How to use up coffee grounds? Cook them with carrots

A different kind of hit: Grind coffee beans like these and roast with your home-grown carrots.
A different kind of hit: Grind coffee beans like these and roast with your home-grown carrots. Photo: Supplied

There's an interesting parable about a parent giving a child a lesson in life through a little kitchen demonstration and story. I suppose that's what a parable is, an instructive lesson wrapped up in a story as opposed to a limerick which is there solely for enjoyment. 

As fathers we are charged with many roles, keeping things light with our particular version of humour, making strange noises when we move and giving our offspring all the right lessons to prepare them for the journey ahead. 

This one is about dealing with events outside your control, hardship, being put into a challenging situation that wasn't really of your making, sort of like fatherhood. 

When carrots and coffee combine.
When carrots and coffee combine. Photo: David Reist

Presumably this is Middle Eastern where all decent fables, parables and analogies emanate yet this was not quite up there to make the bible. 

A mother sits the child down and places in three pots of boiling water, an egg, a carrot and some coffee beans. After some time the she encourages the child to observe and even taste the result. 

The egg becomes hard-boiled, the carrot softens and the coffee exchanges its flavour with the water. 

My kids at this point wander off thinking this doesn't look like dinner at all. 

So, come back, the lessons are: some people appear hard and firm – like a carrot – yet end up soft and squishy when put to the test. 

The egg's soft centre, sort of representing a heart I guess, hardens and becomes unyielding yet looks the same on the outside and then the coffee flavours the water and makes it taste better, creates change.

Again my wavering audience interrupts, but coffee tastes horrible, well I say, ready for this, if you lived on camel milk I reckon it would taste pretty good. 

So I ask them are you a carrot, an egg or coffee? Blank looks, so I audibly change position, look boys, just listen to your mother, no farting, forgetting or fighting in the car and don't ever join a motorcycle gang. Well, unless of course, it's a Can-Am spyder gang, cause they are kinda cute, a gang of spatially impaired guys on tricycles.

We done? Good talk.

Coffee, when you think about it and I do, does often change the situation for the better. I certainly know everyone around me seems to enjoy my presence a hell of a lot more once I've imbibed caffeine. Sure there is that addictive quality but what's life without our little addictions anyway. The crazy thing about coffee is the addiction isn't just for the drug caffeine itself but also the obsession with making the best cup of joe possible.

Medically caffeine is a fairly benign drug, low risk you could say, sure you can do without it but once your body knows that alert feeling, well it's just going to want some more. Like at 2am …"Wake up!! Have you got any beans??" Yes, you try and get the heart rate bck to under 100 beats per minute, then half an hour later "Wake up..are they freshly roasted? On and on your sleepless body goes through the check list: Is the machine clean, have we fresh milk, what's the right grind…

So when you finally wake up, coffee has passed from being a choice to a necessity. 

I'm thinking through all this because our little coffee drinking nation at work has just taken on a coffee roaster, so now, short of taking on a stake in a coffee estate in Guatemala, we control the entire process. No more waiting in queues for hipsters to decide to serve us, no more exasperation at the age of the beans. We are masters of the universe in coffeeland.

You may wonder what to do with all these coffee grounds, well turns out the answer is in our little parable. Not eggs, giving coffee to chooks isn't a good idea, they wake early and are erratic enough as it is. Apparently one of the best things to do with coffee grounds is to mix them into the soil where you will plant carrots. There are loads of other uses from exfoliating to candle making but as a fertiliser for carrots they also keep the pests away.

That's not all, I'll wrap things up with the idea that when you cook your home grown happy carrots you do so on freshly roasted coffee beans. See, the fable is still going and you thought it was over with some gardening tips.

Daniel Paterson of Coi restaurant in California wasn't the first cook to try this but he certainly made it a more widely accepted use of coffee. Apparently, and you tend to believe these chefs in their experimenting, a carrot when roasted on coffee beans will taste sweeter and more, well, carroty. I'd say that balancing trick your senses play on you when dealing with tastes like sweetness, bitterness, sourness and salt comes work here. The coffee's bitterness would increase the apparent sweetness of the carrot. Much like acid balances the sweetness of most soft drinks which is there to hide the salt which makes you want to drink more of said soft drink. 

Here endeth the lesson, get into it, carrots and coffee, it really works and the addition of the sour, cultured cream and freshly ground coffee works a treat.

Carrots and coffee

A medley of small carrots, all different colours and sizes, scrubbed clean but not peeled
Olive oil
1 cup freshly roasted whole coffee beans plus a tablespoon of ground coffee to serve
A little salt
Creme fraiche, at room temperature
Coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 200C, toss the carrots in olive oil. Arrange coffee beans in a layer and place carrots on top, sprinkle with just a little salt. Bake until carrots are cooked. Some will  shrivel, some won't, doesn't matter, they all taste good. Once done, plate up, drizzle with crème fraiche, ground coffee and coriander.

A great accompaniment to a roast or simply to have on its own.

Bryan Martin is the winemaker at Clonakilla and Ravensworth.