July 03, 2005


I like lamb. I've gone from a childhood virtually free of lamb, on to become someone who cooks lamb at least once each month. As I cooked lamb last Sunday, for the Taste Canada event, I'm actually having lamb twice in two weeks - an astonishing increase!

One particularly easy and inexpensive lamb dish is the lamburger. Lamb takes to a variety of spices very well, and I often tend toward middle eastern or mediterranean flavours to spruce up the bugers. The usual salt and pepper is supplemented with pomegranate molasses, cumin, mint, and sumac, or mint, oregano, garlic and parsley. I use one of those indoor "grilling" devices, which has sloped channels to collect away the grease - a blessing with a fattier meat, like lamb - and perfect for a hot summer's day when you really don't feel like heating up the kitchen any more than you have to.

Of course, in my case, the kitchen was already hot, because I got the bright idea of making rosemary buns out of my pizza dough recipe, since I couldn't quite face the price tag of the only tolerable commercial hamburger buns that I could find.

I've used the same basic dough recipe to good effect as foccacia, making hamburger buns seemed a no-brainer. I remembered to keep the dough soft (not add too much flour) so that the buns wouldn't rise straight up and give me tall, narrow buns. It worked quite well. One recipe of pizza dough yields four generous-sized hamburger buns, and the texture and flavour beat the daylights out of most commercial efforts.

Since I suffer somewhat from a fear-of-frying, or at least of deep-frying, and the household protests the frozen variety, I seldom make french fries at home. Instead, I like to use fresh summer salads to accompany my burger dinners. Coleslaw, lentil salad, and one of my favourites, couscous salad.

Couscous salad is basically a tabbouleh like salad full of tiny chopped red onion, cucumber, tomato, fresh parsley and mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and a heavy hand with the black pepper. Instead of using bulgar wheat, I use couscous, which I steam up with lemon juice to give an extra zip to the salad. The overall texture is softer than a tabbouleh, but tends not to run as soggy (especially if you remove the seeds from the cucumber and tomato).

It makes a terrific, light side dish, and doesn't heat up the kitchen. Plus, it packs well for lunches, so I make lots, and devour the overage over the next couple of days. A sprinkle of sumac over it gives a fantastic, floral yet woodsy flavour.

I also have taken to using tzatziki sauce as my primary condiment on lamburgers. A little mustard is nice, too, but a slightly garlicky, creamy tzatziki is a perfect accompaniment to a lamb patty. It is also significantly lower in fat than mayonnaise or hamburger sauces, so that pleases me, too - but mostly I like the taste.

It occurred to me tonight, as I tidied up the very few dishes required to make dinner, that I have yet to try an Indian treatment on my lamburgers. Immediately, this conjured notions of lamb patties spiced with kashmiri pepper, garam masala, and cumin, and instead of the tzatziki (although it is perilously close to a raita, as it is) a fruit chutney - mango, or perhaps tamarind. A banana and yogurt salad on the side, or shredded carrots with lime juice and hot chilies - this could be a fantastic meal. The bun, of course, requires some choices. I'm unlikely to make naan at the drop of a hat, but I could see a version of the rosemary buns made instead with dried fenugreek leaves (happily, on hand in the spice box already).

I may have to have this for dinner next Sunday. After all, I have to report back, right?


linda said...

Mmm, I love lamb. I just discovered your blog from the Taste of Canada event and I have enjoyed reading it. I tagged you for The Cook Next Door meme, if you want to play.

Dawna said...

Thanks, Linda - I'll see what I can come up with. Wow, my first tag!

Ana said...

These lamburgers sound really good. Lamb does not figure that proeminently in my repertoire but I would like to eat more. Might give this a try.