Grilled meats or kebabs are a mainstay of the Muslim world, from Turkey to Iran to India and Pakistan to Muslim China to Indonesia (where kebabs are known as satay), and each country has its own way of preparing the meat or fish and marinating it for grilling. One of the earliest references to kebabs is found in an eleventh-century Turkish dictionary, which describes men as having ‘competed against each other in skewering meat’. It was the Turks who disseminated kebabs all over the Middle East and North Africa during the Ottoman Empire. The recipe below is for classic Turkish meat kebabs, with a marinade that includes tomato paste and a mix of spices for an intense flavour.
For the marinade
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed to a fine paste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
For the kebabs
- 800g boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of most of the fat and cut into 2.5cm chunks
- 24 cherry tomatoes
- Flatbread, to serve
To make the marinade, mix together the garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, spices, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the meat to the marinade and toss. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.
Prepare a charcoal fire in an outdoor barbecue (switch on the gas if you have an outdoor gas barbecue) or preheat the grill to high.
Thread the meat on to seven long skewers and the tomatoes on to an eighth one. Barbecue over high heat or grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until the meat and tomatoes are done to your liking. Slip the meat and tomatoes off the skewers on to flatbread and serve immediately.
Recipes and images from Feast by Anissa Helou, Bloomsbury, RRP $59.99