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.






Bring a Plate… a Savoury Idea

“Bring a plate” is a kiwi food sharing custom …and for those with great baking skills, an opportunity to shine in your community. When I grew up, most gatherings were catered by “bring a plate”.  Tressle tables groaned with club sandwiches, sausage rolls, slices, pavlova and some gloriously high rise sponge cakes.

My Mum would normally contribute something savoury as she knew she couldn’t compete on the sponge cake front.  Besides, she would say “There’ll be too many sweet things and not enough savoury”. She was usually right.

Beetroot and Walnut hummus is from Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “River Cottage Everyday”

At a recent workplace birthday celebration we were all to “bring a plate”. I decided, like my Mum, I would contribute something savoury…. Beetroot and Walnut Hummus.   To my delight and surprise the hummus disappeared faster than the cakes!

Its glorious colour and the earthy sweet taste of beetroot makes for a dip that is not at all “run of the mill”.  The true test of it’s success…everyone wants the recipe.

Beetroot and walnuts get the headline but another important ingredient in this recipe is the roasted cumin seeds.
“Aside from their shared earthiness, beetroot and cumin couldnt be more different. The sweetness of beetroot is enlivened by cumin’s smoky citric edge.” Niki Segnit “The Flavour Thesaurus”.

Beetroot and Walnut Hummus

200 g beetroot cooked (you can use canned beetroot but not pickled)
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
50g walnuts
25g stale bread, crusts removed OR 2 Tbsp of couscous
1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A little olive or good vegetable oil (optional)

First cook your beetroot.  I like to wrap washed beetroot in foil and bake in the oven (about 180 C)  until you can easily put a scewer through the beetroot. Once cooled you should be able to easily push the skin away from the cooked beetroot flesh.

 200 g of beetroot is equivalent to a beetroot the size of a grapefruit.
The cooking of the beetroot can be done at an earlier time and after
skinning covered and kept in the fridge.

Next toast 1 Tbsp of cumin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat.  Shake the pan constantly until they begin to darken.  A sign that they are done is the release of their aroma. It will take less than a minute.  Crush the dry fried seeds with a mortar and pestle … or use a coffee grinder to make short work of it.  You don’t need to roast your own seeds, you can just use ground cumin, but there is nothing quite like freshly ground cumin and a little extra effort will reward you with extra flavour.

I use a coffee grinder that is just for spices – you wouldn’t want
to do this in the grinder you use for coffee beans unless you want
coffee flavoured cumin or cumin flavoured coffee!!

Now spread the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in an oven 180 C for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant.

If you have time, give your walnuts a good long soak in water
before roasting as this will make the nuts sweeter and more digestible.

Break the bread into small chunks and put in a food processor with the walnuts.

I didn’t have any old bread so I tried using couscous instead and it worked really well. I used 2 Tbsp of dry couscous and added enough boiling water to allow it to expand and soften. If you put in too much water just drain before adding.  I didnt put couscous in with the walnuts but later when I added the beetroot.

For a gluten free beetroot hummus, use some cooked rice or quinoa – or perhaps a few chickpeas. The bread or couscous is simply used as a thickener.

Now add the beetroot (cut into 2-3 cm cubes), the tahini, most of the crushed garlic, (the couscous if using instead of bread) and a good pinch of the cumin, half the lemon juice, a little salt and a good grind of pepper. Blend to a thick paste.

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Taste the mix and adjust the flavour by adding more cumin,  garlic, lemon, salt and pepper, then blend again until you are happy with it.  If you feel it needs a little oil, add this now.

Refrigerate until required but bring back to room temperature to serve.

This dip is best accompanied by toasted pita bread or flat bread.

Here is a quick spring time lunch idea using the hummus.   I had a small amount of leftover Beetroot and Walnut Hummus.  I had to make it go further so made a platter with toasted pita bread, lettuce sliced with some chopped coriander and onion weed bulbs (but you could use spring onions), grated carrot with a little orange juice and a few fennel seeds with a yoghurt dressing on the side.

When I decided to “bring a plate” of Beetroot and Walnut Hummus to the office birthday morning tea, I didn’t realise that both beetroot and walnuts are good for the brain. Nor did I know that beetroot increases stamina and walnuts relieve fatigue.  All good things to offer my office colleagues on a plate… and a great alternative to the many cup cakes and slices on offer.

“Resisting the Call of the Cupcake” an article in the NZ Herald where business columnist 
Dita De Boni looks at eating habits in the office.   The illustration is by Anna Crichton 

But, cupcakes and junk food are not the only health risks to the many of us that have desk jobs.
The Huffington Post  gives six good reasons why we should make a major effort to get up from our desks at regular intervals.

To my horror one of the six reasons is …sitting increases the size of your bottom!  
“Researchers have found that putting pressure on certain body parts (i.e., your bottom) can produce up to 50 percent more fat than usual.”