Afghan burger recipe

BH&T Afghanistan Burger Recipe

Sweet and Spicy Lamb Burger with Cilantro Marinated Cucumbers

Starting the project of creating a burger recipe for each country, I’ve decided to tackle this alphabetically.  That way we won’t get bored eating similar flavors every week – plus it’s just kind of fun to jump from Barbados to Belarus, should make life interesting.

This brings us to Afghanistan as our first stop – yikes!  I’ve never been to the Middle East, and didn’t even have a clear picture in my head of where Afghanistan was, let alone what the cuisine is like.  So, thank God for the internet, Afghanistan is a landlocked country bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Pakistan and Iran.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

The Afghan culture embraces hospitality, guests (whether expected or not), are embraced and fed the best food the household can supply.  The flavors of the country center around fruits and nuts which grow well in the climate – pomegranates, sweet grapes, apricots, cherries, figs, pistachios, and almonds figure prominently in Afghan recipes.  The primary meats are chicken and lamb.  Beef shows up in some recipes, but I get the impression that it is not common to find beef used.  Because this is a primarily Muslim country, pork recipes are virtually non-existent.  The spices are rich and provide the rich flavors for the food, cilantro, coriander, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and paprika are used liberally in the recipes I found.

So, using all of that information (and a bunch more that would probably bore you), I decided to attempt a pomegranate chutney burger with coriander/cumin spiced meat.  Well, the chutney turned into a sweet and spicy ketchup that was tastier than I ever expected.  The burger needed a little crunch though and I could find no evidence that lettuce is used much in Afghanistan.  I attempted to make a cilantro chutney (chutni gashneez) but it was way too watery, so I sliced up some cucumbers (very thin) grated some carrot and used the mixture as a pickling sauce.

Amazingly, for the first recipe of this entire endeavor, somehow it turned out delish.  Even my father ate it with relish (pun intended, sorry).  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe, the prep instructions are easy – you can make both the toppings ahead and store them in the refrigerator.  The “ketchup” will store for about a week, the cucumbers you should use the same day.

If you like this burger, you should try the Armenian Burger, even though I found out after publishing that the mixture of sweet and savory is not authentic to Armenian cooking, I’m having trouble changing it because I love it so!

Afghanistan Burger
Olive oil
Naan or other flat bread*
1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sweet and Spicy Ketchup (recipe below)
Cilantro Marinated Cucumber (recipe below)

Grill the naan on a lightly oiled grill just until warmed.

Combine lamb with spices.  Form meat into 4 patties and grill (on same grill that you cooked the naan) to desired doneness.  Note: lamb takes a little longer to cook than beef, plan on a few extra minutes to get the same level of doneness.  If you don’t like lamb, this is also good with beef, but I didn’t think I liked lamb until I made this burger – now I’m a convert, so try it, be fearless…

Slice the naan into 8 burger sized pieces.  Place each burger on a piece of naan, add 1-2 tablespoons of the Sweet and Spicy Ketchup to each burger.  Add 2-4 Cilantro Marinated Cucumber slices to each and top with the remaining four pieces of naan.

*if you can’t find naan, this burger is yummy on a regular burger bun too.

Sweet and Spicy Ketchup
½  sweet onion chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup dried apricots chopped (Turkish apricots are best, but California works too)
⅓ cup dark brown sugar (lightly packed)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup pomegranate juice
dash of kosher salt

In small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook stirring regularly until onions are golden (5-7 minutes).  Add all of the other ingredients and raise heat to high.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer vigorously until sauce is reduced by about ¼ cup and somewhat syrupy (about 15 minutes).  Pour sauce into a blender and puree.  Let sauce cool to room temperature.

BH&T Afghanistan Date Ketchup

Cilantro Marinated Cucumber
½ cup cilantro chopped
½ teaspoon garlic chopped
¼ teaspoon jalapeno chopped
1 teaspoon toasted walnuts chopped
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black raisins
1 cucumber sliced thin (1/2 if you are using an English cucumber)
1 carrot grated

Combine first seven ingredients in blender and puree.  Pour into a bowl and add cucumber and carrot.  Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour or more.  When building the burger, use the cucumber pulled right out of the marinade (it will have carrot and cilantro sticking to it, leave those they add flavor and crunch).

BH&T Afghanistan Cilantro Marinated Cucumbers

©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach

BH&T Afghanistan Burger

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23 Responses to Afghan burger recipe

  1. Honeyberries says:

    Congrats on your new blog! I LOVE this idea… my family loves burgers too and I love Middle-Eastern food, so I’m definitely going to try this! One thing — my dad lives with me too and I have to be careful of too much spice. How spicy is the recipe? I noticed you included jalapeno. Is there an alternative?

    • linda says:

      the great thing about Afghan cooking is that they really try to balance and keep food from being spicy while maintaining great flavor. the jalapeno is really subtle and you could leave it out no problem. the red pepper in the ketchup gives a nice little zing that balances the sweetness, just use a pinch if you’re nervous, taste as you go. i hope you enjoy it

      • Snozberries says:

        Out of all the Burgers which is your favorite?

        • linda says:

          i haven’t finished all 192 yet. i’m a little ahead of the blog, we’ll catch up soon i’m sure, but i’m only on Benin (that’s 19 recipes if you’re counting). I’m remaking everything as i chronicle it here, so we’ll have at least one a week for a while (hopefully 2). but, my favorite so far is a tie between Australia and Bangladesh…aren’t you dying to know what’s in them? stay tuned. Albania is next.

  2. ken jones says:

    Great burger. The “ketchup” is great. I may make it and keep it around. My lamb was good, but did not have as much taste/seasoning as I expected. Not bad – but just more subtle. Since I don’t use ground lamb often, I was not sure what to expect. But this sublty just help deliver the cucumber and carrott + the sweet and spicy ketchup.

    • linda says:

      Paul agrees with you on the “ketchup” – he wants me to bottle it. This was my first attempt at lamb too and it is subtle – I thought it worked really well with the cucumber topping. We tried this one with beef too and the beef was too strong a flavor. thanks for being my most loyal follower – you now have the burger record – two recipes down, 190 to go!

  3. Diziet says:

    This project would make an absolutely fantastic book, are there any plans?

    • linda says:

      The project started out as a cookbook and will hopefully end there too – I just sat down and did the math and realized that it would take about two years to create 192 recipes and most of the people I talked to about the project were at least as interested in the journey, vs. just the recipes. sounded perfect for a blog, so here we are. if enough of you like what i’m doing, a cookbook will be the end result. keep your fingers crossed.

  4. Tony says:

    You can make gasneetch any consistency you want by varying the amount of vinegar and cilantro. Traditionally, it’s pretty thin, but I make mine a bit thicker. In any case, you should make it because it’s delicious. I put it on everything from leg of lamb to grilled cheese sandwiches.

  5. Rick T says:

    I love the idea behind the blog and cookbook, and this was a good start. I made this one last week, and like everyone else, I love the “ketchup” — easy to forget that “ketchup” doesn’t have to mean tomato sauce! I’m certain to make that again, and may experiment a bit with it myself. I do think I’ll do this on something like a small kaiser, or similar grilled roll next time. The flatbread is more in the Afghan spirit, of course, but I found it just a touch messy to handle. I think I made the marinade a bit thin and over-pureed, but that was because of balky blender, not a fault in the recipe. Anyway, great idea and great recipe!

    • linda says:

      Welcome to the burger journey Rick. I’m glad you enjoyed the burger – the ketchup seems to be the star by all accounts. The marinade is pretty thin, but if you just pull the cucumbers out and leave the liquid behind, you don’t get the soggy burger effect. I agree that a roll of some kind would be neater, but I’d caution against too thick of a roll as I think the bread could overpower. But, since I haven’t tried it that way, I look forward to hearing how it goes if you do!

  6. Pingback: afghanistan recipes

  7. Found your site on yahoo today and really liked it.. I bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later.

  8. Pingback: Burgers Around The World // Part I | Gypsy Mode

    • linda says:

      I love your photos and applaud your dedication to keep up with the burger making! I am hoping to kick up the pace a bit this summer (once my consulting job is over) and go to two burgers a week…my goal is to finish in two years…i know, it’s crazy

  9. I searched Google for burgers and I found your blog 🙂 I like your blog, well done!

  10. Xrumer says:

    hello, love from finland. your post looks great. Mind if i quote it in my blog?

    • linda says:

      love back to you in finland! thanks for the kind words. please feel free to quote with attribution.
      good luck with your blog

  11. Jalil says:

    I like your project & I am looking forward to seeing your book. What makes it exciting is to see you develop recipes with your interpretation as a non-afghan. I am an Afghan-American. We do have hamburger-type of food & of course it looks different due to type of bread & other factors. Beef was plentiful prior to the war. Due to cost of raising cattle, sheep and goats are favored today. But you can substitute most of the lamb recipes with beef. Suggestion: if you mix green-onions & cilantro with ground beef prior to cooking, your flavor profile will be closer to Afghan Cuisine
    Warmest Regards☺

    • linda says:

      Thanks for writing in Jalil, and thank you for the advice on adding the onions and cilantro to the meat. I love getting input that will help the recipes be more authentic. Bread is one of the more difficult things to duplicate as it seems every country has their own bread or starch that is absolutely typical but for which you can’t find a definitive recipe 🙂 I’m glad you are enjoying the project – I hope you’ll try some of the recipes and let me know your thoughts.
      best regards – L

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