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Mini lamb and mint burgers with cheesy polenta

I love a lamb burger. Moist and still a little pink, it needs little else to flavour it. But just like the perfect pairing of roast lamb and mint sauce, throwing some fresh mint into the lamb mince adds a sweet zing.

I love the colour of polenta, but personally I don’t like it. Never have and don’t understand why people make such a big deal about it. HOWEVER, I mustn’t push my preferences onto Nicholas! I do think though, that cheese makes pretty much everything taste better (honestly I could live off cheese and bread, with the odd steak and potato thrown in every now and then). And with “cheeeeese” being one of Nicholas’ favourite foods (or “maggio” if he’s talking to Papร ), I just had to add it to the polenta.

These are mini lamb burgers for little pudgy fingers to pick up and devour, but just make them bigger and cook them a little longer for bigger people.

Polenta, cheesy or plain, is a great meal for babies. You can leave out the salt and oil at the start of the recipe, and not add the butter after it’s cooked. They can have the polenta on its own while the rest of the family also have the burgers, so you just have to cook one meal.

Put any leftover polenta into a cake or loaf baking tin and leave it in the fridge. Once it’s cold, cut it into fingers, brush or spray with a little oil and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until crisp on the outside. Eat on their own or dip into a homemade tomato sauce.

MINI LAMB AND MINT BURGERS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 18 mini burgers
Freezable

250g minced lamb
1 shallot, finely diced
1 egg yolk
1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil

Mix the lamb, shallot, egg yolk and mint in a bowl with 1 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Season if using. Add another tablespoon of breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet to mould into small balls.

Heat the olive oil over a med-low heat in a large frying pan.

Shape the mixture into small balls, flattening them when you place them in the pan. Cook for a few minutes both sides until just cooked through.

CHEESY POLENTA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 2 adult and 1 toddler serving

500ml (2 cups) water
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
30g unsalted butter, chopped

Put the water and milk (and salt, if using) into a saucepan and bring it to a light boil. Turn down the heat to low and add the oil.

With a whisk, start stirring as you very slowly add the polenta. Be careful not to add too much at a time as it easily creates lumps which are then very difficult to get rid of.

Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon every so often until it thickens and starts to come away from the side of the saucepan (about 20 mins).

Remove from heat. Add the cheese and butter and stir until melted. If the polenta is too thick, add a dash of milk. Add more seasoning to the adult servings.

Other uses:

  • Serve the cheesy polenta with a chunky tomato or vegetable sauce, or sautรฉed mushrooms instead of the lamb burgers.
  • Chill the polenta in a baking tin and cut into fingers; lightly oil and fry until crispy.

Cornmeal muffins

I was debating whether to call these cornbread muffins as the taste and texture is similar to cornbread, and then I thought perhaps spicy cornmeal or cornbread muffins. To avoid any confusion, as the recipe isn’t an authentic cornbread recipe nor are they very spicy, I’m going with the (perhaps boring but simple) cornmeal muffins.

If you don’t want to make muffins, you can pour the mixture into a square baking tin and then cut them into squares after they’re cooked. Or you could make a loaf and cut off slices.

The level of spice is very mild, so perfect for toddlers (the predominant flavour is cheese). But you can easily add more spice by increasing the cumin and coriander, and/or add some crushed dried chilli.

Eat them on their own as a snack or as an accompaniment to a main dish, they’re perfect for little and big fingers alike.

CORNMEAL MUFFINS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 12 small muffins

140g fine cornmeal
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (about 75g)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
225ml Greek yogurt

Preheat theย  oven to 200C and grease your muffin tin with a little oil or cooking spray (or line your tin with paper cases to avoid washing the tin).

Mix the cornmeal, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cumin and coriander in a bowl. Add the grated cheese and mix well so the ingredients are combined evenly.

In another bowl or jug, mix the beaten egg, vegetable oil and yogurt together.

Mix the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and stir quickly until just combined.

Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 15 – 20mins until golden on top and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Variations:

  • Add fresh chives or coriander to the batter
  • Add some crumbled cooked bacon to the batter

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