Spiced 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.
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.
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
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.
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1½ cups Basmati rice
3 cups lamb stock (can substitute beef stock)
1 medium onion diced
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.
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.
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.
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.
©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach