Cooking with Lee Lee – Cumin Spiced Lamb Burgers with Uyghur Style Salsa

This blog will start with a bit of geography that I felt was necessary in order for me to write this recipe. I’ve taken inspiration from a Uyghur restaurant that I visited a few months ago.

Originating from Western China, specifically in the sparse Region of Xinjiang, Uyghur food has strong Turkic influences. Geographically it’s situated between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The region is often referred to as Chinese Turkestan and the cuisine is predominately halal, featuring mutton, goat, camel, fresh vegetables and dairy.

Uyghur food is one that peaks my interests because it’s not as well-known as other Chinese cuisines but the flavors are just as intense and just as delicious. Their choice of food sources being so far inland is rather limited and their range of signature dishes is not as impressive in size as other regions in China, but they do what they can with what they have and boy do they impress with flavors.

This is my recipe spin on a classic Uyghur dish, traditionally lamb meat served on skewers and char-grilled with a light salad, I’ve decided to take the main components and serve it as a burger instead.

Cumin Spiced Lamb Burgers with Uyghur Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

500g Lamb mince

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp Cumin seeds

2 tbsp Coriander seeds

2 tbsp Fennel Seeds

1 egg

4 slices of Gruyere Cheese

1 Lebanese cucumber, half grated and the other half seeded and diced into small cubes

200mL Greek Yoghurt

3 tbsp Olive Oil

Juice of half a lemon

2 tomatoes, seeded and diced into small cubes

1 cup of fresh dill, roughly chopped

4 wholemeal burger buns, toasted

Method:

  1. Combine all the spices and dry toast them in a fry pan until fragrant. This should only take a minute or two. Give the fry pan a shake every now and then and this will keep the spices from burning easily. Transfer the spices to a mortar and pestle and pound until the seeds are no longer whole. Of course you can skip the pounding and just buy ground seeds.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add lamb mince, salt and pepper, toasted spices, brown onion and the egg. Combine well with your hands, this way you’ll incorporate all the flavors better. Get your hands dirty , you wont regret it. =) Then shape the mince mixture into round patties. The mince mixture should make at least 5 patties. I always do a test patty just in case I need to add more spices or more seasoning. Cover the patties and set them aside in the fridge for extra marinating time.
  3. For the tzatziki, add the grated cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to the Greek yoghurt and mix well. Set aside in the fridge until serving time.
  4. For the Uyghur salsa, simply toss together the diced cucumbers, tomato and dill. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Back to the burger patties, heat a large fry pan until hot, add a drizzle of olive oil followed by the meat. Cook on the one side for 3-4 minutes. Using a spatula, flatten the patties as they tend to shrink with heat. Flip the burgers over to the other side and add a slice of cheese on each patty. Cook for 2 minutes or until cheese has completely melted.
  6. To serve, build from the bottom of the bun. Start with a spread of tzatziki, lettuce, Uyghur salsa, burger patty with cheese and an extra dollop of tzatziki before placing the top of the bun on the burger.

This one is sure to impress, a quick and easy recipe for your next Spring BBQ or get together. Maximum flavor and minimum work, this recipe is my go-to for impromptu lunches that calls for foolproof perfection.

Do you have a go-to recipe that always impresses?

Hope you’ve enjoyed Cooking With Lee Lee. If you have any questions about the recipe or if you’ve tried my recipe and want to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment.

Worth every single calorie!

Love Lee Lee =)

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Cooking with Lee Lee – Crispy Spiced Pork Belly

Hands up, who likes a nice piece of pork belly with crunchy crackling?! I wish I had more than two hands to put up.

I’m more than a fan. One word, OBSESSED! I wasn’t always the biggest fan of pork belly, mainly because it’s such a fatty cut of the pig and if it’s not cooked properly it can be extremely rich. There’s an art to cooking pork belly and getting crispy crackling, which isn’t all about a good recipe, even though it helps. It’s about knowing your oven, knowing the cut of meat you’re dealing with and having the confidence and persistence to keep at it until you get the ultimate crackling and juicy, tender meat.

The first time I tried roasting pork belly, the anticipation was almost too much to handle. There were so many unknowns and I just wanted so badly for the skin to crackle and for the meat to be somewhat edible. Nothing else mattered, I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect this time but I needed some confirmation that I was on the right track, a confidence boost to try again.  I practically watched it cook through the oven doors, resisting the urge to check on it every five minutes.

I tried no less than 4 times before I came up with this recipe. I trialed a few recipes, both western and eastern ways and took what I felt was going to work for me. This pork belly recipe is spiced with sichuan peppers and the flavors are predominantly Asian, which means I would serve this the typical Canton way, as a part of a banquet with other dishes and a fragrant bowl of rice. However, this recipe also lends itself well with caramalised apple slices and a cool pinot noir reduction served with celeriac mash.

***

Crispy Spiced Pork Belly

Ingredients

1.5kg Pork belly, rind scored finely, ribs removed

2 tbsp Sea salt

1 tsp Whole black pepper

1 tbsp Sichuan pepper, ground and toasted

2 tbsp Chinese five spice, toasted

1 tsp Sugar

2 cups Chicken stock, cold

1 Kettle of boiling water

1 tsp Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
  2. Using a pestle & mortar grind up the salt, Sichuan and black peppers until the mix is fine and then add the five spice & sugar.
  3. Place pork belly skin side up in a colander or a rack, anything that drains. Pour a kettle of boiling water over the rind. Leave it to drain and dry well with paper towels. This will help to render down the fat and you should see the rind shrivel up a little.
  4. With the pork belly rind side down, rub the spice mixture into the flesh only. Turn it over and with clean, dry hands rub 1 tsp of sea salt and 1tsp olive oil into the rind.
  5. Place the pork belly on a wire rack, skin side up and place the wire rack directly over a roasting tray half filled with cold chicken stock. Try and sit the pork belly within the perimeters of the tray. The chicken stock will help keep the meat tender by almost steaming the flesh. Roast for 3-4 hours, this will depend on how thick the meat is.
  6. Finish the crackling off under a hot grill*, careful not to burn the skin. You should be able to hear the skin crackling. If the crackling is a little charred, scrape off the burnt bits with a serrated knife.

*Grill needs to be separate from the oven. If you do not have a separate grill from the oven, take the cooked pork belly out and allow the oven to cool a little before switching to the grill function. Alternatively you could also crank up the temperature to 220 degrees Celsius for the last 15-20 minutes but this may affect the end result of the crackling.

I know it’s not the prettiest thing before the great transformation…

The charred bits don’t stay but for my first attempt… Crispy crackling, CHECK! Tender, juicy meat… CHECK!!!!!!

We practically devoured these like chips. We just stood around the kitchen bench picking at this plate.

In every trial, the meat never made it out of the kitchen, let alone being served as a dish. My friends and housemates were all too happy to be available to lend their tastebuds for my experiments, which means I had to beat them off with a stick just to take these photos. They were fun times and I hope you enjoy trialing my pork belly recipe as much as I loved creating it.

Hope you’ve enjoyed Cooking With Lee Lee. If you have any questions about the recipe or if you’ve tried my recipe and want to share your thoughts, please leave me a comment. Happy roasting everyone.

It’s definitely worth every calorie!

Love Lee Lee =)

and… Part 3.

This birthday blog trilogy certainly has taken awhile and I’m feeling rather sheepish. My apologies once again for the lack of blogging. It really should be much easier, I’m surrounded by food all day and it’s all I think about but I digress, I’m here to bring you part 3 and a promised recipe of “Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie”, which is perfect for a cool Winter’s day. (There’s still one more day so ssshh)

Last time I left you I was making my way back from country Victoria to the big smoke. If there’s one thing you need to know about me is that the Asian in me CANNOT go without rice for too long. Side effects includes grumpiness and an unwillingness to cooperate that rivals that of a child due for a dentist appointment. So back in the city, I go in search of Asian food or anything that comes with a side of rice.

First stop is Heirloom. I’ve walked past this restaurant no more than a few dozen times and almost every time, their brunch menu will catch my attention. Their breakfast and brunch menu is divided into two sections, Eastern and Western. Their Western menus are much the same as most other places, bacon and eggs with a generous offering of sides. The Eastern brunch menu is what peaks my attention because it’s Asian inspired with a modern twist, including chawanmushi and congee. I love chawanmushi, it brings back a lot of happy childhood memories. (Chawanmushi is essentially steamed, scrambled eggs)

On my visit however, it was too early for brunch but luckily their breakfast menu is very similar. No chawanmushi but they did have “Steamed Eggs with Tofu and Tamari”. When this dish arrived in front of me, I was surprised because it wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I was still secretly hoping that I’d receive “steamed, scrambled eggs”. Scrambled or not, this dish exceeded expectations, it was a little slight and could’ve come with a side of rice but the flavors were beautiful. The creamy yolk mixed with the nuttiness of the tofu and the sweetness of the tamari was genius.

Next stop for dinner and as a conclusion to my birthday feast, which feels like forever ago now, is Wabi Sabi Garden in St Kilda. The interior of this restaurant is breathtaking and the feel is very authentic. I don’t remember when the Japanese claimed the potato croquette but this isn’t the first Japanese restaurant to have it on the menu. My boyfriend Aleks, is crazy about croquettes so this dish is a must order every time, along with Sake of course.

I LOVE a good pork belly and there’s no better way to cook or eat this piece of meat than braising it. The meat is so tender and juicy, it melts in your mouth and the braising liquid gives whole new meaning to word ‘rich’. I could have easily had this dish to myself with a bowl of rice.

Tempura Flounder served the best way possible considering the form of the fish. The flesh is filleted from the skeleton and sliced into small bites before being coated in tempura batter and deep fried. The whole skeleton of the fish is then deep fried and used as a garnish and as you can see, to also serve the fillets on. Tempura flounder lacked a little salt but everything else on the table was so flavorsome, it probably wasn’t a bad thing. Back-handed comment? You decide…

Wagyu Beef Meatballs. Again, I’m at a loss at how authentically Japanese this dish is but this one was a crowd pleaser. I saw a photo of this dish on the website and my exact thoughts were “I have to have that NOW!!” and it didn’t disappoint. In true Wagyu style, the beef was soft and flavorsome.

So here concludes my excessive birthday feast!… PLUS my chicken pie (recipe next). All this and more in a week, even I’m impressed with myself. This truly was one big eating session and it was EPIC! I’ll be happy to report that I haven’t stopped and there’s more yummy food pics and recipes.

Heirloom and Wabi Sabi Garden both get 3.5 nom noms out of five.

NOM NOM NOM NO…..

Even if it weren’t worth all the calories, it’s a little too late now.

Stay tuned for the recipe.. Love Lee Lee x