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.

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.

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.


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

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.

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.


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.

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.






The Big Easy and harvest time in Hawkes Bay

The Big Easy – I liked the sound of that as a sports event – cycling from Church Road vineyard in Taradale to Black Barn vineyard near Havelock North via a number of eateries. I heard the words vineyard to vineyard very clearly, but failed to think too much about how I was going to accomplish the 43 kilometre ride.

The offer of free Hawkes Bay Gala apples along the way certainly kept me going.

My photo of apples at Te Koha Organics
We had warnings of possible hazards…..
But I think that was a bit of an exaggeration

You see so much when you cycle.  From the tracks I got an opportunity to see orchards, vineyards and farms up close.   Here I was in Hawkes Bay at harvest time.

Cycling past at first glance I thought this was a paddock of
stones but on a closer look…
It was a field of pumpkins ready for harvest

But to digress… to the Hastings Farmers Market.   

Many varieties of squash for sale at the
Hastings Farmers Market every Sunday.

In warmer weather all the vendors, like wagon trains in a western, form a circle inside the showgrounds under the shelter of large trees. In winter they ply their trade under the grandstand and in a nearby building.  

I went to the market to find inspiration for an easy autumn produce dinner. So many delicious products to choose from!  I couldn’t go past the locally produced artisan dried pasta from Pasta Love and I chose a Pappardelle made with Rosemary picked from the pasta maker’s garden.

Pappardelle is a flat broad pasta usually 2-3 cm wide.

Next I was attracted by the vivid colours of Orcona Chilli ‘n Peppers.   Their site has some good information on the health properties of chillis.

I especially like the orange peppers and this one shaped with my initial.

And to keep with the autumn harvest theme what better choice than mushrooms from The Te Mata Mushroom Company 

The Te Mata Mushroom company website has some good information
on vitamin D and mushrooms

While cutting up the vegetables get ready a pot of boiling
water to cook the pasta (this is the longest part of the process)

With the addition of spring onions and basil from Monica’s home garden I was ready to start the Pappardelle.  Slice up 4 small spring onions, and two orange peppers, a good handful of basil and as slice as many mushrooms as you like.   This was enough for three of us.   
I don’t usually peel mushrooms – just wipe their surface with a damp paper towel – but if the mushrooms were a little older then I would peel them.
While chopping up the vegetables, put on a large pot of water and bring to the boil, add about 1 Tbsp of salt once the water is boiling.

I was lucky enough to find in Monica’s pantry Al Brown’s Orange Chilli Oil,
but you can use any oil

First of all heat from cold a couple of cloves of garlic in olive oil.  Once the garlic begins to sizzle, add the spring onion and then the sliced peppers. 

The pasta takes about 9 minutes to cook so now would be a good time to add the pasta to the boiling water (ideally feeding it into the water so that the water doesnt stop boiling).

Now add the sliced mushrooms and cook until juicy and soft.   If you think the mix needs some more liquid then add a half cup of water from the pasta water.   Pasta water is good because the flour gives the water a light thickening quality.   When the pasta is cooked, keep aside some pasta water to add to the sauce.   Just before serving add the basil and about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan to the sauce.  The cheese gives a creamy-ness without adding cream.   

I prefer to keep the mushroom flavour rich and not diluted by cream but you could add a dollop of cream, sour cream or creme fraiche if you like a creamy sauce.

Pappardelle is derived from the verb “pappare” which means to gobble up.  The three of us certainly gobbled up this light and tasty sauce on top of the really good pasta. 

Back on track with the Big Easy

The day before on The Big Easy bike ride after the 30 km mark, we were looking for time off the saddle and for an opportunity to gobble something more substantial than the free apples offered on the trail.      

These grapes had just been uncovered from their
netting protection ready for harvest at The Bivvy vineyard

Biking along the stopbank with river on one side and vineyards and orchards on the other we came upon a foodie’s oasis at The Bivvy Vineyard.  

The food truck in the background, long tressle tables
and a shade cloth for customers
How special it is to buy wine from the winemaker and to be in among the vines, with a food truck serving up fresh food.  We enjoyed a glass of 2010 Bivvy Voignier and a salmon and salad wrap or a late summer salad with melon, salmon and feta.

Looking up from The Bivvy to the cycle track

All credit to the organisers of The Big Easy.   Somehow they managed to get this event up and running in 6 short weeks. It attracted 700 riders, a mix of locals and visitors, for the inaugural  Cycle the Big Easy. How fortunate are the people of Hawkes Bay to have local councils with the vision to provide a network of purpose made cycle/walking pathways away from vehicle traffic. These pathways are comparable to those you find in cycle orientated countries like the Netherlands.

43 kms was about 13 kms too far for me – I was exhausted.

On completion of the trail we got free entry to a concert at the Black Barn vineyard starring The Beat Girls and enjoyed excellent wood fired pizzas and Black Barn wine. Meanwhile our bikes were being wrapped in blankets and taken by Conroys moving trucks back to Church Road where our day began. After the concert we too were given a ride back to Taradale in a bus.   All this for $25 per person!  

Harvest time is a lovely time to visit The Bay. If the organisers decide to do The Big Easy Cycle trail again next Easter, I am sure this would attract bike riders from all over the country.