At the end of August 2021, I picked up a lamb shoulder roast from the Takhini River Ranch booth at the Fireweed Community Market in Whitehorse. The farmers, Jackie and Scott Dickson, were both in attendance. As she handed me my roast, Jackie dispensed some excellent advice: “Just look up Jamie Oliver. He’s got a great recipe for cooking it long and slow.” She was right, it was a great recipe, and the lamb turned out beautifully.
I was primed for more lamb. So, last fall, when a friend texted, “Hey, I’m ordering lamb. Do you want one?”
I texted back: “Who’s the farmer?”
“Takhini River Ranch.”
My roommate and I have been eating fabulous lamb ever since.
The Dicksons have been farming since 2006 near the Takhini River—mostly beef, but some lamb, said Jackie, “Because we love lamb.” In 2018, Scott Dickson received a Meat Processing Certificate, with distinction, from Olds College of Agriculture and Technology in Olds, Alberta. The Dickson’s grass-fed sheep are hair breeds, not wool breeds, like the lamb from New Zealand, and have an exquisite flavour. The meat is not cheap but it’s worth every penny, tender and sweet. “With hair breeds, you don’t get mutton,” said Jackie.
Our lamb delivery arrived while I was visiting family in Collingwood, Ontario, where lamburgers are a thing. A local butcher store sells pre-made patties, and every member of my Ontario family, and my best friend, had a batch in their freezer.
Inspired by memories of Greece, I introduced tzatziki and roasted eggplant to the burger fixings, one night—a brilliant move that won accolades and changed lives. So, I brought the idea home. Eggplant, tzatziki, mint, a bit of feta cheese—you’ll think you were dining at the foot of the Acropolis.
I shared a photo of a recent “lamburger” with a Whitehorse friend. Even though she herself does not eat lamb, she was so moved by the sight of delicious things piled on top of each other that she anointed the burger with the title, “Tower of Beauty.” I concur.
Tip: to consume a Tower of Beauty effectively, you’ll need two hands and lots of napkins.
For information on where to find local lamb, see the Yukon Agricultural Association’s Yukon Farm Guide at yukonag.ca/yukon-farm-guide.
Tower of Beauty: Homemade ‘Lamburgers’
- 1 lb ground local lamb
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 4 hamburger buns, Kaisers or mini ciabattas
- 1 large tomato, cut into thick slices
- 1/4 medium-sized purple onion, sliced
- 8 slices old cheddar or feta cheese
- Dijon mustard
- Roasted eggplant
- Roasted Eggplant
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 baby English cucumber, unpeeled, or 1/4 of a large English cucumber
- 1 clove garlic, grated or minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place ground lamb in a medium-sized bowl. Using two forks, break the lamb up a bit until no large lumps remain.
- Add remaining ingredients and toss together with forks until thoroughly combined.
- Form into 4 patties. Place the patties in a cold cast-iron frying pan set on a burner, and turn heat to medium. Once the burgers start to sizzle, set the timer for 4 minutes. Flip burgers and cook for another 3 minutes. If you like your cheese melted on top, place two slices on each burger, cover with a lid, turn off the heat and wait for about a minute. Cheese should be melted.
- While the burgers are cooking, slice buns in half, place on a baking sheet and heat in a 400℉ oven.
- When buns are lightly toasted, spread with butter.
- Place a burger on each bun and let everyone build their own Tower of Beauty with the extras and condiments set out on the counter or table. Tip: kettle-cooked potato chips are an excellent accompaniment.
- Wash the eggplant well, wipe dry and slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Layer the eggplant in a strainer or a sieve set over a plate or bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes. (You will see beads of moisture rise on the surface of each slice. This process of salting helps to eliminate bitter juices and speeds up the roasting process by extracting moisture.)
- Preheat oven to 400℉. Rinse off the slices, pat them dry and place them on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides of each slice generously with olive oil.
- Roast for 15 minutes, flip slices and roast for another 15 minutes. The surface should be golden-brown, and the inside soft. Roast for another 5 or 10 minutes if necessary.
- Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Store extra slices in the fridge for up to 5 days. They’re great in sandwiches!
- Grate cucumber into a bowl using the largest holes on the grater. Gather up cucumber and place it in the center of a clean tea towel dampened with water, or a piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze cucumber over the sink until most of the juice has been extracted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl.
- Add garlic, oil, mint and yogurt to the bowl, and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined. Taste, and add salt and freshly ground pepper to your liking. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use. Will keep for up to 5 days. Note: the flavour improves with time.