Lamb Kebab wrapped in Lavash (Armenian cracker bread)
Before we even start I can hear you purists in the group (you know who you are) throwing your hands up in dismay (yes, that makes a sound). “This isn’t a `real’ burger” you’re all out there screaming. It’s like meatball on a stick – ok, point. However, if you go back to my first post, you’ll see that I haven’t broken any of my rules and, after all, my blog, my rules. So, before we go into how/why I got here, let’s do the usual background info…
Armenia is located in the Middle East and borders Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan. This was the first country to adopt Christianity and, even today almost 95% of the population is Christian. Despite this big difference between Armenia and its neighbors, the flavors of the country are relatively typical for this part of the Middle East. Interestingly, I found a lot of conflicting information regarding the cuisine of Armenia. Depending on the web site you visit, pork is the most commonly eaten meat or it isn’t eaten at all; Lavash is either a leavened or unleavened bread; Sesame seeds are either always or never on Lavash – it goes on and on. So, I stuck with majority rules and looked at what most of the sites said about Armenian food.
Everyone seems to agree that Lavash is a staple of Armenian cuisine. Lavash is a flat bread that can be eaten as a cracker or moistened and used as a wrap. It is a basic bread made of flour, olive oil, water, yeast, sugar and salt. It’s surprisingly easy to make (if you don’t have The Draftiest House in America) and there are lots of variations you can try if you find you like this bread. The recipe below is for the basic bread. Please do not by the wrap product called Lavash at your local market – it’s terrible, the flavor and texture are both wrong. If you don’t want to tackle the home-made Lavash, substitute naan or pita (in that order of preference). Lamb is clearly a traditional meat in Armenia (based on the plethora of lamb recipes you find if you search “Armenian recipes”). I elected to cook the lamb on skewers, but they are really just for show, you can leave them out if you prefer. Apricots are also a staple of Armenian cooking, unfortunately I can’t seem to get good apricots here, even in season, so I found a way to spice up dried apricots that works beautifully with the lamb. I used Turkish apricots which are darker in color and have a figgy/date-like flavor. You can also use California apricots which will give a brighter look and taste to the dish.
This is a pretty easy burger to make, even the baking part (not usually my favorite) is simple and the flavors of the toppings went well with a veggie burger, so it’s veg friendly. Also, the recipe tells you to cook on an outdoor grill for authentic flavors – well, it was way too cold Sunday, so I cooked on the indoor grill, got a good sear, then finished in a 425° oven. This worked fine (not as good as on the charcoal grill, but still good), however it is really hard to get to a well done temp, use your meat thermometer and be prepared for it to cook for a while to get to your desired temp. There’s nothing hot and spicy in this dish, so for those of you who like it mild, this is a winner because of that, it also pairs well with a big bold wine. We tried a Tait Wines blend called Ball Buster and it worked well with the seasoning of the burger – I think you could serve any good Shiraz and be happy (of course, I generally think that about most meals).
4 pieces of Lavash (recipe below)
1 pound ground lamb
⅓ cup minced onion
1½ Tablespoons minced parsley
2 ½ Tablespoons tomato paste concentrate (you can find this in tubes in the Italian section of the store)
1 teaspoon allspice
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (or more if you are a feta pig like I am)
Apricot Chutney (recipe below)
Chopped mint (optional)
Run cold water over both sides of each piece of Lavash and cover with a clean dry towel – let sit for 15 minutes. Lavash should soften enough to wrap around the burger, if it isn’t soft enough, add more water – if it’s too soft, let it sit uncovered until it reaches the desired softness.
In large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, parsley, tomato paste and allspice. Mix well to ensure even distribution of ingredients. Form into 4 oval patties (if you are concerned about doneness, feel free to make a flat patty and make your life easier). If you want to use skewers, soak wooden skewers for at least an hour ahead of time to avoid burning – run a skewer length-wise through each patty.
Light barbecue coals and heat to medium high temp. Lightly brush a piece of aluminum foil with olive oil, place foil on barbecue rack before placing rack on barbecue (you’ll want to wrap the foil around the rungs a bit if it’s a windy day so it doesn’t blow around). Cover the barbecue and let the foil heat for 3-5 minutes. Place lamb patties on the foil and grill until lamb is well done (traditional for Armenian cooking) or to your desired temperature.
Place a burger on each piece of Lavash. Add approximately 2 Tablespoons yogurt, 1 Tablespoon feta and 1 Tablespoon Apricot Chutney to each burger, garnish with chopped mint (optional). Wrap the Lavash around the burger and toppings (feel free to add more of any of the toppings) and enjoy! Serve with lots of napkins, because this one is messy.
⅓ cup tepid water (105˚F)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon quick rising yeast
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup flour
Combine the water, honey, olive oil and yeast in the bowl of your electric mixer. Lightly hand whisk the mixture until yeast is dissolved 2-3 minutes. Stir in the salt. Using the batter blade of your mixer, gradually mix in the flour at low speed until a smooth batter forms. Change to the kneading hook and gradually add the remaining flour while kneading on low speed. Knead the dough in the mixer on low speed for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a large glass bowl and cover loosely with a clean dry towel. Let the dough rest in an area free of drafts until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Punch the dough down and divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and let rest covered with a clean, dry towel for 15 minutes. On a very lightly floured surface, roll each ball out to an oval shape as thin as you can. The dough will be very elastic, so you will have to put some effort into the rolling.
The goal is to be able to see light through the dough when you hold it up to the window.
Place each oval on a cookie sheet and prick the dough all over with a fork (this dough will bubble, so be generous with the fork action). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup onion diced
½ cup dried Turkish apricots diced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon honey
In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add onion and cook until beginning to soften (about 2 minutes). Add all of the other ingredients and stir until mixed. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use (relish is best at room temperature)
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach