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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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 🙂

Porcini and Garlic pasta

I’ve been getting a bit lazy with writing my posts. But I still want to use this space to record recipes that tasted good. But I always feel as if to post, I need to write out some sort of grandmother story.

I decided that today I’m not going to, and make no apologies for neglecting the grandmother stories until I feel like writing them again.

Welcome to Lea’s recipe filing cabinet. Make yourself at home, nothing is in alphabetical order.

Porcini Garlic Pasta

Porcini and Garlic Pasta

Inspired by the funny packets of dried herbs you can get at the Italian supermarket, which you hydrate and it magically becomes a super tasty sauce. Unfortunately, we ran out and had to improvise. 

4-5 slices dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
8 cloves garlic, chopped
10 large white button mushrooms, cubed
A small can of tuna steaks
1 teasp black pepper
Salt to taste

Fettucini for two

  1. Add the porcini and around half a cup of water to a frying pan. Heat it until the water boils off, rehydrating the mushrooms.
  2. Add a little oil and the garlic, and a bit of salt. Brown the garlic a little.
  3. Add the mushrooms and black pepper. Continue to cook until the water released from the mushrooms dries off. Add the tuna steaks and give it a swirl.
  4. Add the cooked pasta and mix it in over medium heat  so the pasta takes up the taste of the sauce.

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! 🙂

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!

Things I never thought I’d do: homemade museli

Never in my life did I think I’d ever bother making home made muesli. I don’t even like muesli, usually. Toasted is okay.

But this one day I ran out of breakfast cereal and gave it a go (having too much free time on my hands on that particular, unusual day. Let me say this is not a regular occurance). From that point it sort of escalated out of control and I have decided that the best way to manage the process is to just teach other people how to make their own muesli so I don’t have to do it.

My mother in particular (who doesn’t even cook, ever!) made approx 2 kilos of toasted trail mix using this method and proceeded to eat them in a week. She said it was okay because I said it was healthy (and by healthy, I meant low sugar/salt + copious amounts of oats…all of which I suspect were disregarded).

With less sugar, low salt, and much more oats (!) I guess it is pretty healthy. And not thaat hard.

Anyway, so here we go. Learn because I will only make it for you once. Or twice if you ask nicely. Or if you are planning to pay me.

*sniff* I feel so pro

Homemade toasted muesli

Adapted from various other sources on the web – there were quite a number, but special mention to the first one I found on My New Roots which provided inspiration. 

The proportions of everything are pretty fluid so change as you will. The picture above had hazelnuts, cinnamon, figs, and coconut mixed in.

2 cups rolled oats
2 tablesp honey
2 tablesp olive oil
A pinch of salt (optional)

A handful of nuts – I’ve tried hazelnut, almond, and macadamia so far.

A teaspoon of spice – I like cinnamon but anything goes. Ginger might be nice.

A handful of mix ins – I’ve tried desiccated coconut, raisins, dates, and figs to date.

Oven temperature: around 180 degrees

  1. Pour the honey into a large flat dish and melt in the oven while it is heating up. Once runny, remove from the oven and mix in the oil. If your honey is already runny then you can probably omit this step.
  2. Pour in the oats, salt, nuts, and spices and mix until well combined.
  3. Now you start your toasting: depending on how fast the mixture browns, I start by toasting it for 15 minutes and removing it to stir. I then toast for another 5-10 minutes and stir. For a large bowl you might do 15 minutes +2x 5-10 minutes
  4. Once the oats are nice and golden all over, throw in the mix ins. These go in late because they can dry out or burn easily. Stir in and toast for another 5 minutes.
  5. Wait until it cools thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.

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.

A prettier pie than previously anticipated

Or is it a galette? I don’t know what the rules are for naming pies. It is in a pastry. Therefore, it is a pie. Feel free to elucidate if you know the pie-rules. Don’t report me to the pielice (get it, pie-lice/po-lice?) Let’s leave it on that terribly embarrassing note and proceed to the recipe, shall we?

This is a pretty flexible recipe. The only requirement is that the filling is dry and solid enough that it is able to stand by itself in the centre of the puff pastry and not leak out. And the smoked cheese really adds something. By adding something, I mean in the sense of fancy food bloggers “oh my goodness, it really adds a special something!!!” as opposed to the view that, of course, if you add cheese then you are adding ‘something’, i.e. cheese, to the pie.

I think this is one of the tastiest pies I’ve made so far, and it tasted awesome over the next 4 days as cold lunch. If you want to crisp up the pastry again, reheat it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes.

Soon to be pie See ugly folding - but it didn't fall apart! Isn't it pretty

Seafood Leek Smoked Cheese Galette 

1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg
2 handfuls of grated smoked cheese – I only had enough for 1 handful, so I used a second handful of cheddar
1 handfuls mixed seafood
2 small fillets of fish
3 large leeks
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablesp sugar
1-2 teasp black pepper
A pinch of salt
A dash of chilli flakes

1 egg + a splash of milk for the eggwash

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Slice the leeks and fry over medium heat with a little oil until soft. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and continue to heat until the leeks caramelise slightly on the edges.
  2. Mix the egg, cheese, leek, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes – reserve a couple of tablespoons of cheese for later. Add the mixed seafood.
  3. Place the puff pastry on a sheet of baking paper, and scoop the pie filling into the centre of the sheet of pastry. Leave around 2 inch clearance on each side of the filling.
  4. Cut the fillets into strips, and place on top of the filling, skin up (if the fillets have skin).
  5. Fold up the edges of the puff pastry into a pie shape, starting with one corner and working around until all sides are folded up. Take a look at the picture above for an idea of how to fold it up.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the assembled pie. Rub a little eggwash (egg mixed with milk) on the exposed puff pastry.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pie is a nice golden colour.

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 🙂