This is a tasty introduction to lamb, if you haven’t had the opportunity to eat or prepare it before. The use of multiple spices and herbs help to balance out the flavor of the meat, which some may find a little strong. Lamb definitely has a more noticeable taste than beef, but with the use of spices – sumac, in particular – the flavor takes on a more rounded, mellowness and you appreciate how hearty it can be when its flavor marries with fragrant ingredients like fresh mint, oregano and garlic. Topped with a creamy yogurt and mint spread and fresh arugula, it’s a delicious way to let the flavor of the burger take the center stage, in a small hand-held portion size.
Sumac gives the burger a distinct citrus-like tangy flavor, which helps cut through the fat of the burger as well as compliment the herbs. The fruits of the sumac plant are dried and ground into a reddish powder that looks similar to chili or paprika. It’s a popular spice in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes, as the tart powder is a good substitute if fresh citrus is not available. It’s popular in ground meat dishes like kebabs, especially since the flavor doesn’t lose much of its potency while cooking. It’s also good sprinkled lightly over hummus, as both a flavor enhancement and a garnish.
For the lamb, if you don’t already have a meat grinder and you can’t find pre-ground lamb meat, have the butcher grind up the meat for you.
Ingredients for the Lamb Burger
Serves 12 -14
3 pounds of ground lamb meat, preferably leg of lamb, boneless with large chunks of fat removed
6 to 8 garlic cloves (about 4 tablespoons), peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely minced
2 teaspoons ground sumac
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ cup breadcrumbs
For Slider Construction (makes about 12 to 14 mini burgers)
12 – 14 dinner rolls or mini burger buns
Fresh arugula – about a tablespoon of leaves per slider
Yogurt/Mint spread – about a teaspoon per slider (1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt, 1 tablespoon o finely chopped mint, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, all mixed together)
To prepare the lamb burgers place the ground lamb meat and all the dry spices and chopped herb into a large bowls, then add the egg and breadcrumbs and gently mix until everything is fully combined. To make the patties, pull sections of the mixture into racquetball-sized handfuls and carefully form into even-shaped patties. They should be a little wider in circumference to the patties, as they will shrink a little when cooked. It’s fine to cook these now, but if you can wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, this will let the flavors intensify and marinate the lamb.
Take a skillet or grill pan and place over medium-high burner. Spray lightly with oil if using a nonstick pan. When the pan is heated, place a few of the mini burgers in and cook until desired doneness. Make sure not to crowd the pan to ensure even cooking.
When putting sliders together, warm the dinner rolls or buns and split lengthwise. Toasting is optional. Smear a little of the yogurt mint spread on one side of the bun, add a little fresh arugula before sandwiching the warm burger between the roll halves.