indian-spiced lamb burgers with mango chutney and caramelized onions

My favorite pub in Cambridge for a pint and a bite to eat in a snug setting was The Castle Inn, which was also conveniently close to where I lived. They made a solid fish and chips and would occasionally offer a delectable sticky toffee pudding on their specials board, but my favorite thing to get there was their Indian burger: a burger made with spiced lamb mince (as they would call it), topped with mango chutney, caramelized onions, a slice of tomato and cucumber, and served with chips (i.e. fries) that were crisp on the outside but perfectly soft and creamy on the inside. I had strong cravings for that burger that would rear their heads every once in a while and result in a trip to the pub not long after. 

When I moved back to the U.S., this was one of the first things that I tried to learn how to make. A bit of Googling soon led me to a recipe on the BBC website that sounded promising. I tried it, and was transported back (well, my taste buds, at least) to my lovely local Cambridge pub. To spice the lamb, you start with a garlic-ginger-onion paste (common to Indian cooking, at least according to my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook), add some cumin, chili powder, garam masala, and, if you want a little heat (I always do!), some crushed red pepper flakes. The burger is quite flavorful, and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and chutney nicely compliment the spice in the meat. I would normally have some kind of vegetables on my burger (lettuce and tomato), but somehow forgot to buy them and had too crazy of a week to find time to make a special trip for them – but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the veggies! I like to serve this with baked sweet potato fries tossed with garam masala (recipe to come), which have a bit more nutritional value than chips (mmm, though now that I think about The Castle Inn, I can almost taste their chips again…).

Indian-spiced lamb burgers

I don’t have a grill, so I like to cook these in my cast iron skillet. I imagine cooking them on the grill would make them even more amazing. You can also broil them; see the link to the original recipe at the bottom for directions. The original recipe tops the burgers with a sauce of yogurt, coriander, mint, and green chilli, in case the mango chutney topping doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

Makes 6 burgers

Ingredients:

For the burgers:

1 lb. ground lamb (can use beef if you can’t find lamb)
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 large egg
2 slices thick white bread (i.e. not Wonder Bread), processed to crumbs in food processor

To serve:
1 small onion, peeled and cut into slices horizontally (the rings should still be intact)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
Mango chutney
Buns, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise etc.

Directions:

Place the coarsely chopped onion, ginger, and garlic into a food processor and blend to a paste.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion-ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder, cumin, garam masala, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix together with your hands for a few minutes until evenly blended.

Shape meat into six burgers and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Take them out 30 minutes before you plan to cook, to allow them to come to room temperature for even cooking.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. When butter has melted, add the onion slices and stir to coat with the butter and oil. Turn heat to lowest setting and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and browned, about 20 minutes. The rings will separate during the cooking and stirring.

To cook the burgers, heat a skillet (cast iron is ideal, but other kinds will work too) over medium heat. For medium well, cook burgers 3-4 minutes on each side, covering the pan after you flip them; for well done, cook 4-5 minutes on each side. I don’t add any oil to my cast iron pan, but if you use another pan, you might want to add a little bit of olive oil before cooking the burgers.

Serve on buns (which you’ve ideally toasted), topped with a dollop of mango chutney, a pile of the onions, and whatever else you’d like. I prefer mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato myself. Enjoy!

Adapted from Anjum Anand on BBC Recipes

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