Mushroom Big Macs

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Some things in life should be messy. Admittedly, most of those things are food-type-things. But one of the most indisputable messy pleasures in the entire spectrum of untidy things that just shouldn’t be messed with are burgers. There’s a reason Rosie of The Londoner refers to the very best she encounters as “filthy”. Aside from the obvious innuendo: a truly good burger is often signified by a trail of sweet burger juices worn down to the elbow.

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But the same is sadly not as true of veggie burgers. I’m not shitting on veggie burgers. I love ’em and have countless times opted for them over meat, but I don’t know if I could have called any of them “filthy” while summoning the mixture of primal desire and guilty pleasure that Rosie does when encountering an impressive tower of beef. Sure, it’s not exactly the mess that makes the burger good, but when the burger is good and you’re left with a plate swimming in the bloody remains of your enemy/meal it’s all the more satisfying.

IMG_1414Lucky thing is, I don’t think it’s the meat that makes a burger (shhh, I know). It’s all about condiments. Condiments and cheese.

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When I came across Baking = Love’s version of a homemade Big Mac I was intrigued, but didn’t think much of it until eating a not-really-worth-$19 burger the other night. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, but I was just a little meh about the whole thing. Poor condiment execution probably. And then, it struck me: what knowing the recipe for special sauce really means is that we are free to make Big Macs to suit our dietary needs/desires! It’s all about the condiments anyway.

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It’s been years since I ate McDonalds and I’ve never eaten it very often. When I was a kid I remember a cousin asking if we were “gonna get Maccas” on the way home and just looking at him blankly, blinking like an imbecile. Er, what you say? Meccers?

I found out years later when a McDonalds actually opened in my home town, but still, aside from those birthday parties back in primary school I’ve never been a very frequent customer. That said, everyone should have the pleasure of a truly trashy, fucking WRECK of a burger, and this, my friends surely is.

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Oh, sure, anybody can get a mushroom to weep into a bun, but this thing has the classic messy burger gratification, plastic cheese for that true junk food feel, and you know what? The thing that makes it taste most like a fast food burger: teeny little pieces of onion. What? What what?

I KNOW

This thing is filthy. It’s sloppy. It’s a beast (to use one of Rosie’s other favourites). But the awesome thing? It’s only metaphorically.

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[My special sauce recipe won’t be a close to the original as the one here, because I couldn’t get the real american brand ingredients, but it’s close, and like I said, the cheese and onion really pull it together in terms of Big Mac taste. You can see the original here.]

Ingredients:

Special Sauce (makes enough for about 4):
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp French dressing
1 tbsp + 2 tsp mustard pickles
1 tbsp finely minced onion
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
pinch salt

Burger:
four large mushrooms
2tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper
nice round buns 😉
lettuce (I only had baby spinach, but iceberg is probably more authentic)
gherkins, finely sliced
packaged cheese slices
finely minced onion

Do ahead:
Combine ingredients for special sauce. Store in fridge for flavours to develop (you can not do this if you didn’t realise this was a thing). Combine ingredients for mushroom marinade – olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic, salt and pepper, garlic – coat stemmed mushrooms in marinade and let sit for two hours.

Directions:
Put marinated mushrooms on oven tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and top half of them with a slice of cheese each. Return to oven for 30 sec or until cheese is melted. Cut buns into three parts. When mushrooms are done layer ingredients on bun in this order: bottom bun, sauce, lettuce, sprinkle of onion, mushroom, cheese, middle bun, sauce, lettuce, sprinkle of onion, sliced gherkins, mushroom, top bun.

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Teriyaki Mushrooms

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Oh, man, it’s been forever, right? I’ve been super dooper busy, what with the PhD I’m doing (maybe you didn’t know) and family staying and just this week an old uni friend came up from Melbourne. Yay: friends! The other thing that’s been taking up my time is crochet! Sarah taught me a couple of weeks ago and I am hooked (LOL – good one). So, I’ve been eating pretty simply when at home and not really photographing anything.

But! I do have these mushrooms up my sleeve… Which is an interesting tactile sensation for all involved.

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This is another simple one. But, I’ve realised that’s probably OK. In fact it’s great. I’m still regularly making the pumpkin porridge I posted over a month ago, because it’s simple and nutritious, which I daresay predisposes it to actually being made by you guys too. So, here we are: teriyaki mushrooms. Something to pile on a good steak or maybe sauté with other veggies, tofu and some rice for a vegetarian dinner. Personally though, it doesn’t get any better than mushrooms on toast. And these ones go down a treat on a hardy dark rye with a generous smear of avocado.

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I got these swiss brown mushrooms at the Eveleigh Farmers Market one Saturday with Sarah and Mum. The ‘shroom salesman was very chatty, showing us pictures of the mushrooms being grown and also one of his wife, “The Mushroom Queen of Woy Woy”. We also picked up some goat’s curd, a few phenomenal Billy Kwong pork buns, bunches of kale, purple carrots and beetroot and a huge slab of beef rump (which served as the innuendo portion of the trip). We hung out and ate amazing market purchases all weekend, but when my family finally cleared out, the fridge was still chock full of food. I didn’t want to waste these mushrooms on something where they would only be an accompaniment, so mushrooms on toast it was!

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Taking garlic mushrooms and giving them a Japanese twist is probably the least stupid idea I’ve ever had concerning mushrooms. Garlic and ginger are pretty sensible additions during these cooler seasons (good for colds ‘n’ shit) and, quite frankly, are too delicious not to put all over your mushrooms. Which you would then be an idiot not to put all over your everything, er, toast. Hop to it.

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Ingredients:
2-3 large swiss brown mushrooms
two cloves of garlic
tsp of grated ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sushi seasoning (or 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar)

Directions:
Saute mushrooms, garlic and ginger for ten minutes on medium heat until softened on the outside. Add liquid ingredients and let reduce for five minutes. Serve on some really freaking rustic toast.

Pumpkin, cherry tomato and blue cheese tart

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Awesomesauce: a term only suitable when referring to actual sauce. Or possibly, possibly, when referring to picnics. Which are, in my opinion, awesome, and which may contain traces of sauce. The only problem with picnics is how much room there is for things to go horribly wrong. The beauty of nature can be utterly demoralising, covering you in equal parts rain and ants. But it wasn’t nature that got the better of me last Thursday as I embarked on an evening of outdoor “dining”. It was my oven.

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Having assembled this vegetable tart well in advance, even remembering to pre-heat the oven, I was pretty sure I had things down. I checked on the tart about 20 minutes in. It didn’t seem as well cooked as I had anticipated, but if I turned up the heat it would still probably be done in plenty of time. So that’s what I did, returning another 20 minutes later to a still barely baked tart. Ugh. Clearly the oven had decided to quit making things hot. Well done, oven: 1 stars (It did attempt to cook the tart for a few minutes).

Going into fuck-the-picnic-is-in-15-minutes gear I shoved it in the microwave, cooked it for six minutes, then turned on the grill, took out the tray and let the tart sit in there with the door closed for roughly ten more minutes. For a moment it looked like the tart wouldn’t make it. The top was cooked, but when tilted to one side it would leak white liquid. I turned the grill off and left the tart inside while I hurriedly threw together some tomato and pesto salad instead. When the salad was assembled, I decided to check the tart one last time, just to be sure. And it was done! About 15 minutes late, I scurried off the park with my blanket, camera and miraculously cooked creation, to sit, eat and get overly enthusiastic about dogs with my friends.

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Shit: the park is a delight, the tart was a delight, I have no idea what I’m going to do without an oven, but maybe it’ll be OK.

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Ingredients:

1 sheet of shortcrust pastry
300g diced pumpkin
200g cherry tomatoes
1/2 purple onion
100g blue cheese
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
3 eggs
1 sprig rosemary

Directions:

Arrange one sheet of shortcrust pastry to cover surface of tart dish. Use more if you need. Or go wild and make your own pastry! Cut pumpkin into bite-sized pieces. Dice onion. Arrange tomatoes, pumpkin and onion in pastry. Crumble blue cheese on top. Whisk together eggs and cream with salt and pepper. Pour this over tart. Arrange rosemary on top.

Note:

I can’t accurately tell you how long to cook this for, but I’d guess maybe 40 minutes. Wiggle the tart around to see if it’s cooked all the way through. Or do what I did and tilt it, to see if it’s not just cooked on top. If it does look cooked on top but is not done on the bottom you can put foil over it to stop the top burning.

Beetroot fritters with haloumi and avacado

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Last week I spent an extended weekend at my mum’s place. Where the streets are wide enough for two cars to drive at once. Where the nearest good coffee shop is a town away. And where at night, instead of a sporadic parade of sozzled hipsters shouting bullshit into the smog-smudged city sky, you can hear the sleepy static of the ocean.

On my last morning there we took a walk along the beach and up the headland, where new developments are springing forth like monstrous, angular mushrooms between $10,000 outsourced palm trees. Despite the designer mansions and half-finished holiday homes monopolising the landscape, it’s still a welcome escape from the city. Newtown, I like you plenty, but you are cramped and noisy and the windows of your terraces tend not to have fly-screens.

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We ate these fritters after our morning walk, with good plunger coffee. I know, I know: more beetroot, more haloumi. But they were there when I arrived. And who am I kidding? Who cares? This is breakfast food with colours. All of them. Well, magenta and green and cream-yellow rusted with golden brown. But that’s an impressive palette for breakfast in my books – my books being filled hand-scrawled lists of the stupidest things I’ve ever had to google (for work or fiction) and sketches of horses’ faces.

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Ingredients:

about 3 small/2 large beetroot, grated
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin
2tsp ground coriander
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
oil for frying
100g haloumi
1 avocado
juice of 1/4 of a lime
1 tbsp Spanish onion
pinch salt

Directions:

Grate beetroots into a bowl. Add flour, baking powder and spices and stir it all around until the dry things cover the beets. Stir in eggs, then add milk. Heat some oil in a pan. Spoon about 1.5 tbsp of beetroot mixture into pan per fritter. Cook in batches until done, adding oil when needed and flipping each fritter when the bottom side is slightly browned. In between fritters, mash avocado and combine with lime juice, onion and salt. When fritters are done cook haloumi in slices until each side is lightly golden. Stack haloumi on top of fritters and add a dollop of salsa on top. Eat immediately, with a giant coffee.