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?

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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).