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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Hawthorn – an emblem of hope that summer is coming

“Ne’er cast a cloot til Mey’s oot” 

This old Scottish saying warns not to shed any cloots (clothes) before the may flowers (hawthorn blossoms) are in full bloom.   The Hawthorn tree (also known as May Tree, Mayflower, May-thorn, Quick-thorn, Mother-die, and Fairy-thorn) is in full bloom on the Otago Peninsula, smothered in white flowers with hints of pink.    The tree may be broadcasting that summer is coming but in Dunedin we are not able to shed our layers of clothing yet.    


The Hawthorn in New Zealand does not enjoy the favour it has in its English homeland.  It’s standing accused of being an invasive weed.    True it propagates all too easily here, but  I wish to speak up for the Hawthorn.   It’s truly a very useful tree.   It’s an important plant for traditional herbal medicine, a hot burning low smoke wood for fires, an effective hedging tree that will not only keep stock in but will keep them healthy, and an important habitat for insects and birds especially moths and butterflies.  And for my friends with horses, Hawthorn is reputed to help horses with arthritis.   Horses-with-arthritis


I have known the secret of delicious Hawthorn and Apple jelly made from the fruits called “haws” in autumn.   The spicy bite of the haws with the sweetness of the apples, with a rich purple-red colour  makes it a real winner.   I am happy to share this recipe if you are keen to try it in autumn.  

I first took the photo on one of my walks and decided to find out if I could eat the flowers or leaves.  I discovered that in days gone by in England it was called the bread and cheese tree.    Children were given Hawthorn leaf sandwiches because it was one of the earliest nutritional green in the hungry part of the year.   

I tried the leaves but it was a little late now that the flowers are out.  They were a little tough to chew but next year when the leaves first appear they will be a welcome addition to an early spring salad.  

The flowers are pretty and looking at them you can see why they belong to the rose family.  Some say the flowers impart an aroma of cherries but I couldn’t detect that.  


Hawthorn & Borage Flower Salad

Hawthorn and Borage flowers with a mixed green salad

Gather green salad leaves and herbs.   I used a mix of lettuce, miners lettuce, rocket, NZ spinach, parsley and coriander.   Dress the greens with your favourite dressing and then add the flowers. Pretty, different and nutritious.

Eating the flowers and leaves of Hawthorn is a good source of antioxidants but avoid collecting them from the roadside.
The flowers and leaves of Hawthorn are used in herbal teas and tinctures as a heart tonic, to improve circulation and to maintain a healthy blood pressure.  For more information on the properties of Hawthorn visit: US National Institute of Health – Alternative Medicines
Artemis produces a  Healthy Heart Tea and Hawthorn is one of the key ingredients. Artemis – Healthy Heart Tea
 Hawthorn is mentioned in the folklore of many countries and cultures; Celts believed it could heal a broken heart, ancient Greeks carried its branches in wedding processions, the Serbians and Croatians believed it to be deadly to vampires and was used for the stakes needed for vampire slaying, the Gaelic Scottish and Irish believed it marked the entrance to the other world and the fairies.  Its bad luck to cut its branches unless its in full flower and the flowers are still used today as a decoration for May Day celebrations.


Haw-Sin Sauce

I found this most intriguing recipe from Sarah Head of the UK Herb Society and is adapted from a Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall River Cottage Autumn recipe.
The haws are not nice to eat raw, similar in texture to rosehips. Its best to pick the haws after an early frost to intensify the sugars in the fruit…but you have to beat the birds.  375 g haws  
200 g honey
250g water
250 g cider vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Wash haws in cold water and remove stalks.   Cook with vinegar and water for 45 minutes until soft.   Sieve, pushing through as much of the softened material as possible.   Measure liquid – to every 100ml of liquid add 100 g of honey.  Put back in cleaned pot and season.      Cook 5-10 minutes to produce the consistency you want.    Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.  You could add other spices if you liked but I will try it first with these simple ingredients.

 Hedgerow to Kitchen – Hawthorn.   This link to the UK Herb Society will introduce you to other Hawthorn recipes including making your own Hawthorn flower tincture with vodka. 

I am in Auckland visiting my daughter Tansy and grandson Beau.  Lucky Beau has a daily pick of strawberries growing in the garden.  

Tansy’s strawberries on a bed of pine needles to keep the fruit dry.

   

In Dunedin my strawberries are just forming fruits

 As the Hawthorn is considered to be an emblem of hope I am hoping that the blooming Hawthorn will be announcing the start of summer in the South and my strawberries will ripen.