Jordanian Zarb Burger

When exploring food from around the world, you see things that you think are distinctive to a specific country. Pizza is Italian. But if you travel down the Mediterranean, you find manakeesh across the Middle East. A stretched dough, topped with a variety of meats, herbs, spices or veggies and baked in a hot oven. Sometimes humanity, when exposed to certain ingredients will do similar things. Oftentimes, such innovations are borne from desperation or poverty, but sometimes it’s as simple as a family wanting to put a meal together, share it with each other, their friends, or their community.
The idea of baking beneath the earth in a large hole in the ground upon first thought, may bring up images of the Indian tandoor. A large clay oven that becomes a baking vessel for everything from meat, veggies or breads.
The Bedouin people in the Arabic peninsula bake either large pieces of meat or small chunks, in a hole in the ground, along with accompanying veggies and breads. The Bedouins are a nomadic people so digging a hole in the parched desert ground and covering it while it cooks kept the heat in the hole. This limited the added heat of a fire to the already incendiary conditions of the Arabian desert.
Lamb and chicken are usually the meats of choice. Simple flavourings of onion, garlic and herbs could be brought along with them as they migrate from one spot to another. The meat can be either roasted on the bottom of the oven with racks of veggies over it, or roasted on a rack above the veggies to get a crisper top to the large piece of meat.
This deep, golden and crispy exterior had me thinking of a burger. I wanted to give a depth of flavour that a slow roasted meat would give, so I decided to have part of the meat be already cooked. In this case, I used a slow braised chicken, finely chopped into some ground lamb. The addition of garlic and sage adds further earthy elements.
The traditional condiment at a Jordanian Zarb feast is Galayet Bandora. A gently roasted tomato-garlic sauce. Sounds like a perfect compliment to a burger to me!!

Jordanian Zarb Burger

For the Zarb Burger:
200g/8 oz ground lamb
100g/4 oz cooked chicken, chopped finely
1 large egg
2 tbsp dried sage
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
For the Galayet Bandora (Jordanian Tomato Garlic Sauce):
2 medium tomatoes or 12-14 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup cold pressed oil (traditionally olive oil in Jordan but use the best quality cold pressed/extra virgin oil you can find. I used camelina oil)
1/2 tsp salt

To serve:
1 cup fresh parsley
2 tbsp rhubarb jelly (or other tart jelly)
2 tsp vinegar
Greek-style pita bread

Add the lamb, chicken, garlic, sage and egg to a medium bowl. Mix everything together with your fingers, squeezing the ingredients together until they bind to each other. Form into two large patties or four smaller patties.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. When the oil is smouldering but not smoking, season the patties lightly with salt and place in the cast iron pan. Griddle for 4-5 minutes per side or until deeply golden on both sides with a firm crust. Remove from the pan, drain on paper towels and prepare to serve.
To prepare the Galayet Bandora, preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
Place the tomatoes, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Scatter with onions, jalapeño and garlic. Drizzle with the oil and roast in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until softened but not browned. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Season lightly with salt.
To serve, blend together the rhubarb jelly and vinegar into a basic dressing. Toss with the fresh parsley.
Cut two pitas in half making semi circles of the bread. On the cut pitas, spread it with a generous dollop of Galayet Bandora. Divide the dressed parsley salad over half of the sauced pitas. Add a griddled Zarb Burger to each parsley salad and top with the other half of the dressed pita. Serves 2 as a hearty meal or serves 4 as an appetizer “slider.”

Garlic Sage Braised Chicken Legs

When I break down a whole chicken, I like to do various things with the component parts. I may roast the legs or the breast like I would a whole chicken. I may braise and broil the wings and toss in sauce like it’s Pub Night at Home. I may remove the bones from the breast, cut into strips and make chicken fingers. Or I may braise the legs to serve with mashed potatoes or on an open faced sandwich with the braising veggies and juices puréed into a gravy. Today, I wanted the typical flavours of a roast chicken, but in the super moist environment. Make lots because the leftovers are great on salads, pizza or many other recipes where you need cooked chicken!!

Garlic Sage Braised Chicken Legs

2 tsp oil
2 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick attached)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped parsnip
1 chopped and seeded jalapeño

10 cloves chopped garlic

1-1/4 cups water

1-2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp dried sage
1/2 tsp celery seeds

In a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, add the oil. When the oil is smouldering but not smoking add the chicken legs, skin side down. Sear for 4-6 minutes on one side until deeply golden. Flip and sear the other side for 3-4 minutes.
Add the onion, celery, carrots, parsnips and jalapeño. Stir and sauté for 3-4 minutes to soften the vegetables. Add the water, bay leaves, sage and celery seeds. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-medium low, cover with a lid and simmer for 60-90 minutes.     Check the braising every 20 minutes or so to ensure the liquid hasn’t evaporated, adding 1/4 cup water if necessary.
When the chicken is cooked and falling off the bone, transfer the chicken legs to a plate and keep warm. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Transfer the veggies and braising juices to a blender and purée until smooth. Serve the shredded chicken and blender gravy with mashed potatoes, rice or over thick bread as an open faced sandwich. Serves 2-3.

Savoury Potato Rings

When I worked in a pub years ago, you’d find the shortest time possible to eat something. Unlike a typical restaurant where you could count on rushes of patrons during meal times, in a pub, you get wave after wave of hungry folks who needs snacks with their drinks.
Oftentimes, you eat in a similar fashion yourself in a kitchen. Take two minutes to hang by the back door (or an open freezer door to cool off haha) and snack on the nearest available thing you can slap on a grill or pull from a deep fryer. One of my snacks of choice then was onion rings with mustard. The flavour combination of onion and mustard has lingered with me ever since.
Recently, I was craving the idea of an onion ring, but also a baked potato, so I met it in the middle and made breaded Potato Rings. You could always leave the potato slices intact instead of poking a hole in them. They’d be like a homemade “fast food hashbrown” that you could eat with your eggs in the morning, but I though visually this would be fun! Enjoy!

Savoury Potato Rings

2 large potatoes (Russet or other starchy potato would be best), peeled and thickly sliced into 2cm/1″ discs
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 egg + 3 Tbsp water
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Creole seasoning (or 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp ground black pepper)
Oil, for shallow frying
Mustard or sour cream, to serve

Place the potato discs in a steamer and steam for 12-15 minutes until nearly cooked through but still slightly firm. Allow to cool for a minute or so.
Using a 1 cm (1/2″) circular cutter (or roughly cut circles with the tip of a paring knife), cut a hole in the centre of each potato disc. (or leave them intact for a “hashbrown” idea.
In three medium bowls, add the spelt flour to one, the egg and water to another, and the breadcrumbs and seasoning to the third bowl, stirring with a fork to combine.
Dip each potato slice in flour, then in the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Set on a plate for 15-20 minutes so the breading can adhere properly.
Heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of a cast iron pan (or other heavy-bottomed pan) over medium heat. When you place a pinch of breadcrumbs in the oil and it sizzles immediately, fry the breaded potatoes on each side until golden (about two minutes per side). Drain on paper towels and serve with mustard or sour cream.

Smothered Green Bean Omelette Po’ Boy

      At the start of Advent, I think of my mother. Our times going to Sunday service as a kid. The candle being lit, then going home to the regular family brunch. Most times it was a simple serving of eggs, bacon and toast, but on the rare occasion we would have an omelette. My mother preferred her eggs that way because she didn’t like the runniness of sunny side eggs (my dad’s specialty).
      As we all aged, I started cooking more and would fill omelettes with all kinds of things. But she would like her filling quite basic. Good cheese. One or two blanched veggies. Nothing too elaborate.   After she passed away, I would think of her even more on her birthday. Which happens to fall the day before Advent this year. It’s also the birthday of a dear friend who I met a few months after my mother passed away. Her roots fall in Louisiana and we met while she was shopping for seafood at the fish market where I worked that was part of a local farmer’s market. We’ve been wonderful friends since and I appreciate her kindness each day.
      Today, I wanted to bridge one kindness with another and have a brunch that my mother would have enjoyed, inspired by my dear friend, Daniella. A brunch po’ boy to make everyone’s Sunday happier!!

      Smothered Green Bean Omelette Po’ Boy:

      For the Smothered Green Beans:
      1 tsp oil (I use a cold pressed camelina oil because it is high in omega 3s and 6s, Vitamin E and the good oils are more stable even at higher cooking temperatures)
      50g/2 oz ham (or other smoky meat like bacon, sausage, etc)
      1 medium onion, sliced
      2 stalks celery, sliced
      1 small sweet bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
      1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
      150g/6 oz fresh green beans, cut in half
      1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

      For the Creole Dressing:
      1 Tbsp Creole (or Cajun) seasoning
      3 Tbsp plain yogurt

      For the omelette:
      2 tsp oil
      2 tsp butter
      8 eggs

      To serve:
      1 large whole wheat baguette, cut into four equal pieces, sliced open
      Oil, for brushing
      Spinach, or other lettuce, as needed

      In a large pot, over medium high heat, add the oil. When the oil starts to smoulder, add the ham and sauté until it becomes lightly golden. Add the onions, celery, peppers and jalapeño. Sauté for a further 3-4 minutes to soften the vegetables but not brown. Add the stock and green beans. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium, cover with a lid and simmer for a further 5-7 minutes until the green beans are cooked but retains a slight bite. Set aside and keep warm.
      To prepare the dressing, stir together the creole seasoning and yogurt in a small bowl. Set aside.
      To serve, brush the cut sides of the baguette with a bit of oil. Toast the oiled side of the baguette on a griddle, grill or even just a dry pan over medium heat until toasted. Brush each toasted side with a good dollop of Creole Dressing. Drape a few spinach leaves along the bottom side of the baguette.
      To prepare the omelette, whisk two eggs at a time in a small bowl. Preheat a nonstick pan over medium to medium high heat. Add 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp of butter. When the butter has melted and started to sizzle, add the beaten eggs. Swirl the pan and cook until the egg is mostly set. Set the prepared omelette on the prepared baguette. Add 1/4 of the prepared Smothered Green Beans on the omelette. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serves 4.