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.

Spaghetti with cauliflower, almonds & currants

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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.