Yesterday we wanted to have an early supper before going out, and I thought these lamb burgers would fit the bill. This combination evolved from a recipe in Lindsay Bareham’s The Fish Store. The burgers and courgettes can be prepped in ten minutes and only take about eight minutes to cook. Although the tomato sauce is better for puttering away on the hob for a while, it is dead simple – you won’t spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen, tops. These quantities are for four, though you’ll probably have some tomato sauce left over. You can freeze the prepared meatballs, so it’s worth making more than you need and stashing them away for an easy midweek supper. See below for other serving suggestions before you go shopping.
50g pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
500g minced lamb
2 red onions
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
¼ tsp allspice or cinnamon (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
small handful basil
Heat a small frying pan over a medium high heat and toast the pine nuts, tossing them and watching like a hawk, until they are golden brown. Put aside in a dish to cool. Chop the red onion finely and mix into the lamb together with the pine nuts, allspice or cinnamon (if using), salt and pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. Mix thoroughly with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide the mixture into four, then shape each portion into two mini burgers. Put on a plate, cover with cling film and pop into the fridge to firm up while you get the tomato sauce on.
Chop the other onion, heat a slug of olive oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onion until it softens, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes (or use whole ones and crush them against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon). Bring up to a simmer, stirring, then put a lid on and let it simmer very gently on low heat until you are ready to eat – ideally, not less than half an hour, and up to an hour is fine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a good pinch of sugar. You can do all of this in advance if you wish – the lamb burgers can be made the day before and kept in the fridge overnight if that is more convenient.
Wash, top and tail the courgettes, then slice them lengthwise about 0.5cm thick. The courgettes I was using were quite long, so I cut them in half first, to make the pieces easier to manage. Anoint them sparingly on both sides with the rest of the olive oil. About 10 minutes before you want to eat, take the meatballs out of the fridge and put a frying pan (preferably non-stick) and griddle pan or grill on to heat. I use two pans as my griddle pan is not that big and was needed for the courgettes (and don’t get me started on the difficulties of using the grill in the top of my oven – I still miss the excellent overhead grill on the gas cooker I inherited from my mother!). Put the lamb burgers into the frying pan over medium-high heat, cover with a splatter-screen if you have one, and cook for 4 minutes on the first side without moving them, and then 3-4 minutes on the second side. Meanwhile, griddle (or grill) the courgettes for a similar amount of time. The griddle pan gives them attractive stripes, but they will taste just as good grilled.
Chop the basil and stir half of it into the tomato sauce, which should have thickened up by now. Spoon the sauce onto the plates and place the lamb burgers on top of it. Sprinkle over the remaining basil and serve with the courgettes.
For a more substantial meal add rice, couscous or warm flatbread, and wedges of lemon might be nice to squeeze over the lamb burgers. You could also add a little chilli to the tomato sauce if you like to spice things up a bit.