Byron: Hamburgers and A&W root beer floats!

Everyone loves a good burger. I mean, how could one resist freshly toasted buttery buns, sandwiched with a delicious hunk of meat (or even vegetables!) and finished off with lots of melted cheese? Pure heaven.

In fact, I’m such a burger lover that I even make my own from time to time. But you know what, making everything from scratch takes time. The burger buns themselves take a good few hours as they need time to rise and proof and all that. And that’s clearly not going to work if you have a sudden burger craving at six in the evening.

Enter Byron. They pride themselves on serving “proper” hamburgers. They have a few main principles that they stick to: “good beef”, “freshly made”, “cooked medium” and “proper buns”. The beef is sourced from small farms in the Scottish Highlands, and this beef is made into patties each morning by the Byron chefs.  And you know what, it shows. When you bite into a Byron burger, you know that it’s good beef.

But they not only serve good burgers: they also serve A&W root beer floats!! Drinking root beer truly reminds me of growing up in Malaysia, as this was always something I ordered when I went to A&W (admittedly I never went very often). A root beer float is basically a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with the root beer. Believe me when I say it’s ridiculously good. The photo above is just plain root beer, I didn’t get a float on that occasion – not exactly sure why. I never order any other drink when I go though, it’s always the A&W root beer. Possibly because it’s one of those drinks that isn’t always easy to come by…

The main event is of course, the burger itself. There are 6 burger options: Classic (6oz hamburger), Cheese, Byron (bacon, cheddar & Byron sauce), Skinny (bun free, with a salad on the side), Chicken fillet and Veggie (grilled Portobello mushroom, roast red pepper, goat’s cheese, aioli, and baby spinach). There’s also an option for a double patty, which I’ve never had because I honestly do not think that I could finish it all. I tend to order either the Cheese or the Byron, with an extra slice of cheese and a Portebello mushroom. The burgers range from £6.25 for the Classic to £8.50 for the Byron, and additional toppings cost £1.50 each.

As you can see, the meat is cooked medium – you get a beautiful flash of pink when you cut into the burger, just how I like it. I’m not sure if they ever serve up well done burgers, but I’m sure they could do so if you prefer your meat less pink.

Not only do they do great burgers, but they also do fantastic sides. These courgette fries (£3.00) are my staple side order everytime I’m at Byron. Lightly battered and deep fried – yum. Of course, I’m not going to say that this is healthy (because let’s face it, it’s deep fried), but at least it’s still part of your 5-a-day. My only whinge is that it’s sometimes very greasy, especially when you get right to the bottom of the bowl.

Onion rings (£2.75) – these babies are delicious, and have a thick layer of crispy batter coating each individual ring. They’re seasoned well, and are a great complement to the burgers. Again, possibly a touch too greasy, but then again I haven’t found a non-greasy onion ring yet. (If you do know somewhere with good onion rings, please let me know!)

You get a selection of sauces to go with your burger and sides – mustard (both French and English), tomato ketchup, and hot sauce. I love using a mix of ketchup and mustard, there’s just something about the sweet & spicy mix that just works so well!

So yes. I can safely say that to date, Byron is my “go to” place for burgers. I’ve tried burgers at Goodmans, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Giraffe, but I still prefer Byron’s. Have yet to try the Bar Boulud burger though, which I hear is pretty darn good. I’m sure I’m missing out on some other burger joints, so do let me know if you’ve got a favourite burger place that I haven’t mentioned here – and you can bet that I’ll end up trying it! 😛

Byron at the Intrepid Fox
97-99 Wardour Street
London W1F 0UD
020 7297 9390
http://www.byronhamburgers.com/

* They also have branches in Covent Garden, Islington, Canary Wharf, Kings Road, White City and Gloucester Road.

Beef and broccoli noodles

I was one of those children who hated vegetables. I still remember how I would only eat a very small group of vegetables: beans, beansprouts, carrots and cauliflower. No leafy greens ever made it onto my plate. Surprisingly, my mum would never force me to eat them – she would offer them to me, and if I said no, that was it. Turns out my mum hated vegetables when she was a child, but then grew up to love them… and she figured that I would be the same. And how right she was!

From being a terrible child who only ate a very limited amount of vegetables, I have turned into someone who loves them. I happily eat almost any vegetable now (with the exception of okra which I simply can’t like), which I sometimes find hard to believe. Funny how things pan out, really. Thinking back, I’m very glad I was never “forced” to eat my portion of veg when growing up, as I suspect it would have made me hate them forever. (Please note that this does not mean I advocate not eating your greens when you’re young though!)

But why am I telling you this seemingly unrelated story of my childhood? Well, because of this dish. Beef and broccoli noodles to be exact. Broccoli was one of the major “no no’s” in the younger me, but is now something I eat on a regular basis. When cooked well, broccoli tastes absolutely amazing. But overcook it and you end up with a pile of green mush that no vege lover in the world would want to eat.

I tend to cook my broccoli the “Heston” way – see this article for more details. The broccoli is cooked in minimal amounts of hot smoking oil, and then covered with a pot cover to allow steam to build up and cook it all the way through. I like his method because it not only tastes a lot nicer, but also means you retain the nutrients within the broccoli (which you lose via boiling).

This beef and broccoli noodle dish is inspired by this recipe from Steamy Kitchen. Sometimes you see a photo of a dish, and you immediately know you *must* try it because you know it will be amazingly delicious. The first time I saw the photo for this dish on Jaden’s blog: that was one of these moments. And I was right, because this is so so good.  On another note, I challenge you to look at Jaden’s photos of this dish and NOT want to lick your screen. I assure you it is quite impossible. My photos look so amateurish compared to hers! Oh well.

I didn’t follow the exact recipe because, well – that’s me. Instead of using stock in the sauce making process, I add extra oyster sauce/rice wine/soy sauce to make up for it. I also use lots of black pepper because I enjoy the extra kick it provides.

Beef and broccoli noodles
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen (original recipe from Noodles Every Day)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 5 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 500g frying steak/beef sirloin (cut into 3cm x 5cm pieces)*
  • 600g fresh noodles (I used 2 x 300g packets)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 400g tenderstem broccoli
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and mix until completely dissolved. Add the sesame oil and beef, and mix well. Marinate for 20 minutes. Drain and discard the excess marinade.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles until 1 minute shy of being done, and drain.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a pan or wok over high heat, and stir-fry the garlic until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

4. Add the beef to the pan and stir-fry until tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove onto a plate and set aside.

5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and stir fry the tenderstem broccoli for 2 minutes. (You’re aiming for half cooked broccoli at this point)

6. Add the remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine to the pan.

7. Add the noodles, and stir to ensure the noodles are coated with the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.

8. Return the beef to the pan, mix with the noodles and broccoli.

9. Season with freshly ground black pepper (to taste), and serve.

* you can cut them into smaller pieces (1cm x 3cm), but remember to reduce the cooking time accordingly

Caramel chicken

My friends often ask me how I find the time to cook dinner as often as I do. The usual reaction is “but cooking is so tedious, how can you do it after a long day at work?”. Well – I do two things. One: I cook in bulk. And when I say bulk, I mean bulk. There are only two of us at home, but I usually cook for at least 4. Occasionally I cook for 6 – I kid you not! This habit originally stemmed from my inability to estimate quantities… and then I realised it was a good thing. Sort of.

The best thing about this is that I either get to freeze leftovers (like these meatballs), or I have a day or two days worth of leftovers in the fridge. Believe me when I say that leftovers are something I’ve learnt to appreciate over the years, as it means I can still eat home cooked food even when I work late. And of course, some dishes taste better as leftovers! Think soups and stews…

And number two: I cook simple food. By this, I mean food that takes no more than an hour from start to finish. I reserve the more complex meals for the weekend (in fact, I try to cook something new every weekend), but weekdays are for simple and fast meals. This caramel chicken dish is one of those simple and fast meals. Inspired by none other than the oh-so-smiley Bill Granger (who has fast become one of my favourite chefs), this dish is easy to whip up and keeps well in the refrigerator.

As always, I tweaked the recipe. Bill’s recipe calls for chicken, onions and garlic. I added peppers and cashews so I could make it a one-pot meal (plus rice). Bill also browns his chicken at the start of the cooking process, then removes it whilst he cooks everything else. I cooked everything in one go – the main reason for this being I didn’t want to wash an extra bowl. It’s terrible that I have such an inherent inability to follow recipes.

Anyway. This dish turned out well, and I really enjoyed the sticky and slightly sweet sauce that coated each piece of chicken. Despite the word “caramel”, this dish is not overly sweet so don’t get too worried! The cashews and the peppers added a nice crunch to the dish – I’m a huge fan of multiple textures in dishes. If you choose to not use cashews/peppers, serve the chicken with a side of vegetables and it should work equally well.

Caramel chicken with peppers and cashews
Based on a recipe in Bill’s Open Kitchen

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets (skinless), cut into bite size pieces *
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil/corn oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup uncooked cashew nuts
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup kicap manis
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pepper, to taste

1. Place a large pan over high heat. Put the oil, sliced onion and sliced garlic into the pan, and cook until fragrant. (Cooking the onion and garlic in non-piping hot oil reduces the risk of it burning – something I’m prone to doing.)
2. Add the chicken, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. You’re aiming for half cooked chicken at this point.
3. Add the peppers, and fry for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add the kicap manis, fish sauce, brown sugar and pepper to the pan. Stir to ensure all the ingredients are covered in the sauce.
5. Lastly, add the cashews and fry for 1-2 minutes. At this point, your sauce should be rich, dark and syrupy.
6. Serve with steamed rice.

*optional: To make the chicken tender (think Chinese restaurants), add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the uncooked chicken. Leave for 2-3 minutes, then wash off. I know washing raw meat may cause some of you to gasp in horror, but if you’re careful and confine it all to the sink – it’s not all that bad. But as I said, it’s optional.