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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Galley Cooking on the Shenandoah

Our really good friends Ralph and Maerushia invited us to enjoy the magnificent Hauraki Gulf on their cruising yacht.  We couldn’t have had a better introduction to Auckland – the city of sails.   This was my first experience of living on board a yacht.   Would I make a good sailor?  So with a Lemon Tipple Cake in hand and a little trepidation I boarded Shenandoah.

Ralph hoisting the sail
As we left we saw Prada coming in from a training exercise
Ralph and Maerushia tell us they will be returning home to Dunedin any year now, but while living here they enjoy what is truly great about Auckland – its harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.  Instead of a house they invested in a home on the water.

Peter at the wheel with Maerushia keeping a  close eye on where
he is taking her Shenandoah.  Maerushia was brought up around boats and
has a healthy respect for the sea so will not take risks with their home on the water. 
Ralph was born an inlander in Central Otago but you would never know it when you see him so
 relaxed and happy on the coastal waters.   Here he wears a momento from home, a
 Jimmy’s pie t-shirt from Roxburgh.  Ralph says Jimmy’s make the best pies in the South.

Being a “boatie” is like being part of a big seafaring family and I was amazed at the friendliness of people on the water. There is a fair amount of sailing jargon and etiquette you have to learn like calling, “permission to come aboard” when boarding a vessel and having a back of the boat bucket bath after swimming to avoid the salt from your skin attracting moisture to the upholstery.  

The galley looks larger in this photo than it actually is.
And then there’s cooking in a confined space with food storage and water being limited.  I learnt a few tricks from Maerushia on how to make a lovely meal using minimum dishes.    Maerushia is of European decent and both the presentation and act of dining is an important part of the day.   
Our lunch was going to be a new recipe that Maerushia found in a magazine while she was at her hairdresser…as you do!   This recipe can be made up in one bowl and a yoghurt dressing in another.   I am not that keen on the idea of minced chicken but I have to admit this was a very tasty lunch offering and easy to make.

Chicken Rissoles with Mint Yoghurt Dressing

Rissole Ingredients

800 grams chicken mince
1-3 cloves of garlic finely diced (whatever your preference)
1 cup stale breadcrumbs (60 grams)
Salt and Pepper
Lemon zest and juice of a lemon
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 cup of finely chopped mint leaves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Greek style natural yoghurt
1/4 cup of thick mint sauce

In a bowl mix the chicken with breadcrumbs, add garlic, and egg.

Add grated lemon zest, salt and pepper and cumin.

Add mint leaves. Mix really well to evenly distribute the flavours.
The rissoles are now ready to cook.

To prepare the Yoghurt Dressing, first measure yoghurt into jug, add mint sauce (this one is Delmaine Thick Mint Sauce), lemon juice and mix in the jug…how easy is that?

The Yoghurt Dressing

Cook rissoles until brown on both sides  (approx 5 minutes per side).   I was in charge of cooking the rissoles and made sure that the temperature wasn’t too high to avoid having them brown on the outside but raw inside.

Meanwhile Maerushia prepared a fresh salad of lettuce, tomatoes, radishes and peppers to accompany the chicken rissoles.    Ralph set up the table on the deck that cunningly fits around the compass and wheel.   Peter had bought a blast from the past to have with our lunch – Mateus Rose`from Portugal.   Some of you may remember those distinctive shaped bottles that in the 70’s were often used as candleholders.  We were surprised how good it was.

I don’t know how many yachts carry candelabra but Maerushia insists that Shenandoah must have an abundance of style.

Lemon Tipple Cake by candlelight

And that evening we enjoyed my Lemon Tipple Cake (see my previous posting for the recipe) made all the more special by candlelight.

I wondered why she was called Shenandoah – the name of a popular American song.   I have discovered the song was actually a shanty sung by sailors during lengthy tasks like weighing anchor, hoisting sails and winding the line around the large capstan.  These type of shanties are slow-paced and often have nostalgic lyrics because the sailors were either preparing to go home or docking somewhere far from home.  It’s a perfect name!   
Our perfect breakfast view – Kawau Island looking out at Governor Grey’s Mansion 

 There was no need for a sea shanty as we gently chugged into the bay on Kawau Island and anchored with ease in a spot where we had the perfect view while we ate our breakfast.  

With a nod to Shenandoah’s American connection we prepared pancakes for breakfast.  I do make a particularly good oat hotcake or pancake but it does use two bowls, has quite a few ingredients and requires an egg beater.    All too time consuming and difficult on a boat.

Here is Maerushia’s easy pancakes (well they are a cross between a crepe and a pancake really).

Well… yes you could say this is cheating using Edmonds Shaker Pancakes.   Sometimes convenience food has its place and with Maerushia’s additions they were a delicious start to our day.  You shake the contents,  add water and shake again like mad.    First up I didn’t add enough water so my pancakes were too thick for what Maerushia wanted to do with them.

These are the pancakes that are the more “cakey” American style

I added more water than was suggested so that the batter would pour easily and make a thinner pancake that could be rolled.

The magic touch is the addition of currants once you pour the mix.

Once a number of bubbles appear then burst it’s usually time to flip them.

To serve you sprinkle with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and roll them up.

We later landed on Kawau island to visit Grey’s mansion and to walk around the pine covered island thinking about what it would have been like in Governor Grey’s time with all the exotic animals he imported.   Only the wombats survive.    The highlight was the giant American Redwood tree.  Peter showed us how to tell a redwood from a pine by knocking on the bark – its bark is softer than pine.

Giant American Redwood tree on Kawau Island
I learnt a lot over the weekend about living on board a boat in close quarters. There are a lot of procedures you follow for safety reasons, like keeping everything tidy so that you know where things are should you need them in a hurry.  I now know my port from my starboard.   It was a little scary to a landlubber like me when we experienced rough patches, but we also experienced an idyllic few hours with just the sails and no motor noise.   
This coiled rope on deck is not for decoration but for safety
to avoid tripping on rope and easily unwound when needed.  
Peter and I became part of the Shenandoah crew and we each spent  time at the wheel.

Shenandoah is an Indian word that comes from a legend and roughly translates as “daughter of the stars”.    Our sleeping quarters were in the bow and we kept the hatch open so that we could look up at the stars on those perfect starry nights on the Gulf.

Thank you Ralph and Maerushia for sharing your Shenandoah with us.

Me a midships gazing to starboard!