Lamburghinis with Barberry and Pistachio Relish
photographed by Sarka Babicka
You may have noticed over the last couple of weeks that most of the photography has been the jaw-dropping work of the very talented lifestyle photographer Sarka Babicka. Over the last 3 years, Sarka and I have become close friends and several months back we decided to collaborate on a series of projects. What began as a weekend visit to my home in the West Country turned into a two-month long ‘rock and roll’ kibbutz experience. At the time, my sister and right hand woman on all projects Joslin was also here. Those two months were the most incredible, intense, insane, productive and the most boozy time of my (our) life… okay, maybe not the most boozy time, come to think of it!
Anyway, there were weeks on end of recipe testing to serve three different purposes, with dishes coming out of the kitchen all day, all night and right through the crack of dawn. Everything I cooked up would leave the kitchen for the adjacent studio, where the girls would style the scene before Sarka would snap her magic. There were even ‘project disassemble’ instances when the kitchen and even the entire living room were gently hurled outdoors to create moods and scenes.
On the first occasion, Chris (the hubby) returned home with no forewarning. His eyes quickly sweltered with anguish and with only his laptop remaining in a then very bare room, he could only reach out to Facebook for help: “I came home and the strangest thing happened- I found my living room in the backyard” his status update read. Not to worry, his anxiety would quickly dissipate over the weeks and soon nothing could phase him. Remember this video? This too was realised during those ‘looney tunes’ months though there were a few outdoor “disassemble” scenes that unfortunately for production reasons didn’t make it into the final footage filmed and edited by the rad brothers over at Raspberry & Jam.
So, with the past few months now behind us, we are confident in the fact that as a team we can rival Vogue lifestyle covers. Vogue, if you’re reading, we’re up for the challenge. Same goes for Delicious covers, if anyone in editorial happens to be reading. - cheeky, I know
Oh by the way, have you seen the recent cover of Food Magazine? Yes, that’s Sarka’s picture and my mograbieh recipe.
And, all this was going on as we geared up for the launching of Food Blogger Connect 2012, the organising of the 4th edition of Taste Lebanon culinary journeys and all the while, I frantically raced to meet a looming deadline on another very big project (sorry for the vagueness). Then, just when I thought I was going to have a breather (or a detox), the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism asked me to throw together an impromptu Press Trip to Lebanon for a handful of UK journalists.
Thankfully, the last few weeks have been generous with time, the most I can remember in a couple of years. I’m now getting the “lazy” itch again, which can only mean it won’t be long before I find something else to cook up. There are plenty of exciting things on the horizon and there will continue to be news snippets, as there are unfortunately some things I still can’t divulge (hurts to bite tongue for so long!).
Until then, I leave you with a generous handful of Lamburghinis and the idea that I’m somewhat a sane person again.
Chili-coriander Lamburginis (mini lamb burgers) in lettuce wraps with barberry and pistachio relish
Barberries are beautiful red jewels bursting with tartness. They are intricate to the Iranian repertoire where they are called zereshk and can be found at most Middle Eastern grocers. Verjuice is the juice of unfermented grapes. Popular across the Middle East when lemons are scarce, it has a sharp flavour and is once again, gaining popularity. Verjuice is very versatile and wonderful to use in place of vinegar and lemon.
- 30g/1 oz barberries or cranberries
- 3 tbsp verjuice or cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- 10g/1/4 oz pistachio, roughly chopped
- 400g/ 14 oz minced lamb
- 1 medium chili, finely sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 6 iceberg or round lettuce leaves
- Soak the barberries in twice their volume of water for about 10 minutes. Drain and remove the stems. Place a heavy based saucepan on medium heat, add the barberries or cranberries, if using, sugar, verjuice or cider vinegar, if using, and cinnamon. Mix well, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, till just syrupy but not completely set. Remove from heat, mix in the pistachios and allow to cool. Transfer to a serving plate, cover and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the lamb, chili, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, pomegranate molasses, coriander, salt and pepper mixing well till all incorporated. Pinch off a very small portion for testing and shape into a patty. Add a small frying pan to medium heat, drizzle a tablespoon of oil and fry the patty about 2-3 minutes on each side. Once cooked, allow to cool a couple of minutes then taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly, cover and set aside in fridge overnight. Bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) before grilling. Shape the meat into 6 individual patties. Pre-heat grill or start BBQ and grill about 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on how much you prefer them cooked. Alternatively, you can cook them in a griddle pan or saute pan over medium-high heat on the stove top for a couple of minutes each side. Serve each burger on a lettuce leave topped with the barberry-pistachio relish.
Prepare ahead note: The relish is best when made a day in advance. You can choose to make the lamb patties the night before or wait till the day of, just before grilling them.