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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Time for the humble Crumble

A fruit crumble is a comfortable and straight up pudding. Its simplicity is its magic.  Apple Crumble is the classic, but you can use any fruit for a crumble.  I’ve  discovered a combination that the home taste panel really like….Apple, Feijoa and Banana Crumble – an idea from Julie Biuso.

Autumn brings apples, pears, feijoas and walnuts to my pantry.    

A crumble is a perfect autumn pudding when apples, pears, and feijoas are in plentiful supply and the cooler weather creates an appetite for warming comfort food.

I served the crumble with yoghurt and some yummy Rewarewa
liquid honey from The Naked Honey Pot Co based in Hawkes Bay.

There are variations on the kind of crumble topping you can use to best show off your fruit. 

As this is a famous English pudding I decided to use a crumble recipe from a chef who is famous for promoting traditional British food, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His only alteration to the original is an option to replace one-third of the flour for ground almond meal.   Hugh doesn’t go for nuts or spices in his crumble as he feels they can upstage the pure flavour of the fruit.


Apple, Feijoa and Banana Crumble (with traditional crumble topping)

Crumble Ingredients:
180 g plain flour
120 g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
160 g brown sugar or caster sugar ( I cut this back to 4 Tbsp of brown sugar to reduce sugar)
(alternatively use 120 g of flour and 4 Tbsp of ground almonds to make the crumble richer and benefit from the added nutrition of almonds).
 Rub/mix the butter and flour together, either by hand or food processor, until it looks like course breadcrumbs.  Then add sugar and ground almonds.  The food processor tends to make a finer more even crumb.
Banana, apple and Feijoa – choose to use
more fruit if you want a deep crumble
Fruit Ingredients:

2 large cooking apples (or 3 Granny Smith apples)
2 – 4  Feijoas – flesh scooped out and cut up 
2 bananas
You don’t need to be so exact with measurements – ideally you fill your baking dish 2/3rd fruit, the other 1/4 to 1/3 being the topping. 
Add the juice of half a lemon and mix well through fruit to avoid fruit turning brown.

Add 1 Tbsp of sugar (if using tart cookers you may want a little extra sugar).  Remember bananas contain a lot of fruit sugar and it’s good to have a contrast of slightly tart fruit with the sweet topping.  


Add fruit to a greased baking dish.  The baking dish I used was 18 cm by 26 with a depth of 6 cm but you can use any shaped dish.

The food processor was used for this crumble topping and makes for
an even and fine textured topping.   I gently pat down the topping. 

Now spread over the crumble mix.  Hugh suggests using your fingers to scrunch together the crumble in places to form small peaks.  I didn’t do this but if you do then the peaks would be crunchy adding another layer of texture to the crumble.
Cook for 30-40 minutes at 180.  If the crumble starts to brown then cover with aluminium foil.  The fruit should be bubbling up  around the edges of the crumble.

Its the kind of pudding that tastes a whole lot
better than it looks and is made perfect by serving with ice cream ,
cream or yoghurt.
I refer to the crumble as humble because it is a simple dessert with few ingredients.  It was also born out of hard times, created during World War II when rationing meant that pies were not an option. Today we have plenty of flour and butter but we are short on time, so the humble crumble is once again gaining popularity.   A crumble takes only a few minutes to prepare for a no fuss bake in the oven. 


Since the 1940’s the crumble recipe has been exported and adopted by cooks in many countries.  I don’t know if it is due to our fondness for ANZAC biscuits but in New Zealand we like to add rolled oats to the crumble crust.  The presence of oats somehow makes it OK to eat the leftovers next morning for breakfast.

NZ Apple Crumble – by Alison Holst


You can use a food processor to prepare the crumble topping but if you have a few minutes to spare, want less washing up and a more rustic looking crumble, then try doing it the old fashioned way by “rubbing butter into flour”.

For a change you can make crumble in indvidual ramekins
and I served it with yoghurt and half a sliced apple. Thinly sliced

apple brings the flavours of the apple to life and is a contrast to the cooked version    

First prepare the crumble topping:
half a cup of flour
half a teaspoon cinnamon
half a teaspoon mixed spice
three quarters cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
75g butter
half a cup rolled oats
 

Rub the butter first into the flour and any added spices.
Then add the sugar – makes the task less gritty that way.


To “rub butter into flour” first cover the butter pieces with flour and gently push and spread the butter into the flour between your thumb and fingers.  

Then rub the crumb with your fingers interlocked like this until it
looks like coarse breadcrumbs

Then add sugar and rolled oats.  Now its time to prepare the fruit – 4 apples (depending on the size).

Alison recommends grating the apple skin and all.  This is a good idea if you haven’t got a true cooking apple that will break down quickly and fluff up like a souffle when cooked.  

For a change I used individual ramekins for cooking and serving
my version of Alison’s Apple Crumble.

I fill them 1/2 to 2/3rds full and then add the crumble topping.  Bake at 180C for 30 minutes (45 minutes if using a medium sized ovenware dish) 
My Mum used to make a crumble that had fresh bread crumbs included with the flour.  I couldn’t find any reference to using breadcrumbs in crumbles in my search for recipes.  I think this must have been a family recipe handed down from her Scottish grandmother.   It would make sense to use the stale bread and not waste it.  
Peasgood Non Such – a real favourite of mine.  One of the largest cooking apples
with an extraordinary name.  They fluff up beautifully and taste great.
I remember her crumble as being delicious.  I am keen to recreate this humble crumble family recipe probably using Alison’s recipe and replacing the oats with bread crumbs.  But to make a true recreation  I need to source some real cooking apples up here in Auckland.