A short meal for a long day: bul go gi (Korean BBQ beef)

Today was the first day of non-daylight savings time here in Melbourne. I always find it the longest day of the year: sure, some people get an extra hour of sleep (not me, as my kids were up at 5 rather than their usual 6 am-ish) but by the time 7 pm rolls around, you’re ready to hit the hay. Or maybe that’s just me…

Regardless, on a day that seems interminably long, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend hours cooking a meal that no one’s really going to want much of because – you guessed it – they’re too tired! This is where today’s little gem of a recipe comes in. But of course, there’s a history to it…

Back when I was an undergrad, I lived on campus in a self-catering college. In second year, a Korean exchange student, Kim, moved in. As we both studied sociology, we became pretty good friends. Anyway, the absolute best thing about self-catering colleges are the massive kitchens where you learn oh-so-much about food, particularly food from other places! To this day, I can’t see roti without being transported back to Canberra… But I digress: Kim and I (with a bunch of friends) often shared dinners, cooking together and learning recipes. We’ve since lost touch, but I wonder if she makes spaghetti bolognese back in Seoul, the same way I make her beef dish.

In teaching me how to make bul go gi, Kim emphasised that this is a recipe of tastes: the exact proportions of ingredients vary depending on what you like. She also used scotch fillet steak, but I have used oyster blade, rump steak, chicken fillets and tofu in its place, all with great success. Usually, it’s rump steak for reasons of economy.

In order to boost the vegetable component, I serve it with salad or add in yummy green vegetables, sliced finely. Broccoli, asparagus and zucchini tend not to take anything away from the taste but add lots of nutrients.

A parental note: For my kids, I serve this with soba noodles instead of rice and cut all of the vegies up very small. Before serving, I give it a good stir through and they generally attack it with gusto…

Bul go gi (Korean BBQ beef)

Serves 2 hungry adults or a family of 4

You will need:
500g rump steak (or other protein, see my note above), sliced into thin strips
2-3 spring onions, sliced, including right up to the end of the green bit
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Other green vegetables, sliced finely (optional – these weren’t in Kim’s original recipe): no more than 3/4 cup worth
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
3 tbsp – 1/3 c tamari or soy sauce (start lightly and add more if you want)
Pepper, to taste

1. Place all ingredients into a plastic container or bowl. Mix together. It’s easy if you use a container with a lid because you just put the lid on, shake and, hey presto, it’s mixed!
2. If you have time, let the flavours mix for half hour or so. I never do this and it still tastes delicious.
3. Heat a wok or frypan over high heat. Add the extra olive oil. When it’s hot, add the meat mix in small batches and stir until its browned. Tip that batch out and repeat the process til it’s all cooked.
4. Serve with rice or noodles!

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Finding favour with the family: a pilaf and yoghurt salad

Do you have a recipe that is ‘yours’, at least within your family? Previously, I have written about aunty Ruby’s sponge cake (pure deliciousness!)… As far as my family is concerned (the adult members at least), ‘my’ specialty is a very simple yoghurt ‘salad’ and pilaf. The only catch is that the recipes are actually not mine, insofar as I adapted one from bill granger (pilaf) and was taught the other by a Lebanese friend, G, who learned it from his mum.

The first time I ever tried this yoghurt salad was when G invited us over for an impromptu dinner, about six years ago. One bite and I was done; I think my partner literally licked the bowl clean. It was that good! Fortunately, G is very un-precious when it comes to sharing recipes and so I have been happily making this yoghurt salad, with or without the pilaf, for BBQ dinners, parties, lazy days and picnics ever since.

I’m posting this recipe today specially for my sister, Kristy (of the pesto) and her sister-in-law, Kristal. Both of them love it and so here it is! I hope you and yours love it as much as we do!

Lentil rice pilaf
You will need:
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup du Poy (French green) lentils
1/2 lemon
Water
1 small onion, sliced finely
A good bunch continental (flat leaf) parsley (you will notice that my pilaf is a bit light on green in the photo – it used to be feral in the garden but I think mr whipper snipper got to it 😉

1. In a medium saucepan, place lentils. Cover well with water. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, and cook for 10-12 mins. Add rice and the lemon. Stir occasionally. You may need to add more water. When it returns to the boil, cook for 12-15 mins or til the lentils are done (not too hard nor too soft; they should be the texture of cooked cashews).
2. In the meantime, fry onions in a touch of olive oil over low heat until the are caramelised (soft and browned but not burnt). Chop the parsley up well – you want a good handful or two-worth.
3. When rice and lentils are cooked, strain and rinse using cool water. Shake off excess water and place in a bowl. Add the onions, parsley and squeeze out the cooked lemon. Stir it well then serve.

This actually makes a huge dish and I find that a half serve is enough for about 5 people. But one of my friends loves this so much, she could possibly eat a half serve in one sitting…

G’s yoghurt salad

Please note that all of the quantities here can easily been adjusted to suit your tastes; these are just guides only.

You will need:
300g Greek yoghurt (I use low fat not no fat; sometimes I use a whole tub of yogurt, other times a half)
1 tsp good quality salt
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of paprika or cumin, ground (we like sweet paprika)
4 tbsp – 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 or so cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp honey
I cucumber, finely chopped (optional – I usually leave it out as my partner doesn’t like it for some strange reason…)

1. In a bowl, mix yoghurt and salt. Add the cucumber here too if you are using it. Smooth over the top.
2. Sprinkle over the paprika or cumin.
3. In a separate bowl or jar, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and garlic. Stir together to combine. The honey and garlic usually stick together…
4. Spoon the dressing over the top – use as much as you like. Any extra is nice on salad.
Now it’s ready to go! Yummy with meat, vegetables, bread… as well as with the pilaf!

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