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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An autumn salad from the garden

Since daylight saving has finished, suddenly the nights in the south seem to be colder and the leaves of the trees are thinking about changing colour.   My lettuce plants are under threat with a frosty night just around the corner.   Best use them while I can. The sun is shining  and that’s always the best time to eat a salad.

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The last of my Freckles cos type lettuce plants

I gather my autumn salad from the garden.   I have two varieties growing an iceberg in the green house and a cos type lettuce with speckles in my garden where nearby the  Florence fennel is about to bolt. Remarkably my slow tomatoes are still ripening in the greenhouse along with the basil that is just holding on and is probably protected a little by the chickweed growing over it.

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This is chickweed in flower shrouding the last of my basil, I chose some chickweed that was all leaf as these leaves are juicier than those plants putting effort into flowering.

Autumn Salad

When I make a salad I try to always add herbs, flowers, weeds and a protein of some kind.

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First I tore the Iceberg leaves (while other lettuce types add colour and different textures I really enjoy the crunch of the Iceberg and next year will grow more.)

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The speckled lettuce with its long leaves I put around the edge of the bowl whole.

2016-04-10 00.42.45I shaved the Florence Fennel bulb with a mandolin because the thinner you slice it the better it tastes and adds a crunch as well as a natural aniseed sweetness.

 

20160409_151437Now I pluck off the leaves of the thready chickweed.  I try not to include too much of the stringy stems that can be a bit chewy. Chickweed was once used like we use lettuce and contains many nutrients.  If you are interested in learning about other weeds click on this link:

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The easiest and best dressing for me is a squeeze of lemon juice and avocado oil.  I decide to squeeze the lemon juice on now before I place the final toppings.  I also add a little salt and pepper. The oil I put on last.

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I slice up a tomato into 8 and this adds colour to the green.

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Now I cut up a sprig of basil and a little of the fennel fronds.

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I used violas and petals from a dandelion as the flower element for this salad.

The protein I chose is one of my favourites the salty and soft hulomi cheese that when fried in a pan for a few minutes in avocado oil becomes crunchy on the outside. Over this I sprinkled a little avocado oil and I had a delicious salad to enjoy while I sat in the sun.

You can choose other options and combinations like replace the fennel for thinly sliced courgette, replace the tomatoes for sliced pears with lemon juice to stop them turning brown and match the pears  with cumin roasted walnuts.  All these ingredients are autumnal produce.

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Autumn Salad:  lettuce, fennel bulb, tomatoes and Halloumi cheese.

When making a salad I think of sweet and tart, crunchy and soft, and colour combinations. It never ceases to amaze me how many things you can actually find in the garden to put into a salad,  especially when you are confident on what weeds and flowers you can safely add to your salad.