Unlocking the Big Mac

Before we start, I need to warn you of a few things:

  1. I hardly (i.e. next to never) eat “American food”
  2. I eat fast food (McDs / Burger King / KFC / etc…) probably once every two years, barring breakfast hash browns and ice cream. Why is the ice cream so good at these places??
  3. I’m not a burger connoisseur so don’t expect any knowledge of the so-called perfect burger
  4. I will be possibly one of the last people you can expect to find eating a burger, because I get bored halfway through
  5. I don’t even like meat that much except under special circumstances

But I have a dirty secret. I dream about eating Big Macs.

I really like the sauce. The last time I ate a Big Mac was sometime earlier this year (before that, it was probably 3-4 years ago). It was pretty disappointing, all except… the sauce. Yes, I felt kinda sick after finishing the burger. As anticipated. But I had my special Big Mac sauce fix, which I thought would tide me over maybe another 3 years?

Photo 19-11-2013 15 31 55Photo 19-11-2013 19 57 14Photo 19-11-2013 19 38 13Photo 19-11-2013 20 06 44

Until Bigfoot suggested we have home made burgers one night. Home made burgers? pshaw. Not interested. Never had a good one. Whatever, burgers. Boring.

He said home made burgers are the food of kings, and that it would be different. ***

I said whatever, burgers are boring and make me feel sick after I finish eating them.

He said just try come on pleaaasseee. And agreed that I could be in charge of the sauce.

I said hmm…. could that sauce be Big Mac sauce, you say?

A deal was struck. Lamb burgers with cheese, charred onions, rocket, and Big Mac sauce. Yes, I know it sounds trashy alongside all those nice fancy words like “lamb” and “charred” and “rocket”. Boo to you too. No sauce for you.

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As I rolled around my living room floor groaning at how the burger overstretched my poor stomach, I realised that the recipe for Big Mac sauce had to be posted. Not for anyone else, because there are enough so-called secret sauce recipes out there.But for me, so I won’t forget it, and so I can eat my sauce happily without visiting McDs, thereby bypassing the after-fastfood-I-am-going-to-throw-up-feeling. Yay me!

I’ve also included the burger recipe because it was rather good, if my meat-ambivalent tastebuds dare say so.

Photo 19-11-2013 20 16 44

Big Mac Sauce

Based on a survey of ‘secret sauce’ recipes around the web… and then I used different ingredients like wholegrain mustard. It isn’t a totally faithful reproduction, rather just a reproduction that tastes similar, that we enjoyed

2 tablesp Kewpie mayo
1 tablesp Branston pickle
2 teasp wholegrain mustard
1/4 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 teasp paprika / chilli powder

  1. Mix all the ingredients. Taste and adjust. Leave to sit for at least 15 minutes so the onion softens

Lamb Burgers

Makes around 5 large burgers. Bigfoot’s own recipe.

500g minced lamb
1 1/2 onion
3-4 cloves garlic
2 teasp smoked paprika
2-3 teasp dried mint
1 teasp cumin
1 teasp dried oregano
A little Salt
Black pepper + salt to coat

  1. Chop the onion and garlic in a chopper. Fry them off until fragrant in a little oil.
  2. Mix everything into the lamb, without over handling it. Shape into patties. Leave patties in the fridge to firm up, for around half an hour.
  3. Heat up your grill pan until it is pretty scary-hot. Add a generous helping of black pepper and a bit of salt to the outside of each patty on both sides (amount is to your taste). Then cook them over the grill, flipping regularly.

*** yes I have taken poetic license but you get the gist.

 

 

 

 

 

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Not as hard as it seems. Really, I was surprised at how tasty it was considering I made it, and I’m bad at meat.

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Inspired by a brunch I had somewhere in North Melbourne, but the recipe is mine

4 pieces round lamb bone chops – it has to be something with a bit of bone in it
8 tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, diced small
1 red onion, chopped
5-7 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tablesp tomato paste
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 teasp cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
1/2 teasp black pepper
Salt and sugar to taste

A pressure cooker

  1. Brown onion and garlic in some oil. Add the cumin seeds.
  2. While while that’s browning, chop the carrots. Then add the carrots.
  3. Same for the tomato – while the carrot browns, chop the tomato. Then add the tomato and a little salt.
  4. Mix it around and then close the pressure cooker lid. Pressure cook on high for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Clean the excess fat off the lamb. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then add the lamb, tomato paste, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves.
  6. Close the pressure cooker, and cook on high for around an hour.
  7. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then boil off the excess water until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar as needed.
  8. Serve over some small size pasta 🙂

Attempting to copy Mrs. Yeti’s Kichidi

I first learnt of kichidi while eating at Mrs Y.’s table. I can’t believe I never knew of this before!

Funny isn’t it, comfort food takes similar forms and evokes similar feelings despite which cuisine it originates from. I think an ill version of me would be just as happy eating kichidi as Chinese porridge. Well maybe say, 80% as happy. That’s still pretty close. A healthy me would also be happy because both taste pretty good. I happily ate mine with accompanying dishes while at Mrs Y’s, when I recreated this at home I was too hungry and ate it straight from the pot. Shh.

As much as I’d like to say this is Mrs Y’s original recipe, it isn’t. This is because she appears to make it very fast and when I tried to watch her one time I lost track.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Kichidi

Adapted from Padhu’s Kitchen, changing a few ingredients and the rice:dhal ratio. 

I’ve also made this recipe with loads of ingredients missing and it still tasted pretty nice – I’ve marked those that I’ve tried it without. I’d suggest you don’t try making it so bare bones that all of the stuff is left out at the same time though

1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup dhal – I used the orange dhal
2 cups water – I used 1:2 for each of the rice and dhal so check what your rice and dhal packet says 

1 teasp mustard seeds – without is okay
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/4 teasp whole black pepper (or just black pepper if you don’t have it whole)
A few curry leaves – without is okay
A pinch of hing (asafoetida) – without is okay

1 onion, chopped
2 dried chillies – technically you should use one green chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 a thumb of ginger, chopped
1 tomato, chopped – original recipe doesn’t have this, but it is a nice option if you want it

1/4 teasp turmeric powder – without is okay
1 teasp chilli powder
1/2 teasp coriander powder – without is okay
1/4 teasp garam masala

Other utensils: pressure cooker or a lot of patience.

  1. Fry the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little oil over medium heat, until they start to dance. Then, add in the black pepper, curry leaves, and hing (if using). Give it a bit of a stir until it smells nice.
  2. Add the onion, cook until it goes a bit transparant and soft.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, and dry/fresh chilli. Fry until fragrant. Add tomato and cook until soft if using.
  4. Add all the powders, give it a quick stir for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the rice and dhal, and fry it until coated with oil. Add some salt to taste.
  6. Add the water, and close the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high for 9 minutes.  If you don’t a pressure cooker, close the lid on your pot and be prepared to wait around 20 minutes. Taste and salt as needed.

After that you can garnish with fried onions, or coriander, or a top-up garnish (see the original author’s link). I didn’t do any of these because I was already happy with the taste 🙂

More Indian food that I have destroyed: Baingan Bharta (and corrupted BB pasta)

I love Indian food (the authentic spicy type). Lets get that out there and make it clear.

But for some reason I don’t seem to have the same level of horror when I corrupt Indian food versus when I corrupt Chinese food. I seem perfectly happy to make “Indian pasta” but if feel like a total weirdo if someone tells me that a certain dish is “Chinese / Thai inspired” but is actually western. No, I don’t have an explanation. Yes, I am really very sorry.

With that in mind I was debating whether or not to post this recipe.

See, I have found that authentic baingan bharta tastes really good over pasta with a shake of parmesan cheese. This was a discovery made when trying to figure out what to do with my leftovers.

Please don’t judge me. The below is a recipe for a proper baingan bharta. If you want to corrupt it by putting it over pasta, at least do it with the leftovers rather than the fresh food. That way my conscience will remain clear.

Baingain BhartaCorrupted pasta version

Baingan Bharta (Roasted eggplant ..curry? Not really curry)

Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipe

2 medium sized eggplants
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 teasp  ginger, chopped
1 teasp cumin seeds
1/2 teasp garam masala
1/2 teasp chilli powder
Salt to taste

Note: I’m really lazy and didn’t skin my eggplants, if you are a proper maker of Indian food and not-lazy then you should remove the skin of your eggplant before mashing it into the tomato mixture in the pan.

  1. Turn your oven (200-220 degrees C) or grill. Prick the eggplants all over and rub with a little oil, then leave them roasting for half an hour to 40 minutes. You might need to turn them halfway.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan. Over medium heat, fry the cumin seeds until they dance a little. Add the onion, and fry until the onion goes soft. Then add the ginger and green chilli, and fry for a bit longer until that’s cooked too.
  3. Add the tomato and continue frying until the tomato softens.
  4. Chop up the eggplant (I don’t bother skinning it), and throw the whole thing in the pan. Stir and mash until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Add the garam masala, chilli powder, and salt to taste. Cook a little longer so spices incorporate, then you’re done!

More bribes for my brother: mac and cheese

I know it sounds like whenever I cook for my brother it is a bribe, this is really not true. No it isn’t. This time it was only part-bribe to let us play videogames when we visited his apartment, and part-thank you for letting us stay in said apartment.

A thank you that I hope lasted at least 4 days, as it was in danger of being finished within one sitting. Please don’t eat 500g of pasta in one sitting, it somehow seems a little scary. Imagine a pasta-monster, and by that I mean a human-sized macaroni with arms and legs. Scary, right? Don’t do it. Even though the mac and cheese is tasty enough to.

Anyway this was a pretty easy recipe which I later passed on to my bro (I was expecting it to be much harder!)

Pasta monster's lair

Easy Mac & Cheese

Adapted from the Kitchn

  • Note the basic ratio of milk to cheese is around 1:1.5 to 1:2, with a couple of tablespoons of flour (any type – corn or normal). 

A 500g bag of pasta – small shapes are better because they hold the sauce
1.5 cups milk
2 – 3 cups cheese – cubed is fine, or grated, it just needs to melt.
2 tablesp flour – corn or all purpose
0.5 – 1 teasp black pepper, to taste
Salt to taste
A dash of chilli flakes
Mix-ins:  see below. I used leeks and lamb sausage.

  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Warm 1 cup milk over medium heat in a pot.
    Mix flour into the remaining ½ cup of milk
    When steam starts to rise from the hot milk in the pot, pour in the rest of the flour-milk mixture.
    Whisk / stir until it thickens to the consistency of cream / custard.
  3. Drop the heat to low.
    Stir in the cheese, pepper, salt, and chilli flakes. Mix until all the cheese is melted.
    Taste and season as needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and dump all the pasta + additional mix-ins into the pot.
    Stir well until the sauce coats the pasta.
    (Eating can start here J )
  5. Optional: Put into an oven proof dish and top with more cheese – parmesan works nicely.
    Put it in a toaster oven / oven at around 200 deg C for 20 minutes or so until the cheese topping crusts and browns.

Mix-ins:

In terms of mix-ins, I added the following:

  • Leeks
    • Wash leeks. Slice and fry in a little oil until soft and a little charred at the edges.
  • Lamb sausages
    • Fry lamb sausages and slice. Set aside.

You can really add anything you like though.

Precious, precious salmon head

Look at this beast! For $2! And possibly free in future! I think I’m switching fishmonger.

Can't believe people throw this away

For reference, that head is the size of my hand with all fingers outstretched. And it includes the bottom half of the salmon collar.

Mr Fishmonger says he will give me these for free if I am a regular (free!! free!! My Singaporean within rejoices, and I’m not even Singaporean). However, I can’t decide whether he is just bribing me to buy his other stuff with the offer of free fish head. But free fish head is free fish head. One doesn’t sniff at free fish head.

I feel a bit like a cat that someone has bribed to be friends with them using leftover dinner.

I wonder if he has other types of fish head too.

My mother thought I was depriving myself when I excitedly shared news of my purchase with her. She was all: “are you eating properly? Don’t starve yourself to save money!” She didn’t quite grasp that I specifically wanted the fish head, and asked 3 different fishmongers for it, simply because salmon head is awesome.

If you haven’t tried it, lock your squeamishness in a box and give it a go. It’s a really fatty part of the fish with lots of smooth flesh (much more moist than salmon steak), and crispy skin all over when done well.

We dumped the bones / fins in a slow cooker with some water, onions, salt, and pepper. There was so much fatty salmon goodness that the resulting stock tasted almost creamy.  Hello udon noodle soup. Another post, maybe.

The salmon head became this roasted amazingness you see below. Prompting a discussion of the merits of a simple dinner of a (whole) salmon head each, and rice. Looks like I need to get 2 salmon heads next time.

Salmon head in teriyaki sauce

Roasted Teriyaki Salmon Head 

Teriyaki sauce based on the one used by Just Bento, but with substitutions the sake.

Salmon head + collar
Salt

2 tablesp soya sauce
3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp rice vinegar
1 tablesp sugar

  1. Wash the salmon head and collar, and rub with a little salt. Set aside for half an hour.
  2. Wipe the salmon with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl, and pour over salmon. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Roast in an oven for around 15 minutes or so at 220 degrees C, until the skin is a little charred on the edges and the fish is cooked through. If your salmon head is large, you may need to flip it over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food  after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.

Lea’s Favourite Lala

Lala, I have missed you. Pipis (as they appear to be named here in Melbourne) are pretty similar. I do love my clammie types.

I was so excited that I didn’t take process shots. Oops. The process is pretty simple though.

Food like this needs no further introduction, though pretty pictures would probably endear it to more people. Without further delay, I present one of my favourite foods:

Oh lala I have missed you

Ginger & Spring Onion Lala (or Pipis)

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s ginger & spring onion crab.

600g lala / pipis
Thumb size knob of ginger
8 stalks spring onion
1 red chilli

1.5 tablesp oyster sauce
1/2 tablesp sesame oil
1/2 tablesp fish sauce
1/2 teasp sugar
1/2 teasp white pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 teasp corn flour

  1. Clean your lala / pipis, if they aren’t already clean.
  2. Slice ginger into sticks. Chop the red chilli too. Finally, chop spring onion into 1-2 inch lengths, separating the white hard bits and the green bits.
  3. In a little oil, fry the ginger, chilli, and white parts of the spring onion until fragrant.
  4. Throw in everything else – sauce components, cornflour, green bits of the spring onion, and lala / pipis.
  5. Cover for 5-8 minutes with the heat on medium-high, until all the lala / pipis have opened.

Eggplant-zilla

This is the weirdest looking, largest eggplant I’ve ever seen. I bought it for that reason alone.

The world trembles beneath her feet

Having bought it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with so much eggplant. Initially I considered eggplant parmagiana, but the thought of breadcrumbing and frying the eggplant slices individually was a bit overwhelming.

So, lasagne it is. I didn’t manage to use all the eggplant in the end. It was too much, too much.

..Help?

Please excuse my bao-lo fa-ke sweaterDon't hog the parmesan topping, not sociable at all

Eggplant Lasagne

You can do this with pretty much any vegetable, I did one with pumpkin and baby spinach a few days later. Quick-cooking vegetables like spinach don’t need pre-grilling. 

1/2 a humongous eggplant, cut to 1cm thick slices – equivalent to 1-2 large eggplants
1.5 – 2 cups tomato sauce – I used this, but any tomato-pasta-sauce is fine.
Lasagne strips – amount depends how big your baking dish is, I used  6 strips.
Cheese strips / grated for layering – again, depends on the size of your dish and how much you liked cheese. I used about 150g of colby cheddar, cut into thin strips. Mozzarella would probably be nice.
1/4 cup (or less) Grated parmesan to top

  1. Slice and grill your eggplant. Easiest is to do this in an oven / toaster oven – I stuck mine on an oiled tray in the toaster oven for 20 minutes at 220 degrees C. 
  2. Time to start layering – get out your oven dish, and start by pouring in about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Spread it around well.
  3. Then add a layer of lasagne strips. Break them to get them to fit if you need to.
  4. Then, another layer of tomato sauce – spread it over the pasta until it is all covered thinly.
  5. Then, a layer of grilled eggplant. Distribute your eggplant so you have enough for at least 2-3 layers.
  6. Then, add a layer of cheese. I just sprinkled strips sparingly across my eggplant, but I don’t like loads of cheese inside mine. Use more if you do.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6.
  8. Now, if you have space in your dish height-wise, repeat steps 3-5 again. If not, then just layer up what you do have, and make sure you end with a layer of lasagne strips.
  9. Now, pour on what is left of your tomato sauce, and scatter the parmasan cheese on top.
  10. Look down the sides of your baking dish. Is there sauce everywhere, or does it look dry? If it is dry, gently pour a 1/4 cup of water down the side of the dish, without disturbing the lasagne structure. This is to help the lasagne noodles cook.
  11. Stick the whole thing back in the toaster oven / oven for 20-30 minutes on 220 degrees C. If it starts to burn, cover with foil.
  12. To test if it is cooked, try sticking a fork in it – if you feel no resistance from the pasta, it’s done!

Mussels! I can make mussels!

I love seafood. I eat pescetarian most of the time. This is not because I’m the type of person that names all their animal friends and talks to them all the time (I am, in fact, that person – one day this will probably cause me much mental torment). It is, simply, because I like the taste of seafood much better than all other types of meat, barring specific dishes. For example, oxtail stew, lamb ragu, chicken rice, and loh mai kai. 

Mussels!!

Most of all, I love all the things that live in shells. To eat, I mean. Not just the clammy types, but prawns, scallops, shellfish, crayfish, crab *swoon*, and all the rest of them. Of course, mussels, clams, lala, oysters, and those swirly looking things in twisty shells are part of this list.

First time I ever cooked fennel

And when I realised mussels only cost $4 for 800g at the market, my reaction was predictable. Despite the fact that I don’t know how to cook mussels.  These things make me far too excited.

In honour of my favourite mussels from Brussels, I had no choice but to learn. Shock and horror, it was pretty easy to do well. Mussels are going to become my staple dinner treat. Vongole, here I come!

Now I just need a pretty pot for them

Mussels with Garlic, Fennel and Parsley

After much internetting, I realised that you can pretty much put anything in mussels providing you steam by adding at least 1/4 inch of liquid on the bottom of the pot, and closing the lid tightly until the mussels are steamed. This is a bit of an ad-libbed recipe, based on looking at roughly 500 other mussel recipes. 

800g mussels
1 onion, sliced into rings
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 baby fennel, sliced into strips
~1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Yield: 2 servings as a main + 2 servings the next day as a side

  1. Assuming your mussels aren’t pre-cleaned – first thing when you start, dump them in very very salty cool water on your countertop and leave them there while you prep / chop everything else, for at least 15 – 20 minutes.
    • This is to make them expel the sand they are holding on to. They are alive, and when in salt water will open up and spew out all their sand.
  2. While waiting for your mussels to expel sand, put your stock on the stove in a pot:
    • Fry the garlic until light golden, then add the onion. Lower the heat and keep going until they turn transparant.
    • Add the salt and sliced fennel. Keep cooking, the fennel might get a little charred at the edges – that’s fine.
    • Once your fennel is cooked, add the water and lemon juice. Cover the lid and let it stew until you are done with the mussels. If needed, you can add a bit more water – but let it boil down to about 1/4 inch depth from the bottom of the pan before you put the mussels in. The longer you do this for, the better it will taste. Don’t worry if it’s a bit bland now, the mussels will make it approximately 1,000,000 times tastier.
  3. The not-fun part: now that your mussels expelled all their sand, you need to clean the shells and debeard them. Do this over the sink.
    • To debeard: find the hairy weird bits poking out of the shell, and pull them all off. You might need a knife. You don’t want hairs that look like they came from someone’s armpit floating in your steamed mussels.
    • To clean: scrub hard with a dish scrubber / steel wool until the shells look clean. You may need to chip off some especially stubborn bits with a knife.
  4. You’re ready to cook your mussels! Make sure you have the right amount of liquid (about 1/4 inch depth). If not, add water / boil off. Make sure the liquid is at a rolling boil, then throw in all the clean mussels and close the lid on the pot tightly. Count around 6 minutes. Look through the lid – are the mussels open? If not you can give it a little longer. If they are, your mussels are ready!
  5. Add pepper. After that, you can either serve immediately, or you can remove the mussels and boil the stock down further before pouring it back over the cooked mussels. Your choice. I cooked mine down 🙂