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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Lemon lipped of Ponsonby

I thought coming to Auckland I would be in the land of lemons.  Lemons I consider an essential in the pantry but I am surprised to find out that if I regularly consume lemon water I could also become more shapely – now that is good news!

A particularly healthy lemon tree in my niece Francie’s backyard in Hawkes Bay

Here in Ponsonby people don’t seem to have the citrus trees they do in Hawkes Bay.  But it’s early days here and I will do more walks and keep peaking over fences.

The view overlooking part of the extensive garden at Waiheke – look at the colour of that sea! 
I wasn’t surprised to find a delightful edible garden when we went for lunch at Cathy and Jens on Waiheke Island.   A garden that I would long for in Dunedin with peaches, nectarines, limes, lemons, fejoias, figs, loads of tomatoes and basil growing outside!   The few remaining lemons are treasured because they too love lemons.

We enjoyed some slices of a delicious Japanese fruit called Yuzu.   I think it tastes a little like a cross between a sweet grapefruit and a lemon.  Its bumpy skin is similar to someone suffering from an acne attack.  If you want to learn more about how the Yuzu is used in Japanese and Korean cuisine click here:
Wikipedia on Yuzu

To keep up a supply of lemons throughout the year then you have to either preserve them or freeze them.   My friend Christine gave me some valuable advice when it comes to freezing. I will no longer painstakingly juice lemons and freeze into ice blocks.  I will simply throw them in a bag in the freezer.  You can grate the whole frozen lemon into dishes or squeeze the juice out when thawed.   But there is something extra delicious about the preserved lemon in salt that is worth the effort.

Preserved Lemons

A preserved lemon is usually ready to eat after
2 months in the jar

Preserving lemons is easy and to buy them is costly. They look good in the kitchen as well as being a wonderful addition to dishes.  Anna Gare who is a household name in Australia from her series “Quickies in the Kitchen” has one of the best recipes. She explains everything you need to know…about preserving lemons.  I liked the way she stuffs the “nearly” quartered lemons with rock salt.  Click on this link below:

When I did my first preserved lemons I was a little unsure how to use them. My son Gus came to the rescue and showed me. My sister Kerry during a break while helping me clean up my Dunedin pantry turned the process into an artwork.

1. scrape away fruit and pith scraping as much of the white pith off as you can,
2. wash to get rid of the extreme saltiness,  3. slice or use as you like.

See more of Kerry’s work on her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com /theartdept.dunedin

Using just the skin seems a dreadful waste at first but consider that the skin is supposed to have 5-10 times the vitamins of the juice.   By making that skin delicious you not only have lemons on hand all year but you are using the most beneficial part of the lemon.

Oven Baked New Potatoes with Lemon and Garlic

New potatoes are magic but it can be tiring having them the same old way. I have a way of cooking them with lemon and garlic in the oven that dinner guests have enjoyed this summer.   One of my friends pointed out how delicious the roasted lemon was to eat. I had prior to that thought of the lemon as just a flavouring agent.  I now also eat the roasted lemon and its delicious (thank you Leanne).
Potatoes ready to go into the oven a mix of  Swift and Red potatoes 
Fill an oven roasting dish with new potatoes scrubbed but not scraped.  Pour a slurp of olive or avocado oil over potatoes and mix up with your hands.  Sprinkle about 1tsp of paprika, salt and pepper.  Cut up a lemon into 8 slices and place amongst potatoes. I also add new season garlic with the skin still on, place 4-5 fresh bay leaves if you have them, and some sprigs of mint.  Cover with lid or foil to keep in moisture.  Put into an oven at 180C and cook for about an hour.   
The good thing is that these potatoes don’t have to be so watched so carefully as those that you boil. Sometimes they can be quite browned but inside still a soft new potato.

Delicious Lemon Pickle

Our friend Robyn van Reenan is an excellent quilter and runs Christofer Robyn Quilts from her home just out of Wanaka.  Each year she organises the Wanaka Autumn Art School.  People can over a few days learn new skills from specialist tutors from all over New Zealand and Australia and at the same time enjoy Wanaka’s autumn colours.

 Robyn gave me a jar of her Delicious Lemon Pickle.   The recipe came from “The Second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook” by Adie McClelland who will be a tutor at this years Wanaka Autumn Art School. Unfortunately Adie’s class is full but look out for the 2014 programme for next year’s cooking tutor.  If you are interested in other artistic pursuits take a look at the programme on  www.autumnartschool.net.nz


DELICIOUS LEMON PICKLE

2 whole lemons, chopped and pips removed
5 large onions, roughly chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup lemon juice
3t salt
3c sugar
1t turmeric
1 heaped t prepared horseradish
Finely grated rind of two lemons
2t ground ginger
½ packet jam-setting mix (optional) – I didn’t use.
In a food processor add the lemons, onions and garlic. Process on the pulse button until you have a chunky mixture left. Do not over process or the onions will ‘let go’ of their liquid and you end up with a watery mess.
Place in a large pot with all other ingredients (excluding jam-setting mix) and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Add jam-setting mix if you feel you need it. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Bottle while hot in sterilised jars.


Adie’s receipes are Mediterranean and Asian inspired and you can find out more about the cookbooks and Adie on  www.blackdogcottage.co.nz

Lemon Water

If you take lemon, sweetened with a little honey in warm water morning and night :

– your skin will improve
– it will aid your digestion and eliminate waste products from your body easier
– helps promote your immune system
– it purifies the blood
– gargle it to help a sore throat and cure bad breath
– the high potassium will benefit those with high blood pressure
– it can work wonders on the shape of your body by working on the body’s accumulated fat.
– it’s a fabulous antiseptic bestowed on us by Mother Nature.
For more info go to this blog: The Top 10 Benefits of Lemon Juice

Francie picking lemons for me

Today I got lucky. I found a 1 litre French preserving jar with a glass lid and rubber seal in a junk shop on K Road.  The seal was stuck so I was given the jar for free.   This weekend I am off to one of the Auckland markets to see if I can find the last of the season’s lemons at a good price to preserve in my jar.

After reading up about the health benefits of the lemon, especially working wonders on the body shape, I truly cannot understand why everyone up here in the sunny north doesn’t have at least one lemon tree in their garden.