After taking care of some work and shopping, we decided it would be nice to have our lunch at McDonalds. We asked our taxi driver if he could take us there, and he was clueless as he had apparently never even heard of the name and didn’t know what we were talking about!
So we started asking for directions, and we had various very good natured and helpful people point us in all directions telling us we weren’t very far from McDonalds.
To cut a long story short, we spent a couple of hours in heavy traffic looking for a McDonalds which, as it finally turned out, Chennai never had! That quest ended with one very dejected little kid and three very tired and hungry people getting off at the first decent restaurant desperate for their lunch.
Akshaya has since eaten quite a few McDonald meals in other cities she has visited, including Chennai which now has them. I have come to the conclusion that while it is fun to eat out, a lot of the time, many of these treats are better prepared at home. Most of them can be made easily, and even if they take a bit of time and effort, things become easier with a little planning ahead. Take the case of burgers. It doesn’t take much time to prepare the patties and you can always do them ahead and freeze them for use later. Then all you need are burger buns, some vegetables and cheese or whatever you choose to put in your burgers. They’re so much healthier and if you choose carefully, they actually make for a balanced meal that everyone loves.
I get pretty good burger buns at the local bakery/ store so it doesn’t make sense to make them at home. But this time I decided to make some from scratch, just for the fun of it. It’s another matter that I like to bake bread, and had seen a recipe for what is supposed to be the best burger bun out there . Never having eaten it, I wouldn’t know, but I was willing to make it to see if this bun was indeed worth the attention is got. Best, I have no idea but I can tell you that thebun baked by Hidefumi Kubota at the Comme Ça is really good. It is a light brioche bun made in the style of brioche with some butter and egg and this makes all the difference. I made mine with a bit of oatmeal flour, but you can go ahead and use all regular flour like the original recipe suggests.
Having decided to make my vegetable burgers from scratch I decided to make them as “healthy” as I could. For my burger patties, I used black eyed beans and rolled oats along with mashed vegetables.
And I baked some potato wedges in the oven instead of the usual deep-fried finger chips/ fries. These wedges are seasoned with herbs and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Here is what gives the baked potato wedge its crunch. First of all, soak the raw potato wedges in cold water for about 15 minutes and discard the water. This ensures that some of the starch gets out of the potato. You can do this twice, but I do it only once and find it’s more than enough. The other thing to do is to par-boil the potato wedges. Drain the water and then pat the wedges dry. This makes the wedges crisp up on the edges very nicely. And the best part is that the crunch remains even after they’ve cooled down a couple of hours later (if they last that long).
"The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single burger" according to Chris O'Brien, but with this burger I can promise you that the journey would probably take at least four times longer!
Brioche Style Burger Buns
“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun.” - Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald's franchise (Adapted from The New York Times )
1/4 cup warm milk
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
3/4 to 1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fine oatmeal flour*
1 1/2 tsp salt
25 gm unsalted butter, softened
Some milk to brush over the buns
Black and white sesame seeds (optional)
*Just run about a cup of rolled (or quick) oats in the chutney jar of your mixer/ grinder to a fine powder. If it is coarse, your burger buns will be a little dense. In a bowl, very lightly whisk together 3/4 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and honey. Let it stand until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and keep aside. You can knead the dough by hand, but I always take the easier route if it gives me the same results so I used my food processor with the kneading blade. Put the flours, salt and the butter into the processor bowl and pulse a couple of times till it resembles crumbs. Add the yeast mixture and egg to this and pulse on low speed till the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough will be sticky like brioche dough. If you find it too sticky to knead in the processor, once the dough comes together take it out, and knead on a floured work surface. Knead by scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. You want the dough to remain slightly tacky, so resist adding more flour as you will end up with tough, chewy buns. Shape dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl turning it to coat well. Cover, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This should take from 1 to 2 hours. Oil a baking sheet (or two, as required) or line with parchment paper. Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Gently roll each one into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. Lightly brush some milk over the buns and sprinkle the sesame seeds over them. Place a shallow pan of water at the bottom of the oven when setting it to pre-heat. Bake at 200C (400F) for about 20 to 25 minutes or till the buns turn golden brown. Cool on a rack.
Vegetable-Black Eyed Bean Patties
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.” - Orson Welles
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 large tomato, deseeded and pulp removed, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup mashed cooked vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, beans, green peas)
1 cup cooked black eyed beans, mashed
Salt to taste
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a wok/ pan and sauté the onion and garlic paste till the onions become soft and raw smell of garlic disappears. Add the tomatoes and cook till soft. Now add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powders. Sauté for another minute and then add the mashed potatoes, vegetables and the black eyed beans. Salt to taste, and mix well. Take off the heat and let it cool. Once cooled, add the oats, coriander leaves and enough breadcrumbs (if not all) and mix with your hands so that the mixture is thick enough to shape into balls that will hold their shape. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, shape into balls and flatten into neat patties. You might want to lightly oil your palms if the mixture tends to stick to your palms. Refrigerate them for an hour and then fry/ brown them in a skillet with a couple of table spoons of oil. Alternately, you can brush both sides of the patties with a little oil and brown them under/ on the grill. Use these patties in burger or else serve them as cutlets for a snack with a little Indian chickpea vermicelli and sauce on the side.
Oven Baked Crunchy Rosemary-Potato Wedges
"For me, a plain baked potato is the most delicious one....It is soothing and enough." - M.F.K. Fisher
4 large potatoes
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garlic paste
Salt and freshly crushed black pepper to taste
2 tbsp fresh rosemary (or less if using dried)
Scrub the potatoes well and cut them into wedges. Soak them in cold water for 15 minutes and then drain the water. Parboil them or cook them in the microwave till they’re half cooked. Discard the water and pat the potato wedges dry. Grease a baking sheet with one tablespoon of oil. In a bowl, put the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp of oil, garlic paste, pepper, salt, and cumin powder. Mix well and then add the par-boiled potato wedges to this and toss till well coated. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 220C (425F) for about 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and using a spatula turn the wedges over. Return them to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes or so till the wedges start crisping and browning at the edges. Take them out and season with the rosemary. Toss the wedges to coat them well. Give in to the temptation to pop one into your mouth straight out of the oven, at your own risk and if you’re willing to suffer burnt taste buds! Let them cool a bit and serve on the side with burgers, or perhaps with a dip or ketchup. This recipe serves 4, so you would need to double the recipe for more.