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
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.”