16 October 2010

Spicy Cheesy Lamburgers

My friend Françoise is the source of many good things for us. She's brought us friendship, good advice, English novels, the odd vocabulary lesson, and lots of good food tips. Recently, she shared with us some cheese that a friend had brought her from Turkey. We don't know the name of the cheese, but it was a hard, crumbly, salty cheese—sort of like Feta but with a more buttery flavor. At my house we just called it Turkish Cheese.

At the same time that we received this wonderful cheese, I found some lovely ground lamb. I wanted to make some lamb-burgers, and I was thinking of the wonderful spices in some of the Moroccan dishes we can find here. I wanted something a little hot, a little exotic. This buttery, salty cheese fit right in with what I had in mind.

I also wanted a sauce to serve with this. As I'm still avoiding wheat, I wanted to serve this with just a salad on the side. Alone, it would have been a little too... hm. Bare. So I wanted a sauce like the one that we get with gyros—something yogurt-y and rich with mint and garlic and onion.

As usual with my recipes, you can change anything that doesn't work for you. I realize that you probably don't have this special Turkish Cheese. Heh, if you did you might not realize it, given that I don't know its name! So you'll probably use Feta or any other hard, crumbly salty cheese. I think that the saltiness of this cheese really added a lot to the burgers. I used fresh coriander seeds, but you can use ground coriander if that's what's on hand. I also used fennel flowers—finocchio fiori from Italy. If you don't have them you can use some fennel seeds, but I'd reduce the amount by half. I put a good healthy pinch of cayenne in this, because I wanted a little bit of background heat to go with the spices.

The paprika I used was hot, but you could also use sweet paprika. I probably wouldn't use smoky paprika in this—I'd be afraid that the smoky flavor would hide the clean flavors of the other spices. My pepper wasn't strictly black pepper. I use a mix of pepper in my pepper mill, and sometimes there's even a little bit of allspice in there. I like the surprise flavor of it with the pepper mix. If you don't have Greek yogurt, you can use regular yogurt. Just put it in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl for a few hours or overnight. It will thicken up nicely.

I served this with a side salad of simple grated cucumber with some fennel flowers sprinkled over.  

Spicy Cheesy Lamburgers

2 pods cardamom
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried fennel flowers
pinch cayenne
2 teaspoons paprika
1 small clove garlic
freshly ground black pepper
120 g / 4 oz turkish cheese
500 g / about 1 pound minced lamb

Yogurt sauce

250 ml greek style yogurt
about 1 T fresh chives, chopped fine
1 branch fresh peppermint
pinch sea salt
tiny bit of garlic

  • Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, and grind with the other spices in a mortar and pestle.
  • Peel the garlic, reserving a tiny bit for the yogurt sauce. Crush the garlic in a garlic press or with the side of a knife blade against your cutting board.
  • Crumble the cheese into pieces that are pretty small. You don't want big lumps in the meat, you want little bits all over. They bring the salt to this dish.
  • Add the spices, garlic and cheese to the lamb and mix thoroughly.
  • Form the meat mixture into 4 patties, cover them and let them rest for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend.
  • Cook over medium heat until they are the desired doneness. Be careful, though—if you overcook them they'll be dry. Ew.
  • While the meat is resting, make the yogurt sauce: Wash the mint leaves (about 15 or so) and cut them into very fine shreds.
  • Chop the chives very fine.
  • Crush the garlic. When there's only a tiny bit like this, I don't try to use a garlic press. I put the garlic and a pinch of salt on my cutting board and crush it with the side of my knife blade, sliding the sharp edge over the garlic till it's just paste. Heh, you'll need a fairly smooth cutting board for this –if yours is textured you'll end up with all the garlic embedded in the texture and none to add to your sauce!
  • Mix the mint, chives, garlic and salt with the yogurt and let stand to allow the flavors to mix.  
  • Serve over the burgers.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don't.  

  • A few chopped coriander leaves wouldn't be out of place in this burger, though the flavor would be a little different.
  • You could also add a pinch of lemon zest to the lamb.
  • If you use whole spices, toasting them before grinding them will bring out their flavors in the most wonderful way.
  • If you're not sure of the seasoning in the lamb, you can test it: break off a little piece of it and fry it till it's done. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  • If you're cooking these on a grill (great idea), you might brush them lightly with a good quality neutral flavored oil before cooking.
  • These would also be good in a bun, of course, or on pita bread. 


Carol at Serendipity said...

These sound wonderful. Haven't seen you for a while. Summer can be a busy time. My new hip and I are getting along famously and I am anxious to get back to Florida as the weather is changing.


La Table De Nana said...

It's nice to see you back:)

The Rowdy Chowgirl said...

Ooh, you're killing me here. Describing some kind of delicious Turkish cheese that I'll never know even if I try it!

This looks like a delicious combo anyway...I'll have to give it a try with feta.

Pam said...

Oh my goodness, these sound so good!

Susan said...


What a wonderful Mediterranean quasi-Greek feel this dish is giving me!

Great job pairing the sauce with the lamb!

Now all I need is a white stucco patio and the blue sea for a view!

Sophie said...

Hello Kate!!

Your lamb burgers look so tasty,..yummmmmmm,..I also love the added cardamom in here!

Barbara said... nice to have you back! I missed you.

The lamb burgers look many favors packed into this dish! Doubt I can locate the cheese or some of the spices, but I can substitute.

Hungry Dog said...

I'd like to come over to your house for dinner, Kate. Everything you post always looks divine. Lamburgers, yes. Turkish cheese, yes. Is it wrong to want to eat this when it's 8am here?

Linda said...

Yummmmmm these look wonderful!
Good to see you Kate....I have not been around much myself...

Junglefrog said...

They look absolutely delicious. Not entirely sure which cheese that would be but I am sure I can find a good substitute for that!

Kate at Serendipity said...

Hungry Dog, you're welcome to come to my house for dinner any time. Your room is ready!

A good substitute for the cheese would be Feta. That's what I'll use next time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stella said...

Ooh, I don't know how I missed this post-must have been while I was moving or something. These sound delicious, Kate. I used to love lamb and yogurt. It's such a wonderful combination. Your recipe sounds stellar too!

Anonymous said...

hi, new to the site, thanks.