Libyan burger recipe

BH&T Libyan burgerLamb Mb’atten Sliders with Bzaar Seasoned Ketchup
Our next stop on this culinary journey is Libya.  Libya is a country in North Africa bordering Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Niger, Sudan and Egypt.  Originally settled by the Berbers, the area was later ruled by Egyptians then became part of the Roman Empire.  After the Roman Empire fell, various groups ruled the area until the Ottoman Empire took over in 1551.  Then in the 20th century the Italy began an occupation that lasted until the end of WWII.  Libya became independent in 1951.  Muammar al-Qadhafi assumed leadership in 1969.  Qadhafi espoused a mix of socialism and Islam.  But he wasn’t happy spreading his ideology in just his home country.  Because Libya has large oil stores, he was able to use the money from oil to support other like minded people and he became the face of terrorism in the 1970s.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Facebook

In 2003 Libya admitted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland.  The government turned over two suspects and paid reparations to the families of the victims.  Qadhafi also agreed to stop trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.  After 7 years of normalizing relations between Western nations and Libya, the unrest that began late in 2010 and later became known as Arab Spring, spread to Libya in early 2011.  Qadhafi was overthrown by mid-2011 (and killed in the process) and a transitional government took over until elections in 2014.  Since then, Libya has continued to struggle with instability and violence.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

So that’s the short version of a very long and complicated history.  Which brings us to the more uplifting part of the tale – the story of food.  Food is central to Libyan life and culture.  Libyans have a popular saying “One must eat well.”  Central to Libyan cooking is olive oil, dates, grains and milk products (like ghee and yogurt).  My favorite fun food fact is that the sand in Libya gets so hot in the summer that you can (and many do) bake bread, potatoes or eggs by burying them in the sand.  Unfortunately, the sand in Boston is not quite up to the task, so I didn’t get to try it out.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

As I was researching the various flavors of Libya, and this is a country that loves complex flavors and myriad spices so there was lots to build on, I came across Mb’atten.  There are some who claim that this is a dish unique to Libya, but I have friends who are from the Middle East and they assure me that this dish can be found outside of Libya.  They also assured me that it is delicious.  So, what is Mb’atten you ask?  It is herb, onion and lamb stuffed inside a thinly sliced potato pocket then fried!  That’s right folks, it’s like potato skins that you didn’t cut all the way, so they’re connected and then you stuff with the most deliciously seasoned meat you can conjure up and some zesty fresh herbs and it’s heavenly.

I’m sure you can tell from the picture that I totally overstuffed the potato; I found that a generous meat to potato ratio tasted the best, but this also makes it more difficult to eat.  My choice is always going to be for yummy vs. easy to eat, a little mess and lamb juice running down your chin is good for the soul.  I added the seasoned ketchup because I always like a little sauce and I think the juxtaposition of tart ketchup and sweet lamb is nice – you could also make a seasoned or herbed yogurt if you prefer (insert joke about American love of ketchup here…).  If you do make the ketchup, just go light with it.  Tomato is a strong flavor and it can easily overwhelm the lamb.  I found serving it on the side worked better so each diner could decide how much was perfect themselves.

Cutting the potatoes just right is not easy, be prepared to scrap a few as you learn the feel.  I went through three versions before I came up with one pretty enough for the blog.  The good news is that the ugly ones were just as tasty.  Even if they fall apart completely you end up with a thick potato chip – hard to be sad about that.  Try to find fat potatoes so that you get decent sized “buns”.  Once you mastered the potato “bun” or “pocket”, this technique could be used with any number of different flavor profiles and meats – I’m thinking carnitas might be a good match.  Let me know if you try any crazy combos…sweet potato pockets with pulled pork anyone?

But I digress, if you fried food and/or Middle Eastern spices, you will enjoy this burger.  It’s meat and potatoes with flair and zing.  If you enjoy this burger you should also consider my Bahrainian burger, it’s another take on lamb and fresh herbs, perfect for summer dining.

Libyan Burger
1 pound ground lamb
2 Tablespoons Bzaar Seasoning (recipe below)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic minced
8 scallions chopped (white and light green parts)
½ cup fresh dill chopped
4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
4 teaspoons minced Serrano chilies
1 egg beaten
3-4 large Yukon gold potatoes
Flour
Vegetable oil
Bzaar Ketchup (recipe below)

Combine the lamb, Bzaar Seasoning and salt.  Cook the meat mixture in a medium skillet over medium heat until just browned.  While meat is cooking combine the garlic, scallions, dill, cilantro and chilies.  When meat is just browned (don’t overcook), turn off the heat and add the herb mixture.  Stir until herbs are wilted the transfer mixture to a glass bowl.  Let it cool a bit then add the beaten egg.

In the meantime peel the potatoes.  It helps at this point to take one side of the potato and slice a little bit off so that you have a flat side to keep the potato steady, if you feel ok with your knife skills, then you can skip this.  Now comes the tricky part.  Slice the potatoes into 8 rounds that are less than ½ inch thick.  Now comes the even trickier part, slice each round ¾ of the way through (or more if you can do it without the seem breaking).  Try to keep your knife centered so that each side of the “bun” is the same thickness.

Stuff each “bun” with a generous helping of the meat and herb mixture.

BH&T Libya burger pre-fry

Dip the open end into flour.  In a large skillet, heat ¼” of vegetable oil until shimmering.  Fry each of the stuffed potatoes until golden then gently flip them and fry the other side until golden.  This takes about 4 minutes per side and it helps if you baste (especially at the seam of the potato).  The challenge is moving these gently so you don’t lose your filling and making sure the potato is cooked through.  The seam will take longer to cook than the ends, so basting it with oil as it cooks help cook both sides of the seam at the same time.

When the potatoes are cooked through and golden, serve the sliders hot with a side of Bzaar Ketchup.

Bzaar Seasoning
1½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all the spices and store any extra in an airtight container in the freezer.

Bzaar Ketchup
½ cup ketchup
1½ teaspoon Bzaar seasoning
1½ teaspoon olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and store covered until ready to use.

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1733

©Copyright 2015 Linda Monach

Posted in african recipes, burger recipes, lamb burgers, middle eastern recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Liberian burger recipe

BH&T Liberian BurgerBurger with Spicy Greens on a Sweet Potato Pancakes -
The snow is finally (almost) gone, and we have dug out of the winter craziness.  It must be time to get back to burgers.  Luckily we get to start things off with both an interesting country and a scrumptious meal.  We’ve finally (only two years behind schedule) reached the mid point, number 96 of 192 countries.  Liberia here we come!  Liberia is a country on the coast of Western Africa bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte D’Ivoire.  The history of this country is unique.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Rather than being colonized as so much of Africa, Liberia was founded a little differently.  The journey began in 1815.  After the American Revolution, free African Americans struggled to find work and community in the US.  Some free blacks and whites began to work together to “solve this problem.”  At this time, the idea of whites and blacks mingling and living together seemed impossible to most.  From this tension came the idea to return free blacks to Africa.

In 1815, Paul Cuffee, an African American entrepreneur, financed a voyage to Sierra Leone.  He helped settle a small group of immigrants with the dream that they would be able to set up a trade network, educate local black with the skill that the immigrants brought from the west, and live a life free of the restraints of the US limits on black freedom.

In 1820, the American Colonization Society (ACS), a white dominated organization sent another group of immigrants to Africa.  They started on an island in Sierra Leone, but it was swampy and disease ended up being a huge problem.  So, with the help of the British, the group convinced the locals to sell some coastal land and so began the settlement that would eventually become Liberia.  The early history of Liberia is fraught with conflict.  Conflict between the immigrants and the native populations and conflict between the immigrants and the ruling government (originally governed by representatives chosen by ACS).

from www.virtualtourist.com

from www.virtualtourist.com

Fast forward to 1847 and Liberia declares independence.  This independence was not recognized by the US until 1862.  I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but it wasn’t.  Liberia has continued to struggle with conflict between decedents of American immigrants and native people.  There has been corruption and civil war (which lasted 14 years).  Relative peace was established in 2011, and Liberia has been slowly working to rebuild and strengthen its infrastructure.  The recent Ebola outbreak has been a set back to the progress that has been made over the last few years.  New cases have slowed dramatically and there is hope that the spread will be contained some time this year.

With such an interesting history, there was no doubt that the food would be equally interesting.  While only about 5% of the population is decedents of American immigrants, they have been extremely influential.  This group has been over represented in government and community leadership.  These immigrants brought skills learned in the US, but they also brought food traditions and flavors.  So, while the original slaves brought food traditions from Africa to the US (especially the South), their decedents reversed the process and brought southern cooking to Africa.  The result is a fabulous blend of fatty sweetness and exotic spiciness.  We have spicy greens that you expect from this part of the world, with that warm red palm oil flavor and habeneros to spice it up.  Then I brought the south to our burger by making sweet potato pancakes with the homey flavors of cinnamon and molasses.  The result is amazing.  I don’t even like sweet potatoes, but I loved the balance of the sweet with the spicy greens and the meaty burger.  I liked the combination so much I made the sweet potato pancakes a week later with spicy pork chops – yum!

If this sounds good to you, I recommend you try the Cote D’Ivoire burger; it’s got classic flavors from the region and is a personal favorite of mine.

Liberian Burger
1 pound ground beef
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ ground pepper
Sweet Potato Pancakes (recipe below)
Spicy Greens (recipe below)

Form four patties out of the ground beef.  Generously salt and pepper each side of the patties.  Cook to desired temperature.  To serve place cooked patties on top of the Sweet Potato Pancakes and top with the Spicy Greens

Sweet Potato Pancakes
4 cups grated sweet potatoes (use large holes on a box cheese grater, or food processor)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3-6 shakes Tabasco sauce
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 eggs
Peanut oil

Combine first six ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the 2 eggs.  Add the eggs to the sweet potato mixture.  Form the mixture into four disks (about ½ inch thick).  Heat ¼ inch of peanut oil until shimmering.  Cook the cakes in the oil until warm through and brown on each side (because of the molasses, this will brown more than you might expect, don’t worry, it will taste delicious).  Set on paper towel until ready to serve.

BH&T Liberia Sweet Potato Pancake

Spicy Greens
1 Tablespoon red palm oil
1 onion halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 habenero pepper sliced
4 cups collard greens chopped (remove big stems)

In a large sauté pan, heat palm oil over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic and peppers and cook until soft and translucent.

In the meantime, put greens into boiling water for 2-3 minutes then shock them in an ice bath.  Once they are completely cool, drain the excess water.

Remove the peppers from the sauté pan and add the greens.  Sauté for 1-2 minutes just until greens are heated through and coated in the onion mixture.

Serve warm.

BH&T Liberia Spicy Greens

 

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1724

©Copyright 2015 Linda Monach

 

 

 

 

Posted in african recipes, beef burgers, burger recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The North Pole Burger!

BH&T North Pole Burger

Ok, so the North Pole isn’t a country, but a good friend requested that I create something to celebrate the Christmas season so consider this my holiday gift for you.  There isn’t really a recipe, you can do the whole burger with simple store bought ingredients, and, on the insistence of my friend Cheryl, it is not made of venison (although I really wanted it to be, but I have a twisted sense of humor and she often has to rein me in – (yes, that was on purpose)).

This is a simple beef burger – salt the patty generously and cook it, melt fresh mozzarella on top.  That green stuff under the burger is mayonnaise mixed with pesto (you can use store bought pesto or make your own).  The optional green dots are just pesto.  On top is a sun-dried tomato tampenade – I made mine with sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, capers and garlic – but there are good store bought options too.  The “snowballs” are just enoki mushrooms dry pan roasted with a little lemon juice to give them more sharpness. I added a shaved radish and some clover sprouts just for aesthetics.  We ate this with a top bun, I just didn’t photograph it that way, because this one is all about the presentation.

This is a fun holiday burger – easy to make and really pretty.  It also tastes delicious – pesto and sundered tomatoes are a winning combination.  Just make sure to generously salt your beef as the meat can get drowned by the other flavors if you don’t.

Life has been crazy and there haven’t been nearly enough burgers this year, but thank you all for continuing to visit, read and comment.  Here’s hoping the 2015 brings tons more burgers, and lots of good food for everyone.  Merry, happy, joyous everything to all!

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

Posted in beef burgers, food chat | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Basotho burger recipe (country name Lesotho)

BH&T Lesotho Burger Recipe

Curry Spiced Chicken Burger with Pap Pap and Spicy Kale and Peas
Perhaps it’s my lousy attention span rather than the poor state of education in the US, but I’ve never heard of Lesotho.  It’s not even vaguely familiar.  Yes, it was formerly known as Basutoland, but that’s not familiar either.  (BTW, that’s why the name of this burger is Basotho, that’s the adjective form of Lesotho)  So, assuming I’m not the only poorly educated person around, let’s find out a little about Lesotho together.  First of all, it’s pronounced li-soo-too.  And, oddly, it’s not only completely landlocked, it’s South Africa locked.  It is a country completely surrounded on all sides by South Africa.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Ok, so how did that happen?  It’s complicated, but essentially the Basotho people kept fighting during the years of European colonization and they generally caused enough trouble that the British gave them some self-rule within the protectorate of Basutoland.  When the South African Union was formed in 1910, the British wanted Basutoland to be part of the Union, but they have enough self-rule to say no.  So they remained an independent protectorate.  In 1966 the British granted them full independence and Basutoland became the Kingdom of Lesotho.

DSC3707wtmk

http://www.africaontheblog.com/lesotho-enchanting-kingdom-in-the-sky/

Independence has not been kind to Lesotho.  The country is poor and largely dependent on South African imports.  Worse than the poverty is the destruction that has been caused by HIV/AIDS.  Lesotho has the 2nd highest adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world.  Some estimate that there are, within the 1.9 million people living in Lesotho, almost 400,000 are HIV/AIDS orphans.  I couldn’t find a good source for that number, but CIA World Factbook puts Lesotho with the 3rd highest death rate in the world.   Life is hard in Lesotho.

On the other side of the equation, years of staying more or less independent have resulted in a rich culture.  And that leads out of the darkness and to the dinner table.  At the center of the family food experience is the 3 stone fireplace in the courtyard of the family home.  This is where the women cook a giant pot of pap pap every day.  Pap pap is the staple of the Basotho diet.  It is a cornmeal porridge.  Much like the yucca porridges so common in other parts of Africa, few meals are enjoyed in Lesotho without pap pap.  It is sometimes seasoned with garlic, but often is just cornmeal and water.  It is filling but bland to the American palate, so I spiced it up a bit with a generous amount of garlic and some fresh corn.  It helped pump up the flavor and the pap pap is a great creamy balance for the spice and acid of the rest of the dish.

Because of the British influence, flavors have come to Lesotho from various British colonies, which means we can bring some curry into our burger patty.  Meat isn’t always available, but when it is, chicken is one of the most popular.  Like I’ve mentioned before, the best way to do chicken burgers is to get chicken thighs and marinate them, then grind the meat fresh for the burger.  So that’s what I did here, lime, curry, onion and garlic flavors ground in with the meat – flavorful and delicious.

I topped the whole thing off with a kale and pea mixture with some spicy peppers.  What we got was a rustic tasting burger with just enough spice and a hearty feel.  It reminded be of a nice roasted chicken and polenta – but a little more interesting because there was a hint of curry and a touch of spice.  Perfect for the cold nights that are starting to hit New England.

If you like this burger, you should try the Gabonese burger – it’s another great chicken burger that’s packed with flavor.

Lesotho Burger
1½ pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pap pap (recipe below)
Kale and peas (recipe below)

Rub the oil all over the chicken.  Combine all spices in a bowl then sprinkle the spice mixture on the chicken.  Let it sit for an hour.  Grind the chicken then form four patties.  Cook the patties in a cast iron skillet until chicken reaches 165°F.  To serve, spoon ¼ of the pap pap on each plate, then add the cooked patties and a scoop of the kale and peas.

Pap pap
1 ear of corn
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 Tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups water
1 cup medium grind corn meal

Remove the corn kernels from the ear.  In a large sauce pan, melt the ghee over medium high heat.  Add the corn, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt and cook stirring regularly until garlic browns lightly (about 3 minutes).  Add 2½ cups of water and stir to get any stuck on bits off pan.  Add the corn meal and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt.  Turn to medium low and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the rest of the water and stir until smooth.  Cook another 10 minutes.

BH&T Lesotho Pap Pap

Kale and peas
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion cut in half then thinly sliced
1 jalapeno seeded and sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 cups fresh kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup frozen peas

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Add onions, jalapenos and salt and cook over medium heat until soft and just starting to brown.  Add kale and peas, cover and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.  Uncover and turn up heat to medium and stir.  Cook for another 2 minutes or until kale is softened.

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1695

 

Posted in burger recipes | 5 Comments

Lebanese burger recipe

BH&T Lebanese Burger
Lamb Kibbeh with Za’atar Spiced Labne
Finally we get to Lebanon and Paul and I have a good excuse to try the Lebanese restaurant that opened a year ago down the street.  So we went to Al Wadi, and we feasted…but more about that in a minute.  First let’s cover the basics.

Lebanon is a country on the Mediterranean Sea bordered by Syria and Israel.  It is an ancient land; in fact the name “Lebanon” has been in use for about 4,000 years making it one of the oldest country names in the world.  And the city of Byblos in Lebanon (according to Wikipedia) is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.   In addition to being home to too many archeological sites to count, Lebanon is also home to a thriving modern society.

le-map

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

"Beirut Downtown" by Bertil Videt - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beirut_Downtown.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Beirut_Downtown.jpg

“Beirut Downtown” by Bertil Videt – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beirut_Downtown.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Beirut_Downtown.jpg

The population of Lebanon is around 5.9 million people, but the influence of Lebanon goes well beyond that.  While it’s impossible to get a completely accurate count, most estimates put the number of Lebanese living outside the country at around 14-15 million.  Which brings us back to our local Lebanese restaurant.  So our feast began with some basic hommus and baba ghanouj – always a crowd pleaser.  We then moved on to more exotic fair and sampled Sfeha (dough filled with meat, onions, peppers and tomato), Makanik (sausage) and, of course some Kibbeh and Kebabs.

So aside from having a good meal, did I learn anything useful about Lebanese food that could inform my own recipe?  Not really, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that I really like Middle Eastern food.  Lebanese food is pretty classic Middle Eastern, since it’s such an old country, it makes sense that the flavors here would be prototypical.  The only note I could find differentiating Lebanese food was a reference to a stronger use of lemon and olive oil than some other Middle Eastern cuisines.  Not much to go on, and not noticeable as we dined as Al Wadi, but that’s ok, we’ll figure it out.

So we’ll start with meat – meat and meat products are a huge part of Lebanese cooking.  Lamb and chicken are two of the more popular meats, although beef is not uncommon.  I decided to stick with lamb because I think it goes best with the flavors of the region, and, we haven’t had lamb in a while, so let’s go with lamb.  We haven’t tried kibbeh yet, so lamb kibbeh it is!  And the kibbeh will be stuffed with more lamb, raisins, olives and tons of spices – I think you’ll be pleased.  We’ll top with a classic tomato salad and some fresh labne.  Overall the stuffing is the standout with meaty savory flavors marrying perfectly with the sweet spices and raisin, I could eat it by the bucketful.  Adding za’atar and some lemon to the labne brightens and freshens the flavor and cuts the meatiness of the lamb perfectly.  It’s a filling yet not heavy dish that will please the whole family.

If you like this, there are a ton of burgers based on similar flavors.  Two of my favorites are the Iraqi and Jordanian burgers.

Lebanese Burger Recipe
1 cup bulgher
1 small onion roughly chopped
1 pound ground lamb
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
Kibbeh Stuffing (recipe below)
Peanut oil
2 large pita rounds cut in half
Za’atar Spiced Labne (recipe below)
Tomato Salad (recipe below)

Rinse the bulgher and place in a glass bowel.  Cover with water with an inch extra of water and let soak for 30 minutes.  Drain the bulgher and combine with onion, lamb, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and marjoram.  Form four balls from the mixture.  Using your thumbs, make an indent into each ball and widen to form a bowl type shape.  Scoop in 1-2 Tablespoons of stuffing into each bowl then stretch the meat to cover the stuffing so you end up with a ball again.  Gently press each ball into a slightly oblong patty.  In a large non-stick pan, add peanut oil to about ¼ inch depth.  Heat to shimmering.  Cook patties in the hot oil until lamb is cooked through.

To serve, warm the pita bread in a 200°F oven for about 5 minutes.  Gently pry open the bread.  Scoop the Za’atar Spiced Labne inside each pita, then add the cooked patties and top with the tomato salad.

Kibbeh Stuffing
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
6 ounces ground lamb
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground sumac
3 Tablespoons golden raisins
6 kalamata olives finely chopped

In a non-stick skillet, toast the pine nuts until fragrant and glistening.  Remove pine nuts from pan.  Add olive oil to pan along with onions and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add lamb and spices (from cumin to sumac) and cook over medium high for another 5 minutes.  Add the raisins and olives and cook for another 5 minutes.  Cool slightly before use.

Za’atar Spiced Labne
8 ounces labne
1 Tablespoon za’atar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

BH&T Lebanon Za'atar Labne

Tomato Salad
1 large tomato sliced super thin
1/3 of an English cucumber sliced thin (use a mandoline if you have one)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and set aside until ready to use.

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1682

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

 

 

 

Posted in lamb burgers, middle eastern recipes | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Latvian burger recipe

BH&T Latvian BurgerCheeseburger with Sauerkraut, Bacon and Grey Pea Spread
As the weather begins to turn colder here in New England, it’s the perfect time for a hearty meaty burger, so let’s move on to Latvia for a dish that will stick to your bones and warm you with it’s savory goodness. As usual, we’ll start with a little about Latvia…

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Latvia is one of the Baltic countries located on the Baltic Sea and bordered by Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and Estonia. This land has been controlled by Germany, Poland, Sweden and Russia at various times in it’s history, it has a lovely multicultural culture. There is also a tremendous amount of national pride, they even have contest for best use of the Latvian language (important since less than 60% of the population speaks Latvian as it’s first language). In tension with that is the large minority of Russians living in Latvia. Almost 30% of the population is ethnically Russian and speaks Russian as their first language.

Given the conflict in nearby Ukraine, concern is mounting that the Russians may begin aggressions in Latvia. It is a tense and difficult time in this country. Other than the political unrest, Latvia is by all reports a lovely place to visit. It’s capital city, Riga, is particularly known its stunning art nouveau architecture.

By Rastapopulous (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

By Rastapopulous (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

It has the good fortune of being placed perfectly so that Latvian’s enjoy 4 distinct seasons (unusual in most of Europe). Summers are warm, even hot – great for the sandy beaches. Snow in the winter – great for skiing and ice fishing.

http://www.latvia.travel/en/article/climate-and-weather-conditions

http://www.latvia.travel/en/article/climate-and-weather-conditions

http://www.latvia.travel/en/article/skiing-and-snowboarding

http://www.latvia.travel/en/article/skiing-and-snowboarding

Traditional Latvian food brings to mind winter rather than summer as it is based on hearty peasant food. While Latvia has enjoy prosperity in recent times, historically it has been a relatively poor country and the food has been simple, filling, and inexpensive. Meat is important, all different kids of meat, so of course we’ll need some bacon for this burger. Luckily there’s a traditional dish of grey peas and bacon. It’s perfect topping for a burger, but just note, grey peas are actually brown – go figure.  The starchiness of the beans work wonderfully with sauerkraut.

BH&T Latvia Grey Peas

Since we don’t find a lot of spices in Latvian cooking, the sauerkraut and bacon give us a great base flavor, sharp and smoky at the same time. Caraway seeds add a little licorice tang while the meat and cheese provide the rich backdrop that pulls it all together.

Overall the Latvian burger is rich and hearty with a smoky meatiness that was satisfying and delicious. If you like this burger, check out Belarus and Czech Republic – three different ways to enjoy meat and sauerkraut…my Midwestern taste buds are in heaven!

Latvian Burger
1 pound meat loaf mix (pork, veal and beef)
1 onion diced
1 egg (lightly beaten)
4 slices dark rye bread
1 Tablespoon butter
Grey Peas and Bacon Spread (recipe below)
4 ounces havarti with caraway seeds
Latvian Sauerkraut (recipe below)
4 Tablespoons sour cream

Combine the meat, onion and eggs until evenly mixed. Form 4 patties. Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet. Grill bread slices over medium heat on each side for about 3 minutes per side or until just toasted. Remove the bread and cook the meat patties in same pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then turn and cook for another four minutes. Add cheese slices to each patty and cook for another minute covered until cheese melts. To serve spread a generous portion of Grey Peas and Bacon Spread on each piece of bread, then add the patties, a scoop of Latvian Sauerkraut and a tablespoon of sour cream.

Grey Peas and Bacon Spread
2 cups dried grey peas
water
½ pound bacon
1 onion chopped
Kosher salt

Place the peas in a large pot and cover with water to about 2 inches above peas. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 2 hours or until soft. Drain and check for rocks (yes, rocks, there were literally rocks about the size of peas in the mix) – remove the rocks. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Add the onions to the bacon grease and cook until soft. Place the peas and onions in a food processor and pulse until you get a nice spread. Fold in the bacon and add salt if needed to taste. Serve warm.

BH&T Latvia Grey Peas and Bacon Spread

Latvian Sauerkraut
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion sliced
1 granny smith apple, cored and sliced thin
14.4 ounces canned or jarred sauerkraut
1 cup cabbage sliced
1 Tablespoon course mustard
Kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet until shimmering. Add onions and apples and cook until soft. Add sauerkraut and cook for another 15 minutes then add cabbage and mustard, cover and cook 5 more minutes until cabbage is wilted. Add salt if needed to taste. Serve warm.

BH&T Latvian Sauerkraut

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1671

Posted in beef burgers, burger recipes, eastern european recipes, pork burgers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Laotian burger recipe

BH&T Laos burgerSpicy, Sour, Salty Pork Burger with Fresh Herbs
Laos is one of those countries about which travel writers love to write.  I read so many beautiful articles about Laos and Laotian food, that I was tempted to hop on a plane and take a trip.  Then my husband reminded me that traveling half way around the world with an 8 year old with Autism and a 4 year old that is…well…4, might not be fun.  On top of that, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are few and far between in that part of the world, so our oldest would probably starve.  But I digress.  Needless to say, we’re staying put.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

So, about Laos.  Laos is a landlocked Southeast Asian country that borders Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and China.  Unlike its neighbors’, Laotian food hasn’t really caught on.  According to Zagat, New York City got its first Laotian restaurant in 2013 (although if you do a Yelp search, there are several Laotian/Thai restaurants).  At any rate, you certainly aren’t seeing any jeow bong, laap phet or khao niaw stands opening up in your local mall food court.  Part of this is because Laos was, until 1986, a one party communist state.  Since then, the government has been gradually decentralizing and encouraging privatization.  For the most part this has worked well and Laos has enjoyed fairly steady growth in their economy.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Unfortunately, that growth is off of a very low base, so much of the country is still pretty primitive in terms of infrastructure.  Also unfortunate is that as the country opened up, someone, or probably some ones, brought MSG to Laos.  “Modern” Laotian food is chock full of MSG.  Luckily, you don’t have to search too hard for “old fashioned” food minus the MSG.  Travel/Food writers have done this for us – there’s a particularly good article written by Emily Kaiser for Food and Wine that really brings the countryside to life and inspired many of the flavors I used to create this recipe.

By McKay Savage from London, UK via Wikimedia Commons

By McKay Savage from London, UK via Wikimedia Commons

So let’s get to it – what the heck does Laotian food taste like?  Much like Thai food, the food in Laos is about balance – balance of salty, sour, spicy, umami (earthy) and bitter.  Unlike some of their neighbors, sweet is not as important and doesn’t show up in savory cooking very much (or at least not in quantities that are noticeable).   According to a couple of the sources I discovered, the food of Laos often leans into the bitter and sour categories more than many other cuisines.  Since these are taste sensations that we don’t exploit much in the US, I thought we’d try them out and see how they suit.  The coconut lime sauce that I created is this odd combination of bitter, umami and salty, and on it’s own is overpowering (it could be the heavy use of fish sauce driving this), but, when you combine it with the fresh herbs and the spicy jeow bong sauce, then balance with some starchy stick rice and the light sweetness of pork…well, we were in heaven.

Sticky rice is critical for making this dish, and you may have to go to an Asian market to find it.  Don’t believe anything you read about making sticky rice with sushi rice or jasmine rice – you can’t create sticky rice with anything but sticky rice!

BH&T Laos glutinous riceAlso known as glutinous rice, it is a different creature entirely from the rice that we eat regularly.  Unlike sushi rice, you don’t add anything to glutinous rice to make it sticky, it’s sticky because it has more gluten in it than other kinds of rice.  You also prepare it by steaming rather than cooking in water.  When made correctly, you should be able to grab a handful and form it into a ball, then dip that ball in sauce and enjoy (that’s how they do it in Laos)!

One side note, Laotians don’t typically use chopsticks, they traditionally eat with their hands, using spoons for soup.  I just thought that was an interesting point of trivial knowledge and could find no elegant way to weave it into the story :)

Laotian food is not for the feint at heart when it comes to spice/heat.  Like Thai food, Laotian cuisine involves those scary hot Thai peppers, and lots of them.  Yes, you can use a milder pepper if you are not spice tolerant, but the flavors will change depending on the pepper.  I used a combination of peppers I could find locally – I was lucky enough to find fresh Thai peppers and combined those with Serrano and jalapeño.  If you can’t find fresh peppers, you can usually find dry Thai chilies, just start with a few and add more to taste – it’s easy to blow out your taste buds with this hot little suckers!

I find this burger difficult to describe because it is very different than food I’m used to eating.  The umami earthiness of the pork and the coconut lime sauce is at the center of the taste.  But the salty sourness of lime and fish sauce combination pulls your taste buds in a totally different direction.  Add the bitterness of the dandelion leaves and the fresh zing of herbs and this burger takes you to the brink of “oh man, that’s just too much going on”…but only to the brink.  You are saved from falling over the edge by the simple clean flavor of the sticky rice.  My husband (not for the first time, he’s a bit fickle in this respect) declared it “the best burger yet”.  And I even ate the burger I made for the picture the next day (plus made an extra one that Paul heated up and ate left-over and still declared amazing).  I would say that if you’ve been reading these recipes for a while, but haven’t made one, this is a great one to try – it really epitomizes what I’m trying to do here.  It’s as exotic as it gets, but still a burger, and man, I love burgers!

If you like this burger, I have no idea what other recipes you’ll like.  This one kind of stands alone.  Bhutan is another spicy hot burger, so you could try that or you could check out Bahrain for another burger that celebrates herbs in all their glory.  Neither one is really very similar to this one, but they are both excellent and memorable (IMHO).

Laos Burger
1 pound ground pork
Sticky rice (recipe below)
2 cups chopped dandelion greens (or other bitter greens)
Coconut Lime Sauce (recipe below)
Jeow Bong Sauce (recipe below)
Fresh Herbs (recipe below)

Separate ground pork into four portions.  Form patties and fry until cooked through.  Form four balls from the sticky rice then flatten into discs.  To serve, place the sticky rice discs on each plate, then layer a generous portion of bitter greens (I used dandelion, but you could use beet, collard or chard).  Top the greens with a generous scoop of Coconut Lime Sauce, add the cooked patties, a tablespoon (or more if you like it hot) of Jeow Bong Sauce.  Finish it off with Fresh Herbs.

Note – I didn’t season the pork because the Coconut Lime Sauce is quite salty, you really don’t need to directly season the meat.

Sticky Rice
2 cups glutinous rice
Water

Place the rice in a glass bowl and completely cover with cold water.  Soak the rice for at least 10 hours.  Drain the water off the rice, place rice in cheese cloth then steam the rice for 20 minutes.  Let the rice cool to luke warm before using.

BH&T Laos sticky rice

Coconut Lime Sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
Juice of 3 limes
5” of lemon grass grated
12 ounces coconut milk
½ teaspoon dry Thai basil
¼ cup glutinous rice

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan.  In a dry pan, toast the rice over medium heat until just beginning to color.  Grind the rice into a find powder.  Cook the sauce over medium heat for 5 minutes then whisk in 2 Tablespoons of the rice powder.  Cook until thick.

Jeow Bong Sauce
13 fresh Thai chilies chopped
2 Serrano chilies chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped jalapenos
4 large garlic cloves sliced
2 large shallots chopped
Vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon ground galangal
1“ piece of fresh ginger chopped

Toast the chilies in a non-stick pan over medium heat until just beginning to color.  Fry the garlic and shallots in a small amount of oil until soft and lightly browned.

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.  Return the mixture to the dry pan and cook over medium low until it’s a rich brown color.

BH&T Laos Jeow bong sauce

Fresh Herbs
½ cup fresh dill
½ cup fresh mint
¼ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh watercress

Chop all of the herbs and toss them together.  You can adjust the herbs if you have strong preferences for a particular herb.

BH&T Laos fresh herbs

 

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1652

 

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

 

 

Posted in asian recipes, burger recipes, pork burgers, south asian recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Kyrgyzstani burger recipe

BH&T Kyrgyzstani burgerBeef Burger with Pickled Vegetables, Sour Cream and Homemade Rolls

And now we’re back to a land where horsemeat is common on the dinner plate! Again let me reassure you that: A-I’m not going to make a burger out of horse meat (pretty sure it would be really difficult to find a legitimate source in Boston), and B-the horses used for food in Kyrgyzstan are raised, much the same we raise cattle here. Nobody is shooting My Little Pony in the street, so let’s back up. We’re here in the Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

The Kyrgyz Republic is located in Central Asia bordering Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. It is a former Soviet republic. It is mountainous and beautiful, poor and troubled.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

By Vitaliknyc (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

By Vitaliknyc (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Kyrgyz history goes back to around 200 B.C., and it travels from Mongolia through Northern and Central Asia. The Kyrgyz fought Russian control with one particularly nasty revolt resulting in the death of 1/6 of the Kyrgyz population in 1916. Once the Soviet Union dissolved, Kyrgyzstan entered a period of government corruption, mismanagement and ethnic conflict.

What they do have in the Kyrgyz Republic is a rich tradition hospitality and a love of food. The food of Kyrgyzstan is not fancy; it’s based on meat and dairy. And one thing I love is that they love good bread, all different kinds of bread. Because of the poor growing conditions and the lack of infrastructure (like a reliable power grid), they often pickle vegetables and use soured milk products rather than more perishable ones. It was easy to develop a burger recipe around these traditions.

This was the perfect opportunity to grind my own meat. I’ve been hearing a lot about using short ribs in a burger so I grabbed some boneless short ribs and a little bit of sirloin and mixed them with garlic to make a basic but flavor filled patty. By grinding the garlic in with the meat, you get the taste of garlic through each bite. I combined this flavorful patty with a home made roll stuffed with grilled onions. This tradition of stuffed breads is one of my favorites; it brings flavor to every bite and is worth the effort of making your own bread (this from a woman who hates baking!).

Pickling the vegetable is easy – I tried using different vinegars, white wine and cider, but I’m not sure it made a huge difference, so use what you have. It would only be noticeable if you used a super flavorful vinegar like sherry vinegar or balsamic – just use a wine or cider vinegar and you’ll be happy with the results. Lastly I used some labne. Labne, in terms of flavor and texture, is a cross between a cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt. If you can’t find it, I’ve also used quark and Vermont Creamery makes a Fromage Blanc that has a similar flavor. If none of those were available, I’d go with sour cream. I think yogurt is just a little sharp and overpowering for such a simple burger.

The result of all of this is a beef and garlic lover’s burger. Make sure you don’t skimp on salt and enjoy the pure taste of beef. If this sounds good to you, you should also try the Argentina burger – it is another celebration of meat with a different flavor accent. Enjoy.

Kyrgyz Burger
2/3 pound sirloin tips
1 pound boneless beef short ribs (excess fat trimmed)
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt
Pepper
4 Kyrgyz rolls (recipe below) (you can substitute ciabatta)
6-8 Tablespoons Labne
Pickled red pepper (recipe below)
Pickled carrots (recipe below)

Cut the meat into 1-2 inch cubes and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Smash the garlic cloves and add to the meat. Grind the meat along with the garlic on the smallest setting and form 4 patties. Generously salt and pepper each patty. Fry the patties in a cast iron skillet to desired temperature (depending on the fat content of your meat blend, you may want to add a little oil to the pan, my ribs had enough fat that I didn’t need to add more).

To assemble the burgers, slice each roll in half and spread a liberal amount of labne on each. Add pickled red pepper slices, the cooked patties then the pickled carrots. Top with the other half of the roll.

Kyrgyz Rolls
1 cup tepid water
1½ Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
Vegetable oil

Combine the water, sugar and yeast and let sit until it begins to foam. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix until it forms a dough ball (you can add more flour if it’s too sticky or more water if it’s too dry). Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled glass bowl and let rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, fry the onions in a cast iron pan with vegetable oil until the onions are golden. Portion the dough into balls then flatten each roll and put a scoop of cooked onions on each disc. Fold the dough over the onions and make into a ball again. Then flatten the roll to about ¼-½ inch thick.

BH&T Kyrgyzstan bread1

Heat ¼ inch of vegetable oil in cast iron skillet until shimmering. Place the dough discs into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, then flip it over and fry the other side until it’s a nice toasty brown. Place on paper towel until ready to use

BH&T Kyrgyzstan bread2

BH&T Kyrgyzstan bread4

BH&T Kyrgyzstan bread5

Pickled Red Peppers
1 red pepper sliced thin
Cider vinegar

Placed the sliced red pepper in a glass jar then cover with vinegar. Cover and let sit for at least an hour before using.

Pickled Carrots
1 carrot sliced thin (use a mandoline)
White wine vinegar
½ teaspoon whole pepper corns

Place carrots in a glass jar then add vinegar to cover and peppercorns. Stir or shake to make sure each carrot slice gets coated. Cover and let sit for at least an hour before using.

BH&T Kyrgyzstan pickled carrots

Note: both pickle recipes will make more than you need. I suggest you use the left over in a nice cole slaw. I try not to make recipes that use half of a vegetable, so you can, of course, just use half a carrot and half a red pepper and make less.

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1638

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

Posted in burger recipes | 2 Comments

Kuwaiti burger recipe

BH&T Kuwait Burger RecipeSpiced Lamb Burger with Tomato Sauce, Grilled Onions & Labne
Our next stop on this culinary journey is Kuwait.  Kuwait is located in the Middle East bordering Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.  The culinary traditions of Kuwait are rich with flavor inspirations and it was easy to develop an amazing burger recipe to represent this country.  What’s proven more difficult has been developing a story to tell you, finding something compelling and novel to talk about has been the challenge here.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

It isn’t that Kuwait doesn’t have an interesting history, it does – we could go back all the way to when this land was part of Mesopotamia.  We could talk about the Dilmun civilization, the Babylonians, the Portuguese or even the British – but you can read all of that on Wikipedia, and frankly it reminds me of the uninspired history classes of my youth.

By Mikael Lindmark (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

By Mikael Lindmark (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

I could talk to you the fact that Kuwait is more supportive of women’s rights than many Middle Eastern countries and has greater GDP per capita than Germany or Japan (and France, Netherlands and UK), but these facts are a bit dry and don’t really tell the whole story.  There’s also the problem of almost half the population (mostly Bedouins) not having full “citizen” status, but this gets really complicated by the influx of displaced people from around the region all wanting to claim citizen rights and at the end of the day, it’s a bit of a muddy mess.

I suppose that if I were a more talented writer, I could bring this story to life and mesmerize you with the details from 6500 B.C. to modern day, but I’m not.  Beside which, I have a cold, my youngest daughter has a cold, and I’m way to tired to put forth that kind of effort.  So let’s find some lower hanging fruit.  Let’s talk about the food – ummm, the food.

Kuwait is well known for hospitality and generosity and the food is what we would call comfort food.  Rich sauces and stews, lots of spices (not hot spices, but deep and sensuous spices like cinnamon, cardamom, saffron and sumac).  Fruits and nuts with dessert spices combine with onions and garlic and the marriage is lovely.

Machboos is a traditional rice dish made with this kind of balance of sweet and savory and I’ve created my simplistic version for this burger.  There’s also a dish call Duqoos that is based on a richly seasoned tomato sauce – makes a great substitute for ketchup.  Add some labne (a Middle Eastern cheese that is closer to yogurt than what we think of cheese in the States) and grilled onions and you have a messy but delicious treat.

Kuwait has a big burger culture.  Kuwait City has an enormous number of burger restaurants; they even have a place called the Diner that serves a ramen burger.  What they don’t have is a quintessentially Kuwaiti burger.  They enjoy burgers from International chains like Smashburger and Shake Shack.  What most of these restaurants in Kuwait City have in common is a variety of toppings and choices. So that’s what we have here, a burger with lots of toppings, lots of flavor, lots of mess.  It looks like an American burger, but has the distinctive taste of great Middle Eastern food; I’m getting hungry again just writing about it!

If you like this burger, you’ll probably like the Columbian or the Australian burger – each has lots of toppings that marry together to make extraordinary taste, both would probably sell well in Kuwait City.

Kuwait Burger Recipe
1lb ground lamb
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Kuwaiti Spice Mixture (recipe below)
4 hamburger buns
Watercress
Seasoned Rice (recipe below)
Labne (or Greek yogurt)
Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Grilled Onions (recipe below)
Spiced Mayonnaise (recipe below)

Combine lamb, salt and spice mixture.  Make 4 patties and grilled until cooked to desired temperature.  To serve, start with the bottom of the bun; layer on some watercress and a scoop of Seasoned Rice.  Add a Tablespoon or so of labne then place the cooked patty.  Now add a scoop of tomato sauce and some grilled onions.  Spread Spiced Mayonnaise on the top bun and finish it off.

Kuwaiti Spice Mixture
2 dried limes (crushed)
1 cinnamon stick (crushed)
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
8 whole cardamom pods

Heat spices in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant (about 3 minutes).  Let cool slightly then grind in a coffee or spice grinder.

Seasoned Rice
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1½ cups Basmati rice
3 cups lamb stock (can substitute beef stock)
Pinch saffron
1 medium onion diced
Olive oil
1/8 cup golden raisins
1/8 cup pistachios

Tie the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in cheese cloth.  Cook the rice with the spices in cheese cloth in the lamb broth.  While this is cooking crush the saffron in 2 Tablespoons of hot water and dissolve the saffron.  In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the other ingredients including the saffron and the cooked rice (discard the spices in cheese cloth) and cook 5 minutes.  Adjust salt to taste.

BH&T Kuwait Seasoned Rice

Tomato Sauce
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
2 large tomatoes diced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic.  Cook until softened over a low heat.  Add the other ingredients and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

BH&T Kuwait Tomato Sauce

Grilled Onions
Olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced

In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the oil until shimmering.  Add the onion and stir to coat.  Turn the heat down to medium and stir regularly so that the onions don’t burn.

Spiced Mayonnaise
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Kuwaiti Spice Mixture
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Kosher salt (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1625

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

 

Posted in lamb burgers, middle eastern recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Kiribati burger recipe

BH&T Kiribati burger recipeCurried Fish Cakes with Papaya & Sweet Potato Curry Sauce
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is an unusual place.  It consists of 33 islands, 32 of which are atolls (an atoll is a ring shaped coral reef) about 4,000 km southwest of Hawaii.  Twenty-one of the islands are inhabited and the total land mass is 811 square kilometers.  Home to over one hundred thousand people, Kiribati is a country in crisis.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Several problems plague the islands, first there is the problem of climate change – between unusually bad storms and rising ocean levels, there are many on Kiribati who believe their country will quite literally disappear in the next 30-60 years.  While many argue the details of the timeline, it is clear that climate change is adversely affecting this group of islands.

From pensandoelterritorio.com

From pensandoelterritorio.com

The largest island is Tarawa Island; it is home to fifty one thousand people on only 35 kilometers of coral.  The inhabitable land is about 10 square kilometers.  The resulting population density of about 5,200 people per square kilometer is about equal to the population density of London.  In the commercial sector, the population density is estimated to be about three times that of Tokyo.  Rising ocean levels are affecting the water lens in Tarawa – this is a shallow underground bubble that collects rainwater and is the primary fresh water source for the Island.  In addition to the rising ocean levels, the overcrowding has led to people living in restricted areas, too close to the water supply.  Contamination of water supply is a huge problem, and several smaller islands have completely lost access to fresh water.

The result of all of this is that the current President has called for “migration with dignity” – basically a plea to other countries to open their doors to the people of Kiribati and allow them to flee the sinking ship (my words, not his).  So, for now life on the islands is a bit precarious, but how’s the food?

Here’s the thing, when you live on a coral reef, not much grows.  But you do get lots of fish – so fish was a no brainer in designing a burger to represent Kiribati cuisine.  I was looking for a white fish and tried both mahi mahi and cod.  The mahi mahi was better; it melded with the flavors of the curry and gave a little bit of a meatier texture to the fish cake.  Curries are popular in Kiribati – probably because they are so versatile and work with whatever food you can find and, when much of your food is imported, you can’t always be certain what’s on the boat.

Breadfruit, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and papaya are staples in the Kiribati diet and I longed to try breadfruit for this recipe.  Unfortunately, Boston in winter is not the place to find breadfruit – there is a Latin grocery store nearby that I’ve heard sometimes carries breadfruit, but they were fresh out when I visited.  So I stuck with rice and a nice sweet potato (batatas) and papaya curry.  I topped the burger with some lovely tomatoes and pumpkin seeds.

The resulting burger was like a warm winter squash soup with a sweet fish cake – overall sweet flavors with a hint of acid from the tomatoes and a little crunch from the pepitas.  I’m not the biggest fan of fishcakes, but this project is starting to turn me around – this dish is homey and yummy and surprisingly perfect for a cold winter’s day in Boston.  I have no idea if it would be familiar to a Kiribati native, but my family loved it.

If you like this burger, try my Fiji burger – it is lighter and more tropical fish cake, less surprising than Kiribati, but equally delicious.

Kiribati Burger Recipe
¾ pound mahi mahi
Coconut oil
Kosher salt
Pepper
1 cup Batata Mash (recipe below)
1 teaspoon Curry Sauce (recipe below)
1 egg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Peanut oil
2 cups cooked rice
Curry Sauce (recipe below)
2 tomatoes sliced
Pepitas
Unsweetened coconut flakes

Salt and pepper the mahi mahi and cook in coconut oil until fish is just cooked through.  Let the fish cool and flake it then combine with Batata Mash, Curry Sauce, egg and salt.  Mix together until well combine (be gentle with the fish though so you don’t lose the texture).

Form four patties and place on wax paper.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps set the fish cake).  Heat about ¼ inch of peanut oil in a non-stick pan until shimmering, then fry the fish cakes until brown on both sides and heated through.

To serve, scoop ½ cup of rice on each plate then add a generous scoop of Curry Sauce on each.  Add the cooked fish patties then top with slices of tomato, pepitas and a sprinkling of coconut.

Batata Mash
2 Batatas diced
2 Tablespoon of butter
2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut

Boil the batatas until soft.  Drain and mash the batatas with the butter and coconut.

Curry Sauce
3 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
½ fresh papaya chopped
14 ounce can of hearts of palm drained and chopped
4 teaspoons curry powder
13.5 ounce coconut milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey

Heat the coconut oil in a medium sauté pan until melted.  Add onions and garlic and cook over med/low until onions are soft (about 10 minutes).  Add papaya, hearts of palm and curry powder.  Cover, turn up to medium and cook 10 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, try it and adjust to your taste.  Cook about 10 minutes.  Pulse in a blender until smooth.  Adjust to taste.

BH&T Kiribati curry sauce

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1615

©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach

Posted in australian and oceania recipes, burger recipes, fish burgers | Tagged , | 2 Comments