Beetroot, yoghurt, mint & walnut salad

IMG_4463

I’ve recently been talking to chefs, cooks, and food writers who have been influenced in one way or another by Lois Daish. I’ve been particularly interested in how they characterise Lois’ approach to food and what sets her apart from other cooks and food writers. Ginny Grant sums it up very well:

Lois’s food [has] an honest simplicity where flavour is paramount.  There are no unnecessary embellishments in her cooking, everything that is in a recipe is there because it is needed.

I had this in mind as I made Lois’ beetroot, yoghurt, mint, and walnut salad at the weekend. Less of a recipe and more of a combination of four ingredients that go well together, there was a temptation to add more; black pepper at least, but I also thought about adding feta. Instead I followed Lois’ instructions and ended up with a salad that was perfectly balanced and lovely, just the way Lois intended.

Beetroot, yoghurt, mint & walnut salad (Lois Daish, Listener, January 2 1999)

4 medium beetroot

1/2 cup plain yoghurt

sea salt 

chopped mint leaves

handful freshly cracked walnuts

Scrub the beetroot and boil whole until very tender. Cool, peel, and cut into wedges. Mix with the yoghurt, salt, mint, and walnuts. Serve.

Cauliflower dressed with olive oil, lemon juice & black pepper

photo (7)

When writing about food the current tendency is towards hyperbole: ‘the best’, ‘the most delicious/amazing/incredible’. If a recipe doesn’t promise to change your life it probably isn’t worth making. Lois had quite a different approach to presenting her recipes to the reader: she let the food speak for itself.

Lois’ approach was a gentle one; each of her Listener columns have a central narrative of which the recipes are characters, used to show certain attributes or qualities. Prefaces to recipes in her Listener columns often talk about the source of the recipe or some suggestions on what to serve it with. Sometimes her weekly column didn’t have a single recipe in it, which goes to show just how good Lois’ writing is.

Every now and again Lois will mention that a certain recipe is her favourite way of preparing a particular ingredient, such as this simple recipe for cauliflower with a Meyer lemon dressing. You know instantly that it is going to be good.

Cauliflower dressed with olive oil, lemon juice & black pepper (Lois Daish, Listener, July 27 1996)

1 small head cauliflower

juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

sea salt 

freshly ground black pepper

handful of freshly chopped green herbs, such as coriander, chives, mint or parsley

Cut the cauliflower into florets by cutting off the stem and outside leaves. Use your hands to break the cauliflower into florets, then cut each of these into bite-sized pieces. Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and add a squeeze of lemon juice and the cauliflower. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, which will take about 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Mix together the rest of the lemon juice, the vinegar, olive oil and salt in a small jar. Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine. Pour over the hot cauliflower and grind a generous amount of black pepper over the top. If you intend to serve the cauliflower hot, sprinkle the herbs over just before you serve it. For a cool salad, add the herbs once the cauliflower has cooled to retain their bright colour.