Stirred not shaken – lamb burgers with mint
Fortune tellers, tarot card readers, horoscopes – I wish that just for fun I could believe they offer a grain of truth, but I just don’t get it. Same could be said about ordering a burger in a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, I like burgers. I’ve been through that stage of life of staggering into a burger joint late at night with alcohol fuelled hunger (this was in the days that John Gummer was feeding his daughter hamburgers in front of the media). I do wonder occasionally whether I have become a mad cow…but I digress. I like to eat burgers fresh from the barbecue or cast iron griddle and preferably when no one is watching to see the mayonnaise and gherkins slide down my chin.
I was invited the opening ceremony of a new burger joint, heavy on nostalgia. It sounded like fun.
The concept was based road side burger stand – something remembered fondly by many Americans by all accounts. As a Brit it seems like an equivalent affection for the kebab van on a Saturday night but I even found one stand in Hollywood given landmark status to stop it from closing.
The staff were super-friendly, the welcome warm, and around me, lots of diners, many of whom had queued to eat this food in the US, were in heaven. But I was a bit mystified by it all.
We live in a culture of supply and demand and who can blame businesses for supplying food that people will queue up for. But it’s still ‘fast food’ and my burger and fries contained 1879 mg of sodium (the RDI in the US is 2400 mg and 1600 mg in the UK).
The UAE has one of the biggest obesity and diabetes issues in the world. Why celebrate someone else’s cultural nostalgia when there is so much fantastic and healthy Middle Eastern food to draw from? Wild Peeta has shown how it can be done, but why aren’t there more imitators of this sort of concept?
So I’m campaigning for the kofta! I have no way to prove that this lamb burger is better for you than the ones served up in a burger joint, but replacing cheese with home-made hummus, using fresh mint and tomatoes from my garden, with olive oil, makes sense to me. No one can stare when I’ve got crumbs on my chin either.
Lamb burgers with hummus and mint (adapted from a recipe by Alistair Hendy in Home Cook)
Makes 6 large or 12 small burgers
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lamb mince
1-2 teaspoons dried red chilli, crushed
1 bunch of mint
pitta or arabic bread
approx 150g hummus
Toast the cumin and sesame seeds in a non-stick or cast iron frying pan (dry-fry them) until then start to turn golden. Mix them with the sea salt (you’ll have much more than you need for this recipe).
Fry the onion and garlic with 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture in a little olive oil until the onion is soft and transparent. Mix this with the lamb, about a third of the mint, finely chopped, the dried chilli and some black pepper.
Shape the lamb mixture into burgers. If you don’t want your burgers slightly pink make into 8 smaller rounds (more like kofta). Brush with some oil and fry in a pan or grill on a barbecue until dark brown on the outside and cooked to your liking in the middle. 2 minutes each side, especially with the larger sizes, will give you pink lamb.
Warm the bread, split open, spoon in the hummus generously, stuff with the mint leaves and lastly the burgers sprinkled with a little extra seed salt and a squeeze of lemon. A grilled slice of aubergine is also a great addition.
Love to hear your thoughts about this one.