As I’ve said before, even though I enjoy cooking, sometimes I struggle with the motivation to cook every night. A few months back, I was giving in to the temptation to have the night off cooking and buy something on the way home a few times too often. Then I started feeling run down and put on some weight. For the first time ever, I recorded a slightly high cholesterol level. No surprise, the change in what I was eating impacted on my health. It was a reminder to me of the importance of cooking and eating good food at home and the need to keep takeaway as an occasional treat rather than a regular option. For added motivation, I watched Super Size Me and read Fast Food Nation. I certainly lost my appetite for certain foods after that!

It’s not about denial or going cold turkey and not eating my favourite foods. Rather, for me at least, it’s about balance, making better choices and using some replacement ingredients when cooking. When I get the urge for fries/chips now (potatoes are one of my real weaknesses), I’ll microwave a potato instead and have it with a tiny bit of light sour cream.  When I make my creamy pesto pasta, I use light evaporated skim milk (with a bit of cornflour to thicken it) instead of full fat cream. I still get the flavours and satisfied feeling of the original dishes, but (to my knowledge at least), the changes make it lighter and better for me. And I still let myself have a treat now and then. Just not everyday.

These lamb ‘burgers’ are one of my favourite week-night dinners and an alternative to many people’s favourite fast food, the burger. Couscous is used in place of breadcrumbs and/or eggs in the burger, instead of a bun you wrap it up in a flatbread, and instead of cheese and mayo there is a tzatziki style dressing made with low fat yoghurt. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything when I eat these.

Take a break from the takeaway burgers

Lamb burgers

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 400-500g lamb mince
  • ½ cup cooked couscous (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons oil
  • Flatbreads/wraps and salad to serve

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons low fat natural yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ a Lebanese cucumber – deseeded and chopped (as small or large as you prefer) – approximately 3 tablespoons
  • ½ red onion – finely chopped (see note)

Method

  1. Make the dressing by combining the yoghurt, fresh mint, cucumber, onion and lemon juice. Mix and season to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
  2. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan. Add onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes then add the cumin and dried mint. Cook for a few more minutes then transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Add the mince, couscous, parsley, salt and pepper to the onion mix. Mix well (easiest with your hands) then form into small burgers. I like to make small slider sized burgers. I get between 8-10 with this mix (depending on how much mince is in the pack).
  4. Cook in a pan (medium – high heat) for 4-5 minutes each side until cooked through. Time will depend on how large you make the burgers. You could also cook on these on a bbq.
  5. Serve with the flatbreads, dressing and salad.

Notes:

  • For ½ cup cooked couscous, cook ¼ cup in your preferred method. I cook it by combining ¼ cup each of couscous and boiling water (from the kettle) in a bowl, covering with a plate and leaving for 5 minutes.
  • I don’t like raw onion, so I pour some boiling water over the onion in a bowl, leave for a few minutes and then drain to remove the raw taste.
  • Leftover dressing is great as a dip with vegetable sticks.
  • The Worcestershire sauce is optional and wasn’t in the original recipe. I just don’t feel right making a burger without it.
  • I like a lot of cucumber in this dressing, however you can use less. The original recipe only called for 1 tablespoon.

Adapted from Healthy Food Guide January 2009 – ‘Minty lamb burger’.