Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grilled Turkish Lamb Burgers with Red Pepper Ketchup

I recently discovered the rich, thick, savory, hot red pepper paste from the Anatolia region of Turkey called biber salcasi in Turkish. In English: delicious. And versatile. It is made from red chiles and salt and has a pleasant, barely pickled-pepper flavor that’s not very spicy (to me) but invitingly warm.

One Brand of Turkish Hot Pepper Paste
For this recipe, I used it two ways: as a base for a deep red, aromatic “ketchup” for the burgers, and as a binding ingredient in the lamb mixture to add both savor and moistness. I must say, these turned out to be some of the most tender, juiciest burgers I’ve ever grilled.

Look for Turkish hot red pepper paste in Middle Eastern markets, or in some supermarkets with extensive international sections.   

Note: I used small naan as the bread for the burgers instead of pita simply because I wanted to make flatbread sandwiches, with two small patties in each. Naan is typically teardrop-shaped, so the pointed end can be awkward for folding. Simply cut the tips off to make the flatbreads more evenly shaped (and save the tips for dipping into a bowl of homemade hummus).  

For a lamb burger recipe with pita, check out Grilled Lamb Pitas with Mint Yogurt.

Serves 4


For the Ketchup
  • 1/3 cup Turkish hot red pepper paste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp very finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Ketchup Ingredients
For the Burgers
  • 16 thin slices seedless cucumber
  • sea salt
  • 4 small naan (or other sturdy flatbread)
  • 1-1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 3 tbsp Turkish hot red pepper paste
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves, divided
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil, for oiling grate
  • thin red onion slices, for serving
Lamb Mixture Ingredients

For the Ketchup
  1. Combine the Turkish hot red pepper paste and next 5 ingredients (through paprika) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (May be made 1 day ahead.)
Combined Ketchup Ingredients 
Red Pepper Ketchup
For the Burgers
  1. Spread the cucumber slices on a plate and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. Cut off the teardrop ends of the naan to form rectangles for the flatbread sandwiches (reserve cut pieces for another use).
  3. Light a grill for medium-high heat.
  4. Place the lamb and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine. Form the mixture into 8 equal patties, making a slight indent with your thumb in the middle of each. (This helps keep the patties from puffing up too much as they cook.)
  5. Rub the grill grate with oil and grill the burgers until juicy inside and just cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or board and let rest 3 minutes.
Ready to Mix

Lamb Patties
Patties Beginning to Grill

Grilled Burgers
To serve, lay the naan on a work surface and spread each with ketchup. Place 2 burgers on the bottom half of each and divide the salted cucumbers and red onion slices on top. Fold the top halves over and serve.

Grilled Turkish Lamb Burgers with Red Pepper Ketchup

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