greek yoghurt.

Zucchini fritters (Good Food, p.13)

4 zucchini, grated

2 spring onions, finely chopped

handful of fresh mint, chopped

50g feta, crumbled

1/2 cup flour

4 free-range eggs, beaten

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

In a large mixing bowl, place the grated zucchini, spring onion, mint and feta and grind lots of black pepper over and sprinkle with sea salt. Add the flour and stir until the flour is evenly coating the other ingredients. Pour in the eggs and stir until thoroughly combined. Heat a wide frying pan over a medium heat and add enough oil to make the surface slick. Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side.

Fluffy corn fritters (Good Food, p. 16)

4 medium-sized corn cobs

4 free-range eggs, separated

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon sugar

couple of hot sauce

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

oil for frying (I used avocado oil)

Husk the corn cobs, taking care to remove as much of the corn husk threads as you can. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs using a small serrated edged knife. Chop half of the kernels roughly, leaving the rest whole. Put all of the kernels into a large bowl with the egg yolks, flour, sugar, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well. Put the egg whites into a medium-sized bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites through the corn mixture.

Take a large, heavy bottomed frying pan and add a good slosh of oil, to cover the base of the pan and heat the pan to medium-high. Drop in spoonfuls of the batter and fry until the edges of the fritters are firm and the bottoms golden-brown. Flip over and cook the other side. Serve the fritters while they are still hot.

 

Pueblo beef & cornbread

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We made this on a Sunday afternoon in January. Outside it was grey and drizzly but warm; definitely not weather for eating salad, something warm and comforting was required. Served in bowls with a wedge of cornbread on top, Pueblo beef with corn, tomatoes and beans is a perfectly light, yet hearty supper.

I tweaked Lois’ recipe slightly by adding some fresh red chilli and I opted to use avocado oil to fry the meat and onions in, instead of the suggested lard or dripping. Once the beans and corn were added, I cooked it for a shorter time, as I like my green beans to still have a bit of bite.

Pueblo beef, corn, tomatoes and beans (Good Food, p. 15)

500g braising beef (Lois suggests blade steak)

2 onions

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons cooking oil

a small red chilli

500g fresh tomatoes or a 420g can of tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup water

couple of large sprigs of oregano or thyme (I used both)

salt & freshly ground pepper

2 cups corn kernels

2 cups green beans, cut into halves or thirds depending on size

2 tablespoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Cut the beef into 1cm cubes. Dice the onions and finely chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a heavy pan (for which you have a lid) over a medium-high heat . Add the beef and quickly brown it. Lower the heat and add the onions and garlic and cook gently until softened. Add the finely chopped chilli and cook for a minute longer. Add the tomatoes, water, herbs and grind over some pepper and salt. Cover and simmer very gently for one hour. Stir in the corn, beans and seeds. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. If there is still lots of liquid, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Cornbread (Good Food, p. 17)

1 cup corn kernels, roughly chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

1 free-range egg

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup cornmeal, coarse or fine

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of butter until soft and add the chopped chilli and corn kernels. Transfer this mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat the egg and sour cream together and add to the corn mixture with the grated cheese. In another bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. Stir into the corn mixture. Add milk and stir until you’ve got a fairly runny batter.

Lois suggests baking the cornbread in a cast iron pan; I used a large loaf pan but you could also use a cake tin. Put the remaining tablespoon of butter in whatever pan you’ve decided to use and put into the hot oven to melt. Remove the pan, pour in the batter and bake for about 25 minutes until firm and golden-brown. Best served warm, but also excellent the next day, cut into wedges and heated in a griddle pan.