So very Footscray

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Cafe D’Afrique, 137 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 9411

Consider The Sauce was once a regular – a few years back – at Cafe D’Afrique.

But for coffee only.

It was excellent coffee at an equally excellent price.

But I never got a handle on the food situation.

Sometimes there seemed to activity in the kitchen, sometimes not.

Sometimes some customers were eating, more often – IIRC – no one was.

Certainly, there was no menu or blackboard.

So I gave it up, and even moved on from coffee visits as work and other activities had me looking elsewhere.

 

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But today, having completed a few chores nearby, I spy at least half the 20 or so customers chowing down.

“This is ridiculous,” thinks I. “There’s food here – and I want to try it”

So I initiate a to-and-fro discussion with genial gent I take to be the owner.

“Beans,” says he.

This would be the foul I see being happily consumed by several customers.

“Anything else?”

“Meat …”

“How much?”

“$10.”

“OK.”

Ordering done, I take a seat at a back table and wait.

But not for long.

 

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I’m very happy with my lunch.

The salad is typically African – fresh, zingy and powdered with pepper.

The lentils are mush, mild and nice.

The lamb is fantastic – lean, pan-fried, free of fat and gristle, seasoned with something that could be just plain curry powder but definitely includes turmeric.

It’s a beaut, light, tasty and satisfying lunch.

 

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An ultra-low coffee price means nothing if the brew isn’t good.

Still, I’m stunned to discover the admission price for my cafe late is STILL $2.50 – same as it was several years ago.

Best of all, my coffee is utterly excellent.

I’m told the name of the Sudanese dish I’ve just enjoyed is cheya. From what I can gather from Mr Google, this means something like “fried meat”.

As I depart, I see a recently arrived customer served what appears to be tibs and injera, so there’s more going on here than the absence of a menu might seem to indicate.

But you do need to ask.

Personally, I enjoy this sort of scenario – it requires enjoyable engagement that can be missed by merely pointing at a menu entry.

It feels good to be fed and back on familiar terms with such a righteous Footscray fixture.

 

Café D'Afrique on Urbanspoon

 

 

 

 

 

EAHA/Kokeb/CTS party – the wrap

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EAHA/Kokeb/CTS fund-raising party for Eritrean kids, Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22.

 

It was an evening to raise funds to support the work of Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid.

It was held at Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe in Footscray.

It was beaut!

Thanks go to many people …

 

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Thanks to everyone who supported the event through their credit cards and their presence.

Thanks to the Kokeb family – Helen, Melaku, Naeb … and, most particularly, thanks to Demet, who spent the whole day cooking the wonderful food we enjoyed so much!

 

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Thanks to Louise and Noray from EAHA for telling us about Eritrea and the group’s work.

Thanks to the rest of EAHA gang – Wafa, Namarek, Aziza and Amira – for providing smiles, great ginger-infused Eritrean coffee and popcorn, dates and sweet cake hombasha to go with it.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for his as-always fantastic pics. He really saved me. Maybe it’s time to face reality – that hosting these events AND taking good blog pics is too much of a stretch!

Thanks to Matt from Westgate Party Hire for providing the serving platters free of charge.

 

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What we enjoyed food-wise:

 Yebeg wat: Freshly made beef stew served with injera.

Doro wat: Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in dense stew of onions, berbere and Ethiopian butter. Boiled eggs are knife-poked and simmered in the stew. A high holiday treat in Ethiopia.

Misir wat: Split lentils stewed with onion, garlic and a blend of Ethiopian herbs.

 

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Alecha: Potatoes, carrot and split peas cooked in onion, garlic and olive oil. A mild dish with a touch of turmeric and a subtle blend of herbs and spices.

Salad, injera.

$1000 has been deposited in the EAHA bank account.

Thanks!

 

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Great food + good company = help for Eritrean kids

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7.24pm, Monday, July 21: There is a single ticket left!

To book for this event, go HERE.

A FUND-RAISING PARTY FOR ERITREAN AUSTRALIAN HUMANITARIAN AID, HOSTED BY CONSIDER THE SAUCE AND KOBEB RESTAURANT & CAFE

Putting aside for a moment the regular Consider The Sauce Feast activity, we will instead host a wonderful fund-raising party on Tuesday, July 22.

This is a lovely story of how one thing can lead to another and another with winning results.

A few months back, while attending the African festival in Footscray, I spied a poster for an event being held at the Flemington Community Centre in Mount Alexander Road that very night.

It was a a fund-raising dinner for a charity called Eritrean Australian Humanitarian Aid (EAHA).

So I fronted and paid my $30 with visions of a second injera meal for the day and other whoop-de-doo swirling in my head.

I got to have my (very nice) meal and, beforehand, some explosively good Eritrean-style coffee – rich, thick, sweet and heavily spiced with ginger.

I did, though, have to get to grips with the fact that there was to be some serious business and speechifying.

But as I listened and watched the slide presentation, I found myself being inspired by the work EAHA does in supporting Eritrean kids in refugee camps in Sudan. (Think about that for a minute …)

So I introduced myself to the EAHA operatives Louise and Anwar, who had done the speechifying, and offered the services of Consider The Sauce for a fund-raising bash.

This is a small, grassroots charity it is easy to admire – there are no middlemen, there is no “administrative leakage”. Virtually all the funds they raise go straight to those kids in Sudan.

Read more about EAHA here or on the group’s Facebook page here.

From the there it was a simple matter of finding a venue.

So I returned to Kobeb in Barkly Street.

There I soon discovered Helen and Melaku were up for it – and also that Helen is Eritrean and was brought up in New Zealand.

It all fits!

The Kokeb crew will prepare a feast of goodies to be eaten with injera and enjoyed with good company – all for a measly $30.

There is a maximum capacity of 45 people for this event.

Kobeb will be reimbursed for the grocery shopping but apart from that and the TryBooking fees, all the money raised will go to EAHA and thence to those Eritrean kids.

Says Louise: “EAHA is excited to be joining Kenny and Kobeb in this feast and fundraising evening! Not only will it be great food, it will also help us raise money to finish building a primary school at an Eritrean refugee camp in Sudan. As we see it, it’s a win-win situation; people get to taste some of the fabulous cuisine from Ethiopia/Eritrea and raise money for a good cause at the same time!

“100 percent of money that EAHA raises goes directly towards projects benefiting Eritrean refugees. EAHA is run by volunteers, most of whom have direct connections to the area in Sudan where most Eritrean refugees have been living for decades. EAHA is completely committed to helping the community there and ensuring that every dollar raised is spent to the greatest effect.”

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EAHA/Condsider The Sauce/Kokeb Party,

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157

Tuesday, July 22, from 7pm to 9.30pm (approx).

Soft drinks free, alcohol to paid for separately.

To book for this event, go HERE.

African flavour blast in Moonee ponds

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Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe, 33 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 0403 338 836

Holmes Road is the continuation of Puckle Street on the other side of the railway line.

It’s a curiously undistinguished strip of shops and assorted businesses.

Shebelle, for instance, resides right next door to a pole-dancing instruction palace.

Never mind all that – Shebelle is here to give not just the immediate neighbourhood but also the Puckle Street precinct a hefty infusion of great colour, taste, flavour and friendly service.

Shebelle once resided with other Ethiopian eateries in Barkly Street, Footscray.

It’s been open in Moonee Ponds for about a week and I join Nat and his colleague, Tim, there for a terrific lunch.

We are offered right off freshly roasted and brewed Ethiopian coffee, but opt for post-meal caffeine.

The menu (see below) is longish and appears to have most of the regular Ethiopian bases covered.

But there are also more unusual touches and some Moroccan influences.

Much to ponder and check out on repeat visits.

How utterly gorgeous, for instance, might be a north African version of  “chicken satay sticks” – described as “Moroccan style marinated with harissa and clarified butter, garlic, olive oil” with a choice of injera or bread?

We all head elsewhere on the menu and are very happy with our choices.

 

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My “Harirra Soup”, served with house-made injera, is a lot more robust and tasty than it looks in this photograph.

It has the sort of tang we adore being provided in the soup at Safari in Ascot Vale.

But this version has more vegetables, making it a little like an African minestrone; the lamb bits are flecks rather than chunks.

And there’s a heap of small, delicate brown lentils, making it also like the sort of rich lentil soup that comes from all over the Middle East and parts of Europe.

 

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Upon the arrival Tim’s “Moroccan lamb meatballs” ($15), Nat and I are envious.

The four chunky, big and beautifully seasoned meatballs are served in an intensely tomatoey sauce that has a nice chilli whack – whether from harissa or chilli powder, we know not.

Accompanying is a densely packed couscous.

Wow – great dish!

 

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Nat and I, both being more used to “tibs” dishes that are dry, are surprised by the appearance of his lamb tibs ($12).

Hewan explains to us that tibs are dry when served with injera, but in more of a soup/stew configuration when with served with rice, as Nat has chosen.

In any case, his dish is another goodie, with fine, chewy lamb and fresh green chilli slices.

 

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“Ethiopian style salad” ($8) is a just-right mix of very fresh greens, tomato, onion and more green chilli. When I get this sort of simple yet classy, zingy salad at African joints, it makes me think they could teach many cafes a thing or three about how it should be done.

Before departing, we do take up the offer from Hewan and Etsegent of a small cup each of their delicious, sweet Ethiopian coffee.

We wish Shebelle and its crew all the very best in their new location – and hope the locals learn to appreciate what a gem is in their midst.

Shebelle Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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A West African adventure in Sunshine

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Foodafric, 24 City Place, Sunshine. Phone: 0413 168 759

Foodafric is situated on City Place, just few doors from Dragon Express.

Like all the other African businesses hereabouts, it’s nature is West African.

The signage outside is subtitled “Flavours of African & South American Cuisine”, the latter part of that phrase referring to some former South American employees of the place – and thus those words are scheduled for removal to avoid confusion.

The West African aspect refers mostly to Nigeria but also to countries such as Liberia.

Today I am mostly restricted to the half-dozen or so stews arrayed in the bain marie at the front, but I am told a much more comprehensive menu is on the way.

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Jollof rice is wonderful – of medium-high spiciness, semi-moist and laced with peas and onion.

The tomato-based stew that comes with it is sticky, good and has two biggish pieces of goat meat embedded in it.

They’re bone-free and quite tough – though nothing to phase me at all.

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When Bennie and I had dropped by a few days previously to scope the place out, it was the sight of a customer’s serve of okra stew that had me vowing to return at the earliest possible opportunity.

After all, I’m ostensibly an okra fan and what I had seen looked just like a very good variation of gumbo.

However, the side serve of stew I am served with my meal doesn’t work for me at all.

Look, I know there’s a slime factor with okra – but this is SLIMEY! And fishy, too …

The staff member who has been serving me, Bukka, laughs when I tell her this, saying: “We like it that way … and the okra is fried so it becomes even more like that.”

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She’s been patient and good-humoured in answering my questions, but is no doubt happy to hand that particular baton over to her boss, Nda, who also happens to be her brother.

He tells me his idea with the restaurant is to offer home-style Nigerian and West African cooking with a certain amount of tweaking, including with presentation, to make it more acceptable to Western palates.

He tells me that, yes, there is a certain kind of smoked fish, chopped finely, used in the okra stew and some of the place’s other dishes.

And he confirms the full menu should be up and running in a month or so.

Among the dishes and food on offer will be (links are to Wikipedia entries):

I’ve had a nice lunch, with one mis-step, but am happy to consider it research and a foretaste of more interesting things to come from this welcome and welcoming addition to the African options available in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

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Sudanese for Sunshine, French bakery for Footscray

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We’ve been a little puzzled in the past year or so that Footscray should be so richly endowed with African eateries yet Sunshine and st Albans with so few.

Well happily that situation will improve, in Sunshine at least, when Home Town at 231 Hampshire Road opens.

Even better, from a diversity point of view, the food will be Sudanese rather than Ethiopian.

Well, nominally Sudanese that is.

As proprietor Shafie tells me as we examine the walled menu, there is food from “all over” in a typically North African smorgasbord.

There’s African staples galore, such as foul and malokhai, but there’s also an Italian vibe through pasta such as lasagna, along with falafel, mixed grill, kofta and spiced prawns.

Going by the posted pricing and the warmth and friendliness with which Shafie greets my inquiries, I’m eagerly awaiting the opening.

And who does the cooking – Shafie or his missus?

“My wife – she’s very good!” Shafie tells me with a smile.

Opening day is a few weeks away.

(See menu pics below …)

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Meanwhile, a reader tip on the Facebook page of Footscray Food Blog has me scoping out the corner property opposite Footscray post office.

Wow – how about that?

I have a strong hunch the French part of this equation will be of the “France via Vietnam” variety.

I wonder what they’ll be doing – banh mi on steroids, coffee, bubble tea and other Asian drinks?

Peering through one of the papered-over windows, what I see of the fit-out looks big and classy.

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Feasting in Footscray media launch

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Council communications officer Georgie explains injera to some newbies.

Feasting in Footscray media launch @ Konjo Cafe & Restaurant, 89 Irving St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 8185

It’s a little odd to find that my first experience of an Ethiopian coffee ritual is part of a media-laden photo op.

But that’s OK – I enjoy learning about the history and traditions of Ethiopian coffee, and the significance of the various accoutrements, anyway.

Deputy mayor Grant Miles gives a speech.

So does food writer Allan Campion.

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While all that is going on, Misra is in the rear room getting the Ethiopian food ready for the guests.

The launch is based around the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event Cultural Blend: The Origins of Coffee and Ethiopian Spices.

But there are several other Footscray events in the festival that are likewise either cheap or free – check them out here.

The food laid on by the Konjo folks is sensational – fresh, diverse, incredibly tasty.

Included are two dishes I’ve never before come across – one made of kale, another of beetroot.

Some guests dabble; some don’t bother at all.

Seeing as it’s clear some of this great stuff is going to go uneaten, I have no hesitation in making a freeloading pig of myself.

Makes me wonder why CTS has enjoyed just a single, solitary meal here previously!

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Ms Baklover in paparazzi mode.

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If you’re going to a be a reporter for The Star, you may as well wear Star Shoes! (Hi Charlene!)

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