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.

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon fish stock

Let’s travel back in time to that post a while ago, on salmon heads and how I was so happy I could get them for free from the market.

I’m still enjoying the benefits of those salmon heads. Weeks and weeks later. Gross, you say? Not at all, my dear friend.

We made a simple stock from the bones which we have been enjoying ever since, mainly in the form of soupy noodles (and also one day I made rice porridge using the leftovers). We’ve actually done this twice recently, but I keep neglecting to post it because I keep forgetting the recipe for the stock. Which tastes a little different each time. But this is the basic outline, so here goes.

No pictures by the way, unless you really want to see my slow cooker getting all crusty overnight (do you really??)

Salmon fish stock

One salmon frame, chopped into bits
1 large red onion, chopped
2 medium sized carrots, chopped
1 tablesp whole black pepper
Salt to taste

Water to fill up the slow cooker

A slow cooker

  1. Put everything in the slow cooker and leave it on overnight. Taste and salt as needed.
  2. After at least 8 hours, strain the liquid to remove the extra large parts. Crush anything that can be crushed through the sieve.

That’s it! 🙂

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 🙂

Kuah kacang

Coming from someone who hardly eats or even likes kuah kacang much, the assignment to make kuah kacang for a Raya gathering can be described as a bit of a gamble.

Kuah kacang is not something that I find to be particularly notable. I don’t gravitate towards it on buffet tables. I find it too sweet and sickly, and sticky, and oily. I don’t generally dip my satay in it. I am even less keen on the Indonesian version than the Malaysian version, which is even sweeter.

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

Kacang

Perhaps I have just never had a nice homemade kuah kacang. Actually, that’s not true – I have had Bigfoot’s mother’s kuah kacang, and wasn’t hugely keen on that either, a view which flies in the face of common opinion. Please don’t tell her. I think kuah kacang just doesn’t push my buttons.

But. BUT. I did quite like this. Maybe I adulterated it beyond recognition. Maybe it is not sweet enough to be proper kuah kacang. Or perhaps too spicy, or salty. Obviously, I  don’t think so.  It could be one of those strange things where once you have put effort into it, you trick yourself into liking what you have made. But hey, my peanut sauce, my rules / choice of seasoning.

 It also went down pretty well with the rest of the deprived-of-Malaysian-food-crowd. Yay me! 

Kuah Kacang / Malaysian Peanut Sauce (Satay Sauce)

Based on Anna Qawina’s recipe, tweaked and seasoned differently

5-8 cloves garlic
1 large purple onion, or 2 smaller ones
2 stalks of lemongrass
10-20 dried chillies, washed – adjust depending on how hot you want it
A thumb’s length of ginger
A slice of toasted belacan, around 1/2 cm thick and the length of your thumb – note that I have female-length thumbs, so don’t go too crazy. Toast it gently over a flame or in a toaster oven / dry fry in a pan until the colour changes a little.

1/2 cup water
500-800g blanched peanuts, toasted or fried
1 piece of gula melaka – this is the approximate equivalent of 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, but start low and work upwards to taste.
1 tablesp asam jawa / tamarind paste in hot water, mushed until the water turns brown
Sugar and salt, to taste

  1. Grind the garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, and belacan in a blender or chopper until you get a paste. Fry this over medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Chop the peanuts roughly in a chopper or blender, then add them to the pan. Add the water so the texture is closer to a sauce.  Add extra water if needed. Lower the heat slightly, and stir so that the peanuts don’t burn.
  3. Add the gula melaka/ brown sugar, and stir until it is all combined.
  4. Season with the sugar, salt, and asam jawa. I obviously added no sugar, some salt, and almost all the asam jawa.

Enjoy with some other raya food. Savour it thoroughly, because I’m only making this once a year! 🙂

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!

The Humble Tomato

I didn’t really want to write about tomato sauce, I want to write about eggplant lasagne. Which is more awesome than I imagined, and I have snacked on it three times between lunch and dinner. It tastes good cold. My next post will be about eggplant lasagne.

I am writing about tomato sauce because Bigfoot pestered me into writing about it.

I figure: tomato sauce, who wants to read about tomato sauce. If you’re interested in tomato sauce, you probably already know how to make it and don’t need to hear my ramblings. Especially since I don’t have a proper recipe for you. If you aren’t interested in tomato sauce, you probably bought it from the supermarket last time you wanted it. In the form of tomato paste, or possibly Prego. No shaming here – in my memory Prego tastes pretty decent.

My point being, if you don’t feel like it’s worth the hassle, then to you it probably isn’t.

Why do I make my own tomato sauce then? And why always with fresh tomatoes?

These are the discount-almost-off type of tomatoes

Err. Sentimental reasons. Sort of. Also, I like the taste.

When I was in university, the dining hall food was awful. And by awful I mean really quite bad. Except for certain days, like spaghetti day.

If, because you were ill / not hungry / overly fussy *embarrassed face*, you didn’t want to eat the dining hall food, then you were allowed to exchange your meal allocation for 4 fruits. For some reason, in this university, tomatoes were classified as a fruit along with bananas and apples. To give them credit, I did see people chomp into whole tomatoes after meals so perhaps it was a cultural thing.

4 tomatoes + garlic + pasta made for a much better dinner than what I used to find in the dining hall.

I didn’t have a pot of my own back then, and the one I did borrow was lidless. And for some reason I thought that tomato sauce needed to be stirred constantly to prevent it from burning. Probably an indication that I had the heat too high, but it was therapeutic none the less.

Since then, I’ve figured this cooking business out a little bit better. But for me, on a cold evening, comfort food (with minimal effort) doesn’t get much better than a simmering pot of fresh tomato sauce.

It's so hard to make tomato sauce look attractive

Note: I used loads of tomatoes because of $1 (for a big bag of) tomatoes. Yay tomatoes!

Basic Tomato Sauce

I use variations of this in most recipes requiring some sort of tomato base, unless it’s tomato paste to be mixed into a sauce or something. Then I’d probably just buy tomato paste. 

Basic:
4 medium sized tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic

Balsamic vinegar – for balancing. I’ve done this with white vinegar too, but be careful and use only a tiny bit as it tastes harsh.
Sugar – again, for balancing.
Olive oil

Optional: onion (up to 1/2 a small one), chilli (fresh or flakes), anchovies, various herbs, various other vegetables to flavour the sauce.

This looks long but it is really just a few steps: add garlic, add tomato, simmer, season, simmer. The rest is descriptive.

  1. Prep:
    Grab a pot with a lid, and put in a little olive oil. I use about a teaspoon. Leave the lid off, and let the oil heat over a medium-low flame. 
  2. Garlic:
    Crush your garlic and roughly chop it. As you finish chopping, add it to the pot. Stir a little and make sure it doesn’t burn.

    • At this point you can add your extras:
      • I almost always add 1/4 to 1/2 a sliced onion, depending on the size of the onion. I also usually add a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
      • I recently discovered anchovies, and sometimes add one or two small ones.
  3. Tomato:
    While the garlic + extras are cooking, chop your tomatoes. Roughly chopped is fine, they don’t need to be too small. I don’t bother blanching off the skins, as I like my sauce chunky anyway.
  4. Tomato:
    As the garlic turns golden and onions (if using) turn translucent, drop in the tomatoes. Note that garlic can burn quite quickly, but as long as you put in a couple of tomatoes before the garlic burns it’ll be fine. Apparently this has something to do with the liquid coming out of the tomato, and is called deglazing. Once all your tomatoes are in, cover the pot and crank up the heat to med-high. Make sure your lid fits well, if not you may need to add water later. If you want you can add other random vege to flavour the sauce here too – a grilled (charred) capsicum is nice, chopped roughly.
  5. Simmer:
    That’s it! Now leave it alone for 15 minutes. You don’t even have to stir, just make sure it doesn’t dry out – if so, turn down the heat a bit and add a little water.
  6. Season:
    By now your tomatoes are mushy and the beginnings of awesomeness are blossoming. Time to balance the flavour.

    • When I lived in UK / NL /and now Australia, I generally use/d very little seasoning – half a teaspoon of balsamic, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar or less. You can also add herbs, if you feel like it. Taste and adjust until it is to your liking. Also, a little salt helps if you like that (I usually don’t salt it much).
    • Sorry Malaysia and Singapore, I love your food but your tomatoes are sour. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong at the beginning. I generally use half to one teaspoon of balsamic, and up to a teaspoon of sugar, but don’t add it all at once, taste and adjust slowly.
  7. Simmer:
    Close the lid of the pot and keep cooking on medium for as long as you want. The longer you cook it for, the longer the humble tomato has to turn into the soothing balm that is good tomato sauce. Keep an eye on it in case it gets dry.
    If you turn the heat down to low, you can pretty much leave it alone while you figure out the rest of your food-related tasks. If it gets dry, add a little water. If you need it thicker, leave the lid off (e.g., if you use it for pizza sauce).

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 🙂

Sambalicious Greens

Random thought: asparagus looks more like fingers than ladies fingers (bhindi), in my opinion. Stubby, weird fingers, but still.

Ladies fingers (bhindi) look like talons that come off some strange and massive creature from a long distant past.

A pile of green

Sambal asparagus (well, sambal-anything really) is one of my favourite vegetables to eat in restaurants, but not to eat at home. Why? It’s more hassle than the garlic-oyster-sauce variety. But well, the result is worth it. And if you make loads of sambal  and store it like Rasa Malaysia suggests, then I suppose a sambal-vegetable should be faster than any other sort.  I’m an inconsistent sambal-eater at home, so I didn’t bother making extra.

Sambal necessities

As you might have guessed by now, you can make sambal-anything and it will still taste good. Mostly green veg will work the best (I think), but it would be nice with eggplant too. Perhaps pumpkin? I’ll have to try that.

I could eat only sambal asparagus for meals on end

Sambal Asparagus

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia. I reduced the sambal amount because I only wanted enough for this dish, so the proportions are just slightly different.

5 dried chillies
2 fresh chillies
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 teasp belacan

200g asparagus – use young asparagus, or peel it! I forgot and served unpeeled large asparagus, fellow diners were not amused
A few prawns – with the shell removed is easier to eat
1/4 teasp sugar
1/4 teasp fish sauce

  1. Blend the chillies (dried and fresh), shallots, garlic, and belacan into a thick paste.
  2. Fry the sambal in a wok in a little oil, until you smell the belacan (believe me, you won’t miss it. Open your windows).
  3. Add the prawns and stir them in quickly, then dump in the asparagus.
  4. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and stir in. Taste, and adjust as needed. Keep cooking until the asparagus is done through.

 

In Sickness and in Mild-Lactose Intolerance

Despite the fact that I’m more than often (read: every day if possible) willing to eat hugely indulgent cakes/ice cream, that cheese and chocolate are some of the ingredients I use most frequently according to the tag cloud (after chilli and garlic), and that I would do a great many things to spend an afternoon eating a large bowl of clotted cream garnished with raspberries, I do have a slight problem with milk products.

Clearly, I am of the opinion that a slice of really good cake is worth any slight potential inconvenience it causes. But what it does mean is that I get rather grouchy when I eat bad cake, or bad ice cream, or those weird plastic cheeses. Wasting the lactose quota for the day, you know?

Pre-creamy cashews. I wouldn't have believed it worked until I tried See it looks a little like cream..ish

I never used to be this way. If not for this little issue, I’d probably balloon up to the size of a small walrus in a few weeks. Because I do love my cheese and chocolate.

I blame my university in the Netherlands for feeding me cheese sandwiches at breakfast and lunch almost every single day for 3 years. Perhaps my body went on strike after that? I’m still not especially keen on sandwiches. My feelings towards cheese have, however, not been affected in the slightest.

The consequence of all this is that you probably shouldn’t expect to find me extolling the virtues of the “best carbonara sauce I ever made”.

Didn't chop carefully, was tired Getting a little hot and steamy Mushrooms and cashew sand

I understand that prior to providing pictures of a nice, creamy, brown mushroom soup may not be the best moment in time to discuss lactose intolerance.

Mushroom slurry

So, why cream of mushroom soup? Um, I like it. And sometimes I miss Soup Spoon. No, this isn’t even similar to the Soup Spoon recipe at all, I just felt like having cream of mushroom.

And then, the opportune moment arrived – I was staying with BigFoot in Melbourne for the week, and both of us were sick. I was slightly healthier than he was by soup day, having had the worst of my flu a few days prior. Hence, I got to decide what we ate while he spent time accidentally taking very drowsy medication that knocks you out. He was up and about after a few hours, though I don’t think anyone else would have wanted to share the dinner we made. *cough hack sneeze*

Egg salad! Ugh The other side is burnt...that I didn't show you

Is it sad that I need the excuse that both of us were sick before having soup for dinner? I think it is. I don’t know why I have such an attachment to square meals at dinnertime.  It must be the auntie lurking within.

I also think it’s kinda bad that I was excited about being sick because of the excuse to have soup and garlic bread for dinner.

Don't float the bread like this, we burnt our fingers. So much for attempts at fancy plating.

Anyway, vegan soup – because I didn’t need more problems in addition to flu. But I do think I will continue making cashew soup instead of using cream. I always end up with leftover cream in the fridge, and I never know what to do with it because it isn’t advisable for me to whip up the entire packet in one go and spend the afternoon eating whipped cream with a spoon.

Cashew Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Cheesy Garlicky Bread

Inspired by the recipes of Vegan Sparkles and Joy the Baker, though I’m not sure how close their method is to ours – I pretty much just glanced at their recipes for seasoning, before we went off and did our own thing in a congested stupor.

Cashew Cream of Mushroom Soup

2/3 rice cup unsalted cashews – yea, sorry I couldn’t find my usual measuring cup
2/3 rice cup hot water – as above… I don’t think it’s an exact science though
200g pre-sliced white mushrooms – I was sick, don’t judge. I usually don’t buy pre-sliced
200g large brown mushrooms – 3/4 roughly chopped smaller, 1/4 chunked large
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablesp soya sauce
A few shakes of italian herb mixture
1 cube of vegetable stock
Black pepper to taste
2-3 more serving size bowls of water – like a cereal bowl size

  1. Dump the cashews in the hot water and leave them to sit for a bit.
  2. Throw the peeled garlic and onion in the chopper, and roughly chop.
  3. Heat up a big pot with a little oil. Add the garlic and onion and let them sizzle until they smell great (if you can smell). If you can’t smell, keep going until they are soft and a little charred on some edges. Heat should be on medium.
  4. Chuck in the white mushrooms and the browm mushrooms that you roughly chopped smaller. Keep the large chunks back.
  5. Pour in the soya sauce and a few shakes of herbs. Don’t worry, you can always add more later. Stir stir until all is cooked. Use medium heat, don’t burn the bottom of the pot.
  6. The cashews should have softened a bit by now. Put everything in the chopper and chop it well. I only chopped until the texture of large sand grains (note that I have a chopper not a blender).
  7. Once the mushrooms are cooked, dump in the cashew water mix. Combine everything in the pot.
  8. Then take everything out of the pot and chop it in the chopper until it goes smooth.  Pour it back in the pot over medium heat.
  9. Now you can add in the extra water. I added 3 cereal bowls full, and it was a little too much. I think 2.5 bowls would have been enough.
  10. Once the water is mixed in with the mushroom paste, crumble in the stock cube and make sure it dissolves. This is when you throw in the large mushroom chunks too.
  11. Add some black pepper. It should be done soonish, as soon as the large mushroom chunks are done. Just keep seasoning until you like it, and you can boil down to make it thicker if you want.

Cheesy Garlicky Bread

6 cloves garlic
4 tablesp butter, softened
Some cheese – it’s up to you what you use, we used the equivalent of about 4 tablesp of maarsdam (that was what was on sale in the supermarket)
2  short, slightly crusty bread rolls

Oven temperature: set it to grill

  1. Chop the garlic roughly in the chopper.
  2. Add the butter to the chopper and then pulse the chopper again.
  3. Dump in the cheese in the chopper and pulse a couple more times. The final mixture looks like egg salad, kinda gross in my opinion but whatever.
  4. Cut the bread rolls into slices.
  5. Spread the buttery, garlicky, cheesy spread on to the slices and reassemble into a  bread-roll shape.
  6. Wrap the rolls in silver foil and stick them in the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or when you can smell tasty roasting garlic. After that, check and see if they’re done. Ours were slightly burnt because we didn’t check until 20 minutes (we couldn’t smell the garlic…)