Burgers have a bad rep, but they dont have to be unhealthy heres how to cook dirty food the smart way

The hamburger is the poster boy for todays fast-food culture but, with its high fat content and often dubious ingredient list, no wonder its usually painted as unhealthy. That said, hamburgers are very fast to prep: if youre in a hurry and want a treat, you can reach for a packet of mince and make burgers from conception to plate in less than 20 minutes. And if you buy your mince from a good source, you can be sure the meat is top quality and, hopefully, antibiotic-free, too. If you go light on the size of the burgers and the buns, as with todayss deliciously minty lamb burgers, bulk up instead with a lovely summer salad.

For pudding, a honeyed sponge cake that makes the most of apricots, which are bang in season right now. This year has been a particularly good one for apricots (they are juicy, fragrant and plump) so we may as well make the most of them while we can.

Lamb burgers with minty new potato, feta and pea salad

This sharp, bright salad is the ideal foil for the juicy, minty burgers. Serves six.

large onion, peeled
1 handful mint leaves, washed
500g lamb mince
tsp sea salt
Olive oil, for frying
For the salad
500g baby new potatoes
225g fresh peas or frozen
1 round lettuce, washed
200g feta

For the dressing
1 handful mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice

Blitz the onion and mint in a food processor until very finely chopped, then mix into the mince, season with salt, and shape into six patties.

Cook the potatoes for 15 minutes in salted boiling water; steam the peas on top of the spuds for the last two to four minutes, depending on whether theyre fresh or frozen. Drain both and leave to cool.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a wide frying pan. Lay in the burgers, in batches if need be, and flatten them a little in the pan with the back of a fish slice. Fry the burgers for five minutes on each side until golden.

Meanwhile, whisk the mint leaves with the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then whisk in the oil and lemon juice, and season. Tear the lettuce straight into a large bowl, add the potatoes, peas and feta, then pour on the dressing and toss. Serve alongside the burgers.

Thomasina Miers buttermilk and honey cake with honeyed apricots. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay

Buttermilk and honey cake with honeyed apricots

Light buttermilk goes so well with the sweet, floral notes of the apricot, vanilla and cream filling, making an excellent, fluffy sponge thats perfect for afternoon tea. Serves eight to 10.

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
420g white spelt flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
220ml buttermilk
1 tbsp honey

For the filling
10 apricots, halved and stoned
6 tbsp good-quality honey
1 tbsp elderflower cordial
2 tbsp muscat (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
300ml double cream (or Greek yoghurt)
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Icing sugar, to dust

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm loose-bottomed, spring-form cake tin and line the base with a circle of greased baking paper. Dust the sides lightly with flour and shake off any excess.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and the sugar has almost dissolved (use a stand mixer or hand-held beater). Briefly beat in the eggs one by one, adding a pinch of flour if the mix looks as if it might curdle, then stir in the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and baking powder, fold into the batter until combined, then beat in the buttermilk and honey.

Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until its risen and golden and a skewer comes out cleanly. Remove and leave to sit in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on to a cooling rack lined with greaseproof paper or kitchen towel.

While the cake is baking, lay the apricots cut side down in a large pan and drizzle over two-thirds of the honey, the cordial, muscat (if using) and lemon zest. Cook on a medium heat until the fruit softens and is beginning to break up. Gently stir in the last two tablespoons of honey, and leave to cool completely.

When the cake and apricots have cooled, whip the cream to soft peaks with the vanilla seeds (if you want to make the cake lighter, use thick Greek yoghurt instead of cream, or a half-and-half mix.)

Using a serrated knife or cake wire, cut the cake through the middle into two equal halves and brush off any excess crumbs with a pastry brush. Put the lower half of the cake on a serving plate or cake stand, spoon on the cream (or yoghurt) in big dollops, then smooth it down with the back of the spoon. Arrange the apricots over the cream, lay the second cake-half on top, dust with icing sugar and serve.

And for the rest of the week

Consider buying double the quantity of lamb mince, either to make an emergency supper of burgers for the freezer, or for meatballs theyre delicious with a coriander-spiced tomato sauce. If you can get fresh peas, buy lots and blitz any excess into a kind of pesto with fresh mint, a little feta, some toasted almonds, plenty of black pepper and olive oil. And definitely make extra honeyed apricots: theyre gorgeous with yoghurt for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Read more: www.theguardian.com