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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Onion Weed – just as good as spring onions

 Onion weed I use to curse as a gardener – then I discovered I could eat it and I have changed my attitude.   I now think of recipes that I can use when I weed this invasive plant.   All of the plant can be eaten.   The flowers – a  pretty white with a green line –  are similar to the spring bulb snowdrops.

The onion weed flower – you can eat it

It does escape into the cultivated garden and it can easily be pulled like a spring onion in this situation.   But its favourite habitat is under trees and you will need a spade to harvest them there.

Lili the cat is not at all interested in the onion weed around her

You will need to hose or soak the onions in water to get rid of all the excess soil, and there is usually a thick and slightly slimy skin over the older bulbets, but these come away quite easily to reveal something similar to spring onions.

Onion weed harvested and ready to used like spring onions

In summer the tops die down but underneath the bulbs, usually the size of marbles, can be dug up and pickled like cocktail onions or sauted whole.  Like onions they have a papery tough first skin but if soaked in water this can easily be removed.   I haven’t pickled them yet but perhaps I will give it try later in the year.

How I use onion weed in a foragers salad….

Left over Cabbage & Lentils with my Foragers Salad using Wild Onion Weed

When I am working in the garden I keep aside any tasty thinnings and edible weeds to be used for a lunch salad.   Yesterday I had collected a wild parsnip, horseradish root, miners lettuce, rocket, Southland pea and broad bean shoots.

I reheated the lentils, bacon and cabbage leftovers and put it on toast.  I then added the collected greens and grated parsnip (yes fresh parsnip is quite delicious grated raw).   I had some leftover whipped cream in the fridge so I added the finely grated peeled horseradish root, half a dozen pickled nasturium seeds (you can use capers instead), chopped chervil, a squeeze of lime juice and seasoned with salt.  This made a wonderful peppery-cream dressing.   On top I added chopped previously collected and prepared  wild onion, with the flowers of the wild onion, broad bean and the “purrrple” Southland salad pea.   I drizzled this with some hemp oil – but a good olive oil or my favourite avocado and lime oil would be just as delicious.  It looked and tasted a treat – fresh and nourishing.

Edible flowers decorative and tasty – broadbean, Southland salad pea and wild onion flowers

I am introducing you to my wild weed and flower salads.  I love to create these to add colour, texture and a nourishing freshness to the standard lettuce salad.   This may be intimidating for some of you at first.  I suggest you slowly add these vitamin and mineral packed gems into your family’s diet as it takes time to introduce people to something different.

I have been adding flowers and herbs into salads since the 1980’s, and have gained confidence in what looks and tastes good.   I remember back then our friend Ian said, “I didn’t think I would be eating a flower arrangement for dinner!”.  I think he thought I was a little loopy putting viola and borage blooms and calendula petals into a salad but now it’s common that restaurants add edible flowers and herbs.  

I intend over time to introduce you to many more herbs, wild plants and other edible parts of vegetables not usually used, e.g. broad bean green shoots and flowers.   I hope you try the humble onion weed – leaves, bulbets and flowers.