Silverbeet & pearl barley soup

silverbeet soup

I toyed with calling this ‘Swiss chard & pearl barley soup’ in an attempt to up the fashionability of this simple, but incredibly delicious recipe. In the end, I decided to proudly stick with ‘silverbeet’ as this recipe isn’t about trying to be flashy, it’s about carefully cooking simple ingredients to bring out their best flavours; a great example of Lois’ approach to cooking. Slowly cooking quality, locally-grown and seasonal vegetables, adding some beans and cooked barley to create a soup with a lovely background sweetness and interesting textures. Inexpensive and entirely nourishing, I wish more people knew how to make this soup for themselves.

Silverbeet & pearl barley soup (adapted slightly from Lois Daish, Listener, April 10, 1999, p. 55)

1/3 cup pearl barley

1.5 litres water

3 tablespoons cooking oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 can peeled tomatoes

1 small bunch silverbeet

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

grated parmesan or grana padana for serving (optional)

Simmer the barley and water in a pot for about 45 minutes until the barley is tender. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot and cook the onion, carrot and celery together over a medium heat until softened; you don’t want to brown the vegetables. It’s important to allow some time for this ‘soffritto’ stage, as this will give a lovely sweet base to the soup.

To prepare the silverbeet, cut the leaves from the stems and wash both thoroughly. Slice the stems into thirds lengthwise, then slice into thin ribbons across the width. Slice the leaves into ribbons, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. Add the silverbeet stems to the onion mixture as well as the can of tomatoes. Add a sprinkling of salt, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Leave to cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Add the cooked barley along with its cooking water to the soup, and add the beans and silverbeet leaves. Season with more salt and lots of ground black pepper. Place the lid back on and bring to the boil. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, grate over some parmesan if you fancy it, and enjoy with a piece of chewy wholegrain sourdough on the side.

Slow-cooked beef, carrots, garlic & lemon

photo (1)

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.

 

Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet

photo (2)

‘While it might take the bluest of moods to make you sit down to a plate of plain mashed potatoes for dinner, a bowl of potato soup tells a more cheerful story.’

Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50

The cheerful story is this: from the most simple and inexpensive ingredients a soup can be made that is delicious, good for you, and very good for your state of mind. Lois gives a basic potato soup recipe which can then be added to with roasted garlic, winter greens (cavolo nero, silverbeet), leeks or smoked fish. I chose roasted garlic and silverbeet which I will give the method for below. With enough leftover for a second meal, I turned the remainders into a satisfying dinner for two by flaking over some smoked fish.

This recipe will make enough for three people; Lois gives a helpful guideline of one medium-sized potato per serving of soup and increase the other ingredients correspondingly.

Potato soup with roasted garlic & silverbeet (Lois Daish, Listener, June 24, 2000, p. 50-51)

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 medium-sized floury potatoes (I used Agria)

salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

1 small bayleaf

water or chicken stock

milk or cream

soft green herbs such as parsley, dill, chervil, chives (optional)

The optional extras:

A bunch of silverbeet

2 bulbs garlic

Roasting the garlic:

Put the garlic on to roast before you start the soup. Heat oven to 190°C. Prepare the garlic by slicing off the tip of the bulb to expose the ends of the cloves within. Place inside a piece of tinfoil, sprinkle with a little olive oil and water and seal up the package. Place onto a little oven tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the cloves are very tender and your kitchen is filled with the sweet smell of caramelised garlic. Leave the bulbs to cool and then squeeze out the insides of the cloves and set aside.

The soup base:

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion and garlic. Cook very gently until the onion has softened. While the onions cook, peel the potatoes and slice into thin slices (cut in half, place cut side down and then slice). Add the potato to the pan and cook until they start to stick to the bottom but have not started to colour. Add enough water or stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

The silverbeet:

While the soup is simmering, prepare the silverbeet. Wash the leaves to remove any dirt or wildlife and strip the green leaves away from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks and put into a bowl, then finely slice the leaves and keep them separate from the stalks. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the silverbeet stalks; bring back to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the silverbeet leaves and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Finishing the soup:

Remove the bayleaf from the pot and add the roasted garlic. Purée the soup using a handheld stick blender or food processor bowl; do this in short bursts as quickly as possible as this will help to prevent a gluey texture caused by over-processing. Add the silverbeet and chopped green herb (if using) to the smooth soup base and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Potato, onion and garlic gratin

023

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


photo

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.

Spaghetti with cauliflower, almonds & currants

004

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.