The Black Sheep Espresso Baa, Cooly… not just a bunch of random words

black sheep espresso baa
The Black Sheep Espresso Baa…

This place is a little hole-in-the-wall type set up, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it little hobbit nook, sans Saruman, Lord of Isengard, which works for me as I am not eating breakfast in the company of that nasty prick, no thank you.

My kids in the shoe box
My kids in the shoe box

You walk into this little shoe box café expecting to see myriad of little elves working away, toiling over a hot grill to get you your meal, and some how negotiating their way around a coffee machine with some kind of little step ladder arrangement so they can reach the knobs and things so you may have some coffee, too. But then when you do actually wander up to the counter there are full sized, human type characters. There was actually 5 or 6 of them, all working away in a kitchen the size of a small garden shed, or possibly a large TV cabinet and I kid you not, they were all really happy about it too. Staff were singing and being nice and just showing many tell-tale signs of being really happy about their situation.

One of those happy people took our order and then another one of them made us some coffee and I’m pretty sure another one or two of them cooked our breakfast but I didn’t really notice, all the while I was sitting down and using every ounce of my energy trying not to obviously stare in absolute awe of how acceptable it seems to be to wear budgie smugglers into and around the Coolangattata café strip…

Tasty things
Tasty things

We ordered some more coffee. They were doing a good thing with their Toby’s Estate coffee so it seemed like the common sense thing to do.

The kids AKA the pack of ravenous lions, decided they would like to share the “Board for 2” ($39) which stated in its menu description that the staff cannot tell you what exactly is on it because they don’t have that sort of time to spare.

This is the menu pic
This is the menu pic

So the “Board for 2” came out carried only by one person which came as quite the surprise as I was expecting 4 large, scantily clad men in sandles… or a goat cart at the very least. Preconceptions can truly be a bitch, right? Anyway, this thing did have everything. It was like Christmas lunch at Gina Rinehart’s pad… minus the private doctors to keep an eye out for heart attack. It was off the fricking hook displayed in wooden board form; eggs, bacon, house made sausages, lamb bacon, spicy beefy beans, corn fritters, mushrooms, roast tomato, pumpkin and beetroot, condiments and toast. It was impressive… like, Andre the Giant impressive.
Sometimes when I look back on pics and try to think of a witty title my brain just reckons nom, nom, nom
Sometimes when I look back on pics and try to think of a witty title my brain just reckons nom, nom, nom

I had the “Sir-Tory” ($16.5) for myself. The quirky little name they had conjured up for this dish, as with most of the other quirky little monikers they had come up with for their menu items, meant absolutely nothing to me. But that was A-OK because I love it when peeps can have a bit of a chuckle at themselves and what they’re doing… AS LONG AS THEY CAN STILL COME THROUGH WITH THE PRODUCT… which these folks truly did. Slow cooked beef cheek in beer and tomato sauce mixed with grumble beans (once again, no idea what they were on about but I was more than happy to eat them) and then served with poached eggs and chilli jam.

“My kind of breakfast” should be enough information to some that one up. The addition of “very effing happy” should leave no doubt in the minds of the more simple folk amongst us.

By the time we were leaving the happy that was oozing from this place had well an truly infected us so off we went to skip with unicorns and smile at rainbows and shit.

You can find the Black Sheep Espresso Baa here.
black sheep espresso baa

Stuffing a bird…

bacon and cranberry christmas stuffing
Are you sorted for Christmas? Or are you one of the peeps who starts their Christmas hustle now? Nothing like a good Christmas Eve scurry to really get those ventricles moving in the morning, eh. You hit the local shopping square (AKA hell) and quickly notice the musty aroma of anxiety and defeat fills the room, illuminated by the deadly fluorescent lights, each one powered by a million trapped Christmas fairies, as you fight for possession of the last toy that wasn’t even cool when it was released 2 years ago. But you gotta go home with something right? Right?

I’m sure it’s not that bad… or maybe it is.

Maybe just grab a bird.

Sometimes, when you bring a bird home, don’t you just want to stuff her juicy crevice and possibly even rub her breasts with oil so they glisten in the kitchen light… yeah I said kitchen light… yeah I’m talking about stuffing your favourite bird this Christmas. What did you think I was talking about? Man, I really don’t get you guys sometimes…

This is a simple stuffing, it’s got like 6 ingredients or something similar, and it is also very tasty too – something I generally consider to be pretty important with food… tastiness and simplicity.

It is a stuffing for your chicken, duck, goose, quail, guinea fowl, emu, snake or heaven forbid, turkey. As I have said previously I am not a fan of turkey. In fact, if turkey was playing a game of sport against my children I feel I may heckle it as it approached the sports field a la one of those over-competitive, angry parents who every one just stares at because they are just being a total dick… that’s what turkey might do to me… like jokes about disabled people or ethnic minorities, I just find them to be totally tasteless. Unlike this stuffing which I find to be full of taste, jam packed with taste if you will and it has a texture that is really different to that of soggy cardboard, so in summary I guess I could simply say that this stuffing is totally different to commercial stuffing packet mixes.

It is good.

Give it a bash.

Make some fresh bread crumbs... it's pretty easy
Make some fresh bread crumbs… it’s pretty easy
Mix it all up
Mix it all up
Stuff it in there. Like, really stuff it in there
Stuff it in there. Like, really stuff it in there
Sexy, juicy, happy times
Sexy, juicy, happy times

CHRISTMAS STUFFING WITH BACON AND CRANBERRIES

2 cups fresh bread crumbs… sour dough or ciabatta is great
2-3 rashers bacon, sliced
½ onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, crushed
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme (a good pinch of dried thyme will do the trick, but the fresh stuff works better I reckon)
½ cup dried cranberries
a splash of white wine (just enough to moisten the stuffing)
salt and pepper

• Sauté bacon, onions and garlic until soft
• Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly
• Stuff it into something that deserves it
• Have a great Christmas
• Remember we love you x

Campfire (or possibly home oven) Chicken with Broad Beans and Bacon

chicken with broad beans and bacon
“You may sleep like animals and smell like animals, but you shall eat like men”.

Well, I heard through a friend of mine that that is indeed what Jesus said and by jeepers I do believe I agree with that man!

I am more than happy to sleep on the floor with nothing but a rolled up old tee shirt that I had been wearing for work on the two days previous, and nary a blanket or mattress in sight, on the odd (or possibly way too oft) occasion that I’ve indulged in one too many tipples of the white man’s devil water and nodded off (passed out) on the floor while searching for my bed… which is coincidentally in the same place it has been for the last 5 years… I’m sure there should be some kind of ingrained memory thing there, but no.

I belive I told you to put coals on the top of the camp oven too...
I believe I told you to put coals on the top of the camp oven too…

That same minimal necessity sleeping theory is also applicable for camping. I will sleep on the ground (although that tune may be sung a little differently as I grow older), wear the same clothes and bath in nothing but the sweat dripping from my own pores for as many days as need be but just before I can no longer see modern civilization from the brink of Lord of the Flies syndrome I will cook up a damn fine meal that I shall devour like some kind of strange red bearded camp royalty and bam! I am human again.

Ready to bring you back from the brink of Lord of the Flies syndrome...
Ready to bring you back from the brink of Lord of the Flies syndrome…

It’s not hard to eat well while you’re camping, it really isn’t. What is hard is a brick. Bricks are very hard, but eating well while camping is not. Argue that point with me why don’t you…

Certainly no brick
Certainly no brick

Something as simple as camp oven chicken for example, can be lifted to dizzying new heights if you remember to pack a little ham stock that’s been in the freezer since last Christmas and way too many broad beans from the garden. It’s about the fore-thought – past Graz looking out for future Graz and all that. I’m certainly not implying that all of your camp meals should be like you’re staying at a five star resort, because then let’s face it – you’re going to be needing a bath robe and a little mint choccy on your pillow too and, although I am more than happy to be designated camp cook, you will not be receiving room service from me… lip service possibly, but room service definitely not. So you just get your own ass organized and pack a couple of ingredients for your tromp de monde camp dish then you are coming out on top… and in the orgy of camp cooking, on top is indeed a good place to be.

Cook it before I shoot you with my beer gun
Cook it before I shoot you with my beer gun

CAMPFIRE CHICKEN with BROAD BEANS and BACON (serves 4-6)

1x 1.6kg chicken of prime origin
3 rashers bacon
1 brown onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 cups broad beans podded from what looks like way too many broad beans for you and your family but trust me, it isn’t (if you can’t get them fresh, frozen are readily available and would do the job also)
2 cups ham stock
Salt and pepper

• Saute bacon, onion, carrot and garlic in a large camp oven (dutch oven) until just starting to colour
• Add your chicken and ham stock and season that sexy beast well
• Put the lid on your camp oven and keep it on med-low coals, with a layer of coals on the lid, for 40-50 minutes
• Sweep coals off the lid and check the chook… it should be pretty close. If not, put the lid back on, cover with coals and leave for another 10 minutes. Repeat the sweeping and checking…
• Once the chicken is done add the broad beans and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes
• Serve the chicken with bread that Jennee baked in the camp oven earlier that afternoon (not showing off or anything) and tune in to the pretty sounds of the bush at sunset
• Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh

Listen to the beautifulness
Listen to the beautifulness
Oh, and then eat some bastardised smore type thing for dessert
Oh, and then eat some bastardised smore type thing for dessert

PS this could be done in a baking dish in the oven at 180C for the same times…

Mussels with bacon, apple cider and cream… and introducing “Matty mis en place”

mussels with bacon, apple cider and cream
Just yesterday I was going to get some mussels and cook them up for dinner. Mussels with bacon, onion, cider and cream, I thought. I’ve really been feeling the mussel lately… wait, I believe even I should re-think the wording of that one…

Anyway, my mouth has been yearning for a dripping hot creamy mussel… dear good lord.

Seriously, I really shouldn’t be attempting to write any kind of story to goes with mussels for dinner. Shit, even that sounds like an all male review… I think I should just move fairly quickly to a recipe.

The thing I was going to say is that events came to pass that prevented the consumption of mussels that evening. My palate/face/head would be relegated to whatever leftovers may be hanging around in the fridge. Lucky for my face, held within the cooling grasp of the refrigerator was the remains of two cracking barbecues that were cooked on previous nights. Those leftovers consisted of smoky brisket, pork ribs, pork sausages, coleslaw, add to that a few chips that were purpose chopped and fried, and home made hot sauce and I do conclude that life does not suck.

After eating our dinner we watched a little River Cottage on the interweb, and it just happened to be a fish episode… and Hugh was cooking mussels… and those mussels were indeed cooked with bacon, spring onions, cider and cream. He was basically pointing at me and laughing in my face that I didn’t have mussels. Seriously, I’m pretty sure he gave me a little “suck shit” glance. He’s lucky I think he’s a bloody nice guy or I might have flicked him off in favour of Gray’s Anatomy, a nice hot chocolate and a couple of Iced VoVos.

Would I bollocks!

Anyway, Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is a nice guy and I cooked those fricking mussels for dinner tonight.

A worthy mention goes to my brother Matt, who prepared the mis en place. Matt now goes by the moniker of “Matty mis en place”.

Getting geared up for the mussel fest... and not one pair of ass-less chaps in sight
Getting geared up for the mussel fest… and not one pair of ass-less chaps in sight

In with he bacon, onion and garlic
In with he bacon, onion and garlic
Deglaze with the cider
Deglaze with the cider
Get the cream in there... and please stop with the gutter mouth innuendo
Get the cream in there… and please stop with the gutter mouth innuendo

Get the mussels into your face... I need to go now
Get the mussels into your face… I need to go now

MUSSELS with BACON, APPLE CIDER AND CREAM (serves six or more with sides)

2kg live mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed (a lot of mussels will come cleaned up and ready to go these days, which makes for a truly quick and easy dining experience… no reason why we can’t your dinner to match your performance in the bedroom now, is there?)
1 onion (whatever you have), diced
4 rashers bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
300ml apple cider… get a big bottle so there’s some left for you. Actually, just get a few now so you don’t need to drive up to the bottle shop later when you’ve decided another one or two might go well with dinner
300ml cream
‘A handful parsley, chopped
Grated pecorino
Pepper (you shouldn’t need salt because of the saltiness of the mussels and bacon. I hope this isn’t news to you because I have told you before. If this needs to keep happening we are not going to be able to remain friends)
15 minutes
Crusty baguette with aioli and green salad, to serve

• In a large pan that is clearly big enough to fit all of the mussels, you can heat some oil
• Sauté bacon onion and garlic until soft and fragrant
• Add cider and simmer for a minute or two
• Add mussels, cover and simmer for another 3-4 minutes
• Remove lid and gently stir through cream. Simmer for another 2 minutes or until all of the mussels are open (it is common for one or two, or even three or four, to hang on for a little longer than the rest. You can pry these open with a butter knife to get what’s yours)
• Season with a little pepper
• Sprinkle with parsley and a bit of pecorino if you feel the urge
• Serve with a little or a lot of other things

Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, Byron Bay

breakfast at the there blue ducks at the farm byron bay First, The Farm. The Farm is indeed a farm, albeit a farm that has done deportment classes and then returned in a brand new power suit that says without an inkling of wonder “I am here to make a fucking mark on this place”, and maybe just a little “touch me, you know you want to touch me”.

A sign so you don't get lost
A sign so you don’t get lost

There was and still is a lot of hype surrounding The Farm. I’m talking a serious amount of hype. Like, restaurants in this area open and close all of the time and there is a fucking shit load to choose from but never, and I mean never, have I seen this sort of hype for a restaurant… CSG get’s this sort of hype, yes, but a farm-slash-restaurant, no.

Next months breakfast... cute, but just not cute enough to avoid the plate
Next months breakfast… cute, but just not cute enough to avoid the plate

The short version of what I’ve heard goes something like this; Some one with some money they got from selling hand-bags bought a derelict old farm on the road into Byron Bay and turned said farm into a living breathing eco-mass of crops, chooks for egg production, pigs and cows for eating, cheese production, a restaurant that would not be serving bacon on it’s breakfast menu, a bakery, a florist and farm shop, permaculture things and some other stuff.

Walking in the country air is good for your health
Walking in the country air is good for your health

Hype or no hype, do what you will with the rumors and the stories and the unconfirmed sighting of the half goat half man who lives amongst the ginger crops, we went out to this place for breakfast, to eat the food and either confirm or deny the allegations that there was in fact no bacon to be sighted on the breakfast menu…

The breakfast menu. No bacon to be seen
The breakfast menu. No bacon to be seen

And then we went to breakfast at Three Blue Ducks @ The Farm.

We went in this door
We went in this door

The Three Blue Ducks are not actual blue ducks, they are in fact skin coloured people. These skin coloured people have packed their bags and headed up from their mother Sydney to bring their good, wholesome eating recipe to the chefs-dream setting of The Farm in Byron Bay and indeed brought with them a slick-assed restaurant operation and more enamel tableware then one could possibly poke even three sticks at.

The pork roll with 'slaw, hot sauce and fried egg on possibly the best burger bun I have ever tasted from The Bread Social ($16)
The pork roll with ‘slaw, hot sauce and fried egg on possibly the best burger bun I have ever tasted from The Bread Social ($16)

It felt very classy. This-can’t-be-what-a-real-farm-looks-like type classy, city styles classy, hip-happening-now type classy but still laid back and tranquil type classy… it’s hard to explain. The atmosphere and the feeling that the guy/gal who sold the handbags didn’t spare a cost when creating this dream of a spot where the sum of its parts definitely made it all a very worthy experience and, if the atmosphere and the dream was the entrée, then the food from The Three Blue Ducks was both the literal and metaphorical main course and by golly it did not disappoint.

The blood cake with apples, beets, lemon, herbs, fermented cabbage salad, fried egg and toast ($23)
The blood cake with apples, beets, lemon, herbs, fermented cabbage salad, fried egg and toast ($23)

Upon viewing the breakfast menu we did indeed discover it was sans bacon. We queried this as all of us present at the table this fine morning seemed to be born from that same stock of generations of bacon lovers, and by damn if we didn’t get a satisfactory explanation sharpish I could almost guarantee a riot… or at least some harsh words… ok, we’d just choose something else. We’re not that damn hard to please.

This congee was the dish of the day. Kimchi, kale, miso eggplant, sesame, yarrow, burnt shallot, seaweed and a boiled egg ($21). Everything we expected plus more. Damn tasty stuff
This congee was the dish of the day. Kimchi, kale, miso eggplant, sesame, yarrow, burnt shallot, seaweed and a boiled egg ($21). Everything we expected plus more. Damn tasty stuff

With nary time for a breath, the waiter quickly told us how they were more interested in sustainable farming practices (some what of a catch-cry) and using the whole pigs from the farm so, to avoid the surplus meat they would have if they served bacon at breakfast, our smoky cured porky friend took the bench and they subbed in a pulled pork fritter type thing. A really tasty pulled pork fritter type thing…

The Bread Social is another business operating out of The Farm, and another cracking operator to boot. Some of the best bread in the region for sure
The Bread Social is another business operating out of The Farm, and another cracking operator to boot. Some of the best bread in the region for sure

We had a great morning full of great friends enjoying a great setting, great coffee and a great breakfast, albeit a slightly exy one, with no bacon to be seen. Even though there may be a few glitches in the service and speed of delivery, it is their first week of operation and they are kicking goals all over place, so someone who likes to imagine things would imagine it could only get better and better. Also, they have defo missed the mark with a few of the price points, but if 24 bucks for 1 sausage, 1 egg, beans and one piece of toast is a little exy for your pocket, you can still go and enjoy a coffee and some damn nice scenery… and try a loaf of that cracking Bread Social bread!

It’s a try it for yourself, see it to believe it type scenario that you should get onto right now.

Hangover breakfast… and lunch

hangover lunch
It’s been a bit touch and go for the old Grazza McFilthy Mouth today.

The precursor to this story if I may…

Yesterday I was paid a visit by an old friend and fellow chef who, for the purpose of this anecdote, shall be known as Toodles (mostly because that is his name). We proceeded to dive face first into a heap of beer, adding authenticity and conviction to the age old adage “chef’s really should not drink together”.

Oh, we did indeed drink together. I even invited a few more fellow chefs to come and join us on the verandah as if that was going to douse the flames of our drunkenness a little. Alas it appeared they had not received that memo and indeed proceeded to attempt to quell the fire that was our drunkenness with what could’ve only be described as regular house hold diesel fuel AKA. Their own drunkenness.

That same inebriation made me smile at the time but I must confess today has been a bit of a struggle. I have not even been able to trust myself with what I would normally consider the more simple of my daily tasks. Holding a conversation, pulling together a coherent sentence, brushing my teeth and simple grade 2 mathematics were all just beyond my grasp today.

I got through it with the help of some food. A lot of food.

This is what I reckon…

The sardines in the bacon fat ruled
The sardines in the bacon fat ruled

There was heaps of other good shit too
There was heaps of other good shit too
So much of this went into my face
So much of this went into my face

Nom nom nom
Nom nom nom

Breakfast consisted of grilled bacon, sardines that had been marinated in rosemary, olive oil and a splash of vinegar and then grilled in the bacon fat, my nana Rose’s potato cakes, toad in the hole (out here that’s what we call the bread with the hole cut in it and then fried with an egg cracked in the hole), fresh tomato and herb salad and coffee. A heap of coffee…
Chips
Chips

Chips loaded with good things
Chips loaded with good things

Lunch was home made mixed potato chips covered with a layer of beef chilli that spent a couple of hours in the smoker last night, then some crumbled feta and a bit of grated honky dory fridge cheese (this is whatever gratable cheese you have in the fridge).
Out the the grill and into my belly
Out the the grill and into my belly

Under the grill (broiler) for a few minutes until golden brown and then anointed with jalapeño relish, natural yoghurt and sriracha hot sauce. Straight the heck into my face hole.
So damn good
So damn good

This really is the sort of food you can only truly appreciate like it deserves to be appreciated when you are feeling the wrath of the decisions your drunken self made the previous evening.

I make me good now.