Jacqui and Jim Steele believe that happy chooks lay the best eggs, and the Isa Browns behind their business Egganic are living, laying proof of this.
From their 16-hectare farm at Forest Reefs in Central Western NSW, the Steele’s run about 2500 truly free-range chooks. They lay and roost in custom-made mobile chook sheds and roam and scratch freely, just like chooks should. And all of this takes place under the watchful eyes of the Steele’s Maremma guard dogs.
At the moment, team Egganic is laying about an egg a day each, so the Steele’s are kept busy collecting, grading and packing thousands of eggs every week. Then on thursdays they load the truck, leave the farm under the care of a regular helper and head off to fill orders around the Central West and Sydney before setting up for a weekend farmers markets in the city.
Jacqui and Jim were one of the first stallholders at Eveleigh markets in 2009. Because it’s a weekly market, they were able to build a loyal and supportive network of customers who would come back every week for these beautiful eggs. And if you’ve ever had the good fortune to try one of Alex Herbert’s Bird Cow Fish Croque Madame’s at Eveleigh, you’ll know that a big part of their goodness comes from those beautiful yellow-yoked Egganic eggs!
Being way too fond of custards, curds and the like – I can always find plenty of good uses for egg yolks in this house. But it’s the whites that sometimes find themselves loitering in the fridge.
And while I’m sure they are very good for you, the idea of an egg white omelette doesn’t really float my boat, so instead I turn to more indulgent options such as these dense, chewy, delicious macaroons (not to be confused with their slightly more trendy counterparts macarons).
Of course meringues and pavlovas are also obvious and good ways to use up extra egg whites and there are plenty more ideas in this vein over here on David Lebovitz’ s excellent blog and you could also try these Italian almond biscuits.
But back to my macaroons…This is a great recipe to make with kids as all that’s needed is a little stirring and scooping. Plus, they keep nicely for up to a week.
Coconut and apricot jam macaroons
This recipe is very closely based on one found in the excellent book Leon, Baking & Puddings. It makes about 24 biscuits.
6 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
a pinch of salt
4 tbsp honey
2 cups dessicated coconut
1 tsp vanilla paste
Heat oven to 150C and line two baking trays with paper. Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, honey and coconut in a large pan on medium. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture has dissolved into itself, dries out a bit and just begins to turn brown on the bottom.
Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and let mixture cool completely. Scoop out into golf-ball sized balls on the baking trays. Press down in the middle of each one to make a little indent, fill this with apricot jam then bake for 15 minutes or until the macaroons are golden.
The morning I visited Egganic, Jacqui, she’d just pulled this number (pictured above) out of the oven for her and Jim to enjoy for lunch. It looked and smelled just amazing. Serves 6.
8 free range eggs
2 tbsp cream
2 cups vegetables (in this case, cooked sweet potato cubes, sliced zucchini and fresh cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup dill leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease an oven-proof dish. Whisk together the eggs and cream and season to taste. Pour into the prepared dish, add the vegetables and herbs and scatter with the parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.
Baked bacon, egg and pesto
Bacon and egg rolls must be one of the most popular breakfast items ever. At every farmers market we do, the queue for said rolls is always far longer than any other and for good reason; there’s nothing quite like the combination of soft eggs with quivering golden yolks and crunchy salty bacon. But there’s also nothing quite like the mess that can arise in your kitchen when making them in any quantity at home.
Enter the baked bacon and egg roll. And while I know this is no new creation, it’s so good and so easy, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to share again here. Just whack the oven on, line a muffin tin with bacon or pancetta, break an egg into each, season and add any other flavourings you like then bake until done. Stuff in a roll, on toast or eat plain with a roasted tomato or two. My kids also like these in their school lunchboxes. Perfect, mess free and delicious.
12 slices bacon or pancetta
12 beautiful free range eggs
Salt and pepper
12 tbsp pesto
Preheat oven to 180C and line a 12-hole, one cup capacity muffin tin with the bacon or pancetta. Crack an egg into each, season well and spoon in the pesto.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the egg is cooked to your liking then serve with a soft roll, toasted sourdough or a breakfast-y salad of rocket and roast tomato.