Grilled Lamb Burgers and Harissa

I bought some ground lamb this week in order to make Claudia Roden’s kofta meshwaya kebabs on the barbecue. I mixed the lamb with shredded onion and spices, formed it into balls, and then spent half an hour failing to get the damn things to stick to my kebab skewers. After getting completely fed up, I decided fuck it—I’ll make lamb burgers. I’m a bit of a barbecue novice, so there was a lot of girlish squealing in my backyard as the burgers burned and bits of raw meat fell into the coals. Eventually, it got dark out and my boyfriend had to come outside and stand beside me with the flashlight while I checked the burgers for doneness. Fortunately, I was patient (mostly) and stopped squealing and those burgers finally cooked. I served them with rice, grilled eggplant slices and homemade harissa. So yes, it was one of those terribly frustrating cooking experiences where you want to toss the whole thing and go out for Pad Thai, but sticking with it turned out to be well worth the effort.

Grilled Lamb Burgers

1½ lbs ground lamb

2 medium onions, shredded

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Salt and Pepper

1.) Bank coals on one side of the grill before lighting. Light and allow flames to die down until the fire appears to be a very hot molten lump, about 30 to 40 minutes.

2.) While barbecue is heating up, combine lamb, spices, herbs, onion, and salt and pepper with your hands. Shape into about 8 small patties.


Grilling in the dead of night

3.) On the opposite side of the barbecue from the coals, cook the lamb burgers. Wait until thoroughly cooked on one side before flipping. If you like them a little blackened, put them on the hot side of the grill a minute on each side before serving.



(Adapted from Claudia’s Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Cuisine)

2 ounces red, dried hot chili peppers

1-teaspoon caraway seeds

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1-teaspoon coriander

1/2-teaspoon salt

Olive oil

1.)   Chop off stems and deseed chili peppers. Soak in a bowl of cold water half an hour.


2.)   Drain peppers and put them in a mortar and pestle with spices and garlic. Pound until it resembles a rough paste.


3.)   Put in a food processor and whiz with about a quarter cup olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency.


4.)   Place in a jar and cover it in a thin film of olive oil. Refrigerate. It will last for months if you always put olive oil on top after you’ve used it.



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