crispy spiced lamb and lentils

I made these lettuce cups on a whim for dinner last night and I’m so glad I did because I could see them going immediately into a regular rotation. I don’t know about you, but I think ground meat is underrated in the quick dinner category and am always looking for more things to do with it. This cooking technique, in which you flatten it out in a very hot pan and cook it until it’s browned and crisp on both sides, is like the best part of a Fake Shack Burger, amped to 12. I’m pretty sure, like the time I discovered the crispy egg and could not stop talking about it, I’m only going to want to cook it like this for now on.

what you'll need
tomato-cucumber relish salad

It’s then mixed with a larger amount of cooked lentils, which is ideal if you prefer to eat less meat or are hungry enough to eat a few lettuce cups and don’t want to eat a burger and a half along the way. Or if you figure if you’re going to eat a burger’s worth of meat, you’d like to at least have fries with it. Come sit down, you’re among friends.

crispy meat: never pretty, always tasty
assembly time

Finally, I often find lettuce “wraps” and to be embedded in stories of healthfulness and restraint and while neither are bad things, what I liked most about this is that we didn’t scoop this mixture onto crisp leaves because we think carbs are evil, but because we found it more refreshing there that it seemed in a pita. If serving a crowd, I’d definitely put out both. In fact, I’d expect this to scale well, so if you’ve been looking for an excuse to have people over soon but don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes making dinner, I think you know exactly what needs to be done.

crispy spiced lamb and lentils

Crispy Spiced Lamb and Lentils

One of the many things I like about this dish is that I think it could potentially be made with all lamb or all lentils. I didn’t find that the lentils got crisp, however, but firm small ones add a great texture.

  • Crispy lamb and lentils
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or a heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or green lentils (from a scant 1 cup dried)
  • Assembly
  • 8 to 10 cup-shaped leaves from 1 medium head bibb or butter lettuce
  • Tomato-cucumber “relish” salad
  • Lemon-tahini dressing, with or without yogurt, or 1 cup plain yogurt, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • A couple tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and mint, or a mixture thereof

Make crispy lamb and lentils: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil, and once oil is hot, arrange lamb in a large even patty about 1/4-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until underside and browned and very crisp, about 5 minutes. Carefully pour off most of excess fat and discard. Flip meat in spatula-sized parts, sprinkle top with garlic, a good pinch of red pepper flakes (up to 1 teaspoon for real heat; I used 1/4 teaspoon), cumin and coriander, plus more salt and pepper, and cook until underside is browned, which should only take 2 to 3 more minutes. Use spatula to break lamb into smaller chunks and add lentils. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer lamb-lentil mixture to a bowl.

To assemble: Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and divide lamb-lentil mixture between them. Top with yogurt, tahini, or yogurt-tahini sauce, tomato-cucumber relish and herbs. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Extras: To make a tomato-cucumber “relish” salad: Chop a handful of tomatoes and 1 large or a few smaller cucumbers into very small pieces. Finely chop 1/4 a medium red onion. Mix vegetables and onion in a bowl and dress to taste with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. No matter how much it looks like, I promise it will be gone before the end of the meal.

To make a lemony-tahini yogurt dressing: Whisk 4 tablespoons well-stirred tahini in the bottom of a bowl. Whisk in the juice of 3/4 of a lemon, 1 minced garlic clove and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. Whisk in 2/3 cup plain yogurt, about 1/4 at a time, until smooth. Season with salt. Adjust everything to taste.

To make a lemony-tahini no-yogurt (so not thick and creamy, but still full of flavor) dressing: Combine 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini, 1 minced garlic clove, juice of 1 lemon, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a bowl. Whisk in water as needed to loosen, you’ll likely need a few tablespoons. Season well with salt and pepper.


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