A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lambburger Helper

Here's how I combined some available ingredients to punch up a simple dinner of lamb burgers.  It turned into a delightfully bizarre (con-) fusion cuisine in which I used Indian ingredients to simulate a flavor created by the British to simulate authentic Indian cuisine and used in modern German cookery.  Got that straight?

Let's tease apart this tangle of cross-culturalism.  My inspiration was a quintessential German snack food known as Currywurst, which involves bite-sized nuggets of Bratwurst served in a sauce made of ketchup flavored with curry.  This delectable treat — it's really one of the most delicious, if not all that healthy, foods I've ever eaten — is most often eaten at outdoor venues off of a rectangular paper plate using a wooden "fork" that looks a little like a deformed popsicle stick.  As if the cholesterol count weren't already off the charts, Currywurst is often accompanied by a paper cone of french fries with mayo.  And a liter mug of beer.  (Oh, why did I ever leave Germany?)

Currywurst und Pommes mit Mayo

It's the curry ketchup that makes an appearance in today's recipe.  In Germany, to make this, they just squeeze a big glob of regular ketchup over the wurst chunks, then shake some curry powder over the top from one of those metal canisters with holes in the lid like the ones bakers use for powdered sugar.  I don't usually keep curry powder on hand, since it is not an ingredient used in Indian cookery, so I have to improvise my curry ketchup by using garam masala and turmeric, which between them contain many of the spices that go into your typical curry powder.

Garam masala is a blend of ground spices that are thought in Ayurveda practice to have a warming effect on the body: black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, cumin, and cinnamon, for instance.  (The aromatic oils in the spices dissipate quickly at room temperature, so I store my homemade garam masala in the freezer.)  Turmeric is the yellow powder that gives curry powder its orangey hue.  Besides imparting its color and a subtle flavor, it is supposed to aid digestion.

To make 2 servings of "curry" ketchup, I put about 1/4 teaspoon each of turmeric and garam masala in a small bowl:

Then I squoze a few tablespoons of ketchup (Trader Joe's organic) on top of the spices:

When I stirred it up, the ketchup took on the beautiful burnished color typical of curry ketchup:

This stuff is good enough to eat out of the bowl like soup, but I saved (most of) it for the burgers.
I set the curry ketchup aside and prepared the meat.  Aiming for 2 hearty, man-sized burgers, I put a half pound of ground lamb in a bowl:

You could substitute any other ground meat, but lamb has a , well, lamb-y taste which complements the flavorings I used here.
To this I added a heaping tablespoon of fresh prepared horseradish.  (Having recently gone through the quite literal pain of making this, I am looking for any excuse to use it.)

Then I crumbled a hunk of cornbread and added that as well.

I added some fresh thyme.

I did remove the stems before throwing the leaves into the bowl.
And broke a raw egg over the top.

I stirred the ingredients together, but not for too long.  You don't want a thorough mix, but more of a lumpy blend.  (Think sedimentary rather than igneous rock.  Oh, you didn't minor in geology?)  Then I formed this gloop into 2 balls and put them in the fridge until dinnertime.

A few minutes before it was time to eat, I heated a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet and then put the meatballs in and flattened them into patties, which I fried for about 5 min on a side.  (I was aiming for medium rare.)

I used a high enough heat to sear the outside, which seals in the juices and produces a lovely crust:

We enjoyed these burgers with curry ketchup dollops on the side, along with some reheated vegetable mélange — steamed root vegetables and radish leaves in this batch — sea-salted and drizzled with a little EV olive oil.

A glass of red wine rounded out the meal — which culminated in a strawberry shortcake parfait I'd bought at WF.

Won't you tell me about elements from other cuisines that you've incorporated into your personal cooking style?


  1. I'll admit my shameful secret to you here - promise not to tell?
    I have substituted chinese 5 spice powder for garam masala. (hangs head in shame)

    Will I still be allowed to read your blog, or will you have me blocked?

  2. Pick your head back up, mommy! This is the kind of daring substitution that this blog is all about! Mix up your cuisines! Try risky combinations! Live life to the fullest!

  3. "Michael Hanko, available in original & NEW sunny citrus"

    Hahaha … Snort!

    Curry ketchup and lambburgers - hmmm. Interesting. And I mean that in a good way. I don't remember the last time I had lamb and I'm pretty sure I've never made it. Odd, because I do like it. We always had it on Easter when I was growing up, but because we don't do a big Easter dinner anymore (unless Cadbury eggs count), I guess I just sort of forgot about it.

  4. It's been years since I cooked lamb other than in the ground form. Maybe we should both commit to creating a delicious lamb dinner sometime soon? We can have a mutton-along.

    Oh, I got plenty o' mutton......

  5. My fusion contribution is a recipe for Sikh Kabobs made into hamburger patties, garnished with cucumber, tomato, onion, jalapenos and raita. Quite yummy.

    Love your blog.

  6. Hey, Elle, that sounds wonderful! Do you make your own Kabobs for this? Let us know how you spice them.


  7. The currywurst looks like a great idea, I'm making this! Chips with mayo is one of my favourite foods, but it needs to be a European mayo. I like Thomy. Miracle Whip is so Out for this dish!

  8. Very good point, Mae. What the europeans refer to as Mayonnaise is quite different from our American commercial product. It's thicker and eggier, more like an aioli. I once made homemade mayo, which was wonderful, and would be ideal on chips/fries.

    Homemade mayo sounds like a fun blog project — look for it soon!

  9. Oldest younger sisterFebruary 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Love the blog and the beard! Mentally adapting the recipe with a vegetarian protein. Sounds yum!

  10. Would love to hear how you convert this into a veggie meal. Thanks for reading!

  11. Hi Michael, here is the recipe for Sikh Kabobs exactly as given to me (which of course I only followed once to the letter).

    1 1/2 pounds finely ground meat, beef, lamb or chicken
    1 clove crushed garlic
    1 tablespoon grated ginger
    1 or 2 chilis, chopped fine (I usually use jalapenos)
    1 small onion finely chopped
    1 teaspoon garam masala (I like a little more)
    2 tablespoons chickpea flour
    2 tablespoons ground almonds (optional)
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    2 tablespoons yogurt
    lemon juice
    pinch of sugar

    If you have a food processor, combine garlic, onion, ginger and peppers, process until finely chopped, add the meat and process just a little more. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. The woman who taught me shaped the meat into sausage shaped things and she shaped them on skewers. As I said before I make them into patties. Cooking them on a barbeque is best IMO, but I have broiled and fried them as well. Enjoy.

  12. Thanks, Elle. These look right up my alley. Since I have all the ingredients on hand, I think I'll give the kebabs a whirl later this week.

    Ground almonds and sugar: surprising!

    If you're still in touch with the woman who taught you how to make these, please pass along my thanks to her as well.

  13. No one else I know (does reading your blog count as knowing you?) would have the ingredients on hand, so I am glad this recipe found it's way to you. I hope you enjoy Sikh kabobs as much as I do. please let me know how they worked out.