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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"Make cheese", said the Quince

In Spain manchego cheese, a hard salty sheep milk cheese is eaten with dulce de membrillo – a sweet red conserve, which we know as quince paste – sounds perfect doesn’t it?   In Spain dulce de membrillo is sold in large blocks and slices cut off as you would cheese.  So with my Northland quince I will give a nod to Spain and make Quince Cheese to share with friends.

I have made quince jelly before but never quince cheese (or paste) – cheese in the world of preserves simply means a solid sliceable preserve.   With my large golden quinces on hand I searched through my recipe books and came across quince cheese in “River Cottage Handbook No.2 – Preserves by Pam Corbin”.   This seems exactly like the Spanish recipes I found with the exception that they sometimes add a cinnamon stick …I decided to keep it plain this first time.

Wash the quince and roughly chop the fruit but don’t peel or core them.   Place in a large pan and barely cover with water.

 Bring to a simmer and cook until soft and pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary.   Leave to stand for several hours.

I took the pulp out of my metal pot and poured the into a large glass bowl for the
waiting period of several hours.  I left it overnight and made the quince cheese the next night.

Rub the contents through a sieve or mouli and then weigh the pulp and return to a heavy bottomed clean pan, adding an equal weight of sugar.  I don’t have scales at the moment, so I measured cup for cup like you do for jelly.  Gently bring to the boil stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Now it becomes a waiting game.

The quince goes through a transformation from a golden fruit to a rich red over long slow cooking.

You have to stir frequently so that it doesnt stick and burn.   This can take an hour and a bit, so be prepared and have something else to do in the kitchen while watching over the quince.

Starts off yellow
Then begins to turn orange
After an hour it finally starts turning red, thick and glossy.

You have to be diligent in the stirring as it begins to thicken.  It get’s very thick and glossy and be careful as it may bubble and splatter like a mud pool or a pot of porridge.   Keep cooking until you can scrape a spoon through it and see the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture oozes together again.

I decided to make mine like a cheese round to share with friends.  Keep cool, preferably in the fridge, but allow it sit at room temperature before using, so you can enjoy the maximum fruity flavour.

I used a cake tin lined with baking paper and let it set for a day before cutting.  If you have small bowls or ramakins that you can use as a mould, then brush them with a little glycerine to allow the cheeses to be easily released.

The attractively shaped quince cheese from the River Cottage Preserves recipe book and
a small ramakin that could be used as a mould.

Ideally this cheese should be kept for a month before eating to give further depth of flavour…but who can resist?

A perfect set of Quince Cheese wedges ready to be wrapped first
in baking paperand then in foil 

The melon shaped golden quince I got from Northland is probably Pineapple Quince, a tart variety used mainly for preserves.   The Apple Quince I get down south looks more like a nobbly pear with sticky fluff over parts of the skin.  This quince is known to be sweeter.

  • Add a quince to any apple dessert, cake or compote for added texture, colour and flavour – just make sure you give the quince a head start and cook slowly for 20 minutes before adding the apple…or if time is a problem grate the quince
  • You can add sliced quince with meat in a tagine or slow cooker as it too enjoys a long slow cooking time
  • Instead of apple sauce with pork you could try quince sauce 
  • Any cores with pips and peel can be boiled up and strained, put into a plastic bottle and stored in the freezer as added pectin for fruit jellies or jams that have lower pectin than quince
  • In Chile a dessert favourite is Murta con Membrillo which combines the Ugni Molinae (Chilean guava or as we call it here the New Zealand Cranberry) with quince and sugar
  • Quince is lovely baked long and slow under foil so that it turns soft and red.  I do this in a little sugar syrup or just a little water and sprinkled with raw sugar (to your taste); and if you want add either a cinnamon stick or star anise
  • Poaching Quince with Vanilla.  I have included a blog by excellent food writer David Le Bovitz’s Rosy Poached Quince recipe and his view on quince. Cooked quince sitting in syrup will turn red over time in the fridge
  • I am keen to try Otago Farmers Market Baked Quince a recipe from chef Alison Lambert who creates delicious seasonal recipes from a caravan every Saturday at Otago Farmers Market.

Whether it’s enjoying quince preserved as dulce de membrillo with cheese in summer heat or using it seasonally poached or baked in the chill of winter, it’s a fruit that has been revered through the ages.

The ancient Greeks believed it to be a fruit of love, marriage and fertility and was often given as a wedding gift to the bride to sweeten her breath. In medieval England, imported Membrillo from Spain was prescribed by apothecaries to assist with digestion.

With this in mind, what a lovely gift to give to a bride to be or to serve after a meal either as dessert or with cheese.

Otago Farmers Market