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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Southland Watermelon and Bottled Central Otago Apricots

It’s time for me to announce that this Southern cook and gardener is heading North. Peter and I are embarking on a new adventure in Auckland for at least a year. I am looking forward to having easy access to citrus, avocados, tamarillos, kiwifruit, and to grow tomatoes and basil outdoors!

There will be Southern fruit and vegetables that I will miss like Oamaru new potatoes, gooseberries, black and red currants, and Central Otago stone fruit, particularly apricots and cherries.

But there is one southern vegetable that is often overlooked or even disliked….the swede.  Much to Peter’s embarrassment, I have been known to pick up a swede from the trailer selling them at the airport to take up north as a gift.

I like swede and even though it’s not seasonal, I am going to feature it because I will miss it next winter and was reminded of it recently in a jewellery gallery.

Southern Watermelon, aka the Swede

Swede by David McLeod from 5+ a day series (Copper & Silver)

The swede, originally called the Swedish Turnip, and Rutabaga in the US, is actually a cross between a turnip and cabbage and is on the list of aphrodisiac foods (who would have believed that?)  

We down here jokingly call it “Southland watermelon”. You could never compare a supermarket swede to a watermelon.   But imagine it’s a winter morning in Southland, one of those mornings when you can see your breath.   A swede is plucked from the frost chilled soil, and deftly peeled by a farmer  skinning the swede of its earth and roots. You are handed a slice and may well be surprised by it’s sweet melon like quality.  If you ever have the opportunity, go on, give it a try.

The swede, if fresh, is lovely grated raw into a salad.  Make sure it’s late enough in the season to have had at least one good frost to concentrate the sugars. The swede stores well and if you manage to obtain some that haven’t had all their roots trimmed, you can pop them back into the garden soil to keep even longer in nature’s fridge.

David McLeod from Quadrant Gallery – Jewellery,
Glassware and Ceramics, Moray Place, Dunedin

I have a great Friday job working at Quadrant Gallery in Moray Place, Dunedin, with owner and jeweller David McLeod. Dave loves gardening. I bet there are not many jobs where your boss brings you lunch, and better still it’s substantially made from his garden produce. He has even made jewellery inspired by vegetables.

I have asked Dave to be a guest recipe blogger with a Swede recipe from his sister.  You can store it away until next winter.

Broccoli Tree from David McLeod’s Five+ a day series
Nana’s Big Tomato – by David McLeod from his Five+ a Day series – silver and garnet
(this piece was based on a drawing his daughter Islay did when she was 5)

Allannah’s Grated Swede

Framed Swede  – Five+ a Day series- Sterling silver
and Copper

Peel and cut into pieces that can easily be grated.
Finely chop an onion.
Melt a knob of butter in a pan, and saute the onion until golden.
Add 1 tsp of turmeric and caraway seeds (to taste -perhaps 1/2 tsp)
Then add the grated swede and cook until soft.

Dave suggests this is a great dish to serve with lamb and a salad.

I haven’t been able to try this recipe out yet but I like the idea of using turmeric and caraway to give a hint of the exotic to the humble swede.   I would also be tempted to try a little chili as well.
Grating the swede is inspired because it can take quite a while to cook in pieces.

Bottled Central Otago Apricots  

Gus’s preserved Sundrop organic apricots 

One thing I will definitely miss will be preserved apricots made by our son Gus. They taste like bottled Central Otago sunshine.

Gus put his preserving prowess to the test when he entered his apricots into the bottled fruits section of the Wanaka A&P Show this year.  He won first prize. Unfortunately they don’t run to ribbons these days and the $5 prize money isn’t quite the same thrill.    

The key to Gus’s success, as with most good food, is sourcing the best fruit he can. He has found an organic grower who grows the apricot    varieties Sundrop and Vulcan.

He produces around 100 jars of apricots each summer using the familiar Agee jars that my mother would have used (1 litre capacity).   All the apricots are processed in a commercial kitchen and he is set to do his 2013 bottling batch late January.

Gus is selling the 20 bottles he has left from his 2012 bottling.

If you would like to buy these prize winning apricots or make an order for the 2013 season you can contact Gus by email: Augustin_hayden@hotmail.com  They cost $22 each ($20 if you can offer a replacement Agee Utility jar.)


Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A that doesn’t get destroyed through cooking. 
Perhaps I can convince Gus to do another guest blog featuring his preserving method late January.
Watch out for my next posting on the different things you can do with another of my favourite southern fruits, the gooseberry.