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 Tipple Cake and Urban Composting

 Lemons…yes I am going to post again about lemons!  I’m going to let you into the secret of the best lemon cake ever according to all those that have tasted it – the Lemon Tipple Cake.

Lemon Tipple Cake dressed up for a birthday celebration
decorated with strawberries and icing sugar, borage and nasturtium flowers

It’s a mix of two recipes from two of my favourite cooks; Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Lemon Trickle Cake and Lois Daish’s Lemon Pound Cake with Gin Syrup.  From Hugh I use the cake recipe as it’s a light Victorian sponge and I use Lois’s Gin Syrup as the topping because this little tipple makes the cake so delightful.  I have taken the liberty of naming the cake the Lemon Tipple Cake.

Lemon Tipple Cake

This recipe is made in a loaf tin and the lightness of the cake will depend on the quality and quantity of beating.   You can do it by hand but for this cake I prefer to let Ken Wood do the hard work.   Use Ken at full speed to whip the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time.   To avoid curdling add 1 Tbsp of the measured flour after the addition of each egg..and it helps if the eggs are at room temperature.
The butter, sugar and eggs should be beaten until light in colour  as above.  
This  is what makes the cake light.

175 g unsalted butter softened (I don’t always have unsalted butter)
175 g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
3 medium eggs
175g self-rising flour
pinch slat
A splash of milk (optional)
Grease and line a 1 litre capacity loaf tin with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy (at least 5 or up to10 minutes if you can manage it). 
Add the grated lemon zest and then beat in the eggs one at time, adding a spoonful of the measured flour to avoid curdling.  
Sift the remaining flour and salt into the mixture and fold in lightly using a large metal spoon.   Add a little milk if necessary, to achieve a good dropping consistency – i.e. the mix should drop fairly easily off a spoon when you tap it on the side of the bowl.
Spoon mix into tin, smooth the top gently and put in preheated 170 degrees C oven. 
Bake 45-50 mins or until skewer comes out clean.
With the skewer make holes all over the cake going quite deep but not hitting the bottom.
Gin Syrup – it also works using Tequila or Cointreau – try your own combination

Lois’s Gin Syrup: 

juice of 2 juicy lemons
150g caster sugar
2 T gin
(make this syrup while the cake is cooking – just stir to dissolve the sugar no cooking necessary)
Spoon or slowly pour over the hot lemon cake so that the holes can fill up.

The surface of the cake once the syrup has soaked in.

It’s a moist yet a light cake.  Does it keep?  Well in my experience it’s the sort of cake that doesn’t get the chance to hang around. I have had the fortune of having a piece the next day and it was still as good as the day before.

Hugh’s original Trickle cake has a runny lemon icing/sauce
of 200g icing sugar and 75ml lemon juice 

Bokashi to the Rescue!

…On the other hand, compost usually does need to hang around for months before it can be used in the garden, but not with the system I have rediscovered.

Living in urban Auckland, space is limited for processing compost, but I still want to make compost for the benefit of my plants in my newly established raised bed.

Our raised bed garden 1 week old – everyone helping out;
daughter Tansy planting out Rocket seedlings and grandson Beau
at the ready with gardening gloves.

Auckland’s daily summer temperatures of around 25 degrees give me an incentive to find ways of dealing with food scraps quickly, so as to avoid them mouldering away in smelly bins.

Luckily I had packed my Bokashi bucket when I left Dunedin. Bokashi comes into its own up here.   It’s a system of composting that originated in Japan and means “fermentation”. One of the best things is after fermenting for 10 days you can give it a shallow burial in the garden and in summer after another 10 days you can begin planting in that soil. 

Not one of my more attractive pictures!
But I wanted to show you what it looks like after being filled over 3 weeks.  
It will be covered  for 2 weeks and then buried in the garden
The environment in the bucket has to be anaerobic (the food is squashed down to squeeze out any air) which usually means in composting terms that it should smell really bad.  But it has an almost sweet fermentation smell about it, rather like it’s being pickled.

The juice adds nutrients and good micro-organisms to your garden.  It must be diluted 100:1 (i.e. 2 Tbsp to 5 litres of water) to apply to bare soil.  For foliage dilute to between 1:500 to 1:1000 (1-2 tsp) to 5 litres of water and spray over foliage to form a film over the leaves.  

Juice that gathers in the bottom bucket should be used every 2 days.   The juice  indicates how successful your fermentation is.   It should be a light brown, not smell too pungent and could have a light white mould on top as above.

The fermentation happens because the sweet smelling bran called Zing has been impregnated with good bacteria.  Add a good handful (more in summer or if you have larger quantities of protein to break down) each time you add food scraps.  It’s best to collect the scraps into a container and add when full – a 2 litre ice cream container is ideal.  Cut up the material to fit more in the bucket and to hasten the composting process.  Once filled up you leave the bucket closed for two weeks.

I thought I would let The Guardian’s columnist Alys Fowler tell you about the next stage….

“What happens in those two weeks is fascinating. Your waste is zombified. It looks pretty much the same, apart from perhaps a little white mould and the whiff of fermentation, but something has happened internally: the good bacteria in the bran have got to work. Much like the undead, it may look similar on the outside, but inside decomposition is well under way.”

Here are two other sites with some more information on the Bokashi system: 

The only no no is to put liquids into the buckets and its important to press down the food after each addition to squeeze out the air.
This is something I am keen to try as I intend on growing things in containers.

Zing Bokashi – Using fermented compost in Container Gardening

To set yourself up with a Bokashi bucket and zing it costs around $50-$55.    I now need a second bucket while my other one is fermenting.   I want to see if there is a cheaper way of doing it.

My first homemade attempt at making my own Bokashi Bucket.
Ideally the buckets should be the same size.  Mine aren’t but I do like the colours!

I have managed with one bucket with a good fitting lid and drilled holes in the bottom and put it together with a cheaper bucket for holding the juice.   They seem to be working.

When first using the bucket put a good handful of Zing in the bottom.
The original  ZingBokashi bucket is in the background.

But I could do better and am on the look out for some buckets that are larger and stronger and I have a lead… kitchens have lots of buckets with lids and the best thing about this lead is that the plastic will be safe for food.   As Ponsonby Road has lots of kitchens, I will be doing the rounds!

In my previous posting I talked about preserving lemons.   I found my lemons and squeezed as many as I could into this lovely French glass jar I got for free from a second hand store.  I am now prepared for when lemons become scarce.

Preserved lemons with bay leaves and cinnamon sticks

Next weekend I am lucky enough to be invited by friends to go sailing on the Hauraki Gulf.   I will be taking a Lemon Tipple Cake because I imagine any cooking on board will be difficult because of limited space…or will it?