Braised beef cheeks in drinkable red wine


At one time in the past I was of the opinion that the wine I used for cooking would not be the wine I would consume myself. In fact, the wine I used for cooking would be bottom shelf, cheap as, nasty assed goon*.

My opinions on more than one thing have changed in the last 20 years.

My opinion on the type of wine I should be cooking with was certainly not passed over by the opinion audit.

Now I am of the opinion that the wine you would like to cook with is also a wine that you would like to drink in your face. Maybe not necessarily that bottle you’ve been saving for your 50 year wedding anniversary, and certainly not a bottle you might drink at a teenage wedding or possibly a college art exhibition opening, but more of a “had a couple of drinks already and now I’m gonna pull you out of the cupboard and drink you all up” type bottle.

So that is the wine I have used to braised these beef cheeks for you right here today.

I have had the pleasure of using the fire to cook my dinner, but you can certainly use a pot on the stove top for yours.

The start of something good

Get a bit of colour on those cheeky cheeks
Add some sautéed mushrooms
Get it on a wooden camp table and serve some drinkable red wine in a mug to go with

BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS IN DRINKABLE RED WINE

(Serves 4)

1 kg beef cheeks, each cut into 3 pieces (a nice butcher will do this for you. A mean butcher will spit in your eye and then tell you to piss off)
100 g pancetta, sliced
1 onion, chopped roughly
3 carrots, cut into 5 or 6 pieces each – keep it chunky, keep it real
8 large cloves garlic, left whole and charred slightly on the coals (or raw chopped garlic will do just fine)
1 long red chilli, sliced
1 bottle of red wine
1x 400g tin diced tomatoes
500 ml beef stock or water
500 g button mushrooms, cut in halves or quarters depending on size
Salt and pepper

Heat a splash of oil in a heavy based pot or cast-iron camp oven over a medium-high heat. Add pancetta, onion, carrots, garlic and chilli, and sauté until starting to brown a little.
Add beef cheeks and season with a little salt and pepper. Sauté beef cheeks for 10 or so minutes until they are browned and tasty bits are starting to grip a little on the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the wine, tomatoes and water, and stir to get all of the good bits off of the bottom of the pot and into the gravy.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so.
(While the beef cheek simmering is going on you can sauté your mushroom in a little oil and butter until they are browned. Set aside)
After 3 hours add the mushrooms to the pot and stir through.
Cover and simmer for one more hour.
Check that the beef cheeks are tender – they should be ready to be cut with a spoon by now. If not, simmer for another 15 minutes or until soft, adding a splash of water if the gravy starts to thicken up too much.
Serve with mashed potatoes, jacket potatoes or potato bake and green beans if you have some.
Eat it.

Damn well delicious

*Goon. Aust slang. Cheap arsed boxed wine. A wine one might drink in their teenage / university days.

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…

Il Carretto Mobile Wood Fired Pizza, Bexhill

IMG_9259
It would not be a lie to say I like a good pizza. In fact I would often be said to enjoy the company of a good pizza more than I would enjoy the company of a slightly carbonated, hopsy, alcoholic beverage. Of course, if I can get them both in the same room at the same time, that is a ménage a trois I’m going to be damn happy to be a part of…

It is also not a lie to say that I currently reside in the evergreen Northern Rivers of New South Wales.

It would also be true to say that many of you may now be querying if I am going to make a point any time soon.

Well that, my friends, is a fair query to be sure, as it is well within my skill-set to beat about the bush, proverbial or otherwise, for an amount of time that could easily be described as excessive until I finally hit you with some kind of point.

OK.

This is a story about Il Carretto mobile wood fired pizza. I choose to start the story… now.

Il Carretto is a mobile wood fired pizza joint (for the slightly simple among us who may not have picked that up from the previous sentence), based in Bexhill, in the back side of Byron Bay (not literally in Byron Bay’s ass as that would just be uncomfortable, but located in the hills behind the bay and a little to the south).

Every week they do a pizza night at Clunes on Thursday and Bexhill on Friday, and then do private functions on their nights off… which would actually mean that many of their nights off would be work nights too, but that’s how it rolls in hospitality.

Andrea stoking away... or whatever it is a chief pizza maker does
Andrea stoking away… or whatever it is a chief pizza maker does

The business is run by Andrea and Emily Bonotto and they are a very nice local couple indeed. Andrea is the pizza maker and with a name like that this man was clearly born to make pizza. His mumma would’ve sent him straight from the womb to the kneading bench where he would go forth and create his first glorious pizza. The disciples would’ve been fed, and fed damn well at that, and they would’ve thanked this child and wished him well in his journey of pizza glory… and on the flipside, if this pizza thing didn’t work out for him he would’ve made a great lumberjack… with a sexy Italian accent. Emily is just an all round nice bird and generally the one who will take your order at the pizza night. That’s nice, isn’t it?

The pizzas range in price from $10-19, they are always made with love on a sour dough base and have minimal toppings just the way I like them. This affordability coupled with their close proximity to my home, has resulted in my sampling of many of Il Carretto’s wares.

This is the menu
This is the menu

This time I had the “Caponata” with spicy salami. I asked for something with chilli and this thing had a kick. Too often you want a bit of kick but your pizza will leave you disappointed like watching a one legged soccer match… no kick at all. I wanted kick in my pizza and it was there, and the capsicum paste did all sorts of things to me that made my face happy also.
The "Caponata" with spicy salami
The “Caponata” with spicy salami

Others I have tried include the “Crudo”, “Zucca” and “Spagnola”. All have names that sound like nothing more than goobledigook to me, but all were damn tasty none-the-less.
This is the "Margherita"
This is the “Margherita”

The kids went for their usual; a “Margherita” for Seba and a “Hawaiian” for Obi… or vise versa. Almost as cheap a fricking happy meal at Micky D’s and fuck times tastier!
And this is the "Hawaiian"
And this is the “Hawaiian”

The child friendly atmosphere is a bit of a bonus for us with spawn, or a really shitty atmosphere if you are looking for a dimly lit corner to romance a loved one (maybe in the corner behind that stack of chairs and trestle tables?). But a bonus for us for sure.

Oh, and there’s always a couple of specials too. But get in early, even if you phone your order in, as late comers are often relegated to the local Domino’s. Suuuuuckers.

Foam Cafe, Lennox Head, NSW

foam cafe lennox head I woke to a crisp morning air, but soon enough the sharpness of the early morning air was contrasted, thick with the aromas of shitty coffee and burnt toast. The smell did not stem from our kitchen but it was there… in the air… filling my nasal passage. The decision to get the hell outta dodge for breakfast was a foregone conclusion. We headed east, toward the Pacific Ocean, and luckily we found ourselves an eatery before we were submersed in said ocean. The eatery was called Foam. Yeah, Foam. Just when I thought it was a word used to describe the bubbly stuff they pump onto half naked uni students on Foam Party night at the local club, they go and use the same word to name a café. Genius! So we step into Foam and our first impressions are good… really good. The place is clean and oozing north coast beachside chic. The cleanliness was enough to get me going and the north coast beachside chic just helped us to realise where we were; on the north coast in a café near the beach.

The breakfast menu looks exactly like this
The breakfast menu looks exactly like this

We are greeted by a super friendly waitress who gets us a table, brings us menus, takes our drink order and has a smile on her face the whole fucking time. Like, a real smile, not one of those smiles that look like you’re forcing it for your year five class photo or, even worse, one of those smile that doesn’t even pass as looking like you’re forcing a smile but instead looks like you might be forcing a poo.

Now that is a damn fine looking coffee
Now that is a damn fine looking coffee

The goodness continued when our coffees arrived, delivered by another genuinely happy person but this time in male form. The Allpress coffee was delicious. It is very quickly becoming one of my favourites, even though it doesn’t tick the box marked “local”, it is just a damn fine product and at the hands of these folks it was allowed to reach it’s full potential.

Seba waiting for me to get some black pud into his breaky burger
Seba waiting for me to get some black pud into his breaky burger

More goodness continued in the form of our breakfast. The boys are becoming as predictable as the office tart at the staff Christmas party, with their choices of the bacon and egg rolls made within the first few seconds of perusing the menu. They were damn fine breaky rolls too, except for the store bought BBQ sauce… I want a little home made relish or chutney in a 10 buck breaky roll.

My quesadilla
My quesadilla

Jennee had a roast pumpkin something with grilled haloumi, poached eggs, toast and half a field of baby spinach. I didn’t pay a heap of attention to it, apart from the acre of spinach, but Jennee said it was damn tasty and she looked authentically happy, so that was good enough for me.

It looks a bit of a rabble, but it was damn tasty
It looks a bit of a rabble, but it was damn tasty

I ordered the caramelized onion quesadilla with a side of black pudding (I shouldn’t have bothered as most of it was scoffed by the younglings), which also came anointed with the canopy of a tropical rainforest. Once I had hacked my way through the foliage though, it revealed a tasty breakfast. It’s not that I don’t like my greens, I just think that shit needs to be manicured, much like the “other bush” which we shall not be discussing today. Maybe the thick layer of greenery was a form of insulation to keep the meal warm? Anyway, the quesadilla was damn tasty, oozing it’s cheesey-caramelised onion filling all over my plate… and beard if I am to be totally honest. The eggs were cooked perfectly, the chorizo was awesome (I heard it might be home made) and the little saucy number that adorned the dish was just what it needed to complete the package. Magic.

… and a short trek to Lake Ainsworth
… and a short trek to Lake Ainsworth

My belly was full, my caffine-o-meter was at med-high and my face was smiling. A quick dip in Lennox Head’s imfamous Lake Ainsworth AKA the Ti Tree Lake and it was back home to see if the burnt toast smell had dissipated yet… You can find the Foam facey page right here.

Carlos and Co. Port Macquarie, NSW

The spread. We all know how much of a fan I am of a good spread
The spread. We all know how much of a fan I am of a good spread

Driving into Port Macquarie by road you could be excused for thinking it is Byron Bay on some really heavy steroids. If you arrive at Port Macquarie by sea you may be excused for not really giving a fuck what it looks like and get your ass to the nearest reputable house of the ladies of the night… it’s been a long time between drinks, I’m sure.

I expected the place to be quite small. I had preconceived visions of a seaside town with a few resorts and possibly a nice little café where we could sit a have a coffee and maybe read the paper while our children invaded (yes, invaded) the park opposite. In fact Port Macquarie is more like Byron Bay on performance enhancing drugs; hotels, resorts, caravan parks, cafes, restaurants and also hotels that moonlight as resorts and caravan parks and also house a small restaurant and café strip.

The road layout seem to have been penned in the sixties by a town planner who was clearly taking a lot of acid, or possibly someone who thought it would be funny to make a life sized maze and secretly film all of the tourists trying to make the way into/out of town but always ending their journey at the same cul-de-sac – home to three cafes, a restaurant, a caravan park/resort/massage parlor and a beagle named Colin. Unless of course (humour me here), all of the cafe fronts and hotel foyers are painted on, merely a façade, and we missed the sign on the way in that informed us that the town is actually a giant crazy maze… and we didn’t even pay our entry fee. Damn, I like to entertain some pretty damn preposterous conspiracy theories.

The best I can figure is this place has got it’s steroids from the city crew, with Northern Sydney being less than four hours drive to the south, shipping in loads of steroids in the form of their tourist dollars so this town/city may grow wider and taller, and they have transplanted the means to appease their seaside holiday addiction in the form of the big resorts and café strips… a little city chic, but this place still maintains a sense of coastal country with it’s magic beaches, breathtaking scenery and thongs and board shorts vibe.

Hip as fuck
Hip as fuck

There is a plethora of trendy, paleo-friendly, local produce using breakfast joints in this town, but for us the shining light of the local a.m. food scene was Carlos and Co. South American street food.

The menu from which one may choose the dishes one would like to eat
The menu from which one may choose the dishes one would like to eat

We ventured into the hip little joint and I ordered a coffee. A long black  be precise. The first was a blend, followed by another, followed by a single origin number at the request of the barista, each as marvelous as the last. Perfectly poured Peak coffee tickled the back of my throat with a hint of chocolatey goodness and just enough coffee kick with out being bitter or burnt. Carlos and Co. was so close to getting 10/10 in the start-to-the-day stakes, but I thought it inappropriate to ask for the reach around needed to achieve this perfect score… and besides, we hadn’t even received our food yet…

dhfsgfi
Shredded beef and huervos arepas

The menu was concise and to the point, much like what you would expect of street food vendors South America even with your exactly nil first hand knowledge, so I treated the menu with the same lust and revere I would treat any South American street vendor’s menu with (again, with nil first hand experience) and ordered as much of this tasty soundy meaty goodness as I thought we would be able to eat. The Breaky Burrito (9.5), French Toast with Maple Bacon (9.5), Shredded Beef and Huevos Arepas (12.5) and Breakfast Carne (13.5). I kid you not, everything was delicious. The fried tortilla with the shredded beef was a little chewy, but still delicious. This breakfast had me almost convulsing in my chair, like I was on an imaginary boat on the high seas or possibly suffering a mild stroke. But it was the former that best describes the fit of unrestrained gratification I was experiencing right now.

A special mention needs to be given to this french toast. Truly kick ass. But the again, so was everything else that hit the table
A special mention needs to be given to this french toast. Truly kick ass. But the again, so was everything else that hit the table

It was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. Even the boys loved every chilli-spiked morsel (they have a great range of chilli condiments to perk up your taste buds if the coffee isn’t enough… and we all know I am a huge fan of condiments) and their mango frappes, wandering into the kitchen at the end of the meal to personally thank the chef.

Great work Carlos and Co. Great work indeed.

Wooli day 7… Corn Fritter Waffles

Corny breakfast goodness
Corny breakfast goodness

If you have been paying attention to my posts over the last week and not just skim read (Oh yes that’s for you Laura. Book indeed), you would certainly be able to detect a trend in subject matter. Yes you clever heads, the boys and I are in Wooli.

A small fishing village on the north coast of NSW, Wooli is famed for it’s oysters, beautiful scenery and lack of connection with the civilized world. If I can find these things in a holiday destination I am a very happy man as it is a welcome break from the ever-tumultuous life of a chef in the Byron area.

As all good things must come to an end, so must our time in Wooli. It has been real Wooli, it really has.

One more thing before I go, though. I did come here with the intention of cooking corn fritters in the waffle maker, which was packed by Jennee bless her cotton socks, and you best believe my intentions were realised in the form of corn fritter waffle things.

The fritter batter was cooked as per waffles in a waffle maker instead of frying in a pan. Try it out if you’ve got the means…

Waffle that shit up!
Waffle that shit up!
Still waffling
Still waffling
Pile it up on the table for the hordes to dig in
Pile it up on the table for the hordes to dig in
Corn waffles with bacon, avocado and Phil's home made HP sauce
Corn waffles with bacon, avocado and Phil’s home made HP sauce
With the paper and a coffee. My life is complete
With the paper and a coffee. My life is complete

CORN FRITTERS or quinoa and corn fritters if you want (for 4)

To make quinoa and corn fritters simply replace 2 cups of corn kernels with 2 cups of cooked quinoa. It works an effing treat. Even if you think you are not a health freak, you should embrace this ancient super food now. The Incas did and look at them – they made calendars and shit… or was that the Mayans… I’m sure they all loved quinoa whatever the case.

1lt fresh corn kernels, from 5-ish cobs of corn
½ bunch spring onions or ½ red onion, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chop
½ bunch coriander, chopped
1 ¼ cups self raising flour
1 cup or so coconut cream
4 eggs, let’s make them big and free range
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Seasoning

• Mix all dry ingredients together
• In a separate bowl combine all wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
• Pour wet ingredient into dry and mix to combine. The mix should be a bit firmer than pancake batter but a littleness firm than your rock hard abs
• Form fritters with a large spoon and fry in a little oil over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes each side. You can make fritters as big or as small as you like them. Also, if you are cooking for more than a family, fry the fritters in batches until golden and then transfer to 180C oven to finish while you cook the rest. The all you need to do is transfer to the table with a pile of bacon, some avocado, fresh rocket or spinach and HP sauce or capsicum chilli jam
• And don’t think the breakfast table has sole rights to these little puppies, no no no. It’s not the effing Super Bowl, people. These fritters will happily find a place at your lunch or dinner table no worries at all