Inspired by The Blue Ducks

This cookery book in the header photo is what inspired our visit to Byron Bay. My beloved had bought me this in Farrells Bookshop in Mornington Peninsula back in 2016 because he’d liked the look of the recipes, many of which I’ve since made. With the company’s 10th anniversary fast approaching, I thought I’d write about one of my favourite restaurant concepts.

Since the first Three Blue Ducks venue opened in Bronte in 2010, they’ve expanded to four, café-turned-restaurants across New South Wales and Brisbane, plus one to come in Melbourne, each boasting a strong focus on ethical produce served in a no-frills setting.

The concept of Three Blue Ducks was sparked from an idea between Mark LaBrooy, Chris Sorrell and Sam Reid-Boquist, who shared a love of surf, snow and good food. In 2010, after years of discussion, the three mates found the perfect location in Bronte right next door to where Jeff Bennett had recently opened a pizza shop.

It wasn’t long before Bennett became friends with the boys next door and soon the wall between his pizza shop and Three Blue Ducks was knocked down and the four were in business together. As the venue got busier, they recruited Darren Robertson, former head chef at Tetsuya’s, to help expand the menu and open for dinner.

The group went on to open Three Blue Ducks at The Farm Byron Bay in 2015 (pictured above) and then Rosebery in 2016, with MasterChef Australia 2012 winner Andy Allen coming on board as a co-owner. This year they also opened a restaurant at the W hotel in Brisbane (desserts from our meal pictured below) and another one in Melbourne will soon open.

The common thread woven throughout the venues is a commitment to ethical food and supporting small farmers and producers,  something which I really try to embrace by buying local produce and ingredients from farmers markets and shopping seasonally. The Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, an 80-acre food and farming hub at the entrance to Byron Bay, is their biggest and busiest venue, and the true embodiment of their sustainability philosophy, where most of the restaurant is outside, surrounded by farmland, eating food grown metres away.

Celebrating the community and environment are core beliefs of the Ducks family. Even the name has a local element to it, though perhaps not in the way you might assume. It’s not a nursery rhyme. Instead, it’s a shout out to Bondi Boardriders team ‘Blue Ducks’, and, surprisingly, a 50-year-old pick up line Sam and Chris used as early teens in Bronte. The boys would try to get a girl alone at the beach and steal a kiss from her by asking if she’d seen the blue ducks that lived in the gully. So it’s a bit of a cheeky name!

What’s next for the Duck family? While there’s nothing yet in the works, there’s definitely potential to continue growing the brand – perhaps even internationally. As for a specific location, the boys have just one criterion: there must be surf or snow nearby. That’s not a bad requirement, is it?

Friday Photo Challenge – future

I love these weekly challenges because it forces me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them.

The start of every morning, heralds the future and who knows what it might bring!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

How to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

Post a comment below and include a ‘Friendly Friday’ ping-back in your post, so others can find your entry.

  • Publish a new ‘Friendly Friday, post including a URL link to the host’s post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday’ Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments of the host’s post, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following the links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future prompts.

Please note there are no deadlines for any Friendly Friday Photo challenges.

Thursday doors #46

Would you believe it, I’m still featuring doors photographed on my last visit to Alassio, in Italy, which are all still from the same street!

We’re enjoying our first Thanksgiving on Long Island and I hope you’re all having a great time too with family and friends.






Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Stuff we ate and enjoyed on our #adventuredownunder

We always enjoy the food we eat in Australia whether that’s in restaurants, cafés or what we buy in the markets and shops. Going somewhere new gives us an opportunity to eat stuff not generally found in Europe. Here’s a few things that were new to both of us and which we particularly found interesting.

1. Moreton Bay Bugs

Let’s face it anything called “Bug” isn’t going to inspire, plus these are often the most expensive items on an Australian menu. Not everyone loves the cheeky name as much as the meat (marketers prefer the “official” term, bay lobsters). But Australians are notorious for their slang. Moreton Bay bugs (named after the bay near Brisbane) and their cousins, Balmain bugs, are crustaceans, not insects, and they’re much-beloved treats on ­Australia’s east coast.

Despite the bugs’ alien-like look – broad heads, flattened antennae, and no claws – they’re an Aussie delicacy. Most of the meat is in the bug’s tail, so a lengthwise slit down the centre is the fastest way to get at it after grilling, the most popular preparation.

We enjoyed them as part of a massive seafood buffet in a hotel alongside Brisbane’s beautiful river. Amusingly, we arrived with only an hour’s buffet time remaining so the waitress charged us half-price! Luckily she didn’t see how many of the Moreton Bay Bugs and oysters we ate! Easily our best value meal of the entire vacation. We may not like the name but we’re converts. The meat is sweeter and softer than lobster and you know how much I love that crustacean!

2. Jewfish

Instinctively, this feels politically incorrect and that’s maybe why it’s often called a King Fish or Mulloway in other parts of Australia. My beloved ate this as the “Fish of the Day” again at a riverside restaurant in Brisbane. Served as a fillet, the fish had firm, white, large-flake flesh and was very moist after having been grilled (skin on).

3. Coral Sea Trout

My beloved ate this fish a couple of times in Airlie Beach and Port Douglas. Its flesh is faintly coral coloured but it tastes nothing like a European sea trout. It has firm, moist, pearly flesh with a delicate sweet flavour and both times my beloved ate it as grilled (skin on) fillets with a buttery sauce.

4. Jackfruit

The jackfruit is part of the same family as figs and mulberries. Its native range is unknown but most sources place it from the area between southern India and Borneo’s rain forests. As you can see from the picture above, the fruit itself is huge; reaching as much as 55 kg (120 lb) in weight, 90 cm (35 in) in length, and 50 cm (20 in) in diameter. A mature jack tree can produce about 100–200 fruits in a year. The jackfruit is composed of hundreds to thousands of individual flowers, and the fleshy petals of the unripe fruit are eaten. The immature fruit (unripe, commercially labeled as young jackfruit) has a mild taste and meat-like texture that lends itself to being a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. The ripe fruit can be much sweeter (depending on variety) and is more often used for desserts.

I’ve never seen it on menus in France and ate it twice in Australia as a substitute for “pulled-pork.” It definitely has a similar texture but it’s pretty tasteless. Instead it takes on the flavour of whatever sauce it’s served with, which in both cases was a spicy, BBQ sauce. It made an interesting change from the usual vegan burger and I’ll certainly look out for some here. I might be able to buy it from one of the Asian supermarkets. if not, there’s always Amazon.

5. Hapuka

Cooked, this fish is not dissmilar to a striped bass. It has a wonderful big flake with a cream like finish. Hapuka can grow very large in size. Typically smaller Hapuka offer sweeter fillets, which are often steaked for the BBQ. The fillets are especially delicious cooked with the skin on. However, the parts of a Hapuka that are prized by those in the know, are the bellies, throats, wings, and cheeks.

6. Plant-based Burger

Returning to vegan burgers, at Grill’d in Townsville (a burger franchise) I ate a “Beyond Burger” which is a plant-based one free from soy, gluten and GMOs. It was okay but it tasted like a cheap “meat” burger. To be honest, I’d have much preferred a vegan one made from legumes and vegetables, but again it made a nice change.

History of Wolgan Valley

Our trip to Wolgan Valley was in many ways the highlight of our extended vacation in Australia and I found its history and development to be very interesting, after all Australia is home to one of the oldest living cultures in the world. The first Australians, the Aboriginal people, came long before the pyramids were built or paintings were drawn in the caves at Lascaux. Evidence of their existence dates back some 40,000 years with ancient artefacts and stone tools unearthed in Wolgan Valley.

The Indigenous people of Australia have a very respectful and nurturing attitude to the land, and their relationship with nature is a close one:

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn to grow, to love……..and then we return home.

Today, the territory is shared by four Aboriginal nations; although it is thought that the Wiradjuri are most likely to have been predominant down the ages. The name Wolgan Valley is derived from the Aboriginal word ‘wolga’ used for the vine commonly known as Old Man’s Beard, found throughout the region.

Just looking around, it’s clear why the area is important in terms of conservation. Staggering natural rock formations and vast Eucalypt forests, huge expanses of grassy plains and deep lush valleys provide a rich variety of habitats for a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Now, let’s head back in time to the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 which was followed by the early development of the nearby Lithgow area. Although the Great Dividing Range was thought to be impassable, the latter part of 18th century saw many attempts to cross it. In 1797 former convict John Wilson made an unsubstantiated claim to have succeeded by way of Cox’s river corridor.

It wasn’t until 1813 that a trio named Blaxland, Leeson and Wentworth made the first official crossing into the region, thus opening up its potential for pastoral development. Governor Macquarie ceded 1,000 acres to each of them. He also commissioned a road in 1814 which lead to Bathurst and, shortly thereafter, another road linking Bathurst to Wallerawang, a growing township to the east. These and others followed to facilitate a new mining industry, as the Blue Mountains are rich in coal and shale. These industries grew throughout 19th century but ultimately they failed with advent of petroleum and its by-products.

Towards the end of the century, rail links were underway to link the Blue Mountains to Sydney via the Great Western Railway. In 1866 pioneering plans for a Great Zig Zag from Clarence to Wallerawang began in earnest to accommodate extreme ascents and descents. Construction included seven stone viaducts, three tunnels and nearly one and a quarter million cubic yards of excavation – that’s a lot of rock!

By the late 1890s, demand exceeded the railway’s capabilities and in 1907 work commenced on 10 tunnel deviations crossing underneath the Zig Zag line. As one might imagine, rail made a huge contribution to the area’s development.

Wolgan Valley’s settlement history can be traced through just two families, both of whom were intrinsically linked to the area; the Walkers and the Webbs. It was William Walker who received the original land grant for farming sheep and built the farmhouse still located on the property today. Named the 1832 Heritage Homestead after the year it was built from materials found on site with the rest of the building completed over the next 30 decades.

In 1836, Charles Darwin visited the Homestead during his trip to Australia while staying as a guest of the Walker family at their nearby Wallerawang Estate. So taken was he by the sheer rock formations and scope of the land, the naturalist’s great-great-grandson, who makes his home in the region, suggests that Darwin’s revolutionary theory first took shape not in the Galapagos but in the primeval Blue Mountains.

The Webbs initially leased the property in 1929 seeking grass for cattle and built a slaughterhouse for their butchery business. But in 1935 they bought the property and members of the family stayed there until 2006.

Life for the settlers must have been hard in the early years and families relied upon hard work and horsepower for the bulk of the work. The nearby river provided clean water and a substantial kitchen garden allowed the family to be self-sufficient.

There was initially no power to the homestead but there were numerous improvements over the years including the addition of a drawing room, veranda and stone chimney breast. When corrugated iron was introduced in 1850 it was laid over the original boxwood shingles. Today old farming equipment dotted around the resort stands as testament to each stage of the varied industrial, agricultural and pastoral history of the old outstation.

When Emirates took over site in 2006 it committed to restoring the homestead to its original state and now the 1832 Homestead highlights the Aboriginal, settler and agricultural history of the Wolgan Valley, giving guests a glimpse into the lives and conditions faced by them.

The Homestead’s accompanying garden was also re‐established in precisely the same location and format as the original. Thriving today and bigger and better, these organic gardens supply the resort’s kitchen with an array of seasonal and organic vegetables, fruits and herbs throughout the year.

The Homestead has been further celebrated with its own gin, which is offered as part of the hotel’s welcome cocktail when you arrive. Neither my beloved or I are gin fans but this was delicious. And every establishment should have a “House Cocktail” – we do!

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #19

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while walking through the woods around our Domaine.

 

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Sunshine Blogger Award X and XI

WARNING – Once again, I’ve combined a couple of nominations so this’ll be another long post.

I was nominated by the beautiful Ilona, who like me likes on the Cote d’Azur, and now blogs over at Cicco Photo, where she aims to spread positivity and good vibes to all of us.

I would also like to thank the writer James A Best for his kind nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

If you don’t already subscribe to either of these excellent bloggers, head on over to their blogs and please give them a follow.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Let’s just remind ourselves about the award which is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

Ilona’s Questions

1. What inspires you to wake up every morning?

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

2. What is your purpose for your blog?

I could say that it’s an outlet for my creativity but that would be a lie. I blog because I can.

3. Do you like to take walks or jog?

I prefer a brisk walk to jogging though, in truth, I’m such a slow jogger that there’s little difference in speed between the two.

4. What is the most important thing to you when it comes to family?

You’re asking a woman who only has two living relatives? I hope both my sisters stick around for as long as possible.

5. Have you ever taken a trip and got stuck there because of the bad weather?

Been stuck at both JFK in New York and Heathrow in London, neither of which have much to recommend them.

6. Does it snow where you live?

We’ve had snow here but it doesn’t last more than 24 hours. Fortunately I live near the southern Alps where it does snow and I can go both alpine and cross-country skiing.

7. What makes you want to keep writing?

I enjoy the discipline and I love taking photos to illustrate my blogs.

8. Do you like to ride horses? If so, have you?

Yes, I rode horses for many years but not so much recently. I prefer riding my bike.

9. What is your favourite type of birds?

I love the noisy birds in Australia.

10. What month were you born?

January

11. What is your favourite place to eat pasta?

At home or in Italy.

James’ Questions

1. What is your favorite ice cream?

Vegan coffee

2. What is your favorite type of salad?

I love salad, particularly ones like these.

3. Have you ever eaten Buffalo meat?

No, but then I am vegan.

4. Do you enjoy gardening?

No, I have digits of doom rather than green fingers.

5. What type of music is playing in your home all the time?

I don’t play music all the time, I like peace and quiet.

6. What makes you smile?

I’m always smiling because I’m always happy.

7. What is your go to book to read and relax?

Any cookery book.

8. Would you rather live in the country or a city?

A city every time.

9. Do you or have you ever done any skiing?

I’ve done alpine skiing, snow boarding, ski-touring and cross-country skiing.

10. What is your favorite genre of movies and why?

Cartoons because they’re amusing and light-hearted.

11. Do you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

I don’t know, I never looked.

My Nominees

Anyone who wants to run with this! Please be my guest.

Award Rules

Which I routinely ignore!

  • Thank the Blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • List the rules and display an award logo on your blog post.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate new blogs to receive the award and notify them by commenting on any of their blog posts.
  • Ask the nominees 11 questions.

The Musette: chocolate cake

A bit like little black dresses, a girl can never have too many recipes for chocolate cake in her armoury. I recently read about an Italian chocolate cake made with a particular red wine and decided I just had to recreate it, albeit with a twist. Mine was made with Rioja so I suppose that would make it Spanish!

I often find chocolate cakes that use cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate can be a bit dry but this time I reckoned the wine would counter the issue – and I was correct in my assumption. This is a lovely moist cake that, at a pinch, could be served warm as a dessert with either ice cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Red wine and chocolate - what's not to like? (image: Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 96 fingers)

  • 300g (2 cups) sugar (use any type)
  • 200g (1⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 75g (¾ cup) cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 large organic eggs beaten, approx 45g each (1⅔oz) without their shells
  • 250ml (1 cup) buttermilk  or milk with a tsp of vinegar or lemon juice
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry red wine
  • 125ml (½ cup) light-flavoured olive (vegetable) oil

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Grease a baking tin. I typically use a disposable tin-foil loaf tin 13cm x 23cm x 7cm (5” x 9” x 3”). They’re easier for storing the cakes in the freezer, which I line with a couple of strips of greaseproof paper to make it easier to remove the cake. This amount fills three cake tins.

3. Sift and combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), coffee and salt into a bowl, add the sugar and stir with a fork to combine well.

4. In another bowl, mix the beaten egg with olive oil, wine, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry, fold gently with a spatula to combine, ensuring there are no remaining pockets of flour. The mixture will be quite runny.

6. Pour the mixture into the three baking pans, put them into the middle of the oven on a baking tray and cook for 30-35 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the dimensions of your baking tins and your oven, so check regularly. The cakes are ready when a toothpick inserted into their centre comes out clean.

7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and eating, or freezing for no longer than two months. The cakes will keep for a week in an airtight container providing I hide them from my husband.

A deliciously moist cake (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the cakes in the oven, put the timer on for 5-10 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. If you think the cakes are browning at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.

4. You can substitute the olive oil for another mild or unflavoured vegetable oil.

5. I don’t think the type of wine matters too much, just so long as it’s both red and dry.

6. I cut each cake into 32 fingers – in total 96 finger sized portions to feed a lot of cyclists!

Friday Photo Challenge – construction

I love these weekly challenges because it forces me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them.

Today’s theme is a definite challenge! But I’ve been rescued by building projects in Dubai, Sydney and the Gherkin.

Another skyscraper in Sydney
New museum
My building!
No(u)vel roof construction

 

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

How to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

Post a comment below and include a ‘Friendly Friday’ ping-back in your post, so others can find your entry.

  • Publish a new ‘Friendly Friday, post including a URL link to the host’s post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday’ Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments of the host’s post, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following the links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future prompts.

Please note there are no deadlines for any Friendly Friday Photo challenges.

Thursday doors #45

Today I’m featuring doors photographed on my last visit to Alassio, in Italy, which are all from the same street!







Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).