Zucchini frittata

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Lois’ zucchini frittata is the perfect thing to take on a summer picnic; it’s pretty good for midweek ‘picnics’ at your desk, too. Frittata is best eaten at room temperature or cold, with a dollop of good chutney on the side.

Zucchini frittata (Lois Daish, Good Food, p. 14)

2 medium onions, sliced

4 zucchini

4 tablespoons oil and/or butter

6 free-range eggs

50g freshly grated parmesan

handful of parsley or basil, chopped

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Slice the onions thinly and cook in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden in a large frying pan with a heatproof handle. Meanwhile top and tail and zucchini and slice into thin rounds. Add the zucchini to the pan and stir to coat in oil. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and take off the heat.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat until combined. Add the parmesan, herbs and zucchini mixture and stir. Preheat the grill of your oven. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil/butter in the frying pan and pour in the frittata mixture and give the pan a shake to evenly distribute the contents. Cook over a low heat for about 5-10 minutes until you can see the sides of the frittata beginning to set. Place under a hot grill until the top is golden brown.

 

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Summer fish bowl

summer fish bowl

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.

Grilled fennel

fennel

When seemingly simple recipes require two different methods of cooking I have been known to keep on turning the pages of the recipe book. Despite involving both boiling and grilling, I decided to give Lois’ grilled fennel a try, as I’ve learnt from Lois’ recipes this year is that every one of her instructions is there for a reason. As Ginny Grant wrote to me, with Lois ‘[t]here are no unnecessary embellishments in her cooking, everything that is in a recipe is there because it is needed.’ With this is in mind, I encourage you to give this recipe a go. It’s a lovely side which becomes the focus of the meal when paired with some grilled salmon and some boiled new potatoes; any extra sauce can be poured over top.

Grilled Fennel (Lois Daish, Listener, 19 February, 2000)

2 whole Florence fennel bulbs

olive oil

Dressing:

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoon cream or creme fraiche

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the tops of the fennel bulbs. Fill a large pot with water, submerge the fennel bulbs and bring to the boil. Simmer until the bulbs are tender all the way through. Drain and cut into thick slices. Preheat your oven using the grill function. Brush the pieces of fennel with olive oil and place on a tray and grill until browned.

Make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl or shaking together in a jar. Pour over the grilled fennel and serve.

Italian-style coleslaw

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This is one of the most simple recipes I’ve come across for ‘slaw’ and one of the most tasty. It is comprised simply of green or Savoy cabbage, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. It’s the perfect thing to accompany a roasted chicken and some roasted pumpkin, or as a palate cleanser after a hearty bowl of pasta.

Italian-style coleslaw (Lois Daish, Listener, May 21, 2005, p. 60-61)

A small green cabbage or half a large Savoy cabbage

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

freshly grated parmesan

Here are Lois’ instructions for making the coleslaw:

‘Finely shred the cabbage one small green cabbage or half a large Savoy cabbage. Put in a large bowl and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar at a ratio of three parts oil to one part vinegar. Start to toss the cabbage. Don’t add so much dressing that it becomes wet, it should be just enough to moisten. Toss through as much shaved parmesan as you like. I like a lot. Place on four small plates as a starter, or place on a large platter and serve as a shared starter or salad with the main.’ 

Curry of chickpeas, potatoes & currants

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Detail of a Geoffrey Notman illustration from Lois Daish ‘Dinner at Home’

Lois’ chickpea, potato and currant curry is quick to prepare and makes an excellent weeknight dinner. Serve it with some basmati rice, some buttered spinach and a dollop of yoghurt on top. This recipe makes enough for two, but can be easily doubled.

Curry of chickpeas, potatoes & currants (Lois Daish, Listener, June 7 2003, p.45)

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle

1 large red-skinned potato, skin scrubbed and diced

1 cup water

2 tablespoon dried currants 

300g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 250g home-cooked chickpeas

large bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan or pot and add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook until the onion starts to colour. Add the curry powder and cumin and cook for a further minute then add the potato, water and currants. Season with a little salt, cover the pan with a lid and cook at a gentle simmer until the potato is tender; this will take about 20 minutes. Stir the mixture from time to time and add more water if is starting to stick and the potato isn’t cooked through yet. Once the potato is tender, add the chickpeas and simmer again for a few minutes. Stir through the coriander and serve.

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.

Beetroot, yoghurt, mint & walnut salad

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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.