Fast Food: Redux

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At MH we’re no puritans: we say if you want to eat dirty, fill your boots then pay your dues later. But that’s not to say you can’t cheat smart. We took three junk food classics and reinvented them so they retain all their smutty flavour while trimming a bit of nutritional gristle. Napkins at the ready, gents

Double Trouble

 

Cheat day just got a little bit more virtuous with our remodelled cheeseburger.

 

It was always going to begin here. The cheeseburger is a tombstone in the graveyard of many a well-intentioned night out, where weakened men see their training goals fade into blissful nutritional oblivion. Double cheeseburgers often snare gluttonous men, particularly those who’ve had a skinful, packing up to 23 grams of saporous fat and the best part of 2000 kilojoules.

 

On occasion we love ’em, but frankly a man could do without the guilt. So Men’s Health asked Mark Sargeant, Michelin-starred chef and no stranger to a backlit menu himself, to reappraise the double-decker.

 

“What you need to remember is that everything is in there for a reason,” he warns. “So the sweetness of the bun, the richness of the meat and the cheese, the sweet, sharp tang of the ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles – it’s the combination of those flavours that makes it so moreish.

 

“That said, you can lose a lot of the fat for starters. A gourmet burger is thick, so you need a lot of fat in the meat so it can render out while cooking and keep the burger moist. But cheeseburger patties are thin, cook quickly and are best reproduced with very lean meat.”

 

Ask your butcher for extra-lean mince – no more than five per cent fat – and divide the beef in half and roll into in two even-sized balls. Press flat on a piece of waxed paper until about three millimetres thick, then leave them in the fridge to rest for an hour.

 

Rinse the freshly-chopped onion under cold water for five minutes, then pat dry, wrap in kitchen towel and squeeze out as much of the juice as you can. “This gets rid of a lot of the sharpness and gives them that slight crunch you’re after,” says Sargeant. Now lightly season your patties with salt, pepper and – your secret ingredient – onion powder for that intensely moreish, savoury flavour. Dry-fry in a hot pan for two minutes on each side.

 

Finally, assemble your ingredients (don’t pretend you don’t know which order they go in), place your cheeseburger in the microwave on high for 15 seconds. Madness? “There’s method here. It heats up the ketchup, mustard and onions slightly, melts the cheese and fluffs up the bun,” says Sargeant. “The result is that same squashy warmth you get when pulling one out of a brown paper bag.”

 

If you really want a guilt-free burger, there is one final option. Lose the buns. “Removing buns from your burger is an easy way to lose carbs and reduce the overall kilojoule count of your meal," says Adam Issa, national marketing manager of Ribs & Burgers, who have created a new bun-free Naked Burger. “It’s also a great option for people who don’t eat gluten.” 

 

Excuse #1

You get half your RDI of protein per burger, equal to that found in most protein supplements. Tastes quite a lot better, though.

 

Excuse #2

The pickles contain probiotics, the same gut-friendly sort that people drink special little yoghurts for to promote digestion. But this isn’t a yoghurt. It’s a cheeseburger

 

THE BUCKET LIST

With a little planning and some nutritional fowl play you can fry up a meal that’s finger-licking good for your health

 

Fried chicken was the first fast food to really find itself in hot water with the health police. Stories about mutant test-tube birds grown without feathers or beaks have become an indelibly greasy stain on the bucket of Colonel Sanders’ and other purveyors’ reputations. And yet a truly honest man would confess to a few stains of his own, courtesy of a transcendent roadside experience with a deep-fried drumstick, every moist bite a discordant mouthfeel of crisp, spicy skin and succulent flesh.

The secret to that succulence is the huge pressure fryers, which seal the juices in the chicken. Assuming you don’t have a steam engine filled with boiling fat in your own kitchen, Sargeant suggests an alternative: brining.

“A couple of days before your feast, dissolve your salt in a litre of warm water and leave to cool,” he advises. “Then submerge the chicken and leave to chill in the fridge for 24 hours. The brine draws out natural moisture from the chicken and replaces it with flavoured moisture. It changes the molecular structure of the meat to make it more dense but still juicy.” This chemical reaction is what it takes to keep the moisture of a bargain bucket, without trading in all the nutritional benefits of a healthy bird.

After a day of swimming in the brine, pluck out your protein and dry it with kitchen paper. Now put it into another clean container, cover with the buttermilk, then stick it back in the fridge for another 24 hours to tenderise further. This might be a good point to do some exercise.

When you’re finally ready to cook, fill a deep-fat fryer about two-thirds full with vegetable oil and set to heat to 165°C. While that’s going, pour all the flour dredge ingredients into a plastic bag and mix them up well. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk, put it straight into the flour bag and shake it like hell to coat. Fry until the chicken pieces are that special shade of golden brown and then leave on a thick wad of kitchen towel to drain off any (i)really(i) excessive fat. Put into a (clean) bucket and serve, or else eat it right there on the counter top. After three days of waiting, not even the Colonel would be offended.

 

Excuse #1

Two pieces of chicken contain two-thirds of your RDI of niacin, which helps lower cholesterol and boosts the release of energy from the rest of your food. Usain Bolt was onto something.

 

Excuse #2

Fat’s good for you now, remember? In any case, this has 15 per cent less of the saturated stuff compared to the average takeout version. 

 

A HEALTHY DOLLOP OF COLESLAW

Done well, the classic accompaniment to fried chicken is a powerhouse of vegetables. Get the seasoning right and it will be hot enough to enhance the softer flavours of the main meal. Give the onion a good rinse in a colander under cold running water for about five minutes, then leave to drain and pat dry in a clean cloth. Then simply stick all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix it up well. Go harder on the chilli and lemon for a fresher, fat-burning finish.

 

 

MAN VS NOODLE

 

You can take the noodles out of the supermarket but, done right at least, you can keep all the dirty flavour

 

Noodles are hip right now, with long queues outside ramen joints and breathless blogs attesting to the clarity of three-day bone broths, all demonstrating our newfound foodie affection for the Japanese staple.

All of which has precisely nothing to do with instant noodles you get in the supermarket. It’s about as Japanese as baked beans on toast. And let’s face it, when the fridge is empty, the shops are shut, and resolve is low, it’s no worse for it.

Except deep down we know it (i)is(i) worse and that’s because of three pesky letters: MSG. Great for intensely savoury, moreish flavour, bad for headaches, weight gain and a host of other undesirable side effects. In an authentic Japanese noodle dish, the glutamate would come naturally from dried kombu or bonito flakes. The stuff you buy from the supermarket comes out of a factory lab.

What’s clear is that in reinventing the classic noodle dish, packing in as much taste without resorting to a heart-shaking level of salt is Sargeant’s challenge. 

Start with a suitably heat-retentive receptacle. A wide-necked Thermos would be ideal but, in a pinch, a protein shaker will do. Throw the spinach in first and then gently crumble over the dried noodles. “Break them up into pieces small enough to cook quickly and evenly but long enough to making slurping enjoyable,” says Sargeant. Slice up the cherry tomatoes and spoon over half the curry powder.

Next, add the chopped ginger, chilli and garlic. “Even though you want strength of flavour, grating these would overpower everything,” says Sargeant. “Instead, aim to slice it as finely as you can without going so small they dissolve when you add the heat.” Fennel seeds, half the garam masala and a few coriander leaves top it off.

The final ingredient is, of course, hot water. Cover the dry mix by about an inch and screw on the lid. Give it a gentle shake and leave it to stand for a few minutes. Keeping with tradition, give it a good stir before leaving it to stand again until the noodles are nice and soft. Combine your sauce ingredients and add mix in at the last minute. Now all that’s left is to grab a fork and watch the roof of your mouth. Some things never change.

Excuse #1

This portion of egg noodles contains 15g of protein – about the same as you’d find in a prawn sandwich but with an added gluttonous kick.

 

Excuse #2

There are zero artificial flavour enhancers in the MH noodle, which means no risk of the attributed liver damage, chronic inflammation, chronic pain and weight-loss resistance.

 

A SAUCE OF POWER

It’s not the same without a sachet of sticky sauce on top and this recipe combines three digestion-boosting ingredients to help you process the carbohydrates in the noodles. Grab a bowl and spoon in some more of the garam masala, which has been found to improve the functioning of your gastro-intestinal tract. Mix in the Greek yoghurt for a slug of probiotics and finish with the mint, which will alleviate any bloating when you’ve finished gobbling. You know the deal: add liberally after the first stir.

 

For the burger

20g high-quality ground lean beef with roughly five per cent fat

1 brioche hamburger bun

Onion powder

½ Spanish onion

1 tablespoon ketchup

½ teaspoon mustard

4 slices of dill pickle

2 slices American cheddar cheese

 

For the shake

2 cups of good-quality vanilla ice-cream

1¼ cups low-fat milk

2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder

1 tablespoon malt powder

Small pinch of sea salt

Dark chocolate for grating

 

A SUPERIOR SHAKE

Sure, it’s sugary. But using quality dark chocolate means you’re getting a good slug of antoxidants, along with all its other storied benefits from protecting against cancer to warding off stroke and heart disease. Meanwhile, the sea salt balances out the flavours, so you’re not just drinking an ice-cream. Place all the ingredients in a blender and whiz until smooth but not so long that the ice-cream completely melts. Pour into a glass then generously grate over the chocolate. Drink through a straw, obviously.

For the chicken

4 bone-in chicken thighs

4 chicken drumsticks

500ml buttermilk

50g salt

Vegetable oil

 

For the flour dredge

200g flour

100g gluten-free flour

4 tbsp cornflour

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tsp smoked paprika        

1 tsp baking powder

 

For the coleslaw

1 Spanish onion, sliced

1 carrot, grated

½ small red cabbage, shredded

1 tbsp grain mustard

3 tbsp mayonnaise

lemon, juiced

1 medium red chilli, finely chopped

½bunch coriander, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For the noodles

1 nest of dried egg noodles

1 tsp of curry powder

Handful of baby spinach leaves

5 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ teaspoon of toasted fennel seeds

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

1 small chilli, finely sliced

1-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

1/2 tablespoon garam masala

Handful of coriander leaves

 

For the sauce

1/2 tablespoon garam masala

2 large spoons Greek yoghurt

5 large mint leaves, chopped