Cookbooks often make me feel inspired, and frequently very hungry. But it is rare that a cookbook will actually make me laugh out loud. A drawing of spacemen landing on a pile of toasted flatbread? Or a cartoon shark swimming in a bowl of creamy chowder? Now, that's funny stuff.
And it's indicative of the playful and welcoming tone of this latest cookbook from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage farm. These are the kinds of recipes I want to cook all the time: fresh flavors, simple to make, and tummy-rubbing good. This recipe for spicy lamb burgers on the grill is the perfect example.
River Cottage Every Day can really be seen as a family cookbook. Not only are all the recipes geared toward feeding your family, but they're also designed to get other family members involved in the cooking. In the introduction to his chapter on breakfast, Fearnley-Whittingstall says, "Easy breakfast dishes are the perfect bunny slopes for young cooks." Yes!
And these recipes just sound so good, I can't imagine not wanting to be involved in the cooking as well as the eating of them. They really run the gamut from simple Fava Beans on Toast and the Spiced Lamb Burgers below, all the way to fancier, more dinner party-worthy dishes like Scallops with Pea Puree And Ham and an Oxtail Stew with Cinnamon and Star Anise. A dessert recipe that I've earmarked for later this summer is Apple Yogurt Ice with Blackberry Sauce. Doesn't that sound like just the treat for a hot late-summer day?
One of my favorite sections in the book is actually the one on lunch. Lunch! This doesn't get covered nearly enough in cookbooks! The author packs this section full of ways to take a bit of leftover meat or a cup of baked beans from the night before and quickly transform them into a satisfying lunch. I also like his emphasis on dips like Beet and Walnut Hummus and spreads like Pumpkin Seed Pesto as a way to round out the meal or add a little pizzazz.
I would love to cook my way through this book one delicious meal at a time. The range of recipes, from simple to more complicated, makes it a great book for new cooks, but there's also plenty here for seasoned cooks, too.
You could open the cookbook to just about any page and dive right in. In fact, I think that's what I'll be doing for dinner tonight. Unless the lure of these Lamb Burgers becomes too tempting.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 teaspoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 1/2 cinnamon stick, broken up A pinch of cayenne pepper or chile powder 3 teaspoons paprika 1 garlic clove, finely crushed 2 teaspoons fine sea salt 2 pounds ground lamb shoulder
For the spiced yogurt: 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 1 cup Greek yogurt A tiny scrap of garlic, crushed with a little sea salt A dozen fresh mint leaves, finely shredded A pinch of sea salt 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
To serve: Canola or olive oil Flatbreads or burger buns A few romaine lettuce leaves Some cucumber slices 1 small red onion, very finely sliced
In a dry frying pan, toast the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, peppercorns, and cinnamon until fragrant, about a minute or so. (You don’t have to toast the spices, but it does get the flavors going.) Grind to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, then combine with the cayenne or chile powder, paprika, garlic, and salt. Add the ground lamb and mix thoroughly with your hands. Let stand for at least an hour for the flavors to develop.
Meanwhile, for the spiced yogurt, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in the pan you used for the burger spices. Grind to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle, then stir into the Greek yogurt with the garlic, mint, and salt. Toast the sesame seeds in the same pan over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan as you go, for a minute or two. Leave to cool down a bit, then sprinkle over the yogurt.
Break off a small piece of the spiced lamb, about the size of a walnut, and fry it until well cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Shape the rest of the meat into 8 patties about 3/4 inch thick. Lightly brush with oil, then place on a grill over high heat. Or, if you’re cooking indoors, use a lightly oiled heavy frying pan set over medium-high heat. The cooking time will be determined by the thickness of the burger, the heat of the grill, and your preference. For a medium-rare burger, you will probably need to grill for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip it over and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Let the burgers rest for a few minutes while you cook or warm up your flatbreads.
Serve the lamb burgers wrapped in the soft flatbreads with some torn lettuce, cucumber, and onion and a dollop of the spiced yogurt. You probably won’t need all of the yogurt – what’s left over makes a great dip.
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