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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A vintage morning tea – Nan’s Pikelets

This post I am dedicating to my mother in law Monica, and my mother Claire.   Monica’s recipe is quick, easy and makes excellent light pikelets.  My thanks to Penny who has gifted to me my mother’s iron griddle or as the Scots call it girdle iron.
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I have memories of Mum making batches of pikelets to feed the shearers. I warmly recall arriving home from the school bus to be welcomed with the smell of pikelets being cooked on this griddle.   Four hungry kids meant that mum wouldn’t even get the chance to store them under the tea towel.  We would be lining up as they cooked.

Nan’s Pikelets with Karaka berry jam and cream

Pikelets are classic NZ fare and a treat you can whip up in a few minutes.  They are especially nice if spread with some berry jam and topped with a dollop of cream.   In Scotland pikelets are known as drop scones or dropped scones but really pikelets belong to the worldwide pancake family.

Pikelets on a cast iron griddle

I have made pikelets on my cast iron skillet but its so much easier on a griddle iron because it has no sides so makes flipping easy.   It is difficult with gas to keep the temperature down far enough and the iron seems to get hotter and hotter so you have to make sure you keep monitoring the temperature.

NAN’S PIKELETS
1 cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2  Tbsp of sugar or to your taste (orig recipe had 1/2 cup but I found this too sweet)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (or as much to make the batter the right consistency)
Add first three ingredients and either sieve or fluff up with a whisk to get air through the flour – this adds to the lightness
Add the sugar, egg and milk
Beat quickly to make a smooth batter the consistency of lightly beaten cream so that it will easily drop from the spoon but will not spread too thinly.
Ideally leave this mix for 10 minutes before cooking ( usually I am making these in a rush so I start once the pan is hot enough).

Pikelet with bubbles show it time to flip – my Mum’s metal pikelet spatula that is ideal for flipping

Tips:
Always make just one pikelet first up as you have to get the cooking surface to just the right temperature.
When one or two bubbles break on the top of the pikelets its time to flip them.
If you have the temperature too high they will brown quickly but could still be raw in the centre.
As they come off the pan store them in a clean tea towel as you do with scones.
If you make crepes, dosas, pancakes or pikelets on a regular basis then it would be worth while hunting out for a griddle iron in a second hand shop or check if your grandmother has one in a back cupboard.
Practise makes perfect and this is good recipe to make with your children.

2015 UPDATE

Funny I mentioned back in 2012 that pikelets are good to make with children because this term at Ponsonby School I am teaching the children in my grandson Beau’s class how to make pikelets.
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On our first session Noah made a perfect pikelet.

Children can easily move from pikelets to pancakes with the understanding they get from the process.  They learn why they sift flour, what raising agents do and how to mix a batter.  During the cooking process they learn that the bubbles bursting on top mean that its time to flip and the the most enjoyable part…how to flip pikelets.  They all said they wanted to take them home at the start of the lesson but by the end they were being lined up as morning tea.