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.
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!
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.
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).
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach