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.

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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 🙂

Whoa, Tagine

Yea so I didn’t make a tagine. Your expectations of me are far too high. Bigfoot made tagine.

I said I wanted to record everything so we could make it again. Response: nod nod, yes yes Lea, don’t worry.

Hello lonely potato Yum yum corianderEverything is browning Mmm uncooked meat

The problem is that he is a more natural cook than I am, so what that means is that he chucks in lots of things until it tastes right, then remembers how it tastes, but forgets what he put in or how much.

Don't overfill and make sure you have enough water Yes, we overfilled Smells good. Tastes...like water Getting there I suppose

GAH.

The lid is slightly open because it bumped up and down scarily

Of course it isn’t entirely his fault. Once I had his agreement that he would ‘remember’ what was in the dish and what he did, I happily went off and did my own thing, disregarding absolutely everything that was going on. I cook to eat you know, not for the sake of cooking. My posts are the result of  my need for happy eating with minimal cooking. If someone else volunteers to do all the cooking, who am I to disagree? 🙂

Mmm..ahh

So, I do apologise, but in this post I will be pasting the recipe we used as-is. I’m sure it tasted awesome that way. I’m using this as a recipe binder – with the hope that next time we make tagine, I can update it to reflect how it was actually made. It tasted amazing the way we  *cough* made it too, so I hope that we can figure out how to do it again someday. Right.

Lamb, Prune, and Almond Tagine

Taken from Grantourismo. I have no idea how much we changed it, so you’re better off following their ingredients list, and method too if you like. I’ve added the method that we used below.

EDIT: you can find the original recipe on their website here. I’m a bit of a noob with regards to blog laws, and I didn’t realise you can’t paste entire recipes even if sourced.. Sorry guys, I won’t do it again, promise.
Big thanks to Terence for letting me know about my error!

I’ll add a new ingredients list once I figure out exactly what we put in our version.

Happy Bellea’s lazy unsupervised-cooking method:

  1. Fry onions, garlic, lamb, and spices in a pan until the lamb is browned. Start with the onion and garlic and add the lamb once that has cooked a little.
  2. Transfer everything to a crock pot (including the prunes and almonds). We also added some root vegetables here, like carrot and potato. Add the water here.
  3. Leave the crockpot on automatic for about 5 hours
  4. Take everything out and dump it in the tagine. Put the tagine over high heat, cover it and let it bubble. Keep going until it tastes nice, and add everything and the kitchen sink to make it so (yes, I don’t know what was added). Serve hot with crusty bread.

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Note: Also now I have looked up blog laws, and apparently it’s fine to reproduce ingredients lists, and as long as they are accompanied by a re-write of the method? (link) Anyway, sorry in advance if I attribute incorrectly, just let me know and I’ll change things 🙂

Mum’s Homemade Lasagne

A firm favourite in my house when I was young was always homemade lasagne. I’m not entirely sure why my mother always chose to make lasagne, seeing as she doesn’t like to cook – it’s really quite involved. I’m not one to complain though.

I’m trying something new today. I’ve added this recipe in pictorial form. I find recipes like this easier to follow. Not sure if that holds true for everyone though. In case you don’t like it, here’s a cute picture of my dog. Feel better now?

This is one of my favourite things to eat at home, but you can enjoy it without me this time. I’m still slightly traumatised by a story I was told recently about how cows are slaughtered for meat, and how they jerk afterwards and kick their legs. Sigh. I guess in a couple of weeks or so I’ll come back to the second lasagne stashed in the freezer.

Mum’s Homemade Lasagne

I’m not sure where this recipe originally came from. I collected it by following my Mum around the kitchen with a notebook and a camera. This recipe makes 2 trays of lasagne. You can adjust the proportions of meat to vege, and the cheesiness of the sauce. It will still work. Not like it has to rise like a cake or anything. Creativity food!

Beef Mince

800g beef mince
2 carrots
6 tomatoes
2 peppers – red or green is fine
3 sticks of celery
2 yellow onions
2 whole heads of garlic
Chilli powder – optional
Salt & Pepper
1/2 bottle of Prego or another pasta sauce, OR
1 can of crushed tomatoes, and
3 bay leaves
1 teasp basil
1 teasp thyme
1/2 teasp rosemary
– Add more herbs as you like. You might need a bit more basil.

Cheese Sauce

1 litre milk
2 tablesp butter
3/4 of a block of Philly cheese / other cream cheese
400g grated cheddar
1/2 to 1 cup of grated parmasan
Any other cheese you like, these proportions aren’t fixed 🙂

A box of lasagne sheets
1/2 cup grated parmasan – to sprinkle on top
1/2 cup breadcrumbs – to mix with parmasan and sprinkle on top, optional

 1.

  • Dice the veges, garlic and onion.
2.

  • Defrost the meat.
3. 

  • Fry garlic until fragrant.
  • Add onion, fry until soft. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add the meat, break it up and add salt, pepper and herbs (if using).
4. 

  • Keep frying the meat until it goes about this brown (see pic).
  • Add the vege and tomato, and stir it around.
  • Add the pasta sauce. Stir it around and keep cooking for a bit until the sauce boils down and the meat isn’t too wet. You can substitute for crushed canned tomatoes, use all fresh tomatoes (tell me how, I haven’t figured it out yet…)
5. 

  • Mix milk, butter, and cornflour in a pot over low heat.
  • Keep stirring, and take it off the heat when it reaches the consistency of thick cream.
6. 

  • Add the cheeses to the milk, and mix well. Don’t worry if there are still a few lumps, they’ll melt away in the oven.
  • Pour a thin layer of cheese sauce into an ovenproof dish.
7.

  • Add a layer of meat, then a layer of instant lasagne sheet.
  • Repeat! Try to get at least 3 layers of lasagne sheets, it’ll taste better
8. 

  • Finish it off with a layer of cheese sauce, and a layer of grated parmasan. You can mix the parmasan with some breadcrumbs if you’d like a bit more crunch.
  • Bake at 180 degrees C for about 45 minutes, or until the top goes nice and brown and the inside of the lasagne is piping hot.

Then… take a plate, and a big spoon, and enjoy 🙂 I like mine with lots of chilli flakes.

Also, this freezes really well in the bowl (just stick it back in the oven for a bit to heat up and crisp). Make sure you cool it to room temperature before putting it in the freezer, and defrost it to room temperature before putting it in the oven – so that your bowl doesn’t crack. I speak from experience.

Flash Fried Curried Pork Chops with Various Vegetables

The yeti abode will be empty for an indefinite amount of time, hence my comeback on this blog. Oh, hey. This means that I get to come home from work to escape into the kitchen, not be shooed out of the kitchen. Frankly, I don’t see why anyone would ever want to escape from the kitchen. The kitchen is my sanctum sanctorum, as Garfield’s kitty bed and blanket is to him (I modelled myself after Garfield as a child…which actually explains an awful lot now, but I digress).

During my university days, I had a copy of Nigella’s Express. It was my first cookbook and has been rendered extra special and memorable because Ms. Lawson signed it herself, addressed to me. I love Nigella for many reasons: her deep, rich Oxonian accent as she narrates her way through graceful swirls of woody sauces, coupled with her immense love for bacon and cream – oftentimes together. I don’t know why any man or woman would turn her down, in the kitchen or otherwise. I have since given the book to my mother for her safekeeping, but I’ve memorized quite a lot of her recipes.

This recipe has been a tried and true favourite of mine for a while now – except this time I took the liberty of modifying it ever so slightly by dusting curry powder, garam masala and chili powder into the marinade. Also, I used pork chops instead of steak. And I threw in other types of vegetables in place of mash in a bid to detoxify. I ought to have been more liberal with my dusting, because albeit I could smell the curry, I couldn’t quite taste it. Ah, well. I tossed in a few cloves of garlic for good measure. I love garlic. Completely unapologetic about it.

Pork in a bag

I marinated the pork in the morning before I left for work. My marinade consisted of curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, 2 cloves of smashed garlic, salt and a liberal dose of olive oil. A tip that I picked up from Nigella: whack your meat as though it were your supercilious ex-boyfriend so that it becomes a bit thinner and cooks more evenly and quickly. I parboiled my vegetables and served them without any dressing. Also, I ate my dinner with a generous serving of mustard and wasabi and hot sauce combined in one.

Mustard pork chops

Here’s Nigella’s original recipe for your modifying/reading pleasure. Apart from the ingredient change, my methods are no different to hers:

Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash

Ingredients

60 Millilitres Olive Oil plus 2 teaspoons
1 Cloves Garlic crushed
1 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary (optional)
1 Lemon zest & juice
1230 Grams White beans (3 cans)
4 Entrecote steak (150g each) thin cut
1 A pinch of Salt to taste

Method

1. First, get on with the beans: put the 60ml of olive oil in a saucepan, and mix in the garlic. Add the whole rosemary sprig, if using, and the lemon zest and warm through. Remove the rosemary, but do not throw away.
2. Drain the beans and rinse under a tap to get rid of the gloop and then add to the pan and warm through, stirring and squishing with a wide, flat spoon so that the beans go into a nobbly mush. Season to taste; some beans come saltier than others.
3. Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil in a large frying pan and cook the steaks on high for a minute and a half a side. Remove to warmed plates, sprinkling some salt, to taste, over them as you do so.
4. Squeeze the lemon juice into the hot pan and let it bubble up with the meaty oil, then pour over the steaks. Serve immediately with the bean mash adorned with the reserved rosemary sprig.

I might make some sweets over the weekend. Aren’t you excited?!

Grandpa’s English Kitchen: Oxtail Stew

When I was little, my grandpa made the long trip to visit us every year, until he was 98 years old. He used to cook sometimes, and my favourite dish was his oxtail stew. That sounds a bit odd, coming from someone who is an inconsistent flexitarian. However, this is different, and once you try it, you will know.

Close your eyes and imagine you are in a little cute english kitchen with wood panelled walls and a yellow table cloth. There’s a jack russel running around somewhere, and horses and cows outside, please don’t forget to take your muddy wellingtons off at the door.

Grandpa’s English Kitchen: Oxtail Stew

Oxtail – 4 slices. Get it fresh from your butcher!
Onions – 2 large ones. I used 3 as I had smaller ones.
Pearl barley – a handful, I like barley so I add more. This time I added a cup.
Oxo cubes – 2. Any other beef stock should also work, but Oxo comes out tastiest.
Lea & Perrins sauce – 2-3 table spoons
Bay leaf – two or three
Tomato paste – 2 tablespoons
Carrots – chopped
Any other vege you like – potato  and button mushrooms would be nice, you can use other vege like pumpkin but just be warned that it will change the flavour a bit
Water – enough to cover everything, and a bit more

  1. Heat everything in a big pot with the water, until it is boiling. Don’t add your extra vege at this stage, only the carrots.
  2. Add any extra vege. Use your cooking method of choice to finish:
  • Oven – pour into a large oven-proof dish. Make sure there is enough water in the dish to cover the ingredients, and cover with silver foil. Stick it in the oven at about 180-200 degrees celcius. Leave it there for about 3 to 4 hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is enough water.
  • Slow Cooker – pour into a slow cooker. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the ingredients. Leave it on low setting for 8-10 hours, or 7-8 hours on high setting. If you are going to leave it alone for the whole day or overnight, add extra water and use low setting. (I haven’t tried this, this is just how I was told to cook the stew)
  • Pressure Cooker – pour into pressure cooker. Make sure there is an inch or more of water covering the ingredients. Close the lid and cook on high until it boils, then reduce the temperature and leave it on the stove for an hour or so.
    Pressure cooking can be scary and dangerous, it’s important to read the manual (I didn’t, who needs manuals, it’s a pot, it can’t be so hard, and so on). As a result there was some kitchen excitement as I tried to open the lid for the first time.

    Sauce trajectory:

    Caution, hot soup burns sometimes.

  •  Keep going until the meat gets so tender it drops off the bone.

It’s nice with crusty bread or potato (if you didn’t already put potato in the sauce).