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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In celebration of the winter cabbage

Today I harvested the last of my cabbages.  I planted six in late autumn and it has been my most successful year yet for cabbage growing.     This success I believe is down to planting late to avoid the aphid and white butterfly and digging in plenty of sheep manure as they are big feeders.   I am lucky to live on the Otago Peninsula so can use seaweed – a  magic mulch!    This week I purchased from the Dunedin farmers market a $5 bag of Havoc bacon pieces thinking this could be a great addition to my final cabbage.    This recipe adds lentils to the cabbage which gives the dish a rich earthy flavour and a satisfying dish.   If you prepare the lentils ahead of time it only takes a jiffy to make at the rush hour of dinner.

It’s from one of my favourite books “Riverford Farm Cook Book” introduced to me by my  neighbour Rob.    Riverford farm is one of the largest organic growers in the UK and each vegetable or fruit has a chapter with a number of recipes.   Being English the plants they grow are very similar to our southern NZ growing conditions.

Cabbage recipe with the addition of bacon and onion weed decorated with borage flowers

Braised Cabbage with Lentils Chilli & Coriander  -Serves 4
3 T olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 chilli chopped (you could leave out if children are eating this)
500g cabbage 
Juice of half lemon
1 T chopped coriander
Salt and pepper
For the lentils:
10g puy lentils (I used green French lentils)
2 garlic cloves peeled
1 T olive oil
Method:
Cook the lentils – put in pan with whole garlic and enough water to cover.  Bring to the boil then simmer for about 30 min or until tender topping up with water if needed (esp needed if cooking on gas) – Drain then season well and mix in olive oil. (This can be done ahead )
Heat oil add onion, garlic and chilli then cover and sweat for 5 min until softened, add shredded cabbage and season well.    Cook over high heat until wilted, stir in lemon juice, lentils and coriander.

Adding bacon and celery (if you like) at the time of cooking the onions

My additions to the original are chopped up bacon pieces (equivalent to 2-3 slices of bacon), and chopped celery (because I have it growing and it adds great flavour) at the stage of cooking the  onions, garlic and chilli.   
With the addition of onion weed which is just like spring onion
At the very last minute I added the chopped coriander along with some finely chopped onion weed – my foraging addition to the recipe. 

My cabbage was small and compact – I was surprised to see it weighed exactly 500g! But if you only had a little cabbage you could add a mix of other greens like silverbeet, kale, the crinkly dark green cavolo nero (Itailian kale) or sliced brussel sprouts.     Last time I baked some potatoes and used this dish as a side but it can be a stand alone main, especially with the addition of spicy sausage or bacon.   It would also be delicious served as a bed of green with fish. 
Its always a decision when it comes to taking that last plant.   I harvested some of the cabbages when they weren’t fully matured so avoided having too many cabbages ready at once.    When just cooking cabbage quickly I like to add fennel seeds and cook it in butter.  But this recipe today was a true celebration of my last cabbage of winter 2012. 
Onion weed as good as spring onions….. my next posting