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.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 10.08.48 am
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.






If only the Three Bears had made Bircher’s Muesli

 I wonder… if the 3 Bears had decided on Bircher muesli instead of porridge would they have left their house, bringing about a home invasion and chaos? Bircher muesli originates in Switzerland and is made from soaked porridge oats.  It’s an especially delicious breakfast option for summer with fresh fruit.  Best of all, it doesn’t have to be cooked at all. The soaking prepares the oats for efficient digestion that’s easy on your system. 

“Goldilocks and the Three Bears” Retold and Illustrated by Jan Brett (pub Simon & Schuster)
  I took this book with us from home for grandson Beau. I love the northern European detail in the
 illustrations with lots of woodland plants and animals referenced – a visual feast.
This book was gifted to my son Francis when he was 2 – now 26!

Bircher Muesli

I like to use jumbo or whole grain oats because you get more texture, but if you want a softer or mushier mix then use rolled oats. You need to start the night before you plan to eat the breakfast.  This recipe is for 4-6 people.

This is what the whole oats look like after soaking overnight in milk.

Soak the ingredients together in bowl in the fridge overnight:

  • 2 cups whole jumbo oats or rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (lemon juice aids in the fermentation or breaking down the oats) 
In a separate bowl soak a handful of almonds or walnuts overnight.  Like grains, if soaked, the goodness in nuts is made more easily available for your body.  The water will turn brown due to tannins in the skin.  Roughly chop the drained nuts. (Discard the soaking water).
The finished Birchers Muesli creamy with a crunch of the nuts and  the freshness of the apple.

The next morning mix in:
nuts drained and chop to a size you want
Grate 1-2 apples with their skins on
2-3 Tbsp runny honey
1 1/2 cups of plain Greek style yoghurt

You can eat the muesli just as it is but I like to top with cut up seasonal fruit ..  and in the muesli
like to add as much apple as possible in a nod to the original recipe that contained more apple than oats 

I serve this with a mix of chopped up fresh fruit and a slurp of Flax seed oil.   But you can be creative as you like with the fruits you choose or added seeds and nuts.

I was surprised when my daughter Tansy said young Beau had a taste of the Birchers Muesli and really liked it.   Being a 3 year old he is quite conservative with his breakfast usually preferring Weetbix or an egg. It’s worth considering offering Birchers muesli to children for breakfast.

Dr Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a physician based in Zurich in the 1900’s put Birchers muesli on the map. As is the way with many recipes he didn’t come up with the idea from scratch.  While hiking in the Swiss mountains he came to rest at an alpine hut and was offered by a local woman a delicious and reviving dish of grated apple, mixed with soaked oats, lemon juice, condensed milk and almond meal. He realised this was the dish he needed to get his patients eating more fruit.

Dr Bircher-Benner eating he muesli before he evening meal.
It wasn’t originally thought of as a breakfast food but as an entree probably
because the apple aided digestion.

Dr Bircher-Benner became increasingly interested in Naturopathy. He saw that food could help cure some of the ailments his wealthy clients suffered from.  He set up what became a world famous sanatorium in Zurich where patients would partake in a diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains and he encouraged regular exercise. Birchers Muesli was a tasty way of getting them to eat fruit. This regime was seen as controversial by his peers in the 1900’s so he was indeed a man ahead of his time.

No need to limit this dish to breakfast – it’s a most satisfying snack during the day. It will keep for a couple of days in the fridge so it’s worth while making the quantity I have suggested.

Oat-Banana Thickie

This is an ideal “breakfast on the run” using soaked oats.  I make this recipe using whatever fruit I have but I will give you the original Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

Left: the Banana Oat Thickie as per Hugh’s recipe; centre the addition of
frozen mixed berries instead of ice cubes; right addition of about a Tbsp of
freeze dried blackcurrants.

Serves 2
2 Tbsp porridge oats soaked overnight
2 All Good Bananas (my choice)
300 ml Milk (or 150 yoghurt and 150 milk)
1 Tbsp runny honey
2-3 ice blocks

You can use a blender or a stick blender to mix.   Males 2 large glasses.

This is the sort of recipe you can really have any combination of fruits.  The banana gives body but you could reduce to one banana and add other fruit.  It’s particularly tasty with a handful of frozen berries.   And try to find All Good Bananas that deliver a fair deal to the growers and have less harmful chemicals than other bananas on offer.

Another addition I make is to add 2 Tbsp of whey protein powder to make this a truly power breakfast.

You can choose to replace milk for fruit juice but keep those soaked oats they make the shake thick and rich and you get all those nutrients from oats.

Frozen fruit or ice cubes make the drink lovely and cool.

One of the important benefits of soaking oats before cooking or eating raw is to ensure the gluten is partially broken down making gluten easier to digest.  

 And how about this for an incentive?

You could avoid your “digestive mechanism breaking down with age or overuse, resulting in allergies, mental illness… chronic indigestion and candida albicans overgrowth.” 

Sally Fallon, “Nourishing Traditions”.

It’s not just oats that need soaking, all grains should be soaked before cooking including corn, quinoa, barley and wheat.

Beau loves this story often read by Poppa Pete

Just as the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears has been handed down through generations,
there is folklore about the value of oats.

It is stated that strength, endurance, energy, beauty and perceptiveness are gained by those who regularly partake of oats (soaked of course).