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.

20170725_182713
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.

20170907_083451
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.

20170907_083824

I tend to soak the bread in a flat bottomed plate – a pasta dish is ideal. Give it a minute to soak in.

20170725_181453
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.

20170907_085319
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.

20170907_084751

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.

20160723_093104
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.

20170516_123629

 

 

 

 

Cobra Runners and a Pean

As a gardener I can’t help but love all the produce that midsummer brings.  As a cook I find myself searching for  new ways to prepare these plentiful vegetables.

This year our Cobra Runner beans from Kings Seeds  have been our garden success story.   Living in Auckland has meant for the first time we can easily grow green bean varieties that demand a warmer climate.  And our Cobra’s just keep on producing.

There are many varieties sizes and colour of climbing or pole beans. They are called a variety of names: green beans, summer beans, runner beans or French beans. 

In Dunedin we grew the classic and hardy Scarlet Runner but unless picked very young the beans are often stringy.

Cobra Runner beans grow in abundance and quickly

Picked fresh the “string less” beans can be eaten raw as a sweet and crunchy snack. Our grandson Beau prefers them that way.  My daughter Tansy sees these beans and immediately wants to make her signature Thai Green Chicken Curry.  I like to add them to a stir fry or simply cook them, then dress with a squeeze of lemon juice, a slurp of a good olive oil and plenty of black pepper.

Here’s a simple recipe that will dress the beans up a little and avoid mutterings from the dinner table of “Oh no, not beans again!”

Green Beans with Almond Gremolata

I enjoyed the beans with slowly baked basil tomatoes and
some delicious  Bok Choy 

A gremolata is usually a topping of finely chopped garlic, parsley and lemon zest that is sprinkled over the dish just before serving.  It’s especially good for adding a fresh aroma to a slow cooked dish.

This is a different take on gremolata by reheating the beans in the citrus and garlic oil and then adding the herbs and parmesan just before serving.

First you need to blanch the beans in a pot of boiling salted water.  Cook no longer than two minutes as you want them to remain slighly crisp, not soggy.  Cool the beans quickly to avoid them losing their lovely fresh green colour.

Otago Farmers Market chef Alison Lambert let me into the secret of how Italian mamas cool cooked beans and greens. It’s easier than the usual arrangement of plunging beans in iced cold water.  Simply spread out the blanched beans onto a clean tea towel over a cake rack. As the beans are spread out they cool quickly and retain their colour. (You can also use this method when blanching or wilting kale). This method ensures the vegetables don’t get waterlogged.

The cake rack or oven rack under the tea towel just assists in air flow and
keeping the beans nice and dry 

I picked my beans yesterday,  blanching the same day to capture their freshness. This preparation has enabled me to quickly create this dish after work tonight.
 

Parmesan, chopped almonds, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and parsley (I am running a little short on parsley so have also added basil).

Slowly heat the oil (I used about 3 Tbsp) with 1 glove of finely chopped garlic and zest from one lemon.  I suggest slowly heating the soil because I am using extra virgin olive oil and don’t want to burn the oil or the garlic.  I do want to infuse the oil with the flavours of the garlic and zest before adding the beans.

Now coat the beans and turn the heat up a little – you just have to cook long enough to heat through the beans.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste – it’s always better to add less, taste and then add more if liked. This recipe is also good without the lemon juice. (Your choice).

Quickly add the herbs and parmesan, mix through and put into the serving dish.

To finish off add toasted chopped almonds as much or as little as you like.

I have used pumpkin seeds instead of almonds and walnuts or hazelnuts could also be worthy alternatives.

Instead of lemon juice you could use some finely sliced preserved lemon and some smoked paprika to give the beans a middle eastern flavour.

If you want to add a little heat then a crushed dried or finely sliced fresh chilli will add a zing.  You  could serve this with some fresh coriander instead of the parsley, peanut oil with a few drops of sesame oil but would cut out the parmesan to create this Asian take on the beans.

Really there are numerous combinations of final flavour touches you can come up with.  You just need to blanch some beans and experiment.

I am always on the lookout for something new to try both in the garden and the kitchen. Fellow Sanctuary Community gardeners were growing Peans and offered us a couple of plants.

If you want to read more about our community garden visit
http://SanctuaryGardenDiary.blogspot.co.nz

A Pean is a cross between a bean and a pea.  They have edible pods that are just like any green bean but the small beans inside have a taste reminiscent of a pea.  My Cobra beans now are now slowing down, taking a breather until rain comes to revitalise them.  I doubt if my two Pean plants will will produce an over abundance of pods but I will enjoy their novelty.

The great advantage of belonging to the community garden is receiving the excess produce from other gardeners.  One vegetable that can easily get away on you is the courgette.  Go on holiday and on your return you discover a marrow.  A marrow was on offer the other day.  No one appeared to want it.

So …you’ve guessed it.. my next posting will be a recipe using the marrow.