Savoury French Toast

Spring is almost here at Fat Weka Farm…but not quite. The daffodils are starting to make an appearance but this flowering cherry taken last year  on 1 October is my true sign of spring.  Perhaps it will flower earlier this year. It’s still holding out with it’s tightly wrapped buds.   In the meantime I won’t be saying goodbye to the nightly warmth and handy cooking space of our wood burner.

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A fire and a dark beer is the perfect matchings for this easy dinner option in winter.

Throughout winter I’ve utilised this radiant warmth to also cook our dinner most nights. One quick favourite has been savoury French toast with a winter slaw.

French toast for breakfast is generally sweet and is a great way to use up sourdough bread.  Sourdough tends to get hard rather than go mouldy.  Sometimes it’s so hard you can work up a sweat just slicing it.  But it magically revives as does any stale bread with the french toast treatment.

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I was lucky enough to be given some duck eggs making a richer custard and a good yellow colour.

Simply mix one egg with half a cup of milk, salt, pepper and about 1 Tbsp of parmesan cheese grated.   If you want a herby punch then add a little sage or thyme. One egg should be enough for four slices of bread and 2-4 people depending on what you choose to add as toppings.  It needs to be thin enough to soak in and coat the bread with the eggy milk liquid.

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I tend to soak the bread in a flat bottomed plate – a pasta dish is ideal. Give it a minute to soak in.

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This bread is a wholemeal from Gilberts and I’ve added some thyme to the egg and milk.

Heat a heavy pan (ideally cast iron) and add a knob of butter or your favourite oil.  Once it begins to sizzle add the soaked bread to the pan.  Cook each side until it browns.

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To assist with the melting of cheese I cover with a pot lid for a few minutes.

Once you have turned over one side you can add a slice of cheese on top.

I like to add slaw on top but you can top with anything you like.  In this case I added some smoked mackerel along with the slaw.

 

20170907_084518 Another option for breakfast is a topping of bacon. When I do this I first begin cooking the bacon and then the french toast in the same pan.

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In summer it’s delicious with tomatoes, basil, black pepper and a drizzle of your favourite oil.  It’s a year round easy breakfast, lunch or dinner depending what you have in the fridge or garden to top it off and an option when the bread is no longer fresh and needs reviving.

A  weekend treat is to have a classic sweet French toast.  Just replace 1 tbsp of parmesan and the salt and pepper for 1 tbsp of caster sugar and either a dash of  vanilla essence or a grinding of nutmeg.  I like to make this sweet version using a raisin bread or sweet bread. Our local bakery Gilbert’s Fine Food’s Date and Walnut sourdough or their delicious and rich Brioche works a treat but when I use a sweet bread like these I just add 1 tsp of sugar.

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Date and Walnut sourdough from Gilbert’s Fine Food bakery, Dunedin.

Top with sliced banana or cooked apple, kefir or yoghurt and a little maple syrup. Our grandson Beau’s favourite is just with maple syrup.  My favourite of course is with my son’s preserved apricots – Augustines of Central.

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Augustines preserved apricots are available at Farro Fresh stores in Auckland, Moore Wilson’s in Wellington, Provisions in Cromwell and Florences in Wanaka. They are tree ripened, spray free and processed by hand in a Central Otago Riesling syrup.

When spring gets here with longer days of daylight, I will want to spend more time outdoors so time saving dishes like this are useful.  One real time saver I have discovered this winter on a trip to Melbourne has been three little hand peelers….more on that next posting.

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Like a proper ‘nana?

Bananas are a marvellous fruit and, like me, you probably include a bunch in your shopping trolley.

But how many of us think about how they are grown?

One Kiwi business just down the road from where we live has not only thought about it but have been active in ensuring the farmers and plantation workers who grow their bananas receive a fair living wage and that toxic chemicals are not used in their cultivation.  All Good Bananas operate out of a suitably banana yellow corrugated iron shed in Grey Lynn.

All Good Banana Headquaters in Auckland and the distinctive wrap
 “Good for growers. Good for you”

All Good Bananas first grabbed my attention in the local community newspaper where I read they had become the first New Zealand business to be named amongst the World’s Most Ethical (WME) companies.  That is sure an achievement for a company that employs just ten staff, especailly when other companies recognised are commercial giants like Marks & Spencer in the UK and Wholefoods in the US.

All Good Bananas website convinced me that I should change my banana buying habits.  On the website you can search where their bananas are sold all over New Zealand.   To my friends in Dunedin, Taste Nature sells them.

On their website you can download a variety of posters

Bananas are versatile.   They make a smoothie rich and creamy, boost a winter breakfast when allowed to just warm through in a pot of hot porridge, and can be your pre packed lunch on the run.   When the skin turns brown and spotty, welcome them to the world of baking and muffins or banana cake.

My bunch of All Good Bananas were used to make a quick, easy and delicious dessert for our friends Julia and Graham.

Orange Flamed Bananas

Ingredients: 
1 banana per person…about 25 gms of butter…heaped Tbsp of honey (or to taste)…
brandy or any preferred liqueur (if you wish to flame the bananas)…1-2 oranges.
Heat about 25 grams of butter in pan add honey or raw cane sugar, stir and let it bubble,
Gently slide in Bananas cut in half lengthways. 
I used Waitaki Honey that perfumed the kitchen wonderfully while I cooked the bananas.
This honey was featured on my posting “Waitaki Honey with Plums and Basil”

Cook until the bananas begin to change colour

Then add the juice of 1 or 2 oranges 

I used Contreau liquer with complemented the orange flavours

Served with hokey-pokey icecream and some honey wafer shards

To buy All Good Bananas you usually pay $3.99 a kilo which is $1 more a kilo of non Fair Trade bananas.  The dollar difference ensures that growers know the price they will get and the premium they are paid has resulted in community projects, like building schools.

Angel Iniguez, a grower from Equador,  has a message for  banana consumers in New Zealand: 

The important thing is to keep helping us by buying our Fairtrade bananas. We are small producers and by buying our bananas, you are helping us and the workers on our farms to progress. If you don’t buy our fruit, we can’t look forward to better times and keep taking care of the environment!”

My friend Julia is an excellent baker and generous with it.  She’s always whipping up a cake for someone at work or a friend who is celebrating a birthday.  I thought of Julia when I wanted to find a different and good banana cake.

Alison Holst’s biography with Barbara Larsen
(who has a great eye for a story).  Alison a Dunedin gal first
appeared on our TV screens nearly 50 years ago for a series titled
“Here’s How” made in Dunedin  Dowling Street Studios. 

Julia suggested a recipe from home cook doyenne, Alison Holst who has written over 100 cookbooks. Alison has named it Crazy Cake – not sure why, but then Dame Alison has earned the right to call a recipe anything she wants.  It’s a chocolate banana batter cake.  Julia has successfully tripled the recipe and cooked it in a roasting dish as a celebratory cake for a large crowd.

I believe the best cakes are made by creaming butter and sugar with eggs, but I have to admit this cake was delicious, very easy and light.   I think it’s the combination of vinegar and baking soda that gives the batter the lift to make the cake light.   The addition of banana ensures a moist cake.

Crazy Banana Cake

Here are the dried ingredients in the bowl, and the water, oil
and vinegar ready to be added.  How simple is that!

Turn on the oven to 180 C.

Prepare the dry ingredients and sift:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup of sugar (I used 2/3 cup)
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Add the wet ingredients:
2 Tbsp Malt Vinegar (I didnt have malt so I used Red Wine Vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup of vegetable oil

Bake for up to 40 minutes (could be sooner).  If you start to smell cake -or if its starting to shrink from the side of the tin, that’s a sign that it could be ready .  Otherwise test with a skewer if you are unsure.   I used a 20 cm ring tin, and daughter Tansy iced it with a delicious icing that included melted chocolate, Dutch cocoa and a dash of cream.

As this was Peter’s birthday cake I did use the best ingredients I had – cold pressed sunflower oil, red wine vinegar and Dutch cocoa that I couldn’t resist purchasing at the Parnell French market.   The man selling the cocoa advised me to use less oil or butter when baking with the Dutch cocoa because it is so high in cocoa fats compared to what we usually buy here.   So for this recipe I took the oil down to 1/3 cup.

It may have been Peter’s birthday but 2 year old Beau also wanted
the birthday moment of blowing out the candle.

  • Per capita New Zealanders eat more bananas than any other country 
  • Bananas combat depression, make you smarter, cure hangovers, relieve morning sickness, protect against kidney cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and blindness 
  • Rub the inside part of a banana skin on a mosquito bite and it is said to relieve an itch (I’m going to try that!)
  • Inside banana skin can also be used to put a great shine on your shoes 
  • Bananas help overcome depression due high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin – the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter

25 Powerful reasons to eat bananas

  
I never knew that bananas could lift your spirits.

By buying bananas grown without exploitation of the environment or the people growing them, then you will feel doubly good.

I’ve decided that I will pay the extra and buy All Good Bananas from now on – even if it means a few less bananas – quality not quantity.

All Good Bananas have 4% of the domestic market share.  Remember, their website lists who stocks them.

Go on… find yourself a proper ‘nana!