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.

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.

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.


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

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.

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.


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.

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.






Watermelon Feast and The Blues Bokashi Bucket

Grandson Beau (2) loves eating watermelon – simply sliced
(Photo: Jessie Mackay)

Watermelon – a real summer treat and we are eating lots of it up here in Auckland.   Put in the fridge before slicing and you have Nature’s sorbet – cold and refreshing, juicy and sweet.  Beau with my niece Jessie picked out this watermelon at the Wesley Community market on Sandringham Road.

Jessie teaching Beau how to tap a watermelon to check that it is ready
 – it should sound hollow

A couple of weeks ago I prepared a dinner for 12 friends and served a watermelon salad after the main.   I treated the salad as you would a sorbet, to cleanse the palate after a full flavoured main. If you serve a salad with the main event, so often it gets lost and unappreciated. By serving it on its own it turned out to be one of the star turns of the evening.

Watermelon Salad
(photo: Jessie Mackay)

Watermelon Salad

Cutting up the watermelon and taking out as many seeds as you can is what takes the time with this salad.   You could let people sort out the seeds for themselves but for our dinner we went that extra step to take them out.
I decided to contrast the pink of melon with an edging of oranges and red peppers and a touch of green with rocket leaves.
Next pile in the centre the watermelon.
Photo: Jessie Mackay
Follow this by adding feta.  I ignored my rule of trying to keep regional and for that special night used a sheep’s feta that came from Bulgaria.  It was truly delicious, affordable and just perfect with the watermelon.

The dressing I wanted to keep light and with a hint of sweetness.   As my friend Kate got us all together for the dinner I wanted to use some of her gorgeous Waitaki Valley honey in the dressing.   (I had to leave a lot of treats behind in Dunedin but I did find room in the car for Kate and Pete’s creamy honey).

Waitaki Organic Honey and my favouite oil
for dressings Avocado infused with lime

The Salad Dressing

1/4 cup of avocado oil (lime infused)
half a squeezed lemon (to taste)
Salt and Pepper
Heaped tsp of honey
Mix all together to melt the honey and taste to see if the balance is right.   
I dipped in a piece of watermelon to test the taste.
Me preparing the salad outside
(photo: Jessie Mackay)
Alternatively mix the feta through the dressing before placing onto the watermelon and then dribble over the dressing.  The avocado oil makes the dressing a rich green. 
Finish off the salad with torn pieces of basil or thinly slice mint and sprinkle over the top.
For that special dinner I had half a pomegranate so I picked out the seeds and added them to the salad, then squeezed out the pomegranate juices over the watermelon.   The sharp zing of the pomegranate seeds with the sweet melon are a heavenly combination.

Watermelon is listed as one of the top aphrodisiac foods – even claimed to have Viagra-like effects on the body.   Scientists have found watermelon contains large amounts of a plant nutrient called citrulline, which is known to have beneficial effects on the cardiovasular and immune systems.  The chemical can relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.   But researchers say it isnt organ specific like Viagra and most of the citrulline is found in the rind of the fruit.
(ref: Health.US News)
For those interested in pursuing this beneficial nutrient citrulline,
 I discovered a blog that offers a method of pickling the rind of watermelon.   

 Pickled Watermelon Rinds: The Domestic Man Blog

Pickled Watermelon Rind has the best Citrulline content.
(Photo  Russ Crandall, The Domestic Man Blogger )

Real men may eat watermelon but also consume lots of whey protein as Peter discovered while being diligent about his orange peel, placing it in a bin outside the Auckland Blues High Performance Centre while at Unitech.   Being a tidy Kiwi paid off when he discovered two large plastic buckets with lids discarded in the bin.

These buckets are perfect – a good fitting lid and
previously used for food so should be safe for composting

Everyone in the family was on high alert to find suitable buckets for our number 3 Bokashi Bucket composting system.   For this composting queen, Peter’s gift of the buckets was just as appreciated as a bunch of flowers.

Beau loves being involved and finds the drill most entertaining

To make the Bokashi bucket drill holes in the bottom of one of the buckets and use the second bucket as the draining bucket.

The holes should be big enough and plentiful to easily let the liquid escape,

Having buckets the same size has meant that it’s easier to pull the buckets apart when pouring off the juice every second day.

I have discovered by involving everyone in the family in the Bokashi composting process, it has been easy to get it right as we all know not to put in liquids and to push down the scraps after each daily addition to get rid of trapped air.  

If you want to know more about the Bokashi system then read my previous posting.

Last Friday night Peter was lucky enough to get to see the Auckland Blues play at Eden Park.  He says the protein must have worked because they easily beat the usually unbeatable Crusaders.

You could say we now have “celebrity” composting buckets which are rapidly being filled with all those watermelon rinds.   Perhaps I should try to pickle them.